Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Mass Disruption: The New Translation of the Liturgy Will Speak Volumes about the Church That Prays It

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Mass Disruption: The New Translation of the Liturgy Will Speak Volumes about the Church That Prays It

Article excerpt

NOVEMBER 28, 2010, THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, marks the beginning not only of a new liturgical year but a countdown to "welcoming the new Roman Missal," as the U.S. bishops' website calls its preparation program for the new translation of the Mass. Over the coming year English-speaking Catholics around the country will relearn prayers they have long been able to recite or sing by heart.

Why the change? Many reasons have been offered, but there is really only one: The directive of the Second Vatican Council's liturgy constitution that, in the reform of the liturgy, the "full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else" has been replaced by the goal of translating Latin texts into the vernacular as literally as possible. How else can one understand the restoration of the archaic "And with your spirit" as a response to "The Lord be with you"?

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It has become a fad in liturgical circles to explain "theologically" that the response addresses the Holy Spirit in the priest and reminds the priest that he is about to act in the person of Christ--a curious stretch based on one ancient homily. The exchange does mark important transitions in the liturgy, but there is no need to make it more than it is. Besides, while "And with your spirit" may directly translate "Et cure spiritu tuo," it doesn't make much sense in 21st-century English.

Or consider the only change to the Holy, Holy: Where we now praise the "God of power and might," we will soon sing to the "God of hosts"--armies, not communion wafers. The expression translates sabaoth in the Sanctus, which is Hebrew, not Latin. But why choose the confusing hosts instead of the clearer armies? Perhaps, in this age of faith-driven violence, Catholics would recoil at praising the "God of armies," hence the amorphous hosts. Still, "God of power and might," both accurate and clear to the assembly, was judged too "loose" a translation of the "Latin."

These examples reflect only some of the changes to the people's parts. The prayers spoken by the presider, many now rendered as a single, long, complex sentence in English to reflect Latin sentence structure, will be exceedingly difficult to proclaim in a way that the assembly can understand. …

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