A Translator Ponders the New Mass Translation
I don’t know if you are expecting, or have been receiving, many comments about this new translation of the Mass that came into use today, but I thought I might add mine to the others…
Of course, having been a professional translator for over 35 years, I do not get too worried about differing translations of the same basic text. It happens all the time, particularly in my country, Canada, which is officially bilingual. Therefore I was not getting very excited. However, what I have noticed is quite positive: The necessity to pay attention to a new text, instead of repeating things that have been familiar for decades, has by itself brought more reverence to the Mass by slowing down the prayers and the reciting. Maybe there should be such changes once in a while, just for that reason. In addition, the new translation is more formal, and more fitting to the magnificence of the Mass, which can easily, not really be forgotten, but more or less taken for granted, when the prayers become routine. This should please some our more conservative brothers and sisters, even if it is not bringing back the Latin Mass. I also liked some of the new music that is being used, the Gloria and the Agnus Dei in particular are very beautiful.
I hope you and your other readers have had a good experience with this change too.
I like the changes that have been made quite a bit. Of course, I still blow my lines and figure I will for several weeks, but that’s how the ball bounces. I agree that the language is, as Fr. Robert Barron points out, more “courtly” and helps us ruthlessly informal and palsy-walsy Americans get into a different mindset from the tedious suburban egalitarianism that has often exploited the language of the old translation to turn the liturgy into the Church of Aren’t We Fabulous. I am not much for liturgy wars and have always taken the approach that the liturgy, like a pair of shoes, is at its best when you don’t notice it. Shoes you notice are bad shoes. A liturgy that draws attention to itself rather than to God is (usually) a bad liturgy. Anybody who has ever had to endure a priest, or choir, or liturgist who constantly forces you to say, “Now what is he doing?” knows what I mean. The new liturgy will, I hope, have a strong dampening effect on this sort of thing (though, paradoxically, it will temporarily draw attention to itself by forcing us to re-learn it. But that’s the sole occasion where that’s not a bad thing since such learning, as you note, can give us a new appreciation for what the words really mean. But I also hope to make the new translation second nature quickly so that I can “look along” the liturgy at the Blessed Trinity, rather than at it. The point, after all, is the worship of God, not obsession with the liturgy itself.
My biggest hope for the new translation is that it will finally quiet the incessant bickering that has plagued us for too long, though I doubt that hope will be realized since a) some Reactionaries can’t take Yes for an answer and b) some Progressives will undoubtedly hate the new translation and freak out about it since it threatens Current Regimes in many chanceries and parishes who simultaneously say, “Americans are sophisticated, integrated adults who don’t need the Church to tell them what to do” and “Americans are helpless drooling children who could not possibly absorb the staggering burden of a few altered texts in the Mass”. I find all such stuff unutterably weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable. If it isn’t Reactionaries griping that translating “pro multis” as “for all” drains the magic juju out of the Mass and renders it invalid, it’s Progressives whinging about how the Confiteor gave them the vapors and flashbacks to the dreaded 50s, when all was darkness and a howling waste.
Whatever. Just give me my lines and my blocking and let me worship God in peace without liturgy warriors sitting in judgment and clucking their tongues at me for the grave sin of being content with whatever liturgy Holy Mother Church gives me. Happily, my parish has done a terrific job of implementing it, complete with some really wonderful music written by a gifted guy in the parish. Better still, our parishioners at our parish are not engaged in the tedious competing evils of a) sitting in judgment of whether somebody else receives in the hand, or in the mouth, or kneeling, or standing, or how they are dressed, or otherwise playing the Pharisee or b) moaning about the horrors of papal oppression and whining that the Confiteor doesn’t affirm them in their okayness. From all such liturgy wars, dear Lord, deliver us. And thank you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for this lovely new translation. Give me the wits to learn it quickly, the better to offer you a sacrifice of praise and thanks through your Son Jesus Christ.