Know Your Story: Christian Traditions
Latin Liturgy

            Christian traditions are those things that have been done in the Church for a long time, and which are a vital part of the worship and practice of many Christians. There are lots of traditions throughout the history of the Church that have played a vital role in the development, growth, and transmission of the Christian faith to people all over the globe. Some have been a part of Christian practice since the formation of the Church, and some have been around for only a few decades. But what they all hold in common is that each helps to add to and deepen the faith and spiritual walk of individual believers and Christian communities all over the globe.
             The first tradition that we looked at this summer is the use of Latin Liturgy in worship services. From the time that the Church began spreading throughout the Roman Empire in the first couple hundred years of Christianity, Latin has been used in worship. Once Christianity became the religion of the Empire in the late 300’s AD, pastors, preachers, and priests spoke the language of the land, the language of the people, to lead them in worship and to communicate the truths of the Gospel. As the Roman Empire’s power waned, and other nations and peoples developed, Latin became primarily the language of the government, the educated, and the Church leadership. Eventually, through the Protestant Reformation, and later the rulings of Vatican II, Latin was set aside as the language of the Church, in favor of the language actually spoken by the people.
Picture
           The image to the left is an Illuminated Manuscript of the Lord’s Prayer in Latin. “Illuminated” basically means it was decorated with pictures drawn by hand.

            Despite the decline in the use of Latin as the language of worship, it remains a beautiful tradition that can connect us with Christians throughout the centuries, and with the greater story of God working through the Church. There are still churches today who employ some of beautiful Latin prayers and greetings in their worship as a way of connecting Christians today with the greater story of the Church. One of these greetings we learned during worship this summer:

                        Gratia Domini nostri Jesu Christi,
                                    et caritas Dei,
                    et communicatio Sancti Spiritus
                            sit cum omnibus vobis.

                                Et cum spiritu tuo

            The first four lines of this greeting are spoken by the pastor, priest, or worship leader of the day, while the final, bolded line is spoken in unison by the congregation. The nice thing about Latin is that many of our English words have roots in the Latin language, so we can pick out a general meaning for some of them. Here is the English translation of this greeting:

                                                            The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
                                                                        and the love of God,
                                                         and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
                                                                         be with you all.

                                                                      And also with you

            This is a traditional greeting as old as the New Testament itself. Paul’s letters to the many churches he founded or fostered begin with greetings to the people evoking the grace, love, and fellowship of the Trinity. And this exact formula has greeted millions of Christians throughout the centuries as they gathered together to worship and praise God as a community.

            The inclusion of Latin into our worship is not a requirement. Nor does it make us a “better” church than any other, or a more holy church. What it does do is include us in a larger story, a grand history of worship and praise and fellowship with others that has been going on since the dawn of the church, and that will continue throughout the ages. Even as the languages change, as the worship practices ebb and flow, the traditions we practice and participate in help to continue the story. And they add depth and dimension to our faith. We are not the first people to ever participate in this Church-thing. Believers have been worshipping God since before a church building ever existed. Traditions, like Latin Liturgy, help to connect us to those believers that have gone before us, and they help us to remember that we are not alone in our faith.


 


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