Really bad article about the new, corrected translation


New translation muddies waters
Revised version of Missal in English has more than its share of linguistic oddities
Mike MacLachlan, London
United Kingdom
September 6, 2011

Thousands across Asia attend an English-language Mass, particularly in the Philippines and the increasingly polyglot larger cities. [They could use Latin.  Right?]

If you are one of those thousands you may already be using the “new” translation. The timing is left to individual bishops’ conferences but by Advent it will be in use worldwide. [Is it not slated for 2012 in some places?] After much heated controversy it started in the UK last Sunday.

I was at first surprised at the controversy and also by the use of the word “new” since to someone of my generation it seemed mostly a return to the old, pre-Vatican II form, which, though archaic, had a certain poetry. For instance, I welcome the return of the reply to the priest’s greeting “The Lord be with you .” [It is called “new” because it is, well, new.  No?]

The reply “And with your spirit” has much more resonance than the post-Vatican II “And also with you.” – which sounds more like something you would say to a friend in the street. But there are plenty of other places where a return to the older phrasing is literally a step backward[“literally”?  A step backward?  How is that possible, “literally”? I believe I know what he means to say, but that was odd.]

In the Creed, for instance, is “consubstantial with the Father” any better than “one in being”? [In a word, yes.  It is better.  It is more accurate.] It’s just less understandable. [No.  It is not “just less understandable”.  It is a hard word, to be sure.  But it communicates a different concept than the obsolete phrase communicates.] And “incarnate of the Virgin Mary”. Why not “born of”? [Why not?  Because the Creed in Latin says “et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine”.] It means exactly the same and means more to most people. [Goodness gracious.  Isn’t that the problem?] Similarly, in the Sanctus, the phrase “Lord God of hosts” became “God of power and might” – a loose translation of the Hebrew “sabaoth” maybe, but it conveyed the meaning beautifully. [No.  It says something different.  For a writer, this fellow shows a remarkable lack of interest in the meaning of words.]

Now “hosts” is back. But who understands the meaning of “hosts” in the sense of armies? [Ummmm…. lots of people.  And now more people will.] And does it not invite confusion with the Communion Host? [No.  We use words in multiple senses all the time.  Think of “spirit”.] And in the Preface, I much preferred “It is right and fitting[?!?] to “It is right and just.” [?] The Latin “justum” can mean fair, just or fitting. [Aside from the fact that there are no “j”s in Latin, or shouldn’t be, the ICEL version in use for the last few decades has “It is right to give him thanks and praise”, not “it is right and fitting”.  When was the last time the writer went to Mass in English?  Did he mean that he would have preferred the new translation to say “It is right and fitting” rather than “just”?]

Journalists like me are taught to avoid wasted words and to keep the meaning absolutely clear. [Goodness gracious.  No… just leave it…] But look at response after the Agnus Dei (and, by the way, why “behold” twice in that prayer?). [Why?  Why twice?  Because, sir, the Latin reads, “Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi.”] “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof” is a phrase taken from the Gospel story of the centurion with the sick child. Post-Vatican II it became “Lord I am not worthy to receive you.” A sensible change, since I remember the nuns at my primary school tying themselves in knots trying to explain that it meant the roof of your mouth, not the roof of your house, as in the centurion story.  [This is becoming tedious.  Just read to the end… quickly.]

But, would you believe, it’s back. Finally, at the very end, “Go, the Mass is ended”, becomes “Go forth, the Mass is ended”. Why? Where else would you go? [Must. Not. Respond.]

And the poor priest has it even worse. He has to negotiate such jawbreakers as: ”Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you …” Why “for”? Why “received”? Why “we offer you”? Isn’t it all obvious from the context? [Ibidem.]

Even worse: “… we may merit to be co-heirs to eternal life …” What exactly is a co-heir? There are constant unnecessary “therefores” and “indeeds” and so on.

And of course there is the phrase that caused the real controversy – in the Consecration itself: “The blood of the new and eternal covenant which will be poured out for you and for many.” For many? Who are the lucky many? Why not “for all”? [sigh]

Of course, this is a faithful translation of the Latin “pro multis”. But that Latin dates from a time when the Church was somewhat less inclusive than it is today. [sigh] In fact a cynic might conclude that the whole “new” Mass is less inclusive than the old.  [But that would be stupid, wouldn’t it?]

Michael MacLachlan is a London-based Catholic and journalist

Perhaps Mr. MacLachlan should stick to other topics.

I had better leave the combox closed.  It wouldn’t be a pretty sight.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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