Sunday, 24 January 2010

Yet another parish newsletter notice

THE NEW MISSAL is causing confusion among some of the faithful e.g. instead of saying, "And also with you", you will say, "And with your spirit". The idea is to get as close to the literal meaning of Latin as possible. In the opinion of many these alterations are clumsy and in some cases theologically suspect. If you have strong feelings about it, you can voice your opinion on
[If you wish to voice a strong view in favour of a prompt implementation of the new translations, there is another petition to sign instead: Fr Tim posted about it here.]

How many typical/ordinary parishioners will know what "Father" is referring to here, let alone know enough about it to be "confused"? Of them, how many will have had sufficient sight of the new texts to be able to have any formed opinion one way or another about them? And, of them, how many will just go along with things as they happen? An image of a wooden spoon being moved in a circular fashion comes to mind here ...

The coverage of the same issue in this week's Tablet (I believe there was coverage last week, too, which is probably where dear Father got the prompt for his newsletter notice above) has a couple of interesting aspects. And that's in addition to its regular "Listen to the Word" feature, where "study" translations of the prayers of the Mass are used rather than the translations from the Missal itself, thereby illustrating vividly the whole question of the liturgical translations.

The Letters Page

A photograph showing parishioners "returning the peace greeting during Mass in Cape Town, South Africa". It shows the parishioners with hands extended forwards, presumably towards the altar. Now, in my recent reflection on the sign of peace I have thought that what is needed is a clearly sacred sign of greeting/response - and that a handshake is not a sign with such a sacred character, rather the contrary. Perhaps our bishops could consider changing the form of the sign that they expect to that of a mutual extending of hands similar to that shown in the Tablet's photograph. This seems quite a practical way of doing things, and it reflects a liturgical sign already present in the Liturgy in the extension of the priest's hands during the greeting "The Lord be with you".

"Our liturgical life is too important for rushed decisions taken without consultation".
"The imposition of a new translation of the Missal, without dialogue or consultation ...".
Date of publication of the 3rd editio typica of the Roman Missal: 2000. Date of finalisation of the English translation of that 3rd edition: 2009. Rushed? Hardly! Others will know better than I the number of meetings, drafts, re-drafts etc that have been undertaken during that nine years by ICEL and the relevant Bishops Conferences. This does sound rather like "consultation" to me.

And a rather ironic decrying of "persistent disobedience" in the Church by one who would have us "just say wait"!

Clifford Longley

This column appears much more supportive of the idea of the new translation of the Missal than one might have expected. The comment that the prospective changes in wording at Mass are "already causing nervous breakdowns all over the country" seems far fetched to me. I suspect that the impact so far in most parishes is the same as that of Summorum Pontificum - and that is "not a lot". One should be careful about reading the headline to Clifford's piece - it refers to the current translation that is due for replacement - and is followed by one or two further specific criticisms of that translation:
It has 1969 stamped all over it - except even the Beatles were writing better English.
And Clifford ends up by appearing to suggest that English is not a suitable language for the Liturgy ... is Latin the more suitable alternative then?
The heart of the problem is that the English language has lost its solemn and cermonial register - a victim of the First World War, I've seen it argued - and hasn't found an alternative. I've never found a modern liturgy, in any denomination, that sounded just right. They all seem synthetic and self-conscious. English is not a good liturgical language, just as it is not a good operatic language. The latest translation is bound to be defective. Just like all the possible options.
But, perhaps the point is that our Liturgy is not a "modern liturgy" - in the sense of being something that we write from scratch ourselves - but a renewal of an ancient liturgy. The Church of England's choral tradition might also be an exemplification of a successful use of English as a liturgical language, it too having something of a heritage behind it. The principle of a translation into English that is as faithful as possible to the Latin original ... seems quite reasonable to me.

1 comment:

Independent said...

In Anglicanus Coetibus the Pope seems to envisage that converted Anglicans may use a corrected version of the Book of Common Prayer which is indeed written in stately, majestic, and quite singable English.