Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Praising God is not ordinary"

Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 8-10 pm. Please join us for a great study break!
Here’s an email a student recently sent me:

“Hey Fr Greg! I had an idea for something you could address at either discussion or in your blog - I have been reading about the new translation of the Mass that is set to come out in various blogs, and most of them are commenting on the people that are criticizing the new translation. I guess I missed all the backstory - why are we getting a new translation? Why is it important/necessary? What changes will be made? Is this going to drastically change the Mass? Why are people attacking the new translation? I just thought it would be helpful to know more of what is happening with this!”

I try to be a generous person, so I gave these questions to another one of our students (one who is applying for seminary this fall) to answer. Ok, the real reason is that I've been too busy to tackle this. I am grateful to our student for his generous time and effort. Here is his excellent and insightful reply:

As many people probably know by now, there will be a new translation of the Mass that will be used starting in Advent 2011. One question is 'why is there a new translation to begin with?' The answer to that is rather straightforward. In 2002, Pope John Paul II approved an updated version of the Roman Missal that was to be used by all of the Church faithful. This 2002 edition of the Mass was an updated version of the Pope Paul VI Roman Missal of 1970. Following Vatican II when there was a little bit of a rush to promulgate a codified English translation of the Mass, the English translation of the Mass was not a very good translation from the Latin as it could have been. The new translation of the Mass coming out in 2011 will be the English translation from the 2002 Missal that was written in Latin. Also, the translation itself will be much more faithful to the actual Latin used.

After the new translation of the Roman Missal was approved by the USCCB last November, the USCCB President, Cardinal Francis George, said:

“The Missale Romanum – the Roman Missal – is a book that not only expresses the faith as the people come to understand it, but constantly challenges people to move that faith into what is the heavenly Liturgy. And it is a book that has been defended by martyrs: the English Martyrs at the time of Elizabeth died for the sake of the Roman Missal and the Mass that was incorporated in it... We have a liturgical tradition that is a necessary part of the Magisterium, of handing on the faith. It is the Missal, along with Scripture, that indeed tells us how God wants to intertwine, inter-work in the affairs of the human race. So there is a tremendous moment of religious renewal that is possible now and that I really hope, with the help of our own Committee [on Divine Worship], we will be able to take advantage of it.”

However, there are some criticisms about the new translation of the Mass. Most common criticisms include arguments such as 'the new language used is too far removed from everyday English or that some new parts do not use proper English grammar.' However, as Cardinal George said- the Mass is meant to bring the faithful closer to God. By using Sacred Language that is not normal English- it shows us that praising God is not ordinary; rather, it is extraordinary. This is one reason why we get dressed up for Mass instead of wearing shorts and flip flops because Mass is not just like a beach party, instead Mass brings us in touch with the glory and mystery of God. It is the Sacrifice of Calvary. We should be as respectful and dignified as possible. One fun fact though is that the hundreds of years ago, the Romans did not consider the Latin the Church uses to be proper Latin. Grammatically, they said, the Latin the Church uses was not the way everyday Romans spoke. But there's an old Church adage that says how we worship reflects what we believe.

The USCCB has set up a website describing some of the changes that will be made. The website is One of the most basic changes to the Missal will be when the priest or celebrant opens Mass with "The Lord be with you" and the congregation will respond with "And with your spirit" instead of "And Also With You." The Latin used is "Et cum spiritu tuo" which means "and with your spirit." As you can tell there is a big difference between 'and also with you' and 'and with your spirit.' Just think about it, when we talk about 'your spirit,' the Church is describing the very soul, being, and essence of ourselves, of our nature. The USCCB felt that to keep 'and also with you' was not only a bad translation from the Latin but also that it was too similar to how we would regularly greet each other and thus not fitting for Sacred Language and Sacred Liturgy.

One of my personal favorite examples of the new translation will be in the preface of the Eucharistic prayer. In it- the priest will say of Mary's delivery of Jesus, "She brought forth ineffably Your incarnate Son." The word ineffable means "so amazing or wonderful as to not be able to describe in words." Talk about getting in touch with the glory and splendor of God. While there are a few more examples of terminology we wouldn't use in everyday speech, the Church uses Sacred Language to show that what we do is not ordinary. It cannot be stressed enough how Mass is supposed to raise us higher to God instead of bringing God down to our level.

Considering that most of the world already employs a translation similar to what we will use with the new translation, Americans and other English speakers have no reason to fear any change in the translation of the Mass. Better yet, as Cardinal George said, there is a tremendous opportunity for religious renewal that is possible with the new translation of the Mass. Hopefully, we will all take advantage of such a grace and raise ourselves higher to God by the way we worship Him.

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