Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The times, they are a changin'....

For those of you who haven't been paying attention, here's a newsflash: changes are coming to the Catholic Mass. At least in English. What I mean is that many of the familiar words we say, pray, and sing during Mass will change, effective Advent 2011. That may seem like a long time off but, believe me, it will be here before any of us realize it.
Why the changes? Well, a short explanation is needed. First of all, the Mass of the Roman Rite is celebrated in Latin. Big surprise there. Because of this, the normative book for celebrating the Mass (called the Roman Missal) is in... you guessed it: Latin. However, after Vatican II, permission was granted and encouragements were given to celebrate parts of the Mass in the vernacular (i.e. the local language of the people). In order to allow this to happen as quickly as possible, the Vatican rushed through translations of the Mass texts in the different languages. And the optimal word here is "rush" because the first translations into English were completed in about a year. That was 1970. An update of the English translation was introduced five years later but it, too, followed a "dynamic equivalency" policy of translation, translating the spirit of the meaning more than the words.

So, the good part was that parts of the Mass could be celebrated in the local languages. Yay! The bad part was that the English translation was really a translation in name only. Boo! You see, in the rush to anglicanize the Mass (I think I just made up a word there), the parts of the Mass really weren't translated as much as they were an English paraphrase of the Latin prayers. For example, the Latin phrase "Et cum spiritu tuo" was rendered in the 1975 English as "And also with you" instead of what the Latin actually says, which is "And with your spirit." Changing words changes the meaning of the exchange, and the Church recognizes this and ordered a fix.

In 2001, the Vatican issued an instruction that re-iterated the original intent of Vatican II, that vernacular versions of the Mass prayers be faithful to the original Latin. The 1975 version of English (the one we're using in Mass up to this day) was basically singled out as a particularly bad translation and work was started almost immediately on a new translation. The work continued for almost a decade and the translators made sure that the new translation is a) more faithful to the original Latin and, b) much more prayerful in tone. We'll begin using the new translation in Advent 2011.
Just so ya know...