Saturday, August 22, 2009

New Translations of the Mass

The US Bishop have just put up a rather good site on the translations for the Third Edition of the Roman Missal
New Words: A Deeper Meaning,
but the Same Mass

As the introduction says:

The Missale Romanum (the Roman Missal), the ritual text for the celebration of the Mass, was first promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as the definitive text of the reformed liturgy of the Second Vatican Council. A second edition followed in 1975.

Pope John Paul II issued a revised version of the Missale Romanum during the Jubilee Year 2000. The English translation of the revised Roman Missal is nearing completion, and the Bishops of the United States will vote on the final sections of the text this November. Among other things, the revised edition of the Missale Romanum contains prayers for the observances of recently canonized saints, additional prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayers, additional Votive Masses and Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Intentions, and some updated and revised rubrics (instructions) for the celebration of the Mass. The English translation of the Roman Missal will also include updated translations of existing prayers, including some of the well–known responses and acclamations of the people.

This website has been prepared to help you prepare for the transition. As this site continues to be expanded, you will find helpful resources for the faithful, for the clergy, and for parish and diocesan leaders.

May this process of the implementation of the revised Roman Missal be a time of deepening, nurturing, and celebrating our faith through our worship and the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy.

Check it out.


Physiocrat said...

It is an improvement on the present one, no doubt about that. How well it will be accepted is another matter. It has a curiously seventeenth century ring about it. That will make it difficult for many to accept on account of its evident strangeness. This applies not just to people in the UK and US with English as their mother tongue but poor command of the language, but also in ex-commonwealth countries. I can't see it going down well in those oddly mixed congregations that for some reason attend English masses here in Sweden, for example.

Vernacular language is political and that is why dead languages are used for liturgy, since they provide neutral territory. Moslems use Classical Arabic, Jews use Classical Hebrew, Hindus Sanskrit, etc. Language useage is always closely linked to social and economic class, with strong overtones of regional and ethnic loyalty. Vernacular language is inherently divisive. This is evident in Britain but more acutely even just across the Channel in Belgium.

There are also going to be difficulties over musical settings. The 1970s things need to be consigned to oblivion. But "Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis" with 15 syllables is translated by "and on earth peace to people of good will" with 10. So the Gregorian settings can't be used. The same verse in Swedish is "och frid på jorden åt människor som har hans välbehag" has 15 syllables. The translation was made long ago for the Lutheran church and makes it possible to use the original Gregorian settings, which is what happened. So when the Catholic church here adopted the vernacular, there was a mass of music available, based on the Gregorian chants, with the result that the liturgy is perfectly acceptable - the problem being that to many priests speak with a heavy German accent which makes it difficult for people to understand.

So the new translation leaves us without musical settings. If the old Church of England translations had been permitted as an option, this would at least have opened up the possibility of using the large body of Anglican music, though that has the severe drawback of having an irredeemably Protestant feeling to it.

What with the linguistic difficulty and musical problems, I am left wondering if it is even worth spending money on books. The same money could go towards buying a set of the simpler Gregorian chants and using the next two years to get congregations used to Latin. If one then takes account of issues such as the direction the priest is facing, the further question arises - whether to persist with the Ordinary form of the Mass at all? The EF form with a revised calendar appears to side-step the problems. It could be easier to spend the next couple of years getting congregations used to the EF mass, which would provide the opportunity for much-needed catechesis at the same time.

Patricius said...

Henry, if you return to the site and click on "resources", you may see a document on musical settings which may be enlightening. I was impressed at the efforts made in this area- including tones for the readings!

santoeusebio said...

I cannot help feeling that the present version was written by someone who wanted to exclude as many references to the supernatural, such as "soul" and "spirit", as he could get away with. It even extends to translations of the New Testament where the saying "What does it profit a man ..." has the last word (Greek "psyche" Latin "anima") translated as "life" which surely loses the whole point.

The new version therefore seems a distinct improvement to me.

Matthaeus said...

At last we seem to have a translation which is reasonably accurate and faithful to the Latin, and which should be reasonably acceptable to the majority of the people.

It does not represent a drastic departure from the present version, but merely 'irons out' the ambiguities, omissions and inaccuracies. It is also far less contrives and pompous-sounding than some of the earlier versions.

I also particularly like the translation of 'praeclarum' in the consecration prayers as 'precious': I know this word seems to have caused a lot of difficulty in previous translations (I recall 'excellent' and 'glorious' also appearing in earlier drafts). I think 'precious' conveys the right sense of reverence and respect to the chalice without sounding unnatural.

Other nice points are just to see the richness of the texts conveyed, for example no omissions in the Roman Canon, and accurate translations, such as 'from the rising of the sun to its setting' rather than 'from east to west' in Eucharistic Prayer III.

I understand the point that Henry raises about the translations having a somewhat archaic (he calls it seventeenth century) ring to them in places, but disagree that this will cause problems. I feel it merely introduces a degree of formality to the proceedings, emphasising the difference between the Sacred Liturgy and everyday conversation. This parallels other uses of formal language to distinguish their 'special' nature - for example legal documents and business letters.

Pastor in Monte said...

You can find [almost] the whole text laid out straightforwardly (which it isn't on the USCCB site) on my blog.

Dilly said...

This is marvellous improvement. I especially welcome the return to the "I Believe". I remember the day the priest introduced the "We believe" and gave us a lecture on how we had been doing it wrong all this time.(like that was our fault - when we read it out of the missalette...Early Church used "We"....we are a community and this reinforces it.....blah blah blah. And I remembered "look forward to the resurrection of the dead" changing to "look for". Look for - where do you expect to find it - under a sofa cushion?

Oh and one other thing. Could other baby boomers please confirm that most of these amendments were actually first used in the late 60s when the vernacular was first introduced. In particular, I remember using "And with your spirit" and beating my breast on the words "through my own most grievous fault". If I am correct, then this "New" translation is a tweaked version of the very first English translation, which was dumbed down in the early 70s. Raid your attics or store cupboards for some old missals - and I think you'll agree.

Physiocrat said...


That is interesting. It at least acknowledges that there are problems with the English language if the traditional and familiar Latin music is to be adapted, it seems that only the plainest Gregorian settings will work. Obviously they are putting a lot of thought into it but the end result does not inspire confidence.

I have doubts about the end result. They would have done well to look to the sixteenth century settings by people such as Marbeck. There is a long tradition of attempting to resolve the problem of adapting to English music composed for Latin texts.

The argument for modern five line notation is bizarre, since it rests on the assumption that most people can read music which of course they can't. When people start off without being able to read music, it is easier to read from four lines than five, that is a simple question of visual perception. And of course people then have to learn the four line notation as well if they are going to sing traditional chant.

The seventeenth century flavour would have caused less problems if young people were more familiar with texts such as Shakespeare and the bible of the same period but sadly they are not, and the language is almost as distant as what they are accustomed to as a foreign language would be. But unlike a foreign language, it is liable to be perceived as toffs' speech and could end up alienating a generation.

Language, as I said before, is highly political and when, as is the case with English, language usage is closely tied to social and economic status, it is probably wisest to keep the vernacular out of the liturgy.

Anagnostis said...

I can't see anything remotely 17th Century about it - not in its egregiously split infinitives or anywhere else ('fewer' problems, Henry, not 'less').

Of course the liturgy should be in the language of the local Church. The arguments for a "liturgical language" are mostly bogus. It's not difficult to avoid "political" pitfalls if one only approaches the business in an apolitical spirit.

Physiocrat said...

But the entire English language is political and has been ever since it emerged out of the political struggles for power that followed the Norman conquest.

The English judge each other in the first instance by the way they use the language. It is unavoidable.

So if the liturgy should be in the language of the local church, what place is there for all these masses we have here in English, Croatian, Polish, Hungarian, Spanish and sign language, plus the local language? There is Arabic too, but that is a different rite.

Dilly said...

I further note that the Roman Canon "pro multis" clause is now to be translated "for many".

Patricius said...

Dilly Daydream- When the first vernacular mass came in (1st Sunday in Advent 1964) we said "And with you"-simply. The "also" came later. We also said "I believe" and I think you are correct on the threefold mea culpa.
Henry- I agree there are problems relating English to Gregorian Chant but the results appear superior by far to much of the music provided for the vernacular liturgy over the last forty years (e.g.Peruvian and Clap Glorias).

Bigglesworth said...

Is there to be an English (UK) version, or will we be using the American English version, or will there be an Anglicised version of the American?

Victoria said...

The new translation will be accepted only if the parish priest accepts it. If the priest whiteants the translation from the pulpit, most of the congregation will follow suit.

I shudder to think what is going to happen in Australia.

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