Sunday, September 13, 2009

Go to church. Build your vocabularly!

My family and I attend the Pittsburgh Latin Mass at St. Boniface Church on the city's North Side. We attend for its beauty, solemnity and ritual. As a bonus, we get to increase our vocabulary.

Our mass begins with the "Asperges" when the priest literally washes us by sprinkling holy water among the congregation. From the altar, the priest then intones, "Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto." It doesn't take much to understand the language as "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost." This simple understanding tells us that an English word like "patricide" has something to do with "father."

After another intonation and response, the priest says, "Domine sancte , Pater omnipotens, aeterne Deus...." We know he is saying, "Holy Lord, Almighty Father, everlasting God...." "Eternal" from the English and the Latin "aeterne" look nearly exact. And something "sanctified" is certainly something holy!

I'm not prostheltyzing here. You don't need to go to a Roman Catholic Church or a Latin Mass to build your vocabulary: pastors, priests, rabbis, gurus - they're all using language that informs English, whether it comes from Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Hindi, Arabic or another language. The English language has borrowed from all of them, and more! You only need to listen to hear it.

The Latin Mass, of course, is filled with such language, because English borrows so deeply from Latin. For instance, the priest confesses his sins and the altar boys say, "Misereatur tui omniopotens Deus, et dimissis peccatis tui, perducat te ad vitam aeternam." "Omnipotens" means almighty. "Misereatur" relates to mercy. And, "peccatis" has to do with sin, as in an English "peccadillo" (think Bill Clinton). After we all have confessed our sins, the priest says, "Indulgentiam, absolutionem, et remissionem, peccatorum, nostrorum tribuat nobis omnipotens et misericors Dominus" or "May almighty God have mercy upon you, forgive you your sins, and bring you to life everlasting."

We then glorify God by saying "Gloria in Excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis" or "Glory to God on high and on earth peace to men of good will." Think of the Latin "pax" and the English "pacify" and go from there! If you match the remaining words, you'll easily follow the meaning and see that you know Latin!

So, the next time you go to your church, temple, synagogue, or sanctuary, listen actively to the language. Hear the words. In the process you'll build your vocabulary - and you'll be filled with spirit and generosity, as a bonus!

No comments:

Post a Comment