TRACT: Parts of the Mass in Latin
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    UPDATED: 1/8/09
    I'll post a full revision in the fullness of time.

    Sometimes the congregation may sing parts of the Mass in Latin. What are these parts, what do they mean, and why do congregations do this?

    As you know, there are parts of the Mass that never change. Together, these are called the Mass "Ordinary." You know the Mass Ordinary as the following: the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. (In English: Lord Have Mercy; Gloria; Creed; Holy, Holy, Holy; Lamb of God.)

    You might be surprised to know that the Second Vatican Council, in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, said the following:

    Steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them. (Section 54).

    This means that the Second Vatican Council said, officially, that your congregation needs to know how to say or sing the Mass Ordinary in Latin.

    Before anyone quivers with fear or indignation, it should be noted that the Latin of the Mass Ordinary is not rocket science. Children learned it, memorized it, and chanted it, and they definitely knew what each word meant. So can you.

    Here for example is the Sanctus. To understand this Latin deeply, you do not have to go to Rome to study at the feet of some Taskmaster of Yore who glares at you while polishing his holy knuckles, waiting for error:

    Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth! Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua! Hosanna in excelsis! Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini! Hosanna in excelsis!

    This is not beyond the capacity of mortal men and women to understand. You will no doubt see many Latin words similar to ones in English:

    Sanctus = Holy, as in "sanctified"
    Dominus Deus = Lord God
    Sabaoth = of hosts, as in armies (a Hebrew word)
    pleni = full, as in "plenty"
    sunt = are
    caeli et terra = heavens and earth (as in celestial, terrestrial)
    gloria = glory
    tua = your
    hosanna = hosanna
    in = in
    excelsis = the highest (think 'excellence')
    benedictus = blessed (think 'benediction')
    qui = who
    venit = comes (think 'Advent')
    in = in
    nomine = the name
    Domini = of the Lord
    etc.

    Here is the Agnus Dei: Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis (or: dona nobis pacem).

    Agnus = Lamb
    Dei = of God
    qui = who
    tollis = takes (think 'paying a toll')
    peccata = sins (remember 'peccadilloes'? these are worse)
    mundi = of the world
    miserere = be merciful
    nobis = to us
    dona = give (donate)
    nobis = to us
    pacem = peace

    As for the Kyrie (which is in Greek), "Kyrie" means "Lord" and "eleison" means "have mercy." You can probably figure out what "Christe" means.

    The remaining material to understand is the Gloria and the Credo. Whenever you sing the Gloria, you are singing an ancient hymn of the Church. The Latin is very beautiful and will be the subject of short, separate pamphlets. If you are lucky enough to have a Gregorian Schola in your parish, you will sing portions of these beautiful texts with them. Usually, they are the same portions.

    So please know that learning your part of the Mass Ordinary in Latin is far from difficult. If you get to sing it, you will love it: Latin texts typically have many more open vowel sounds than English ones, making them easy and a pleasure to sing. Thinking about the word associations with the Latin can also give you the pleasure of "divine reading" (lectio divina), which is a kind of meditation, if you wish.

    May God bless you for your interest in making your worship of Him more informed, alert, and actual.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Well there's a fine example. Informative, making a direct point, and authoritative (quoting church legislation).
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,331
    A good idea!

    Here's one thing to change: despite the similarity, I don't think "sabaoth" is related to "sabbath".

    Here's a Catholic Encyclopedia article on the word:
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13286a.htm
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Sabaoth is a Hebrew description referring to hosts as in an army. So Jehovah Sabaoth reflects God's power in his armies of angels. That's the payoff of old testament class.

    Might I add, the objection to not understanding Latin is very silly when no one complains about "Hosanna", a word which even scholars can't agree on the meaning of.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    OK, great. Learn something new every day. I dashed this off, so please, if anyone wants to use it, shape in any way you see fit and even posts revisions if you like. I take no ownership. I'm getting the ball rolling.
  • could "Deus Sabaoth" mean something along line of 'Lord of hosts" then ?
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Dominus: Lord, as in Jehovah, Deus: God (Deity), which I believe would correspond to Addonai, and Sabbaoth can be translated of hosts if one wishes. So "Lord God of hosts" is a common translation. That's something which always annoys me of modern settings of the Sanctus. They always phrases it as "Holy holy holy Lord, God of power and might." Dominus Deus Sabaoth is a full title, it shouldn't be split up.
  • Darth -
    Yes, it does. Not only of the heavenly host, but, historically, of the hosts (armies) of the Hebrews.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    The new translation of Mass is changing it.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,331
    It might also be worthwhile to mention that the text is a reference to the angels' worship of God, as in Isaiah 6:3:

    3 And they [the seraphim] cried one to another, and said: Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of hosts, all the earth is full of his glory.
    (Douay-Rheims tr.)
  • If memory serves, Pope Paul VI tought that the very minimum Latin on the congregation's part should be the creed and the Lord's prayer. It seems clear to me that if the congregation can recite/sing the creed in Latin, a fortiori they would be able to pray/sing everything else.

    "Power and might," is dynamic equivalence in action, and with the loss of Sabaoth is a loss of one third of the Hebrew vocabulary that existed in the liturgy. BTW, Hosanna likely comes from the same word-root as Jesus, hard to believe as that may be on the face of it.

    As a more-or-less recent (w/i past yr.) member of a blog on sacred music, I've wondered how most of the participants think about balancing the reintroduction of Latin with the reintroduction of chant. I've been somewhat surprised to find that English set to Gregorian music is so encouraged on a reform-of-reform-type site. It does seem overly ambitious to reintroduce Latin chant right away, but does one prioritize chant (in the vernacular) over Latin (simply recited rather than sung)? I don't know the answer; I simply didn't know that English chant existed. Of course, the ideal is to get the congregation singing Latin chant, but what is the best way to get there? As a Latin and Greek teacher (read: "Taskmaster of Yore"), I'm not sure, as I agree that most of the ordinary is fairly straightforward.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    The creed in Latin is sublime.

    the ideal is to get the congregation singing Latin chant, but what is the best way to get there?

    This is a question of inculturation, which is slow but potentially quite deep. I sang recently for my parents, just some bits, and after hearing them for the first time in decades, they immediately seized on them and sang right with me. The words had permeated their memories, and they loved to say them and sing them again. That is culture.

    How do you create that? Socrates said start with the youth, and I agree. Teach the children to chant simple things, then harder things, and they will warm to it and strive. They will be pleased and grow confident. Teach also the youth who so easily see through the masks of hypocrisy and condescension. They know life is serious and painful and don't want pablum. Teach them the strong songs, the ones that were in the minds of the saints. Teach also the young brides and grooms, who, enraptured with love, want beauty. Teach the adults who are willing to listen, who come from all walks of life, who are so busy, have seen and suffered so much, and who hear in the chant the peace that passes understanding. And teach the old ones, or merely remind them, since nothing is so comforting as knowing that the past will not be forgotten, will live in the mouths and hearts of those who must come after.

    The chant is true and good. If we let it make us as good as it makes us sound, people will respond.
  • JDE
    Posts: 586
    The Hebrew reads, 'kadosh kadosh kadosh Adonai tz'vaoth m'lo chol haaretz kevodo." So you can see where it might be difficult to decide whether there should be commas or a verb, or what.

    Holy holy holy Lord of hosts the whole earth is full of his glory.

    But the point is, Sabaoth has nothing to do with the Sabbath - that would be "Shabbat" in Hebrew, and is not related. It just means 'the seventh.' I asked my neighbor the rabbi the direct, literal translation of 'tz'vaoth,' and he told me it means "hosts, as in armies."
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Thank you, Yurodivi, and thank the good rabbi.
  • Pes,

    A couple of small suggestions: First, be careful that your banter-like conversational style does not dip its feet into the waters of patronizing. "You can probably figure out what Christe means" comes awfully close to patronizing, especially to someone who might not be reading your text in charity.

    Also, I would amplify the mood of "isn't it cool to become even MORE Catholic?" Keep a constant reminder (subtly) that in the excitement of reforming the Church, some really good things were set aside "for awhile" to be reclaimed later, once all the new stuff was learned. Any way to make your project sound progressive will go a long way. It's a fabulous start you have!
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Mike, yes, I'm burning all that away. The doc is two-column, one page. I have a paragraph's worth of space left. Would you like to add anything to the above?
  • One other thing. You might use this line. "Have you ever had this experience? While doing some Spring cleaning (notice the subtext here!) and came across and old photo or something else that was once very special to you? Upon finding it, you resolve to display that object prominently or in some way make it a part of your current everyday life. Well, that is what is happening our Church today under the guidance of Pope Benedict XVI. We are recovering some almost forgotten, but immensely beautiful and spiritually necessary practices of our Catholic heritage."
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,331
    Just for fun, I took pes' text as the basis for a pamphlet. Here's the PDF.

    Drop me a note if you'd like a copy of the editable OpenOffice document (because there are obvious improvements to be made); the forum system would not accept it as an attachment.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Chonak, this is wonderful. If it's not copyrighted, can I print it out and make lots of copies for our parishioner? And please, please do the same thing (part 2) for Sanctus and Mysterium Fidei. (and part 3, credo and part 4,Gloria if you still have energy and time for them and still feel sorry for those who don't know how to make this kind of nice pamplet?) I feel being lazy, but i know it will be too much struggle for me with my elementary computer skill to make something like this. I want to give our parishioner this one first and the following week the second part, so I don't overwhelm them by the amounts.(It's ok some already knows kyrie and Agnus Dei. But the people will appreciate it and know that we are being really serious about chant singing.)
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Nice work, chonak! That's really helpful, and I appreciate the tweak on "tollis."

    I have pdf's, too, but the forum won't accept them. Says it wants an "rar" extension (which is a proprietary archive). How did you manage it?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,331
    For miacoyne: The Sanctus is on the second page of the document. If you print the two pages on one sheet of paper, it'll have three columns on each side, and you can fold it into a pamphlet. But let's see if people have ideas for improving it before you start making copies. I'm sure there are members with real graphics skills out there.

    For pes: Thanks; sorry, I have no idea about the 'rar' issue. Aristotle does the tech work for the forum, so maybe he'll have an idea.
  • caeli=heavens (plural)
    peccata=sins (plural)
    tollis="take" in the sense of take away, remove
    If you translate "miserere" as "be merciful," you can translate "nobis" both times as, "to us."

    You might also want to mention that Latin has no a's, an's, or the's, so sometimes they have to be added to English translations.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Chonak, I was so happy to see the pamplet, i didn't even notice there was a second page. This is great.
    Thanks and I'll wait. But please don't put too much info. I think what you have is just enough for average people to take from the small pamplet. (and just one request, very minor one, some might think it's unnecessary. But some people like in our parish don't know Gregorian schola is the same as Gregorian choir. So could you put (schola) in the parenthesis next to choir in the first page in the middle? I just hear someone in our parish says we have Gregorian schola but not Gregorian choir. We don't sing on Sundays yet. And we have other choirs on Sundays. Sorry.)
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Caeli, as in celestial; peccata as in impeccable. Cognates make it SO easy to figure out!
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,331
    "caeli" as in a Celtic dancing-party (ceilidh)? :-)

    No, that can't be right.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Thanks, Ionnes. It's nice to be precise.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    With enough Jameson, that can be heavenly indeed, chonak!
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,331
    OK, I've updated the PDF above.

    I'll leave any further edits to you all. Feel free to download the document file from
    http://www.gabrielmass.com/rac/tmp/tract-latin-in-mass.odt
    You'll need a copy of OpenOffice.org (the free office software suite) to modify it according to your own needs, adjust the prose style, add your own contact information, and so on.

    Please remember: if you do want to distribute this to anyone at church, you'll need to get your pastor's permission.
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    Peccata is indeed the plural of pecctum ("sin") but can be rendered in English as either "sin" (as in the entire bulk of all sin) or "sins" (each individual sin). It resembles the word "fish" which itself can be singular or plural. This dual use of "sin" is exemplified in the different translations of peccata in the Gloria ("sin") and Agnus Dei ("sins"). When the question has come up in choir I substitute the word "trash". Is "trash" singular or plural? Whichever it is, the Lamb of God has a lot to take out for us!
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    "Please remember: if you do want to distribute this to anyone at church, you'll need to get your pastor's permission."

    I surely remembered it this morning. When I showed it to the pastor, his face was actually brightened.
    But I don't know which one I printed out. I have to double check. Whichever I printed out, it looked good to me. (My son helped me handing out after the mass, which was also a help). I'm planning to hand it out a few more weeks and also to homeschooling parents when we have children' schola practice. Thanks !!!
    Mia
  • priorstf,

    I disagree that the translation of peccata in the Gloria as singular "sin" is accurate. In the latest ICEL translation of the Gloria, the translation is accurate, "sins." In some of the Greek versions of the prayer, the singular is used, and it was the translation of the Greek rather than the Latin that snuck into the earlier ICEL translations. Moreover, although there is is a frequently used plural of sin in English (sins), fish and trash are generally thought of as collective nouns, so I'm not convinced by the comparison.
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    When I showed it to the pastor, his face was actually brightened.

    Mia, "brightened" as in happy to see it, or as in enraged?
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Oh, no. Happy with a gentle smile. Sorry, didn't make it clear. He was definitely happy. Thank you for asking.
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    IA - Thanks! I hadn't seen the new ICEL translation but that's good to hear. Of course in the Mass we're singing tomorrow it's written as "sin" in both places. So does that make the editor guilty of sin or guilty of sins?!
  • urli
    Posts: 35
    Would anyone mind if these were translated into Dutch, for distribution in the Netherlands? It's just an idea of mine - maybe it's something some people over here would be interested in.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,331
    That's a fine idea. Can we all agree to release the text of the document under a "Creative Commons License" with the "Share Alike" provision?

    Of course the material about English words similar to Latin words would not apply to nederlands, but perhaps there are some cognate words you can use.
  • urli
    Posts: 35
    Yes, that's a good point.

    Hm, I need to hurry up and graduate so that I can spend more time on FUN things :)
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Please tell me what "Creative Commons License" means?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,331
    About "Creative Commons" licenses: really, it's a bunch of legalese you may not care about.

    There are several options for people who publish material (music, pictures, texts, etc.) and want to give others permission to reproduce it.

    (1) You can release the material to "the public domain": that irrevocably lets anyone do anything they want with it, including selling it for profit, changing it, etc., even without telling who really produced it.

    (2) You can publish it under a "Creative Commons" license, in which you retain some rights as an author, but give the public permission to re-use the work, under certain conditions:
    (a) For example, you can require that they not change your material, but publish it in its entirety, intact;
    (b) You can require that they not use the work commercially unless they get your permission;
    (c) You can require that they give you proper credit (attribution),
    (d) Or you can let them change the work, on condition that their changes are also shared with the public under the same conditions as your original material (the "share-alike" provision).

    These options are described on the web site http://creativecommons.org/ .
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Ok, I really don't get it. but thank for the info. (gee, how do you ever find all this and follow it. )
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,331
    These "Creative Commons" licenses were invented to prevent certain abusive practices.

    For instance, if you were to release your music totally to the "public domain", somebody could take it, make some trivial changes, put a copyright on the modified version, and demand payment from anyone wanting to use it. So they would take advantage of your work, but without "giving back" to the community. That undermines the culture of sharing and collaboration which should characterize the world of church music.

    Of course major church music publishers do that to public-domain hymns all the time!

    By releasing your music under a "Creative Commons" license, you can prevent such exploitation.

    (I know about this because I'm professionally a computer guy, and issues of software sharing are a big deal in the world of information technology.)
  • urli
    Posts: 35
    I've asked some friends if they'd be willing to help out on a possible translation project.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    "(I know about this because I'm professionally a computer guy, and issues of software sharing are a big deal in the world of information technology.)"

    hah! As a Linux user, all of this is really important to me. And of course I'm totally for Creative Commons licenses, public domain, and copylefts.

    Query: if someone takes a public domain hymn, makes minor changes to it, and copyrights that, you can still use the public domain hymn, right? doesn't seem like that big a deal to me... just something obnoxious people do to make money.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,331
    Right; but when somebody publishes their copyrighted and slightly modified version, you can't copy that, even though only two words are changed, or three notes in the harmonization. You have to go on a research mission to find the unaltered version.