His Eminence Francis Card. Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, address a liturgical conference in St. Louis in November. His talk has been published on ZENIT in three parts.
Cardinal Arinze on Language in Liturgy, Part 1
"Latin Is Concise, Precise and Poetically Measured" [2008-01-11]
Cardinal Arinze on Language in Liturgy, Part 2
"Good Music Helps to Promote Prayer" [2008-01-13]
Cardinal Arinze on Language in Liturgy, Part 3
"No Individual Has Authority to Change the Approved Wording" [2008-01-14]
Each of these articles has good points. I will present a few of interest.
Here is something from the first section. My emphases and comments.
[T]he Latin language has a certain stability which daily spoken languages, where words change often in shades of meaning, cannot have. An example is the translation of the Latin "propagare". The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples when it was founded in 1627 was called "Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide". But at the time of the Second Vatican Council many modern languages use the word "propaganda" in the sense in which we say "political propaganda". Therefore, there is a preference in the Church today to avoid the expression "de propaganda Fide", in favour of "the Evangelization of Peoples".
Latin has the characteristic of words and expressions retaining their meaning generation after generation. This is an advantage when it comes to the articulation of our Catholic faith and the preparation of Papal and other Church Documents. Even the modern universities appreciate this point and have some of their solemn titles in Latin.
Blessed Pope John XXIII in his Apostolic Constitution, Veterum Sapientia, [NB: This was an Apostolic Constitution, the highest form of a church document.] issued on 22 February 1962, gives these two reasons and adds a third. The Latin language has a nobility and dignity which are not negligible (cf. Veterum Sapientia, nn. 5, 6, 7). We can add that Latin is concise, precise and poetically measured.
Is it not admirable that people, especially well-trained clerics, can meet in international gatherings and be able to communicate at least in Latin? More importantly, is it a small matter that 1 million young people could meet in the World Youth Day Convention in Rome in 2000, in Toronto in 2002 and in Cologne in 2005, and be able to sing parts of the Mass, and especially the Credo, in Latin? Theologians can study the original writings of the early Latin Fathers and of the Scholastics without tears because these were written in Latin. [A corollary to this is: It is NOT admirable that clerics, etc., cannot use any Latin.]
It is true that there is a tendency, both in the Church and in the world at large, to give more attention today to modern languages, like English, French and Spanish, which can help one secure a job quicker in the modern employment market or in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in their country. [Use of the vernacular can be expedient, but is it really good in the long run?]
The documentary basis for the use of Latin is strong and its usefulness is obvious. We therefore have lots of questions to ask of those who resist or, it must be said, hate Latin. There is another issue here. His Eminence brings in the element of what is admirable. There are many clerics in positions of power in the Church who look down on Latin. The think that somehow Latin (or anything that is too precise, or accurate, or which requires intellectual distinctions – calling for consequences) is contrary to "pastoral". Effectively, an anti-intellectualism militates against Latin, but maybe we can boil it down to this: "Since the main job of a cleric is to be a nice guy, you don’t want to be too discerning."
In the second section, we find some other helpful points. Here are some excerpts:
5. Did Vatican II discourage Latin?
Some people think, or have the perception, that the Second Vatican Council discouraged the use of Latin in the liturgy. This is not the case.
Just before he opened the Council, Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1962 issued an Apostolic Constitution to insist on the use of Latin in the Church. [Again, Card. Arinze has brought us back to this important and purposely ignored document.] The Second Vatican Council, although it admitted some introduction of the vernacular, insisted on the place of Latin: "Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites" (SC, n. 36).
The Council also required that seminarians "should acquire a command of Latin which will enable them to understand and use the source material of so many sciences and the documents of the Church as well" (Optatam Totius, n. 13). The Code of Canon Law published in 1983 enacts that "the Eucharistic celebration is to be carried out either in the Latin language or in another language, provided the liturgical texts have been lawfully approved" (can. 928). [Okay: 1) Apostolic Constitution of John XXIII; 2) a document of Vatican II; 3) 1983 Code of Canon Law. How hard is this?]
Those, therefore, who want to give the impression that the Church has put Latin away from her liturgy are mistaken. A manifestation of people’s acceptance of Latin liturgy well celebrated was had at the world level in April 2005, when millions followed the burial rites of Pope John Paul II and then, two weeks later, the inauguration Mass of Pope Benedict XVI over the television.
It is remarkable that young people welcome the Mass celebrated sometimes in Latin. Problems are not lacking. So, too, there are misunderstandings and wrong approaches on the part of some priests on the use of Latin. But to get the matter in better focus, it is necessary first to examine the use of the vernacular in the liturgy of the Roman Rite today. [We need to get Latin into parishes, Your Eminence. International gatherings are not enough. But he knows this and speaks of this elsewhere.]
6. The Vernacular: Introduction, Extension, Conditions
The introduction of local languages into the sacred liturgy of the Latin Rite is a development that did not occur all of a sudden. After the partial experience gained over the preceding years in certain countries, already on 5 and 6 December 1962, after long and sometimes impassioned debates, the Second Vatican Fathers adopted the principle that the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of advantage to the people. In the following year the Council voted to apply this principle to the Mass, the ritual and the Liturgy of the Hours (cf. SC, nn. 36, 54, 63a, 76, 78, 101). [Did the Council not actually say "occasionally"?]
Extensions of the use of the vernacular followed. But, as if the Council Fathers foresaw the likelihood that Latin might lose more and more ground, they insisted again and again that Latin be maintained.
As already quoted, article 36 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy began by enacting that "particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rite". Article 54 required that steps be taken, "enabling the faithful to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass belonging to them". In the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, "in accordance with the centuries-old tradition of the Latin rite, clerics are to retain the Latin language" (SC, n. 101).
But even while establishing limits, the Council Fathers anticipated the possibility of a wider use of the vernacular. Article 54 indeed adds: "Wherever a more extended use of the mother tongue within the Mass appears desirable, the regulation laid down in Article 40 of this Constitution is to be observed". Article 40 goes into directives on the role of Bishops’ Conferences and of the Apostolic See in such a delicate matter.
The vernacular had been introduced. The rest is history. The developments were so fast that many clerics, Religious and lay faithful today are not aware that the Second Vatican Council did not simply introduce the vernacular for all parts of the liturgy. [And I think the supression of Latin was purposeful, not just a consequence of circumstances.]
[Some good history follows here. This is very useful.] Requests and widenings of the use of the vernacular were not long in coming. At the urgent request of some Bishops’ Conferences, Pope Paul VI first allowed the Preface of the Mass to be said in the vernacular (cf. Letter of the Cardinal Secretary of State, 27 April 1965), then the entire Canon and the prayers of ordination in 1967.
Finally, on 14 June 1971, the Congregation for Divine Worship sent notice that Episcopal Conferences could allow the use of the vernacular in all the texts of the Mass, and each Ordinary could give the same permission for the choral or private celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours (on the whole development, see A.G. Martimort: The Dialogue between God and his People, in A.G. Martimort: The Church at Prayer, I, p. 166).
The reasons for the introduction of the mother tongue are not far to seek. It promotes better understanding of what the Church is praying, since "Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy… (and which) is their right by reason of their Baptism" (SC, n. 14).
At the same time, it is not difficult to envisage how demanding and delicate the work of translation must be. Even more difficult is the question of adaptation and inculturation especially when we think of the sacredness of the sacramental rites, the centuries-old tradition of the Latin Rite, and the close link between faith and worship encapsuled in the old formula: lex orandi, lex credendi. [There is a reciprocal relationship between the way we pray and what we believe. Change the prayer, we change belief. Consider that in the light of "inculturation". Inculturation is always taking place. It is unavoidable and it is desirable. However, in this ongoing process, what the Church has to give to the world must always have logical priority. When that gets reversed, and the Church takes a back-seat to the world, unaccepaptable and damaging distortions result. Back to translation and inculturation. With the translation of a Latin prayer be sculpted for this or that culture? I think that is a bad idea. The style of language used should cut across cultural lines. Thus, the model (as suggested by Liturgiam authenticam) should be from the canon of English literature, not from ephemeral and colloquial language.]
The translations of the Missale Romanum must reflect the content.
During my trip to New York I met with a priest friend of mine who said a very intelligent and useful thing. It is simple and it cuts the Gordian knot we often tie around the preparation of translations.
It is okay for a text we know to be a translation to sound like a translation.
All this time in my columns in The Wanderer I have presented slavishly literal translations of the Latin prayers without any pretext of making smooth, liturgically appropriate prayers. My idea, and that of others, has always been that liturgical prayer has to be somehow smooth and elegant, and that elegance might somehow override accuracy. Liturgiam authenticam calls for both, but the emphasis is on the content. I am starting to rethink my position on whether or not slavishly accurate translations are appropriate for use in the liturgy.
If you don’t, or won’t or can’t use Latin (and let people pick what book they want to follow), at least let the translation not try to hide that is a translation.
I still have to think through this.
Let’s more to the third part of Cardinal Arinze’s talk:
7. On Translations into the Vernacular
The translation of liturgical texts from the Latin original to the various vernaculars is a very important consideration in the prayer life of the Church. It is a question, not of private prayer, but of the public prayer offered by holy Mother Church, with Christ as the Head. The Latin texts have been prepared with great care as to sound doctrine, exact wording "free from all ideological influence and otherwise endowed with those qualities by which the sacred mysteries of salvation and the indefectible faith of the Church are efficaciously transmitted by means of human language to prayer, and worthy worship is offered to God the Most High" (Liturgiam Authenticam, n. 3). [I cannot admit that the translations presently in use were "prepared with great care" and are "free from ideological influence". That is clearly not the case.]
The words used in the sacred liturgy manifest the faith of the Church and are guided by it. The Church, therefore, needs great care in directing, preparing and approving translations, so that not even one unsuitable word will be smuggled into the liturgy by an individual who may have a personal agenda, or who may simply not be aware of the seriousness of the rites. [Another point is that the Church must take great care that no word be smuggled out of the texts. The present lame-duck translation is a case in point. However, this also the problem in the Latin text of the Novus Ordo, isn’t it. The older prayers, from previous editions of the Roman Missal and from the ancient sacramentaries were edited for content.]
Translations should, therefore, be faithful to the original Latin text. They should not be free compositions. As Liturgiam Authenticam, the major Holy See Document that gives directives on translations, insists: "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" (n. 20).
The genius of the Latin Rite should be respected. [Let us not forget that the older form of the Latin Rite conveys that genius, and has done so for a very much longer time than the Novus Ordo. Card. Arinze has left a lacuna in the talk which we must do our best to fill.] The triple repetition is one of its characteristics. Examples are "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa"; "Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison"; "Agnus Dei qui tollis…", three times. A close study of the "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" also shows "triplets". Translations should neither kill nor flatten out such a characteristic. [Again, I am back to my earlier point: perhaps it is best to leave a translation sounding like a translation.]
The Latin liturgy expresses not only facts but also our feelings, our sentiments, for example, in front of God’s transcendence, majesty, mercy and boundless love (cf. Liturgiam Authenticam, n. 25). Expressions like "Te igitur, clementissime Pater", "Supplices te rogamus", "Propitius esto", "veneremur cernui", "Omnipotens et misericors Dominus", "nos servi tui", should not be deflated and democratized by some translating iconoclast.
Some of these Latin expressions are difficult to translate. [Yes… but not that hard.] The best experts in liturgy, classics, patrology, theology, spirituality, music and literature are needed so that translations beautiful on the lips of holy Mother Church can be worked out. Translations should reflect that reverence, gratitude and adoration before God’s transcendent majesty and man’s hunger for God which are very clear in the Latin texts.
Pope Benedict XVI, in his Message to the meeting of the "Vox Clara" English Committee on 9 November 2005, speaks of translations which "will succeed in transmitting the treasures of the faith and the liturgical tradition in the specific context of a devout and reverent Eucharistic celebration" (in Notitiae, 471-472, Nov.-Dec. 2005, p. 557).
Many liturgical texts are steeped in biblical expressions, signs and symbols. They resonate with prayer patterns that date back to the Psalms. The translator cannot afford to ignore this.
A language spoken by millions of people today will undoubtedly have many shades and variations. There is a difference between English used in the Constitution of a country, that spoken by the President of a Republic, [With all due respect and with consideration of his good speech writers, perhaps we might make an exception for President Bush’s extemporaneous style.] the conversational language of dock workers or students and the conversation between parents and children. The manner of expression cannot be expected to be the same in all these situations, although all are using English.
What form should liturgical translations adopt? [My question from above. This is the huge question.] No doubt liturgical vernacular [This calls for a special and identifiable style which we call "liturgical vernacular"? Each field has its argot. Why not liturgy?] should be intelligible and easy to proclaim and to understand. At the same time, it should be dignified, sober, stable and not subject to frequent change. It should not hesitate to use some words not generally in use in everyday conversation, or words that are associated with Catholic faith and worship. Therefore, it should say chalice and not just cup, paten and not plate, ciborium and not vessel, priest and not presider, sacred host and not consecrated bread, vestments and not dress.
Therefore, Liturgiam Authenticam says: "While the translation must transmit the perennial treasury of orations by means of language understandable in the cultural context for which it is intended,… it should cause no surprise that such language differs somewhat from ordinary speech" (n. 47). [I think this is a very very tricky issue.]
Intelligibility should not be pushed to mean that every word must be understood by everybody at once. Just look carefully at the Credo. It is a "symbol", a solemn summary statement, on our faith. The Church has had to call some General Councils for an exact articulation of some articles of our faith.
Not every Catholic at Mass will immediately understand in full such normal Catholic liturgical formulae as Incarnation, Creation, Passion, Resurrection, Consubstantial with the Father, Proceeding from the Father and the Son, Transubstantiation, Real Presence, Transcendent and omnipotent God. This is not a question of English, or French, or Italian, or Hindi or Kiswahili. Translators should not become iconoclasts who destroy and damage as they go along. Everything cannot be explained during the liturgy. [Liturgy is not a didactic moment.]
The liturgy does not exhaust the entire life activity of the Church (cf. SC, n. 9). There is also need for theology, catechetics and preaching. And even when a good catechesis has been delivered, a mystery of our faith remains a mystery.
Indeed, we can say that the most important thing in divine worship is not that we understand every word or concept. No. The most important consideration is that we stand in reverence and awe before God, that we adore, praise and thank him. The sacred, the things of God, are best approached with sandals off. [The image is of Moses before the burning bush.]
In prayer, language is primarily for contact with God. No doubt, language is also for intelligible communication between us humans. But contact with God has priority. In the mystic, such contact with God approaches and sometimes reaches the ineffable, the mystical silence where language ceases. [More needs to be done with this.]
There is therefore no surprise if liturgical language differs somewhat from our everyday language. Liturgical language strives to express Christian prayer where the mysteries of Christ are celebrated. [A "liturgical vernacular" must convey "mystery".]
As if putting together these various elements needed in order to produce good liturgical translations, let us quote from the Address of Pope John Paul II to American Bishops from California, Nevada and Hawaii during their 1993 ad limina visit to Rome. He was asking them in translations to guard the full doctrinal integrity and beauty of the original texts: [Consider this: Cardinal Arinze is reminding Americans that the Pope himself said this to American bishops. Did the those American bishops do anything substantive after that? What follows is from 1993.]
"One of your responsibilities in this regard is to make available exact and appropriate translations of the official liturgical books so that, following the required review and confirmation by the Holy See, they may be an instrument and guarantee of a genuine sharing in the mystery of Christ and the Church: lex orandi, lex credendi. The arduous task of translation must guard the full doctrinal integrity and, according to the genius of each language, the beauty of the original texts. When so many people are thirsting for the Living God – whose majesty and mercy are at the heart of liturgical prayer -, the Church must respond with a language of praise and worship which fosters respect and gratitude for God’s greatness, compassion and power. When the faithful gather to celebrate the work of our Redemption, the language of their prayer – free from doctrinal ambiguity and ideological influence – should foster the dignity and beauty of the celebration itself, while faithfully expressing the Church’s faith and unity" (in Insegnamenti of John Paul II, XVI, 2, 1993 [!], p. 1399-1400).
From the above considerations, it follows that the Church needs to exercise careful authority over liturgical translations. The responsibility for the translation of texts rests on the Bishops’ Conference, which submits them to the Holy See for the necessary recognitio (cf, SC, n. 36; C.I.C., can. 838; Lit. Authenticam, n. 80).
It follows that no individual, even a priest or deacon, has authority to change the approved wording in the sacred liturgy. This is also common sense. But sometimes we notice that common sense is not very common. [The question is begged: What do we do when present translations are simply dreadful? Still use them?]
So, Redemptionis Sacramentum had to say expressly: "The reprobated practice by which priests, deacons or the faithful here and there alter or vary at will the texts of the Sacred Liturgy that they are charged to pronounce, must cease. For in doing thus, they render the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy unstable, and not infrequently distort the authentic meaning of the Liturgy" (n. 59; cf. also General Instruction on Roman Missal, n. 24). [And when the translation itself manifestly distorts the texts? That is the case with the lame duck translation we are using.]
8. What is expected of us?
As we seek to conclude these reflections, we can ask ourselves what is expected of us.
We should do our best to appreciate the language which the Church uses in her liturgy and to join our hearts and voices to them, according as each liturgical rite may indicate. All of us cannot be Latin speakers, but the lay faithful can at least learn the simpler responses in Latin. Priests should give more attention to Latin so that they celebrate Mass in Latin occasionally.
In big churches where there are many Masses celebrated on a Sunday or Feast day, why can one of those Masses not be in Latin? In rural parishes a Latin Mass should be possible, say once a month. In international assemblies, Latin becomes even more urgent. It follows that seminaries should discharge carefully their role of preparing and forming priests also in the use of Latin (cf. October 2005 Synod of Bishops, Prop. 36). [If people don’t hear Latin in their parishes, how can they be expected to use Latin when they are in larger or international celebrations?]
All those responsible for vernacular translations should strive to provide the very best, following the guidance of relevant Church Documents, especially Liturgiam Authenticam. Experience shows that it is not superfluous to remark that priests, deacons and all others who proclaim liturgical texts, should read them out with clarity and due reverence.
Language is not everything. But it is one of most important elements that need attention for good and faith-filled liturgical celebrations.
It is an honour for us to be allowed to become part of the voice of the Church in her public prayer. May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Word made flesh whose mysteries we celebrate in the sacred liturgy, obtain for all of us the grace to do our part to join in singing the praises of the Lord both in Latin and in the vernacular.