TREASURES FROM OUR TRADITION

Two centuries ago,Archbishop John Carroll worried that Americans would not appreciate the linguistic veil over our worship,and asked that the liturgy in the new

United State be in England,not Latin.How did our liturgy come to be in Latin in the first
place?In the first century,the dominant language in the regions where the church first
flourished was Greek.Today in much of the world, almost everyone speaks at least
a bit of English.Last year,the European Union even considered making English its
official language,a curious proposal since only one English-speaking country,Ireland
is a member.
Just as English is a unifying language today,it was hard to function in the
ancient world without a smattering of Greek.Even the word"Eucharist"comes the
Greek for “Thanksgiving.”For a long time,Greek was the language of worship,even in
Rome.Slowly,society in the west shifted to a bias for Latin and against Greek.Latin
first appeared in public prayer at the end of the second century,in the colonial out-
posts of North Africa.Soon,Latin became the language of culture,and so as fixed prayer forms were written,they were transmitted in Latin.From Rome and Africa,over
the next four centuries,the new liturgical language of Latin spread north to Gaul and
Britain.

Journal Comments

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