On Friday and Saturday of this week, I will travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to give presentations on the new translation—the final text of which has still not yet been released . . . soon perhaps? The audiences at these presentations will be a mix of people; clergy, liturgical ministers, and people in the pews. The good people in the Archdiocese have asked me to focus on a few areas: "They request that you give us an overview of the translation process, with an explanation of why the changes are being made. The other thing this group would like to include is a look at some of the peoples' parts of the Mass that are changing."
I've decided to give them pertinent sections from The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Comme le Prevoit, and Liturgicam Authenticam. This may seem a bit deep for the average parishioner, but I think it is necessary to have people see the actual texts that have driven the liturgical renewal, as well as the renewal of the translation process.
Here is a sample from each of the texts I am handing out to the participants:
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy:
1. In this restoration, both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify; the Christian people, so far as possible, should be enabled to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community.
Comme le Prevoit (January 25, 1969)
6. To achieve this end, it is not sufficient that a liturgical translation merely reproduce the expressions and ideas of the original text. Rather it must faithfully communicate to a given people, and in their own language, that which the Church by means of this given text originally intended to communicate to another people in another time. A faithful translation, therefore, cannot be judged on the basis of individual words: the total context of this specific act of communication must be kept in mind, as well as the literary form proper to the respective language.
15. a. The language chosen should be that in "common" usage, that is, suited to the greater number of the faithful who speak it in everyday use, even "children and persons of small education" (Paul VI in the allocution cited). However, the language should not be "common" in the bad sense, but "worthy of expressing the highest realities" (ibid.). Moreover, the correct biblical or Christian meaning of certain words and ideas will always need explanation and instruction. Nevertheless no special literary training should be required of the people; liturgical texts should normally be intelligible to all, even to the less educated.
Liturgiam Authenticam (March 28, 2001)
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 omissions 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.
27 . . . Indeed, it will be seen that the observance of the principles set forth in this Instruction will contribute to the gradual development, in each vernacular, of a sacred style that will come to be recognized as proper to liturgical language. Thus it may happen that a certain manner of speech which has come to be considered somewhat obsolete in daily usage may continue to be maintained in the liturgical context.
47 . . . Consequently it should cause no surprise that such language differs somewhat from ordinary speech. Liturgical translation that takes due account of the authority and integral content of the original texts will facilitate the development of a sacral vernacular, characterized by a vocabulary, syntax and grammar that are proper to divine worship, even though it is not to be excluded that it may exercise an influence even on everyday speech, as has occurred in the languages of peoples evangelized long ago.
I expect that people will be keenly interested in all of this (I was just told that parish leaders expect 200 at Friday night's session). They will have questions; some people will be quite happy with all of it; others will be upset by it; others may experience ambivalence.
Please say a prayer for me if you get the chance in the next few days. These presentations can sometimes have that "sheep among the wolves" sense about them!
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.