FAQs and Quick Facts about the New Translation of the Order of Mass
Progression or Retrogression?
FAQs and Quick Facts about the New Translation of the Order of Mass
By Leo R. Ocampo
An imminent liturgical mutation—the promulgation of a new translation of the Order of the Mass in English—is a matter of serious pastoral import and interest that will begin affecting our local communities very soon. Before you start shelving your old Missals, here are some FAQs and quick facts:
What is “new” about this Order of the Mass? Is it a return to the pre-conciliar way of celebrating the Mass?
This Order of the Mass is a new translation in English of the Order of the Mass promulgated by Pope Paul VI after the Second Vatican Council, the “ordinary form” of celebrating the Eucharist in the Roman rite today. The rubrics, as well as the other texts of the Mass such as the Scripture readings and proper prayers (Collect, Prayer Over the Gifts and Postcommunion Prayer) will remain the same as found in the official translations currently in use of the Editio Typica Tertia of the Roman Missal.
It is to be distinguished from the “extraordinary form” of celebrating the Mass in the Roman rite, recently made more accessible by Pope Benedict XVI through his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. This Tridentine “Order of the Mass,” entirely in Latin, has its own set of rubrics, etc.
So what exactly will change in our celebration of the Mass? What is at stake?
What will change are some of the dialogues and formularies in the Order of Mass. For example, the present response to the greeting “The Lord be with you” which is “and also be with you” is rendered in the new translation as “and with your Spirit” which is closer to the Latin text: “et cum spiritu tuo.”
By and large, most of these new translations consist only of changes in the way the dialogue or formula is rendered or phrased. But this fact certainly does not make it a trivial matter. A number of scholars, liturgists and linguists alike, have pointed out that a good number of these new translations would be awkward, archaic or unidiomatic based on current English usage. This is due to the express effort for “slavishly accurate liturgical translations” as one sympathetic blog would put it.
Also, some of these new translations are more disputed than others because of their serious, even if subtle theological implications. “Pro multis,” is foremost among such debated phrases. In the new translation this part of the institution narrative is translated as “for the many” rather than “for all,” giving the impression that some are excluded in the economy of salvation. Biblical scholars and theologians argue however that in its wider exegetical context, these words of Jesus must be understood, not as limiting the offer of salvation to some but as plainly reflecting the reality that while some accept his offer of salvation, others may want to reject it. Those who prefer the new translation on the other hand frown upon the rendition “for all” as heretically implying “automatic salvation.”
Moreover, essential principles espoused by Vatican II such as inculturation and participation seem to be bypassed by this new translation. Its achievement of a translation closer to the Latin at the same time amounts to its failure to bring into the liturgy the linguistic and cultural patterns of a specific language and people, which in the mind of the reformers, are no less graced than the Latin way of seeing and expressing sacred realities. It also compromises the participation of the faithful, a principle so dear to the Council, by offering texts that are difficult for ordinary people to pronounce and understand.
For your own perusal, the text is already available online in its entirety and may be downloaded from http://usccb.org/romanmissal/order-of-mass.pdf
What is the motive behind this new translation?
Behind this is the Instruction Liturgiam Authenticam published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2001. This document adopts the principle of “formal correspondence” or literal equivalence as opposed to the principle of “dynamic equivalence” put forward in the post-conciliar document “Comme le prevoit” which was the basis of prior translations.
Liturgiam Authenticam strongly discourages even slight modifications such as paraphrases and glosses and socio-cultural adaptations such as the substitution of local idioms, images and modes of expression in translation. which were done to make the original post-conciliar translations more intelligible, more natural and more connected to the people, in favor of a rendering closer to the original Latin. Explicitly, it goes as far so as the recommend even the retention of “a certain manner of speech, which has come to be considered obsolete in daily usage” with the premise that this supposedly more “sacral” language is more suitable to prayer.
Should we now discard our old missals or refrain from buying new ones?
Not yet, at least for now. The matter in question is a new translation just of the Order of the Mass and not of the entire Roman Missal. Hence, it will be sufficient to purchase only a copy of this new translation of the Order of Mass, which is a relatively short text compared to the entire Missal. It will most probably come in the form of a booklet or slim volume, which is hopefully inexpensive as well.
However, this development at the same time indicates the direction that the liturgical authorities in the Church are taking at present with regard liturgical translation. Eventually, this way of proceeding may be applied to the translation of the other Mass texts, both scriptural and euchological, and not only for the Eucharist but for the other sacraments and other liturgical celebrations as well, and not only in English but also in the other vernacular languages.
What can we do about it?
The Holy See has given its approval (recognitio) for the translation, and the date for its full implementation in the United States, has been set on November 27, 2011, allowing time for a seamless transition. The CBCP has also approved the text for use in the dioceses of the Philippines although a definite date has yet to be determined.
Hence, its acceptance or rejection is already beyond any of us. What is incumbent upon us, as pastors and liturgists of our local communities, is to facilitate its smooth and effective implementation. Providing participation aids and adequately explaining this development to the people are just some of the things we need to do.
It seems unnecessary and counter-productive however to vent our objections regarding this new translation, should there be any, directly to our parishioners, unless they are genuinely acquainted and concerned with the theological subtleties and liturgical principles in question. Doing so without this precondition may seriously harm the unity of the Church and lead to further confusion.
On the other hand, nothing prevents us from engaging this issue provided we do so within the proper fora, such as the academe or in seminaries. It may also be worthwhile to express our scholarly opinions and local experiences to the bishop so that hopefully, when the Holy See solicits some feedback regarding the reception of the new translation, he may express these to them as useful data that will aid the Church’s discernment of her liturgical and pastoral direction in the future.
Are there other concerns we should know about?
Certainly, a more practical and immediate concern that has to be addressed would be the need to compose musical settings using the new formularies to replace existing ones which will become illicit if not obsolete with the promulgation of the new translation. This includes major liturgical hymns such as the Gloria and Sanctus which have been significantly altered.
Also, if we were to follow this development not only in practice but also in principle, we would soon need to come up with new translations of the Order of Mass in the other vernacular languages in line with the principles set in LIturgiam Authenticam.
If we were to be consistent, this has to be extended as well to the other Mass texts, to the formularies for the other sacraments and even to the Scriptures as well.
When will this development take effect?
Not yet, at least for now. The matter in question is a new translation just of the Order of the Mass and not of the entire Roman Missal. Hence, it will be sufficient to
Progression or retrogression?
Whether this development in the long run will prove beneficial or harmful to our worship and to ecclesial life in general, time will eventually tell. For now, this change is welcome if only as an opportunity to engage our people in dialogue and discussion about the liturgy that will hopefully revolve around doctrine and principles and not just opinions and preferences.
Meanwhile we will do well to maintain an attitude of critical obedience, of actively thinking with the Church, in a spirit of discerning openness to this liturgical mutation.