A Latin liturgy is a ceremony or ritual conducted in the Latin language. Generally, the term 'Latin liturgy' is used in conjunction with the Christian religion, and especially in association with a Catholic Mass, which may be conducted in Latin or another language. If the Mass was conducted in Latin, it would be referred to as a Latin Mass.
The Traditional (as opposed to the Novus Ordo) Latin Mass is also referred to as the Tridentine Mass. However, the two terms are not interchangeable. The Tridentine Mass is so named because it is the form of Mass set down for the Church after the Council of Trent, a town in northern Italy, whose name in Latin is "Tridentum". The Council lasted from 1545 to 1563, with intermissions. In September 1562 the doctrine of the Mass was determined. By decree of the Council, the actual reform of the Mass rite was left to the Pope, then Pius IV, and his successors.
The term Latin Rite, or Roman Rite, is also sometimes employed to refer to one or more of the forms of the Latin liturgy. The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent Version, defines the Roman Rite as: "the manner of celebrating the Holy Sacrifice, administering Sacraments, reciting the Divine Office, and performing other ecclesiastical functions (blessings, all kinds of Sacramentals, etc.) as used in the city and Diocese of Rome. The Roman Rite is the most widespread in Christendom."
A liturgical form of this type generally has two components, a spoken element and a musical element.
A translated segment of the Latin Mass (Novus Ordo but not the Tridentine) (the Introduction) follows:
Priest: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Greeting: (in Latin)
Priest: In nòmine Patris, et Fìlii, et Spìritus Sancti.
Priest: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Congregation: And also with you.
Priest: (in Latin) Gràtia Dòmini nostri Jesu Christi, et càritas Dei, et communicàtio Sancti Spìritus sit cum òmnibus vobis.
Congregation: Et cum spiritu tuo.
The language used in the liturgy has often been a source of spirited debate in the Church. Numerous books and homilies have been written to address this issue, and it is one that is still in contention for many Roman Catholic Christians. Opinions range from employing an all-Latin ritual, an all-local-language ritual, or even a mix of these languages.
The use of the Latin Liturgy began to see diminished use in the latter half of the twentieth century as certain bishops and priests considered it more beneficial to conduct ceremonies in modern languages, so as to render the content of the liturgies more understandable by the congregations. Such a strategy contradicted the Vatican II document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, which clearly states that Latin liturgy should be norm. Further, John XXIII's Apostolic Constitution, which carried the highest papal authority, affirmed the importance of Latin in the Church.
Many Churchgoers consider the use of Latin in the Church liturgy as having greater solemnity and inspirational qualities. The use of the Latin liturgy is currently experiencing a resurgence in many Catholic congregations, and various organizations are actively promoting this reform within the Church, such as Adoremus, Una Voce and the Latin Liturgy Association.
Many consider Latin to be the Church's traditional language of worship, and they espouse the use of this language in liturgy for various reasons. For example, they say that the consistent use of Latin in all countries, and across the centuries, can be considered a symbol of Church unity. Also, many consider Latin to be a sacral language, associated with the worship of God. The use of a sacral language is a feature of many world religions: classical Arabic in Islam, Sanskrit in Hinduism and Hebrew in Judaism. In addition, for many, the use of a sacral language lends solemnity and otherworldliness to religious proceedings; use of an original liturgical language can also be considered to overcome limitations of time and of place, linking modern-day worshippers with their earlier counterparts. Finally, the proponents of Latin liturgy say that the use of Latin further enhances the rendering of certain liturgical music of the Church, such as Gregorian chanting, which is also referred to as plain chant, or plain song.
No issues related to liturgical change have affected the Eastern Orthodox Church, which did not experience a reformation. There have been no councils to modify form and music. The Eastern Church still consistently uses the early Christian forms and includes the use of the Greek language consistently in its liturgical forms. This practice has contributed to a high level of uniformity in the liturgies offered in the Eastern Orthodox congregations.
Regarding the parallel use of two liturgical languages in the Roman Catholic Church, the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger noted in a speech concerning the liturgy he gave in 1998 that, "the Council did ordain a reform of the liturgical books, but it did not forbid the previous books." His position is apparently to allow for both the new and the old liturgies to co-exist within the Church, with the approval of the Vatican, for he also went on to state that: "they will no longer be two opposing ways of being a Christian, but rather two riches which belong to the same Catholic faith."
He then encouraged fellow Roman Catholics to not be overly concerned or worried about the existence of the two parallel liturgies by stating that "Such anxieties and fears must cease! If in the two forms of celebration the unity of the faith and the unicity of the mystery should appear clearly, that could only be a reason to rejoice and thank the Good Lord. In the measure to which all of us believers live and act according to these motivations, we can also persuade the bishops that the presence of the old liturgy does not trouble or harm the unity of their diocese, but is rather a gift destined to build up the Body of Christ, of which we are all the servants."