Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Nov
  • 28

Advent liturgy to start using new words

Posted By November 28, 2011 | 11:11 am | Lead Story #2
Top 2 missal msgr johnson_0246

By Patricia O’Connell

CFP Correspondent

The new English translation of the Roman Missal is to be used this weekend at Masses for the first Sunday of Advent. Msgr. Robert K. Johnson, director of the diocesan Office for Divine Worship, said the translation better reflects the faith.

During a recent workshop on the upcoming changes, held at St. Edward the Confessor Parish in Westminster, he cited a Latin phrase, “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi.” This means the Law of prayer – the way we pray is linked to the Law of Belief, the way we believe.

“The liturgy is connected to who we say God is, and who we are as Church,” he noted.

He said the primary reason for the changes is because the Holy Father, along with the world’s bishops, were calling for a new translation, more faithful to the original Latin and to the demands of “Liturgiam Authenticam,” a Vatican document issued in 2001. This requires that prayers in English retain the integrity of those in Latin.

Msgr. Johnson described the problems found in the original English translations, introduced in the 1960s, when guidelines and norms were not specific. Also, he said, the translation was rushed, and was introduced with “inadequate catechesis.”

“Some people got little explanation” as to why the Mass suddenly switched from Latin, with the priest facing the altar, to English, with the priest facing the congregation, he said.

“It was very dramatic and very traumatic,” he added.

Much of the beauty, depth and precision of the Latin prayers were lost, according to Msgr. Johnson.

Also, he noted, superlatives used to describe God were dropped as well.

“Some words and sentences in the Latin text were never translated, as they were viewed as duplicative and unnecessary to prayer,” he continued.

Part of the problem, he said, is that Latin conveys much meaning in very few words. Therefore, it created a dilemma between using a literal translation and brevity. Brevity won out, he explained.

The Missal was updated again in 1975, but there were still problems, he noted, adding, “Much of the edition is the same as the rushed first edition.”

Msgr. Johnson talked about the evolution of language. Some words and phrases popular a generation or two ago would sound odd if we used them now, he said. Likewise, he said, what seemed right in the 1960s isn’t appropriate now.

“Language evolves and language changes in big ways and small ways,” he said.

Msgr. Johnson said the translation was “rushed,” but there was no “malfeasance.”

“It was done by excellent people,” with the best of intentions, he noted.

“We can say that now, and hindsight is 20/20, only now do we look at it in this culture and in this day it doesn’t meet our needs,” he said.

Msgr. Johnson said the revised Missal is reverent, with language that’s different from everyday speech, which, he noted, has become “very coarse.”

One example, he said, will be the Profession of Faith, or the Credo. The congregation will say “I believe” instead of “we believe.”

He said we’ll need to learn new responses. This will entail sacrifice on everyone’s part, but, in the end, we can look forward to richer language.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston said the new English translation provides “a great opportunity to enhance our worship” by looking at “elements of the current celebration that need improving,” including our own participation.

“The most beautiful liturgies … are those in which everyone sings,” he said. “Regardless of how good or not-so-good you consider your voice, it is the one that God gave you and your best effort will be beautiful to your heavenly Father –  so please sing.”

The new English translation also prompted a pastoral letter from Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia to Catholics in his archdiocese.

The new missal translation “gives us –  clergy and the faithful –  many new opportunities to reconsider the centrality of the Mass in our lives, to learn more about our faith from the Mass prayers, to evaluate our preparation and our manner of celebration,” he said in the Nov. 20 letter.

“I hope that this historic event … will also signal a renewed commitment to the Sunday Eucharist, to celebrate it with greater beauty and dignity and to live from it more profoundly and intently,” he added.

Is the (new) translation better,” Msgr. Johnson asked rhetorically, before answering “Yes.”

“Is it perfect?” “No.”

“Because nothing is perfect this side of heaven,” he said.

– Catholic News Service contributed to this report.