Sunday, August 1, 2010

The New Mass Translation

My 17-year-old daughter, who works part-time at a Catholic bookstore, brought me home a copy of this booklet yesterday.  I really hope that it, or something very much like it, will be widely used in parishes across the United States to prepare Catholics for the new--and much improved--missal translation next year.

The booklet, written by Fr. Paul Turner and prepared under the supervision of the Archdiocese of Chicago, does an excellent job of explaining the innumerable ways in which the new translation is more accurate and precise, both linguistically and theologically (theologically because linguistically, one might say). It also makes a case for the new translation as a more euphonious and collectively pray-able text. I'm not quite convinced yet on that point, but I'm willing to wait and hear what it sounds like once my fellow parishioners and I have it down pat.

As a sample of just how clear, commonsensical, and fair-minded the booklet is in its presentation, consider these comments on the use of the word consubstantial in the Nicene Creed--that "elitist and remote" word that Bishop Trautmann is so afraid will completely befuddle us all.

This word is a mouthful. In the entire revised translation of the Mass, this is probably the one word that will raise the most eyebrows. It replaces the expression "one in Being," and it describes the relationship between Jesus and the Father. In the current translation, "one in Being" was thought to be more comprehensible and closer to the original Greek of the Creed. However, the revised translation chooses a word that lies closer to the Latin equivalent, "consubstantialis."  The question of how Jesus relates to the Father has immense importance. Heresies have divided Christians over this very issue. The early Church councils forged a vocabulary that carefully articulates orthodox faith, and they chose this word to express the dogma of Jesus' divinity. The Latin word means "having the same substance," which is even more fundamental than "one in Being." "Consubstantial" is a very unusual word. We don't use it for anything else. But it is describing a very unusual thing--the nature of Jesus Christ. He is not like anything or anyone else.

Understanding the Revised Mass Texts is full of helpful and winning explanations just like that. If the new missal translation can be presented to American Catholics in a way that is informative and respectful of their intelligence, I believe the coming transition--back to something more faithful to the prescribed Mass texts themselves--can be made without much disturbance.

The booklet can be ordered from Liturgy Training Publications for $1.25. Bulk discounts (may there be many!) available.

1 comment:

  1. For another view see this: