Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

And With Thy Spirit: The New Translation of the Roman Missal Part III

April 2nd, 2011, Promulgated by Abaccio

Parts I and II.

For those who are unaware, when one looks at the missal, it contains two kinds of text: rubrics (stuff the priest does), which are red, and the actual words of the Mass (stuff the priest reads), which are in black.  (Hence Fr. Z’s famed “Say the Black-Do the Red”)  One reason so many liturgical abuses have cropped up over the years is the wording used in the rubrics of the 1973 translation of the Missal.  Often times, it improperly allows a bit of leeway around the wording, by saying something like “He may use these or similar words.”  What is similar? Where can a line be drawn? Can you say “friends” instead of “brethren”? Why not just say “everybody” or “y’all”?   You can see how quickly this turns into a circus.  The new translation’s rubrics do not do this.  They are very specific.  That same rubric in the new translation says, “Then follows the Penitential Act, to which the Priest invites the faithful, saying:”  No ambiguity there!

You will recall some of the complaints about this new translation: it’s not “good English,” or “it’s too confusing,” or “it doesn’t flow, it sounds like a translation!”  Allow me to say, I think it’s quite alright if a translation sounds like a translation. It is one!  We must always remember that we are the Latin Church, and we are praying the Roman Missal, not the English Missal.  Fundamentally, we are praying in a translation that must be unified with those other translations of the same text.  Priests, if you don’t like it, just use Latin!  Laity, if you don’t like it, ask your priest to use Latin!

One wonderful aspect of this new translation is the re-emphasis on chant.  Right along with each line in the missal will be the chant intonation.  An example of what this will look like appears here. I would expect that, as our priests become more familiar with this new, corrected translation, we will start to see a general shift in liturgical music.  Instead of Marty Haugen, David Haas, and other such composers of liturgical showtunes, ICEL and the USCCB have re-emphasized the importance of chant in the Church.  Just as we are not called the pray at Mass, but rather to pray the Mass, I believe that we will shift from singing at Mass, but rather singing the Mass.

Often times, people think they understand things they do not truly understand.  Since they understand each individual word used, they assume that they grasp the concept expressed by those words.  When big, scary words are used, many people become somewhat agitated.  (I will point this out as we go through the translation in a number of places.) Rather than using them as an opportunity to learn, some run away screaming with their fingers firmly placed in their ears.  Did I know what ineffable meant the first time I heard it? No, of course not!  Once I looked it up, I understood.  Approachable does not need to mean “dumbed down to a 4th grade level.”

Fr. Bausch griped about the new translation last year, saying:

“From my experience of 61 years of speaking the English language these phrases and words are not familiar to my ear in my daily conversation with people.  I assure you, I am not opposed to learning, but our Church’s liturgy is often accused of being out of touch or boring. Now we may further complicate the liturgy by using words and phrases that are not part of our common language.”

I would argue, rather, that one of the reasons people find Mass to be boring is that it IS boring to the uncatechized.  “Mass is boring, it needs to be more approachable” is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  When the Holy Mass is just seen as another prayer service with boring music and uncomfortable seats, it’s BORING.  When the Holy Mass is treated as if it’s one big family meal, it seems like the food and dinner table conversation are both lacking. That’s BORING.  When we hear some warbly old alb-wearing nun singing Kumbayah, it IS boring.  I assure you, however, that when one understands the sacrificial and sacramental nature of the Mass, it is anything but boring.  When one hears turns of phrase that bring Bible stories to mind, he recalls those stories and puts himself in them.

Even my most liberal friends do not find chant boring, but rather calming and peaceful.  No one who has ever heard a Mozart Mass has ever found it “boring and out of touch.”  When a teen hears the “contemporary choir” (made up of sexagenarians) singing “contemporary worship music” that is 2 generations removed from being “contemporary,” he is very easily bored.  So, I am not surprised that people find the current translation and music of the Novus Ordo at most parishes to be boring and out of touch.  It is.  It’s bland and uninspiring, it challenges neither the intellect nor the heart.

In the end, we should look back to one of the greatest axioms of the early church: Lex Orandi, Lex Vivendi.  The Law of Prayer is the Law of Belief.  That is to say, in essence that what we hear, and say, and pray DIRECTLY IMPACTS what we believe.  If one hears only of God’s mercy, and of heaven, and sunshine and butterflies, he often is blind to God’s justice.  Suddenly, after never hearing mention of sin or evil or the devil, people no longer believe in hell, no longer believe the father of lies exists, no longer believe in purgatory…and eventually, they no longer see a need for a redeemer.  If there is no hell from which to be saved, there is no need for a savior.  Just like that, Our Lord is relegated to the outskirts of our lives…perhaps simply as a model of being a “good person,” or a “nice guy.”  Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi.

There’s a third aspect of that ancient axiom, though, perhaps the most important logical conclusion…in total, it is Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi. The law of prayer is the law of belief is the law of life.  What we pray impacts what we believe, and what we believe impacts how we live.  Informal, limited prayer leads to a very limited faith, and we’ve seen the results–lapsed Catholics, closed parishes and schools, decreased confessions, and an incredibly profane society.  My sincerest prayer is that this new, corrected translation will be the first step to reversing this half-century long trend towards atheism.  Lofty goal? perhaps.  Unattainable? Absolutely not!  As Fr. Z. says, Save the Liturgy, Save the World!



4 Responses to “And With Thy Spirit: The New Translation of the Roman Missal Part III”

  1. Bernie says:

    This is just excellent! Very well put.

  2. Christopher says:

    Fr. Longenecker has some beef with the new translation:

    Interesting thoughts in the combox as well.

  3. Abaccio says:

    I’ve read his take…The aspect with which I primarily disagree with Fr. Longenecker is his issue with it not fitting in and seeming comical in the haugen-loving parishes. I don’t see an issue therewith…I think that the elevated language is going to bring about a general change in the music, vestments, architecture, etc., rather than just standing out in start contrast.

  4. Christopher says:

    Another beef piece written and I included the reply from Cale Clarke…

Leave a Reply

Log in | Register

You must be logged in to post a comment.

-Return to main page-