It is clear that many people are apprehensive about change and the impact it will have on parishes. You may have already heard concerns and opinions about the texts of the revised missal and even some of the anxiety behind the concerns. There is a certain hesitation to change on the part of most Catholics. Change is never easy.
Priests will need to relearn Eucharistic prayers. Music ministry will have new settings for the Gloria and acclamations. The one’s we are learning were written by Dan and another musician that he has to send to our bishop’s conference for approval. The laity will have to relearn responses that have become quite familiar and committed to memory.
As with most revisions of the liturgy, this isn’t about likes and dislikes with regards to the texts, but a caring for each other, equipping ourselves and assisting the people of God through this transition so that together we may experience Christ who lives and works among us and through us in the sacred liturgy.
At the 2nd Vatican Council, Blessed Pope John XXIII put in to motion a principle that the reform of the liturgy was to be ongoing in order to meet the needs of every age. The reform was, however to take into account that “new forms should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.”
The 1st complete English translation of the Missal was done in 1973. It was done in a “dynamic” style of translation ~ one that took some freedom with the structure and content of the Latin sentences. This resulted in texts that felt quite natural in English, but they sacrificed some of the nuances of the Latin texts.
This translation has served us well. It helped entire communities make the jump from praying Mass in Latin to praying it in English. It showed how a good translation can enhance the prayer of individuals and entire communities. It gave us a better understanding of our faith, and laid a foundation for vernacular worship upon which the Church is building with the 3rd edition.
On September 15, 2003, the Congregation for Divine Worship formally established the International Commission for English in the Liturgy or “ICEL” as a mixed commission in accordance with the Holy See’s Instruction Liturgiam authenticam, which significantly revised the principles for translation. One of the aims in this restructuring of ICEL was to establish greater episcopal oversight in the translation process.
The Congregation also created, in the spring of 2002, the consultative body of bishops and experts called “Vox Clara” (Latin for clear voice). Since the Congregation reserved the approval of translations to itself, it was deemed necessary to form a team of Bishops and experts who could act as consultors to the Congregation and facilitate cooperation with the various English-speaking episcopal conferences.
“To live is to change, and to be made perfect is to change often.” On the 27th of November the newly translated 3rd edition of the Roman Missal will be put into use in every English speaking country in the world. In a shift that is significant, the new texts will be prayed and sung by all catholic parishes in our country.
Change in the liturgy isn’t new to the life of the Church, nor is this latest change the final word. For more than 40 years most of us have been seeing liturgical change. Some may remember the Mass being celebrated in the vernacular for the first time, the priest turning to face the people, the congregation being invited to take part in responding to the priest in English for the 1st time. While many responded with enthusiasm, not everyone embraced the changes easily.
For priests who were fresh out of the seminary, the changes were mostly welcomed. But for a priest who had been ordained for some time and having to assimilate and implement the liturgical changes, it must have been quite difficult. The same was true for the laity, who for years had come to know the Tridentine Mass as it was celebrated for over 400 years before the 2nd Vatican Council.
It’s important to recognize that anxiety caused by growth and change isn’t new to the Church. In the first centuries a discussion, debate and more than one argument arose over the date of Easter and another over the requirements of membership in this new “Christian” sect of Judaism.
One great historical example concerns the counter-reformation and the Council of Trent. The bishops who gathered at
were concerned with the unity of the Church in the face of the Reformation. Trent
Prior to the gathering of this council, the liturgy enjoyed many usages and was celebrated in several forms. In attempting to meet the particular challenges facing the church, the council fathers determined that the liturgy should be then celebrated according to one usage, one rite. Any other rite that was 400 years old could remain… all others would be discontinued.
There is another reason for the new translation. We need to restore a heightened sense of the sacred to our worship. We live in a secular society that places little value on the sacred. The new translation is aesthetically rich, and will transform us with its beauty.
The aim of the new translation is to bring forth the awe-inspiring in the liturgy. Blessed John Paul II said, “Ultimately, the mystery of language brings us back to the mystery of God himself.” The new translation gives us a chance to purify and deepen our communion in the Body of Christ in two ways. First, it invites us to attend more closely to the words and spirit of the apostolic tradition of our sacred liturgy. Second, it confronts us with the need to work at our common prayer and approach the liturgy as disciples rather than masters.
The Mass was instituted by Christ; it came to us through the apostles in several distinct forms. There are Greek Catholic liturgies, Syrian Catholic liturgies, Coptic Catholic liturgies, and others. Each of these embodies the gospel, and kept alive by the Holy Spirit, puts its people into communion of catholic prayer. The Latin Church is the largest of the Catholic churches and uses translation into vernacular or common languages of the people.
The revised missal is an opportunity to re-learn and do what the Roman Rite requires. We all know that after Vatican II the Mass was often celebrated more informally and with more self-expression by the presider. Each of us has a role in the Mass in obedience to the Master… and must not stand out into everyone’s attention. The principal actor at Mass is Christ crucified. For our part, we are called upon to be faithful to the accurate translation of the Latin texts and learn our part of those texts as soon as we can.
The translation we are adopting is more faithful to the original, both in its accuracy and in its humble and generous submission. When I say “original” I refer to texts that go back to the 3rd and 4th centuries. These are the same prayers that were prayed by
St. Augustine and St. Benedict; the same prayers that fed the souls of St. Francis of and St. Clare… talk about the communion of saints! Assisi
The concern for the sacred character of our worship at Mass is shown in another way, beyond the choice of words and the determination to render into English the beauty of Latin. It is shown in the length and the structure of sentences. You will notice in the new translation that the prayers of the priest contain long sentences. Here, for example is the central portion of the Preface for the Assumption of Mary:
For today the Virgin Mother of God
was assumed into heaven
as the beginning and image of your Church’s coming to perfection
and a sure sign of hope and comfort to your pilgrim people;
rightly you would not allow her
to see the corruption of the tomb
since from her own body she marvelously brought forth
your incarnate Son, the Author of all life.
In this beautiful prayer, we begin and end with our minds devoted to the Motherhood of Mary, as is right for this feast. Notice too that what is in the middle is balanced, one truth reflecting upon another, so that the Assumption of Mary is an image of the raising of the Church and of all her pilgrims. Both are a reflection of the Resurrection of Jesus in his glorified body, Jesus, to whom the Church applies the words of the Psalm: “You would not let your holy one see corruption.”
It’s also amazing how steeped in scripture the prayers are… how, for example a passage from
will be placed alongside a passage from the Psalms to make a theological point. Every single collect (opening prayer) is delicately and wisely crafted to fit the season and the day. St. Paul
History teaches us something of great importance. While the rites or externals of the liturgy have changed and evolved, the essential nature of the liturgy has remained the same because it has had and will always have as its one goal and objective the worship of God which is part of the Church’s Tradition and has in fact remained unchanged.
Tradition in the Church isn’t about the past; it is the Church’s self consciousness now of the life that has been passed onto it which is always in continuity with the past, but at the same time independent of the past. The Tradition of the Church has made allowance of the change that is a necessary part of the Church’s growth and development. The sacred liturgy is an important and integral part of that.
History teaches us that change has always been a part of the life of the Church. It also teaches us that change is not always easy. This has been for our ancestors in the faith as it is for us. This period of the Church’s history may in fact be a time in which liturgical change has occurred at a significantly more rapid pace. In the past 13 years, the Church in the
United States has received and implemented a revised Lectionary for Mass, an indult for a funeral liturgy in the presence of cremated remains, revised ordination rites, and the Revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which changed several of the rubrics of the celebration of the Let’s not forget the liturgy we are currently celebrating is less than 50 years old. Mass.
Changes reflected in the texts of the Revised Roman Missal, afford an opportunity for each of us to renew our level or participation in the liturgy and reinvigorate our understanding of the liturgy itself. It’s an opportunity to build on a solid foundation of worship and another opportunity for us to examine what it is we do, and why we do it when we gather for
We have a time to reflect on the words and meaning of the texts so that we may all be filled with the spirit of the liturgy and be led to that “full, conscious and active participation in the liturgical celebration called for by the very nature of the liturgy.
To better understand our place in a changing world and a changing Church, we need to look to our role as Christians in the world. We are a people who know and understand that this world isn’t our destiny, or our final home. We are pilgrims, who exist between the memory of Christ’s Paschal Mystery (his life, death, resurrection, ascension and glorification) made real in the celebration of the sacred liturgy, and hope… the hope of glory in the presence of God with all the blessed who are called to the Supper of the Lamb. To live is to change, and to be made perfect is to have changed often.
The Many Facets of Translating the Roman Missal
The Many Facets of Translating the Roman Missal
The process of achieving an approved English translation for the liturgy is extremely involved. I would say that never in the history of the world has a set of texts received so much consultation, review, and revision. ICEL divided the work of revising the Missale Romanum into the following steps.
1) The work begins with the base translators. These are experts that ICEL employs to make the initial translation from Latin into English.
2) Their translations are then reviewed by nine teams.
3) Next, the texts are sent to the Roman Missal Editorial Committee (RMEC), which serves an editorial purpose. RMEC, which is a committee of ICEL, tries to bring a unified style and consistency of vocabulary to prayers that various groups have composed and reviewed.
4) From RMEC, the texts go to the ICEL secretariat, which reviews and checks them for typographical or other mistakes.
5) The secretariat then brings them before the ICEL commission, which consists of eleven bishops ~ one from each of the eleven-member conferences. Others usually present at these meetings include three members from the ICEL secretariat in
, the chair of RMEC, and a few other experts and assistants. They review and revise each text, with only the 11 bishop members having voting rights. Washington, D.C.
6) Once a given section of the Missale is approved by ICEL, it is sent to each of the eleven Episcopal Conferences who have full membership vote. At this point, the particular section of the Missale is called a “green book” because of the color of its binder. The secretariat for each Episcopal Conference suggests revisions and solicits suggestions from every bishop in the Conference (the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has 273 active bishops in its membership).
7) Suggestions from each of the Episcopal Conferences are then sent back to the secretariat at ICEL.
8) Along this process, the proposed translations are also sent to the Congregation in
for suggestions and feedback from Vox Clara. Often a regular give and take occurs between ICEL and Vox Clara. Rome
9) ICEL reviews the suggestions from the Episcopal Conferences and from Vox Clara and makes further revisions. The ICEL membership votes to approve the translation, now called the “gray book” based on the color of its binder.
10) The “gray book” is sent back to each Episcopal Conference for a vote to accept or reject. The accepted gray book goes to
for final approval by the Congregation and the Holy Father. Each Episcopal Conference can also request adaptations in the gray book version that Rome would approve only for that particular Conference. Rome
11) Finally, the Holy See provides “recognition” of the text, only then which may be published and finally implemented according to the country’s time plan.
Stylistic Differences in Translations
Finally, there are some of the stylistic differences that will be seen in the revised translation when it is available for use in the liturgy.
Liturgiam authenticam provides its main principles for translation in paragraph 57: That notable feature of the Roman Rite, namely its straightforward, concise and compact manner of expression, is to be maintained insofar as possible in the translation. Furthermore, the same manner of rendering a given expression is to be maintained throughout the translation, insofar as feasible. These principles are to be observed:
a) The connection between various expressions, manifested by subordinate and relative clauses, the ordering of words, and various forms of parallelism, is to be maintained as completely as possible in a manner appropriate to the vernacular language.
b) In the translation of terms contained in the original text, the same person, number, and gender are to be maintained insofar as possible.
c) The theological significance of words expressing causality, purpose or consequence (such as ut, ideo, enim, and quia) is to be maintained, though different languages may employ varying means for doing so.
d) The principles set forth…in #51, regarding variety of vocabulary, are to be observed also in the variety of syntax and style (for example, in the location within the Collect of the vocative addressed to God).
Bishops’ Committee for Divine Worship makes the following comment with regard to the challenges presented by these principles of translation: "The application of this paragraph of Liturgiam authenticam has made some extraordinary demands on translators, especially with reference to 57a. The use of extended subordination is a method to order all the elements of a sentence in such a way as to express a dependence on God as the source of all saving action. In addition, the meaning of the prayer is communicated through the use of a sequence of tenses that links all action solely to that of the main clause. U.S.
"When such a sentence is broken up, in English, into many shorter sentences there comes about a cumulative loss of meaning between those ideas which are secondary and their subordination to a principal action. In general, the translators have remained faithful to the principle, but there have been some prayers that were so long that they needed to be broken into two sentences."
An example of the difference this principle of translation demands can be seen in the following comparison of the current translation of the Prayer over the Gifts for the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time and an early proposed revision:
Current Translation: Lord God, in this bread and wine you give us food for body and spirit. May the eucharist renew our strength and bring us health of mind and body.
A Suggested Early Draft: O God, who in the gifts presented here nourish with food and renew with Sacrament the twofold nature of the human race, grant, we pray, that their sustenance may not fail us in body or in mind.
The present English translation breaks up a long Latin sentence into two. This has made the content easier to grasp but resulted in the loss of some meaning. It also has brought about a style of prayer in which the Church makes statements to God about what God would already know. Also, the link between the address of the divinity and the request of the prayer is broken. We end up telling God what he does and then separately asking him for something, whereas in the proposed translation, we are asking God for something because we recognize what he has already done for us. The longer sentence is trickier both to proclaim and to hear, but the potential benefits seem well worth it. Other modern languages do this already and have adapted to this style without trouble. The new translation will, therefore, also better harmonize with the closer translations of other languages, thereby creating a more unified voice throughout the Catholic world.
Another change will be the use of a broader vocabulary. The current translation employs a rather narrow range of words to translate a considerably larger word list in the Latin original. In the new translation, then, a greater English vocabulary will not only be more faithful to the Latin but also enrich the sounds, content, and images of the new English translation. Many images in the Latin were never used in the current translation. For example, the image of “dewfall” for the action of the Holy Spirit in Eucharistic Prayer II was omitted in the current translation.
Broadening and deepening the liturgical/theological word list that we draw upon will enable the liturgical books to be more consistent and uniform not only in the prayers but the rubrics. Bishop Arthur Serratelli of
Paterson, N.J., chairman of the Bishops Committee for Divine Worship, wrote in a column in his diocesan newspaper that the proposed translations “are densely theological. They respect the rich vocabulary of the Roman Rite. They carefully avoid the overuse of certain phrases and words” U.S.
The style of the prayer texts will be more formal than what we currently hear. Another description for this is that the new translations use a “higher linguistic register.” The texts portray a more obedient stance of humanity in relation to the divine, stressing God’s mercy and our unworthiness. This is not at all to say that the texts promote groveling, or worthlessness. To the contrary! The great truth of our unworthiness, when combined with God’s mercy to us in Christ, creates not despondency but delight! That is apparent in Mary’s declaration to
(Luke 1:48) “for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations shall call me blessed.” Elizabeth
The word order of the new translations consciously follows the word order of the Latin as much as possible. This hinders the flow of English but adds a theological nuance. Bishop Serratelli explains in his column: "Latin orations, especially Post-Communions, tend to conclude strongly with a teleological or eschatological point. The new translations in English follow the sequence of these Latin prayers in order to end on a strong note. Why should we strip the English translation of the distinctive theological emphases of the Latin text? A slightly non-colloquial word order can lead the listener to a greater attention to the point of the prayer"
Lastly, there has been a growing desire in recent years for the prayers of the Mass to be sung. To facilitate this, ICEL was mindful of the texts rhythm and singability. A special committee was formed to write chants for the revised texts.
With the revised prayers there will be new words to hear, new syntaxes to comprehend, and a new style to absorb. This will require some renewed effort on the part of the priest who proclaims as well as on the part of the assembly who hears.
Hopefully, we can experience a certain excitement that we will soon be proclaiming and hearing not something that was created in the 1970s and early 1980s, but what is much closer to what the Church has prayed for centuries, and which Catholics are praying in other languages around the world!