Good Tuesday to all of you; Merry Christmas; and welcome to this edition of "New Translation Tuesday."
I want to use today's post to continue a conversation I am currently having with one of Gotta Sing Gotta Pray's faithful readers, my friend Chironomo. One of his comments on last Thursday's post was this:
I think this would be a good opportunity to consider seriously the question of WHY ours is (supposed to be) a sung liturgical form rather than a spoken one. If it is true that singing a text gets in the way of "conveying its meaning", then wouldn't a spoken liturgical form be preferable? But the Roman Rite is and always has been a sung form, and as such it would seem that comprehension is not the first priority in proclaiming texts... Perhaps things more elusive like "beauty" and "reverence" are intended as priorities?
I have been thinking a lot about this comment. Everywhere that I have been speaking about the new translation recently, I have tried to help people understand that—to use perhaps a too-oft used phrase—we sing the Mass; we do not sing at Mass. Singing the dialogues with people helps them to grasp this central truth about our liturgy.
I'd like you to weigh in on Chironomo's comment about comprehension, however. I thought about what he (and others) espouse with respect to the "beauty" and "reverence" that can come about when, say, the Collect is chanted. I thought about being in a place where the celebrant had a beautiful singing voice and chanted the text with reverence. Once the prayer was completed and I joined the rest of the congregation in a hearty sung "Amen," I imagined myself thinking, "Wow, this sounded so beautiful; it sounded so "Catholic." But what if that was the only thing I was left with; what if the meaning of the text was not conveyed; what if I did not comprehend the text itself? According to Chironimo (and others), it would seem that the "beauty" and "reverence" of the chanted text trumps the comprehension.
Perhaps I am one of only a few Catholics who actually try to let the meaning of these important texts sink into my heart and soul. When I look around at Mass sometimes, it seems that some people don't pay too much attention to the so-called "presidential prayers."
I payed very close attention this past Sunday at Mass. The Prayer After Communion struck me:
we want to live as Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,
in peace with you and one another.
May this communion strengthen us
to face the troubles of life.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.
I try to let the meaning of these prayers shape my own faith. I know that our beliefs are expressed in these prayers. Liturgy is a locus theologicus, a primary place where our theology, our belief, is expressed. I know in my brain that the the Eucharist is a source of strength. But when we are reminded of that fact as a prayer is being proclaimed, this meaning sinks deeper into my heart. When I hear the phrase prayed "May this communion strengthen us to face the troubles of life," I think about those things that weigh me down, things like illness in my own immediate family, things like the fact that my parish is faced with so many challenges right now; and I take a deep breath and pray that the Body and Blood of the Lord will indeed strengthen me and strengthen those sitting around me in the personal troubles of life, as well as in the troubles that we are experiencing as a community of faith.
If I am not able to comprehend the texts—even though I may be moved by their beauty and reverence when they are chanted beautifully—then why pray them at all?
I would appreciate your chiming in on this one, folks.
I hope your Christmas week is a good one. And for all those who are dealing with the recent blizzard on the East Coast, I hope you are safe and warm.
Gotta ing. Gotta pray.