Tuesday, November 27, 2012

First Anniversary of New Translation

It has been a year since  U.S. Catholics began using the new translation of the Roman Missal, third edition.

In 2001 the Vatican bureau known as the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments issued what it described as an instruction "for the right implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council." It titled its Instruction Liturgiam Authenticam ("Authentic Liturgy").

The Congregation described its Instruction as the start of "a new era of liturgical renewal."

In practice this insistence on integral translation in a most exact manner has produced an English version of the Roman Missal that has been widely criticized for its confusing syntax and awkward expressions. Some have joked about our having a misguided missal. 

Having used the new Roman Missal, third edition, for the past year, I am inclined, with due regard for the sacredness of the text and with attention to the venerable language of  the Holy See, to affirm, in retrospect and under the urgency of compliance to the instruction of the sacred congregation, that the experience of employing the integral translation, inasmuch as presiding at liturgy implies the capacity for leading  a congregation of worshipers in prayer and ritual, and essaying to follow the directive of  Vatican II's Sacrosanctum Concilium with its intent that the rites of the Mass be revised to achieve "a devout and active participation by the faithful," has been an exercise akin to a onerous and unnecessary challenge to prayer, piety, and patience. Non placet. :)

Is "active participation" furthered or a good grasp of the mystery of faith achieved by, "May your Sacraments, O Lord, we pray, perfect in us what lies within them, that what we now celebrate in signs we may one day possess in truth. Through Christ our Lord" (Prayer after communion, 30th Sunday)?

(The odd thing, for me, is that I can understand the meaning of the prayer when I read it in Latin, but this English version clouds the prayer's insight and intention.)

Professor Massimo Faggioli of St. Thomas University, St. Paul MN, has written True Reform: Liturgy and Ecclesiology in Sacrosanctum Concilium (Liturgical Press, 2012), a series of essays on the relationship between liturgy and ecclesiology as suggested in the first constitution released by the bishops at Vatican II.

He is convinced that the liturgical theology of SC had a profound impact on later conciliar discussions, especially in the Council's understanding of the Church. The issues of change in liturgy, of tradition, of ressourcement which surfaced first in SC became principles for promoting change in the Church and for preserving tradition in the early days of Christian practice and belief.

Faggioli points, for example, to SC's emphasis on the liturgical role of the local bishop and the unity of the local Church with its bishop and clergy (cf. SC 41) as principles for Lumen Gentium's acknowledgment that "individual bishops are the visible source and foundation in their own particular churches" (23).

SC's insistence on the active participation of the laity at Mass must spill over into lay involvement in the mission as well as ministry of the Church. "Pastors of souls must...ensure that the faithful take part (in the liturgy) fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite and enriched by it" (SC, 11). Lay participants are to be fully aware and fully engaged.

To support such active participation the bishops added, "Even in the liturgy the church does not wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not affect the faith or well-being of the entire community...Provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved, provision shall be made, when revising the liturgical books, for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions and peoples...This should be kept in mind when drawing up the rites and rubrics."

The recent changes in the English translation and the way they were imposed appear to me as contrary to that directive. I do not want to think that Mass prayers are being used by the Roman Congregation as a means of regaining control or reversing Vatican II reforms and directives. Reversal of the liturgical norms may well be translated as reversal of ecclesiological norms too.

If the old axiom that "how we pray affects how we believe" (lex orandi, lex credendi) is applicable here, then the translation of prayers has supreme importance.

The laity have been remarkably patient with the new translation and with presiders' stumbling through it. I fear, however, that many in the assembly have given up on trying to follow and understand parts of the canons and many of the priests' prayers. U.S. Catholics are an extraordinarily resilient lot.

It has been a year, but I am not sure I can muster "Happy Anniversary."

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