Happy "New Translation Tuesday" to you all. I have been reading Liturgiam Authenticam again, chiefly because I put my nose in it once again last week when preparing my presentation to our customer care representatives here at WLP. You can find the entire text on the Vatican's Web site here.
I want to take the opportunity today to comment on paragraph 20:
20. The Latin liturgical texts of the Roman Rite, while drawing on centuries of ecclesial experience in transmitting the faith of the Church received from the Fathers, are themselves the fruit of the liturgical renewal, just recently brought forth. In order that such a rich patrimony may be preserved and passed on through the centuries, it is to be kept in mind from the beginning that the translation of the liturgical texts of the Roman liturgy is not so much a work of creative innovation as it is of rendering the original texts faithfully and accurately into the vernacular language. While it is permissible to arrange the wording, the syntax and the style in such a way as to prepare a flowing vernacular text suitable to the rhythm of popular prayer, the original text, insofar as possible, must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omission or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses. Any adaptation to the characteristics or the nature of the various vernacular languages is to be sober and discreet.
I am focusing on this paragraph because of my experience this past Sunday, as well as my experience at the Funeral Mass of John Wright, the former director of marketing here at WLP. (John died suddenly on July 1 while attending his family reunion.) The celebrant at Sunday's Mass at Saint James was Fr. Harry Hagan, OSB, scripture scholar from St. Meinrad Archabbey. He preached magnificently and prayed the liturgy with dignity and simplicity. The celebrant at John Wright's Funeral Mass also prayed the texts in a noble and simple way. I was drawn into the rhythm of the prayers more deeply at both Masses, chiefly due to the liturgical style of these fine celebrants.
I mention these experiences because of what Liturgiam Authenticam has to say about popular prayer. The translation from the Latin, according to this document, should be done in such a way as to produce a "flowing vernacular text suitable to the rhythm of popular prayer." My question: what is this "rhythm of popular prayer?" I believe that what has formed the rhythm of popular prayer is the praying of the popular prayer itself. For thirty-five of my fifty-two years, the rhythm of my own liturgical prayer has been shaped by the action of praying the prayers of the liturgy itself. From what I have seen from some of the newly translated texts, the rhythm is quite distinct from the rhythm to which we have become accustomed. I find it odd that Liturgiam Authenticam sets forth principles of translation that apparently force a new translation that, by and large, is not a "flowing vernacular text suitable to the rhythm of popular prayer." What it seems to have done is force a new rhythm of prayer that hopes one day to become the rhythm of popular prayer. This is certainly a legitimate goal, if it indeed is the stated goal for translation. But it simply is not.
And it is the establishment of a new rhythm of liturgical prayer that will probably be the most jarring aspect during the first years of the implementation of the new English translation. I am all for accuracy of translation, but wonder about the wisdom of establishing a new rhythm of popular prayer.
I would enjoy hearing your thoughts about this. Feel free to comment.
Got to sing. Got to pray. (Oh, this is the new rhythm!)