From the online edition of Adoremus Bulletin comes an essay on the upcoming revised English translation of the Missale Romanum by the great Bishop of Patterson, H.E. Most Rev. Arthur Serratelli, chairman of the US Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship.
His essay deserves attention, but it is too long to deal with in one huge entry here. We can take it apart and look at some excerpts. Be sure to go to Adoremus and read the whole thing there. It is worth the time.
I have written with admiration about Bp. Serratelli before on different occasions. For example, here. And you will certainly remember his series of articles on the sense of the sacred.
Let’s skip to the very end first with my emphases and comments:
Keep in mind…
As we await the final modifications and amendments that will come, at this point, we should recall a number of facts:
1. The new texts will be used in many different English-speaking countries. Therefore, the language will not bear the cultural stamp or preference of one particular country. This calls for certain openness on the part of all of us to use words that may be understood, but are not commonly used in our own particular country. [A good point: What we don’t want is a separation of anglophone world by means of differing texts. If there may be a few tiny adaptations, let the English version be one.]
2. Since we use the language of the liturgy to address God, it should be intelligible. This does not, however, mean every word has to be part of the active vocabulary of everyone. [In the essay Bp. Serratelli makes the distinction between active vocabuarly (which we use in speaking and writing in the normal course of events) and passive vocabulary (which you know and understand but will be less likely to be using. He gives examples of the passive "ignominy, penitence and oblation". May I add "ineffable" and "gibbet"? Some would consider "dew" to be too hard… but I bet most people understand what it is and can make the connection.]
3. In the liturgy, we should use a noble language that lifts us up as well as honors God. From the earliest Latin texts from the 4th century, the style of the language used in prayer differed from street language. In the new translations, the noble, heightened style of liturgical prayer is certainly a gain for all. [Exactly. The distinction about active and passive vocabulary helps us over this obstacle… if it is an obstacle. Liturgy is not about the mundane or everyday. If the language of liturgy is simplistic and everyday language, ephemeral, it will fail.]
4. When we receive the new Roman Missal for the English-speaking world, we will have a work that has aimed at an exact, though not slavishly literal translation. [On WDTPRS and in the columns, I work from "slavishly" literal translations for reason: to give people a good crow bar to pry open the texts. We don’t pretend here to make smooth liturgically useful translations. ALTHOUGH… ALTHOUGH… I am inclined to bend and agree with those who suggest that, since everyone knows that the English is a translation, perhaps it is okay to let the translation sound like a translation. I think we need more Latin at the same time as we need a good new translation.]
5. The new Missal will provide prayers that are “marked by sound doctrine, exact in wording and free from all ideological influence” so that “the sacred mysteries of salvation and the indefectible faith of the Church are efficaciously transmitted by means of human language….” (Liturgiam authenticam 3) [Surely "ideology" is meant here to be a bad thing, that is, some position or action item of people who don’t agree with the Church’s traditions or teachings.]
6. The new Missal will come as the result of years of growth and understanding. It will improve our liturgical prayer, but it will not be perfect. Perfection will come when the liturgy on earth gives way to that of heaven where all the saints praise God with one voice. [And we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Remember that when the translation goes into effect. I made the same point in my "Rules" for Summorum Pontificum. But again… we could also use more Latin in the Latin Church.]
7. When put in use, the common English text for all English-speaking countries will reaffirm in a tangible manner the breadth of our Catholic identity. [More and more we are seeing bishops speak and write about a clear Catholic identity which can be communicated and recognized.]
In conclusion, it is important to remember that this is a moment of organic growth within the liturgical renewal of the Church. [An important element in the Benedictine Reform now taking place.] As Pope John Paul II said on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy:
The time has come to renew that spirit which inspired the Church at the moment when the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium was … promulgated…. The seed was sown; it has known the rigors of winter, but the seed has sprouted…. (Vicesimus Quintus Annus 23)
Our acceptance of the new Missal is truly “a moment to sink our roots deeper into the soil of tradition handed on in the Roman Rite” (VQA 23).
I will look at more of this essay along the way.