The new Ritual contains a complete German liturgy for the administration of the Sacraments, and some other Ceremonies, according to the decrees of the first Synod of the Old Catholics of the German Empire (A.D. 1874).
Different customs have existed hitherto in Germany with reference to the use of the vulgar tongue in the administration of the Sacraments. The use of the Latin language was compulsory throughout, according to the direction of the Roman Congregation of Rites.
The Vicars-General of the diocese of Amiens enquired at Rome (A.D. 1867) whether, when sponsors had to answer questions at a Baptism, and were ignorant of the Latin language, the questions should (1) be put in the vulgar tongue, or (2) first in Latin, and then translated.
The Congregation answered both questions in the negative on the 31st August, 1867.
This direction could hardly be observed in a German diocese.
Even the provincial Council of Cologne (A.D. 1860) omitted from the prohibition “not to employ any other language than the Latin in the administration of the Sacraments,” those parts of the Liturgy “in which some address had to be made, or some explanation given to those present.”
This order of the provincial Council of Cologne corresponds with the ordinary directions in force in the archdiocese of Cologne. But in the new Ritual of the diocese of Paderborn the German language is used much more widely, as it contains a German translation to most of the prayers of the Roman Ritual. In the same way the Breslau Ritual contains a German and a Polish translation of most of the prayers.
The Munich and the Passau Rituals order that before the Communion, when the communicants do not understand Latin, the words, “Ecce agnus Dei,” and “Domine, non sum dignus,” should be said in German; and the latter has at the end, or before most of the Latin prayers in the Baptismal Service, a German translation or paraphrase; in order that, as their holy mother Church has always desired, the faithful may be instructed in what takes place at the administration of the Sacraments, and in what is said by the Priest, as the servant of the Church, in ecclesiastical language.
Moreover, the Rituals of other dioceses, as well as those of Paderborn and Breslau, deviate from the Roman directions. For example, the Freiburg Ritual contains, after the Baptismal Service of the Romish Ritual, not only a full German translation of it, but also “a second German Formulary for the administration of holy Baptism in the Church,” and an additional one for Private Baptism: similarly, in the case of other liturgical Acts. It also orders that only the “essential words of the Sacraments” shall be always said in Latin.
The German Rituals of Wessenberg and of Vitus Anton Winter, formerly much in use, contain, as is well known, not only “freely rendered” Formularies differing somewhat considerably from the Latin, but also the actual Sacramental Formulae in the German language.
The following observations may serve to justify the principle upon which our German Ritual is compiled. It is certainly according to the spirit of the Catholic Church that, with regard to the essential constituent portions of the Liturgy, unity should continue on the one hand between the separate parts of the Church, and on the other hand between the present and the past; and that accordingly, at least in essentials, liturgical prayers and actions should be the same in all parts of the Church, and that those in customary use should not be altered without necessity. The only substantial reason that can be brought forward for the universal use of the Latin tongue in the services of the Western Church during many centuries, is that the unity of the Church, both in place and time, is thereby more prominently brought into view. This unity, however, should not grow into stiff monotony, and render such alterations impossible, as either would not interfere with true unity, or may be rendered necessary in many places by lapse of time and difference of nationality. Unity in essentials does not exclude a diversity in non-essentials. The Liturgy as a whole, the meanings of the prayers and the ceremonies, can be the same, even when the language employed in worship is different; and liturgical differences can exist as a fact inside the Catholic Church, even inside the Roman Catholic Church. The so-called Uniat Churches have their old Liturgies; the South Sclavonians, the old Sclavonic; the Church of Milan, her Ambrosian; and a Church in Toledo has retained her Mozarabic Liturgy. Not long ago many dioceses in Germany and France had their particular Missals and Breviaries; and even after the Roman Missal and Breviary were substituted in their place, almost all separate dioceses and orders have retained their own Uses. The Ritual in use in the Cologne diocese differs slightly in the administration of the Sacraments and other ceremonial Acts from the Romish Ritual; and the above facts shew that, in reference to the use of the German language in the administration of the Sacraments, a great variety exists, notwithstanding all the endeavours to bring about uniformity in the Romish sense.
The reasons which are generally brought forward for employing a dead and unknown language in the Liturgy, can easily be proved untenable.
1. The first argument is this: that as the buildings of churches and the vestments of the clergy differ from those in secular use, it would therefore correspond to religious feeling, that a different language should be used in liturgical actions from the ordinary language of conversation. Here the fact is overlooked, that the impression which an unintelligible language makes is not a religious impression, and that a comprehension of the liturgical prayers, and in consequence a lively inward participation in the same on the part of persons present, is at any rate of much more importance than an indistinct veneration for mysteries.
2. The second argument is this: that a living language is liable to alteration, and that consequently in vernacular liturgical formularies the old expressions would from time to time require to have their places filled by new ones, and that thereby there would arise the danger of an alteration of the contents. This argument proves too much, as the same might be urged with still greater reason against the translations of the Bible and of the Catechism, than against the translation of the Liturgy. As the correctness of new translations of the Bible can be tested by comparison with the original, so it cannot be denied that vernacular liturgical formularies could be controlled by reference to the ancient Church formularies, as far as their essential character is concerned.
3. The apprehension that in giving up the Latin language, too much play (as regards the Liturgy) would be allowed to the subjective opinion of individuals, is groundless, because the liturgical Formulary drawn up in the vulgar tongue could be placed under the direction of the Church authorities as well as the Latin service.
4. The remark, “That should the vulgar tongue be used for worship, a Catholic Priest could not undertake the liturgical Acts in a foreign country,” is not much to the point, because this would only be a necessity in very rare cases. Apart from the celebration of Mass, and from the case of missionaries, it would hardly ever be necessary for a Priest to undertake ecclesiastical functions in a country where he did not know the language. Should such a necessity arise, the exceptional use of the Latin language, or the native language of the Priest concerned, could be directed to be used. It would not be justifiable to retain the Latin language as a rule, in order to meet such exceptional cases.
5. It has also been said, that the use of the vulgar tongue would lay the service open to numberless profanations on the part of the ignorant and unbelieving. This danger is, at any rate, not in a higher degree imminent for the liturgical prayers in the vulgar tongue than, on the one hand, for the Bible, for preaching, and for catechizing in the vulgar tongue; or, on the other hand, for those liturgical ceremonies which are not withdrawn from the gaze of ignorant and unbelieving men.
Sailer says, in his “New Contributions for the Training of the Clergy,” (vol. ii. p, 250): “An unspiritual Priest who says the Mass in German in a low tone, would be a scandal to the people who understand his words; whereas the unspiritual Priest who says the Latin Mass in a low tone would, at all events, not disturb devotion by a sound which the congregation do not understand.” But such men as Sailer here alludes to should say the Mass neither in Latin nor in German, nor administer the Sacraments, nor undertake other functions of the Liturgy. Sailer is quite right when he adds, “The first and highest law of all wise reformation in the Liturgy is this, train first of all for the people an enlightened and pious priesthood.”
Therefore, the only question that arises is whether, in the case of liturgical acts (granted they are to be performed in a worthy manner), it is better to use the Latin or the vernacular.
The ancient liturgical Formularies are, however, throughout so arranged, that the prayers are not said by the officiating Clergy only, but the congregation of the faithful who are taking part in the service, or who are present, share the prayers (at least in some parts of the service) with the Clergy, or at all events appropriate to themselves by an Amen the prayer which is uttered by the Priest; and it is a manifest makeshift when the Sacristan, or any other individual, steps into the place of the congregation, or of those present. Also, the prayers which are to be said by the officiating Priest alone are, according to the original and true idea of the Liturgy, meant not only to be heard, but also to be understood by the remainder of the congregation, and heard in such a manner, that an inward participation in the service is possible. With this the Rubric agrees, that the prayers used at the administration of the Sacraments are to be said with a distinct voice.
This understanding, and this inward participation in the service, will not, at any rate, be so thoroughly effected by mere translations and explanations of the Formularies for those who are unacquainted with the Latin language. Therefore, the German language is used exclusively in the Formularies of the new Ritual, as no well-grounded scruples and no practical difficulties stand in the way of the use of the vulgar tongue at the administration of the Sacraments, or in other acts comprised in a Ritual. After what has been said, there remained no reason for making an exception with reference even to the precise sacramental formulas.
A genuine reform has not only to keep essentials unaltered, but also with reference to non-essentials, to attach itself to what exists; and with regard to points that have long usage in their favour, only to alter as much as is necessary. It might appear from this maxim as if an exact German translation of very ancient formularies, or, at any rate, of those in use for centuries, would have sufficed. And this has been the case with some Formularies; for example, Confirmation, and portions of other Formularies. But with other parts of the Ritual, this course was not admissible.
Sailer has already remarked (Neue Beiträge, &c., vol. ii. p. 281), and it may be looked upon as decided, that the German language (with permission of the Bishop) may be introduced at the administration of the Sacraments. But no one will at all dispute that our old Ritual does not merely require to be translated, but also to be revised and amended. In fact, many parts of the old Formularies originated under circumstances which differ from those of the present day, and bring ideas into expression, or have ideas for their foundation, which have become unfamiliar to us. A great deal in the Roman rite of Baptism proceeds from the time when grown-up persons principally were baptized, after a long preparation of instruction and religious training, combined with more liturgical ceremonies.
The prayers said at the commencement of the present Roman rite of Baptism would be quite fit for such a catechumen, but would have no appropriate meaning before the baptism of a child, e.g. “that he, preserving his first teaching of the greatness of thy Majesty, and through obedience to thy commandments, may become worthy to obtain the gift of regeneration.”
It would not be reasonable that this and some similar forms should be retained in the Ritual, after Infant Baptism has become the rule; and they would be doubly out of place in a German translation. It is, furthermore, a thoroughly Scriptural verity, that Christ has redeemed the world from the power of the devil; but this truth is expressed in a manner which no longer answers to our present ideas, and may give occasion to misunderstandings, and has already done so when, according to the Roman Ritual, the Priest blows upon the child to be baptized with the words, “Go out of him, unclean spirit, and make room for the Holy Ghost, the Consoler;” or when the Priest who baptizes says twice, “I adjure thee, unclean spirit, that thou go out and retire from the servant of God;” and again adds, “Therefore, accursed devil, acknowledge thy sentence, and give honour to the true and living God,” &c., &c.; or when, at the blessing of salt, it is said, “I conjure thee, creature of salt, that thou wilt in the name of the Holy Trinity be a healing means of grace for driving out the enemy,” &c.
A mere German translation of the Latin Formulary would, therefore, not answer the requirements which are to be found in a Ritual; on the other hand, the retention of the German Formularies of Wessenberg and Winter is not to be recommended, because, notwithstanding their many good points, they both differ too much and unnecessarily from ancient Formularies, and the instructive, hortatory, and reflective element is more prominent than is desirable in a Liturgy. The required instruction might be given in addresses before and after the liturgical acts; to these might also be added, when it is suitable, particular prayers to express the subjective thoughts and feelings of those concerned. The liturgical Formulary must be kept free from these elements, and confine itself to fixed objective forms corresponding to the subject-matter, and suitable for all occasions. Accordingly, our Ritual will not contain a choice of various Formularies for separate liturgical acts, but a single Formulary for each act. It is left to the discretion of the officiating Clergy to add addresses or prayers in particular cases, or according to circumstances. These may be taken out of the Wessenberg Ritual, where it is in use.
Explanatory remarks are added in an Appendix, about the meaning of the separate Formularies.
 In the Cologne Formulary this clause appears three times, in addition to the following : “It is not hid from thee, Satan, that punishment and torment await thee, and the day of judgment, the day of eternal damnation, which will come as a burning oven, in which eternal destruction awaits thee and all thy angels. Therefore, thou damned and damnable one, give honour to the living and true God, give honour to Jesus Christ his Son, and to the Holy Ghost, in whose name and power I command thee whosoever thou art, unclean spirit, to depart,” &c., &c. (See Roman Ritual, Service for Baptism of Adults.)