In Translation

12-02-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

This First Sunday of Advent is an anniversary of sorts. It has been a full year since we began using the 3 Edition of the Roman Missal. In the build up to the Missal a whole lot of ink was spilled on such few words! But all in all implementation has been smooth at least in our parts. In other places the implementation was rather bumpy as little preparation was done and some congregations were caught off guard and without pew cards to help them. This was undoubtedly due to that quality that characterizes the priestly species: (to paraphrase Nietzsche) "the instinct of mediocrity." Implementation is yet occurring in many countries, others are in the translating process still. The Italian Bishops are in full revolt over the change from "all" to "many" (tutti to molti) in the words of consecration. Benedict XVI probably wishes he were back in Germany.

But all in all I appreciate the elevated language of the Missal, after all we are talking to God and the language employed in the prayers helps remind us that we are not beseeching an out of control cab driver but rather the Lord of the Universe. Over all I give the Missal a B+. I find the prayers for Advent and Lent especially well done and filled with imagery that the mind can easily grasp when heard. I particularly like the inclusion of the four Eucharistic Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions, which employ the language of the documents of Vatican II. A few weaknesses are the Prayers for the Masses for Ordinary Time. They tend to be rather stilted, lacking in poetic imagery and overuse the word "merit". But I guess the translators need some excuse to issue a 4 edition at some point! Also the Eucharistic Prayers for Masses with Children were barely revised and since they were awkward and mostly unreadable before they remain so afterwards. And finally the translators could have used a good Thesaurus as different forms of the word exalt, (exult, exaltation, exultation, exultant) are joyously difficult to pronounce.

In addition I give the printer/publisher (Midwest Theological) an A+ as I have found (so far) no typos or mistakes in the texts which is quite a feat for a book of this size and complexity.

There are a few words that appear in the Missal that may not be all that familiar to those unschooled in Theology. So I thought I would list them with definitions so that you could enter into the prayers with more theological acumen:

Oblation: it is synonymous with the word offering in the sense of sacrifice and gift but is exclusively used to refer to religious offerings.

Conciliation: before there is a need for "re"conciliation there has to be a conciliation (the action of mediating between 2 disputing persons or groups).

Consubstantial: a word taken directly from the Latin version of the Creed of Nicea (325 A.D.) meaning "of one or the same essence or substance.

Compunction: a pricking of the conscience or a feeling of guilt that follows the doing of something bad.

Propitious: giving or indicating a good chance of success; favorable.

Abasement: humiliation or degradation.

Expiation: the act of making amends or reparation for guilt or wrongdoing; atonement

Supplication: asking or begging for something in an earnest or humble way.

Serene countenance: a gentle or calm look or reassuring glance.

Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones; Dominions, Virtues, Powers; Principalities, Archangels, Angels: the three spheres or choirs of heavenly beings (Thomas Aquinas version).

Next on the agenda is a new version of the Rite of Marriage, currently awaiting final approval by the Bishops and then a new translation for the Liturgy of the Hours has begun.

All in all the new Missal challenges me to not go on autopilot and really think about the words I am praying. In that way it has shed new light on our theology and a deeper appreciation and affection for the Liturgy. I hope it has done the same for you.

Fr. John Bonavitacola

PS: Time to start weaning ourselves from the crutch of projecting the Mass responses. For now we'll leave up the Gloria, Confiteor and Creed but try to do without the other responses.