Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Translation a Setback for Latin?

Everyone is excited about the new translation coming out for the Novus Ordo. It will be better no doubt. The texts are more theologically precise. They are closer to the Latin text of the Novus Ordo. Those texts are much richer than what we have now.

But I am not all that excited. Don't get me wrong, I look forward to using them musically and praying with them generally. But I am afraid it will set back the progress made with the expansion of the Traditional Latin Mass and the use of Latin in the Novus Ordo.

Many people attending the TLM go for the increased solemnity. They are searching for true Catholic worship. The new translation will provide that...sort of. Some may find less of a reason to ask for the TLM to be celebrated in their parish. Priests will be busier learning the new version of the Ordinary Form.

I imagine there are those who will use it as an excuse. "We have this now, why do you want that?" The problem here is that no matter how you translate the text of the Novus Ordo...put it in Elizabethen English for that still represents a break with the continual and organic development of the liturgy. For instance, the prayers are more focused on us than God. A new translation won't turn the altars around and it won't end communion in the hand either. Perhaps eventually with a greater understanding of what is actually happening at Mass through the better texts it will. But it is not going to be instant.

It may also harm the progress made in using Latin during the Novus Ordo. Take for instance my case. As a parish musician who has been given great freedom by a good pastor to incorporate Latin into the liturgical music, we will now, out of necessity, move to the newer English text. The congregation will need to become comfortable with their parts. That takes time. And while it won't be as difficult a burden as some church-leftists claim, I envision needing to ditch the Latin for the new text for at least a year. I pray that is not the case.

However there is a flip side to consider. Using a text closer to the original may in fact increase the interest in and promote the use of Latin during the liturgy. If for instance hand missals (and altar missals for that matter) are printed in double columned Latin-English it would allow for moving between the two easily. This could happen - but I fear with the new text that "sacral English" will be all the rage and Latin will be its benevolent uncle with a slightly higher pride of place than it is afforded now.

This text, at the end of the Penitential Rite, disturbs me. It is quite Anglican, frankly.

The 2002 Missale Romanum says:

Sequitur absolutio sacerdotis: Misereátur nostri omnípotens Deus et, dimissís peccátis nostris, perdúcat nos ad vitam aetérnam.

But the new English text says...

May almighty God have mercy on us and lead us, with our sins forgiven, eternal life.

I guess it depends on where you put the comma in the Latin? But that phrase "dimissis peccatis nostris" has always, always, always been translated as "forgive us our sins". I assume that is because it is understood that a simple confiteor does not normally remove mortal sins. I wonder if this will help promote the sacrament of confession or if it will confuse the issue more. You can understand this text in an orthodox way, being that we cannot enter eternal life without our sins forgiven. But I wonder if people in the pews will correctly perceive that.

With all these doubts of mine regarding the new texts, I still think it will be better than what we have now. It will provide for a greater Catholic identity and will arm the people with better tools with which to get to Heaven...which is of course the goal. So I pray they come out quickly, are incorporated quickly, and that we can then move on to rediscovering the tradition of the Church.


becket said...

Not to mention the rubrics haven't really been changed. So for the traditionalist, you will still have altar girls, priest facing people, and the EMHCs. As well as no gregorian chant more than likely. So big whoop!. I've been going to the Byzantine rite lately. I may just stick with that. Orthodox Church for Vespers, and a UGCC for the Divine Litury, with none of the OF Mass rubrics to bother me. Maybe will get lucky and some Anglican Use parishes will spring up. My thoughts!.

Robert said...
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cheryl said...


If I may, you said:
" still represents a break with the continual and organic development of the liturgy."
This is what I find so troubling about insistance on (not preference toward)the Latin Mass. It seems to question the authority of the Church, as if the Church via it's acceptance of the "Novus Ordo" has in some sense, to some degree, broken with tradition (in this case liturgical).

Don't get me wrong. There are things I like and dislike about both forms of Masses, so I really don't have a dog in this race, except my above concern. I don't feel comfortable with the idea that the Church can and has broken with tradition or that we can insist on something which the Church does not. It seems to question her authority.

But, I do very much like your idea of,
If for instance hand missals (and altar missals for that matter) are printed in double columned Latin-English it would allow for moving between the two easily.

becket said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
becket said...

I think we should be a little worried. Seems like the same old NO Mass to me, but with the ONLY difference being the text. And yes this will give precedence to the EF Mass in allot of the clergies eye. So be warned!!. The rubrics will not change one bit.

Anonymous said...

Hi Matt,

The new translations may take some getting used to, but the example you give - and its English translation, is the more 'literal'.

"dimissís peccátis nostris,"

This of course is an ablative absolute, gramatically, and means literally, 'with our sins forgiven', or, 'our sins having been forgiven.' Certainly not a easy on the tongue as the former....

Matt said...


Thanks for the comment on the Latin. I studying Latin right - self taught - and I'm not just saying that. I'm really making a go at it.

I looked up "dimissis" on my iPhone Lexidium and it didn't come up with ablative absolute when I parsed the inflected form. I do however get ablative perfect passive.

It pays to look them up, I suppose, and I will next time. But I still think the older rendition makes more sense for the English speaker.

We will be lead into eternal life with our sins having been forgiven.

Our sins will be forgiven, and then lead into eternal life.

Take your pick I guess.

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton