Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New Translation Tuesday: Proclaiming the Death of the Lord

Happy Tuesday to one and all. The temperatures are plummeting here in the Midwest today. Looks to be a very cold night. Five degree drop just on my 45 minute ride to work!

It's "New Translation Tuesday" once again. The "What Is We Just Said Wait" site has garnered nearly four thousand signatures. Check out the site if you haven't had the chance.

This past weekend I spent some time with a retired priest friend of mine. I was the organist at his parish in Massachusetts in the late 1970's and early 80's. He will be 80 years old next year. His attitude about the new translation: "I'll never use it." It made me wonder how many of our older and retired priests have developed an attitude of simply having had enough with the Vatican's liturgical legislation over the past decade or so. It will be quite interesting to watch all of this unfold in the next few years. Even today, there are priests who still use the old Order of Christian Funerals!

I'd like to comment on one of the anonymous comments from last Thursday's edition of "New Translation Thursday":

While some advocates of the new translation may indeed be desiring to "stick it to their brothers and sisters", those same advocates have had to endure having it "stuck to them" for some 40 years now...whincing whilst saying the Gloria or Creed, knowing that what they're saying is not even close to the actual prayer, all for the sake of advancing an agenda that has turned out, for the greatest measure, to be seriously in error.

I know that this is a forum that attracts those whose lives are bound up with matters liturgical and musical, but I wonder how helpful this comment is to those—especially older Catholics like my parents—who have prayed the post-Vatican II texts for most of their lives. To say that "what they're saying is not even close to the actual prayer" directly diminishes the lived experience of that prayer for decades. And to say to my parents that this all has to do with a group of people "advancing an agenda that has turned out, for the greatest measure, to be seriously in error" would be an egregious statement. My parents have taken their lives, especially the heartfelt pain of having lost a daughter at the age of 38, into their experience of the liturgy. There they have found comfort and solace in the paschal mystery of the Lord. Would they put it in these words? Probably not, but the liturgy has been a source of strength, encouragement, and challenge to them in their nearly fifty-five years of marriage. To discount that experience—to say that the words that they have prayed are the product of a group advancing an agenda—is not helpful and, I believe, would border on the sinful. I certainly would not want "anonymous" to be the person catechizing my parents and their fellow parishioners about the changes in the translation.

Just a caution here, folks. Let's remember that the Catholic Church is made up of people like you and me, and people like my parents, people who strive every day to live the words "When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory." In the new translation, these same people will be striving to live the same mystery of our faith in these words: "When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again." Proclaiming the death of the Lord, and all the meaning that that phrase unfolds in the lived Catholic experience, is what this Catholic life is all about. Let's not forget that; let's not forget the center as these days, months, and years unfold.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Chironomo said...

The reaction of your elderly Priest friend is eerily reminiscent of the reaction of the elderly Priests in the 1960's who refused to use the English translation and continued to say Mass in Latin (My home parish continued to use Latin at Mass until 1977 when the elderly Pastor retired and a new Pastor took over). Some statistics demonstrated that a number of Priests "retired" at that time (1970) even though there was no requirement to do so.

Do you think that we may be in for another round of "early retirements" of those Priests nearing age who just don't want to deal with the whole thing?

And about the offensive comment...for the sake of discussion, let's say that the anon comment offends the sensibilities of some Catholics. Can we wonder where was this concern for feelings and people's lifelong way of doing things in 1970? Was that a different situation? I would say it actually was... changing the Missal was a far more significant event than changing the translation. And yet, there is this great outcry and call to "just wait" now. And who became the catechists after the Missal was changed then? Was it the people who were of the opinion that the changes were a bad thing? No...those who supported the changes became the teachers. Why is the current situation different? Shouldn't the advocates of the new translation become the catechists? I guess then change was good, now change is bad...am I wrong about this?

Todd said...

"I guess then change was good, now change is bad ..."

Wrong, I think.

The shift to the vernacular was generally hailed as good. No doubt, Vatican II was implemented in a hamfisted way in many places. But that's a separate issue.

Change today on this new translation has many objections: poor English, a lack of consultation, and a laity that would seem to be less willing to swallow what are perceived as fussy or needless changes at a time when the hierarchy as bobbled other issues.

Personally, I think the artistic reasons against this new translation are substantial. While I have no doubt that my colleagues and I will implement this better than 1970/75, we will still be left with an impoverishment.

Anonymous said...

If "retired priests" were allowed to continue to use the Tridentine Mass--and now the whole church can--the permission to use "former translations" may be considered, especially for those in nursing homes.

As for the current texts, it is important to remember that the translation rule of Vatican II was about venacular, with a clear meaning of the text for proclamation rather than a literal translation, which is what is currently being approved.

Remember, too, that an ecumenical committee of scholars were entrusted to provide the profound meaning of the ancient texts in contemporary language, and have been revised and put into use in many English speaking denominations around the world. That is no longer the concern to the Roman Rite.

For the ecumenical revised translations used by other ecclesial communities, see Evangelical Lutheran Worship for the most up-to-date texts of the Gloria, Creeds, Sanctus, Lord's Prayer, and Agnus Dei. (These would have been used in the English-language Sacramentary of the 1990s--which was scrapped when the Roman rules of translation were changed.)