Welcome, all, to this installment of "New Translation Thursday."
Several years ago, we at at WLP received a letter from a liturgical consultant to the archbishop here in Chicago. It concerned a few of our publications, which offer some suggestions, or patterns, for celebrants to use in those places in the Mass when the priest may use the proscribed text or is allowed to say something "in these or similar words." The theologian who wrote to us conveyed a concern of the archbishop: that the new translation of the Missale Romanum will include far fewer instances where the celebrant will be allowed to use "similar words." We are not talking about the core prayers of the liturgy; we are talking about the introduction/invitation to the act of penitence, the invitation to the Lord's Prayer, among others. I don't know about you, but I have always found it helpful when the celebrant is able to proclaim these invitations in his own words, words that draw from the rich imagery of the day's scriptures or general themes of the particular liturgical feast or season. It just helps me better connect with the whole of the Mass. I am not an advocate of the celebrant "ad libbing" his way through the Eucharistic prayers or the official "presidential" prayers of the Mass. You have heard me say this before.
When the new translation comes into use, I hope that the celebrant is not turned into a sacramental automaton. The General Instruction does allow for moments when there can be additional words added; for instance an introduction to the liturgy, an introduction to the liturgy of the word, an introduction to the eucharistic prayer. It gets my goat when I hear people quote the line from the General Instruction that states: "he [the priest] himself is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, remove, or to change anything in the celebration of Mass." The implication here is that there is absolutely no room for any words other than those that appear exactly in the Missal or Lectionary. This is simply not true. In number 31 of the General Instruction, we read these words: "It is also up to the priest, in the exercise of his office of presiding over the gathered assembly, to offer certain explanations that are foreseen in the rite itself. Where it is indicated in the rubrics, the celebrant is permitted to adapt them somewhat in order that they respond to the understanding of those participating. However, he should always take care to keep the sense of the text given in the Missal and to express it succinctly."
Folks, we (at least I am not) in on what the rubrics will actually allow in this regard. The General Instruction in use before our current edition allowed more freedom. That freedom has obviously been reined in. We will need to continue to take a "wait and see" attitude with respect to the "in these or similar words" issue. Methinks most of these moments in the liturgy will disappear in the new Missal. I, for one, find this sad. I am sure there are lots of you out there who disagree. And much of that disagreement will be based on your experience of celebrants changing core texts of the Mass, or offering invitations that went on forever, or offering invitations or explanations that had some theological obfuscation associated with them. These are not the instances to which I am referring, obviously.
As always, comments welcome.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.