Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A "Bone Transplant"

Hello Everyone. I apologize for the lack of posts in the past few days. After the holiday weekend, I spent yesterday at the Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit in St. Charles, Illinois. This is a gathering of publishers, authors, composers, and religious booksellers from around the world. Two of our artists, John Angotti and Aaron Thompson, performed at a concert last night. Here's a piece performed by Aaron. It's called Blessed One.

Monday, May 25—Memorial Day this year—marked the 51st anniversary of my baptism. At Mass on Sunday I recalled once again how grateful I am for this greatest gift. You might want to pause for a moment right now and lift a prayer of thanksgiving yourself for this gift.

There have been several comments posted related to the upcoming release of the new translation of the Missale Romanum. I know there are many of you out there who read this blog for a number of reasons. Many are looking for some ways to connect the sacramental life to daily living. Others are curious about what a publisher might have to say regarding matters liturgical and musical. Others are simply curious. Others have told me how stunned and surprised they are that there seems to be so much contentious debate about liturgical and musical issues in the Church. I have suggested that the issues raised with respect to the new translation will ultimately be ecclesiological ones. I believe many of the comments posted reflect this sentiment. For those of us so directly involved in Church life, whether as composers, clergy, religious, publishers, music directors, liturgists, catechists, etc., there is something fundamental that we share in common: we celebrate together at Mass. I hope that for each of us, Sunday Mass is the "source and summit" of our lives. When something occurs that strikes at the heart of what is our "source and summit," it's natural for us to expect lots of debate. 

One liturgical scholar—in her early forties—recently shared a metaphor with a group of us at a national meeting. She told us that the current translation of the Missale Romanum has been her only experience of the liturgy. She said that these texts she has prayed all her life are "in her bones." Then she said that she felt that the upcoming new translation will be like a "bone transplant" for her. This image elicited a visceral reaction from me, but the more I thought about it, the more I started to concur. When I read the new translations of the Eucharistic Prayers, for instance, my bones began to ache. Consider the new translation from Eucharistic Prayer III. 

Here's the current translation of one section:

Look with favor on your Church's offering,
and see the Victim whose death has reconciled us to yourself.
Grant that we, who are nourished by his body and blood,
may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ.
I don't know about you, but this is a prayer that is "in my bones."

This is the new translation of the same section:

Look, we pray, upon the oblation of your Church
and, recognizing the sacrificial Victim by whose death
you willed to reconcile us to yourself,
grant that we, who are nourished
by the Body and Blood of your Son
and filled with his Holy Spirit,
may become one body, one spirit in Christ.

It's going to take some time—for this set of ears and this praying heart at least—to appropriate these words. I wonder if each and every time I hear them in the future I will be distracted rather than being drawn into the prayer. I hope for the latter, but I am not sure. 

We are going to need lots of good help to move through this transition. I hope that we here at WLP will provide some of that help. In this time of change, we gotta sing and we gotta pray.


byte228 said...

This is a really good imagery for what is happening. As a post Vatican II Catholic, this IS my Mass and Liturgy that I have grown my entire life with.

I also think the snippet that you compared above from the Eucharistic Prayer is typical of what I see as obtuse and unaccessible language in the new translation. In this particular case it makes me wonder if AltaVista's Babelfish now does Latin to English.

Chironomo said...

It may, however be a useful thing to recognize what has been corrected in this particular example. In the former ICEL translation, this passage is divided into two distinct thoughts, the first beginning with "Look with favor..." and the second beginning with "Grant that we...". Thus, the two actions (looking/recognizing - granting that we be filled with the Holy Spirit) are not presented as a cause/effect relationship. The Latin original, and the new translation put these two concepts in their proper theological relationship: By recognizing in our offering the victim God has given to reconcile us to Him, we are granted unity with Him in the Mystical Body of Christ.

The former translation set it more as a " is our offering. Grant us salvation." What isn't clear in the old translation is WHO is "looking", WHO is "seeing" and that we are "granted" this gift not as a result of our action, but of God's will.

Is it common street language? No, it isn't. Is it comprehensible English? I imagine my 2 year-old will have no problem making the change to the new translation...and that is the real point here. In 25-30 years, the idea of having to "make a transition" will be a moot point. The next generation of Catholics will have no more problem accepting this translation than the previous generation of Catholics had accepting the current translation... in many cases probably much less of a problem!

Will there be some stumbling blocks...I imagine so. And so we need to ask ourselves...will we be such a stumbling block, or will we act in service to the Church and assist in her work?