Monday, June 16, 2008

On Evolution of Language and of Culture

In today's world, words are in increasing need of qualification. This point is exemplified in the fact that so many behaviors and phenomena continuously challenge the "traditional" usage of certain words (when 'traditional' itself in this sense is only a temporary approximation).

The two words at the forefront of my mind at this moment are "Liberal" and "Conservative". The irony needed to demonstrate my point can be summarized as follows:

It is the 'liberals' who are averse to change when it comes to the "liberalization" of the Tridentine mass. It is the 'conservatives' who are averse (generally speaking) to over enforcement of conservation of natural resources (especially or specifically when it's related to the theory of global warming). I am confident that we could think of another dozen examples of this very thing but these two should suffice.

Technology, starting with Roman roads, including the printing press and next with mass - broadcast media has been instrumental in making the evolution of language a slower and slower process. Travel and mass media have made what used to happen over decades take centuries. (The fullest example is the vernacular going from being a dialect into a separate language altogether over a relatively short period of time in antiquity whereas the change is somewhat slower now).

But with innovations like the internet, change in culture has sped up while change in language has slowed. Because of this, when we say something like "liberal" or "conservative", it can have significantly different connotations than we intend. Chesterton obviously used "liberal" in a completely different world and way that I would use it. That's a given but what is more profound is that even someone in the 1990s would have some noticeable differences in connotation than we would.

Culture and language have always moved at relatively the same speed (I suppose). I think that all this causes tension to the point where we want to super-qualify nearly every word of nearly everything we say. (The disease of relativism which infects our culture is, of course, no help in this problem).

So when I saw Sean Hannity debating Father Euteneur, I labeled Hannity a liberal. "Liberal" to me has evolved into a word nearly synonymous with "wrong" (which makes my job of correctly using it much more difficult). I don't mean at all that if Hannity and I were to debate politics on live tv that I would come out looking like I was uber-right wing. In fact I'm pretty sure I'd look liberal on a few issues.

Now to move away from the political sphere, I think the answer, cliche as it may sound is simple charity. It has always required charity to communicate effectively but it seems to me that this is truer today than it has been in previous times. Or perhaps with such frequent communication we are only more aware of the problem. At any rate, I have a dinner to attend so I will cut it off here and hope that I have given you some food for thought.


andrew preslar said...

good stuff. "charity to communicate effectively" includes charity towards our ancestors, which involves keeping in memory what they said- how they used words. I will always be thankful for childhood introduction to Tolkien; he showed me some of the words spoken by my ancestors, which I learned to love, and just as one wants to know about the loved one, I wanted to learn about the words, which is to discover bits of history, which is to win some precious freedom from the tyranny of the contemporary.

Rene'e said...


Off topic, take a look at this statement concerning the Latin Mass from the Vatican.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Rene, I had trouble opening the link.

Rene'e said...

Pope would like Tridentine Mass in each parish, Vatican official says

By Simon Caldwell
Catholic News Service

LONDON (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI would like every Catholic parish in the world to celebrate a regular Tridentine-rite Mass, a Vatican cardinal has said.

Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos also told a June 14 press conference in London that the Vatican was writing to all seminaries to ask that candidates to the priesthood are trained to celebrate Mass according to the extraordinary form of the Latin rite, also known as the Tridentine Mass, restricted from the 1970s until July 2007 when Pope Benedict lifted some of those limits.

The cardinal, who was visiting London at the invitation of the Latin Mass Society, a British Catholic group committed to promoting Mass in the Tridentine rite of the 1962 Roman Missal, said it was "absolute ignorance" to think that the pope was trying to reverse the reforms of the Second Vatican Council by encouraging use of the rite.

"The Holy Father, who is a theologian and who was (involved) in the preparation for the council, is acting exactly in the way of the council, offering with freedom the different kinds of celebration," he said.

"The Holy Father is not returning to the past; he is taking a treasure from the past to offer it alongside the rich celebration of the new rite," the cardinal added.

When asked by a journalist if the pope wanted to see "many ordinary parishes" making provision for the Tridentine Mass, Cardinal Castrillon, a Colombian, said: "All the parishes. Not many, all the parishes, because this is a gift of God.

"He (Pope Benedict) offers these riches, and it is very important for new generations to know the past of the church," said Cardinal Castrillon, president of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei," which works to help separated traditionalist Catholics return to the church.

"This kind of worship is so noble, so beautiful," he said. "The worship, the music, the architecture, the painting, makes a whole that is a treasure. The Holy Father is willing to offer to all the people this possibility, not only for the few groups who demand it but so that everybody knows this way of celebrating the Eucharist in the Catholic Church."

He also said his commission, which also is responsible for overseeing the application of "Summorum Pontificum," the 2007 papal decree authorizing the universal use of the Tridentine rite, was in the process of writing to seminaries not only to equip seminarians to celebrate Mass in Latin but to understand the theology, the philosophy and the language of such Masses.

The cardinal said parishes could use catechism classes to prepare Catholics to celebrate such Masses every Sunday so they could "appreciate the power of the silence, the power of the sacred way in front of God, the deep theology, to discover how and why the priest represents the person of Christ and to pray with the priest."

In "Summorum Pontificum," Pope Benedict indicated that Tridentine Masses should be made available in every parish where groups of the faithful desire it and where a priest has been trained to celebrate it. He also said the Mass from the Roman Missal in use since 1970 remains the ordinary form of the Mass, while the celebration of the Tridentine Mass is the extraordinary form.

The document did not require all parishes to automatically establish a Tridentine Mass schedule, but it said that where "a group of faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition exists stably," the pastor should "willingly accede" to their request to make the Mass available.

Cardinal Castrillon told the press conference, however, that a stable group could mean just three or four people who were not necessarily drawn from the same parish.

Later in the day, Cardinal Castrillon celebrated the first pontifical high Mass in the Tridentine rite in London's Westminster Cathedral in 39 years. The event drew a congregation of more than 1,500 people, including young families. None of the English or Welsh bishops attended.


Krystina said...

I'm not a huge fan of the Latin Tridentine Mass. What Pope Benedict needs to commission into the Mass is a call for better homilies and more bible studies/education at parishes. People need help with living out the word and being good Christians. The thought of more emphasis on a traditional mass will not help the church in its current crisis.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Krystina, I think that is debatable. I think that liturgy is itself an excellent means of education. Since 1970, we've been celebrating the Novus Ordo and everything is in the vernacular. Yet we are less educated as Catholics than we have ever been (we are more educated, we just have more secular education).

I love the Tridentine mass not because it is in Latin but because it dictactes that we orient our hearts properly in worship; that is: vertically (towards God). While the Novus Ordo does not even imply that we should orient our hearts horizontally, the abuses that have crept in have pushed us in that direction. We are more focused on the community than on Christ it seems. In the process we lose both Christ & the community.

But I understand that the TLM is not every one's cup of tea that's perfectly reasonable. I agree with you that we need more education. Sadly, I think this needs to be undertaken by the laity in large part.