The German Language Order of the Mass

The Roman document Liturgiam authenticam can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and bishops’ conferences are differing widely in their implementation of it. It would be possible to have better English texts than we’re getting – if a more flexible and sensible approach were taken to Liturgiam authenticam.

The German-speaking bishops of Germany and Austria, for example, have insisted upon their right to make decisions about the German used in their liturgy (as Vatican II stated), and have argued that their previous texts for the most part fall within the parameters of that Roman document and did not require revision, or are defensible on other pastoral and theological grounds.

It is interesting to examine the Order of Mass in the officially-approved hymnal Gotteslob (“Praise of God”) of 2013, which has texts approved by the German-speak bishops and by Rome. My English translation of the German hews closely to the German, while using if possible the equivalent text from the English translation for the sake of comparison.

PENITENTIAL ACT

A: Brothers and sisters, let as confess that we have sinned, so that we might worthily celebrate the sacred mysteries.
Brüder und Schwestern, damit wir die heiligen Geheimnisse in rechter Weise feiern können, wollen wir bekennen, dass wir gesüngidgt haben. Wir sprechen das Schuldbekenntnis.

I confess to Almighty God, and to all [my] brothers and sisters, that I have left good things undone and have done evil – I have sinned in thoughts, words, and deed – through my fault, through my fault, through my great fault …
Ich bekenne Gott, dem Allmächtigen, und allen Brüdern und Schwestern, dass ich Gutes unterlassen und Böses getan habe – ich habe gesündigt in Gedanken, Worten und Werken – durch meine Schuld, durch meine Schuld, durch meine große Schuld.

B: Brothers and sisters, before we hear the Word of God and celebrate the sacrifice of Christ, let us prepare ourselves and ask God for forgiveness of our sins.
Brüder und Schwestern, bevor wir das Wort Gottes hören und das Opfer Christi feiern, wollen wir uns bereiten and Gott um Vergebung unserer Sünden bitten.

May the Lord have mercy on us. May he take from us our sins and fault, so that we might carry out this celebration with a pure heart.
Der Herr erbarme sich unser. Er nehme von uns Sünde und Schuld, damit wir mit reinem Herzen diese Feier begehen.

AFTER THE READINGS

The Word of the living God. Thanks be to God.
Wort des lebendigen Gottes. Dank sei Gott.

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to you, O Christ.
Evangelium unseres Herrn Jesus Christus. Lob sei dir, Christus.

NICENE CREED

We believe in one God, the Father almighty…
Wir glauben an den einen Gott, den Vater, den Allmächtigen…

…begotten not made, of one being with the Father;…
…gezeugt, nicht geschaffen, eines Wesens mit dem Vater;……

INVITATION TO THE PRAYER OVER THE OFFERINGS

Let us pray to God, the almighty Father, that he accept the gifts of the church, for his praise and the salvation of the whole world. [no response of people]
Lasset uns beten zu Gott, dem allmächtigen Vater, dass er die Gaben der Kirche annehme zu seinem Lob und zum Heil der ganzen Welt.  [no response of people]

OR: Let us pray. [no response of people]
Let us pray. [no response of people]

OR: Pray, brothers and sisters, that my and your sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father. / May the Lord accept the sacrifice from your hands, for the praise and glory of his name, as a blessing for us and all his holy church.
Betet, Brüder und Schwestern, dass mein und euer Opfer Gott, dem allmächtigen Vater, gefalle. / Der Herr nehme das Opfer an aus denen Händen zum Lob und Ruhm seines Namens, zum Segen für uns und seine ganze heilige Kirche.

SANCTUS

Holy, holy, holy God, Lord of power and might…
Heilig, heilig, heilig, Gott, Herr aller Mächte und Gewalten…

LORD’S PRAYER

Obedient to the Word of our Lord and Redeemer, and faithful to his divine command, we dare to say:
Dem Wort unseres Herrn und Erlösers gehorsam und getreu seiner göttlichen Weisung wagen wir zu sprechen:

INVITATION TO THE EXCHANGE OF PEACE

Give one another a sign of peace and reconciliation.
Gebt einander ein Zeichen des Friedens und der Versöhnung.

INVITATION TO COMMUNION

Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. / Lord, I am not worthy…
Seht das Lamm Gottes, das hinwegnimmt die Sünde der Welt. / Herr, ich bin nicht würdig…

DISMISSAL

Go forth in peace. / Thanks be to God, the Lord.
Gehet hin in Frieden. / Dank sei Gott, dem Herrn.

The texts above, which were in use before Liturgiam authenticam, were held to be in conformity with it. The German-speaking bishops successfully made the case to Rome for retaining them. About all that changed is “for you and for many” in the Institution Narrative of the Eucharistic Prayer – most all the rest could stay as it was.

To be sure, the previous translation was closer to a literal reading of the Latin than our old English texts had been. It already had “and with your spirit” and “under my roof” and the like. But in most cases where the German followed the Latin but loosely or “improved” upon it, it was still retained.

I’m sure many in the English-speaking world will find these regional differences interesting.

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10 comments

  1. I’m curious what the German proper prayers are like, because the English ones really were quite a ways away from the Latin.

  2. A couple of questions: Is there a German equivalent of Vox Clara? Was the previous German translation a topic of heated controversy as the previous English translation was? It would be surprising if Cardinal Ratzinger, later Benedict, would allow these pastoral adaptations for German when (IIRC) he had personally inserted himself into the English-language controversies.

  3. It might be worth noting that the second part of the celebrant’s invitation to communion—“Happy/blessed are those who are called to the feast of the Lamb”—is said by the priest after the people’s response. It is interesting this these sorts of adaptations of the Ordo Missae (found also in the alternative invitations tot he prayer over the gifts) were entirely eschewed in the English Missal.

  4. Thank you for this, Anthony. Another useful piece of evidence, following on from Paul Turner’s excellent article on Spanish-language Missals in the latest issue of Worship. When will the English-language bishops sit up and take notice?

  5. I’d like to add one further note to Anthony’s report on the complications of this situation.

    Gotteslob, the hymnal, was published in 2013 with the new translation of Eucharistic Prayer II, but the new translation was not approved by the bishops yet, only by Rome, and to my knowledge it is still not approved. So, the people have in their hands a translation that isn’t permitted to be used, and may not be. The Mass parts were so close that it didn’t matter, but the EP is / was significant. In a way, it was running ahead by taking Rome’s approval as final. How all this is going to end up is unclear.

    I see from the article linked above by Philip Endean, that the translation is coming up for a vote. But, from what I hear, it is not a sure thing.

    Anthony, please correct me if you have more up to date information on where this stands with the German-speaking bishops’ conferences.

  6. Very interesting—and sad, really, that they persisted with “stealing
    defeat from the jaws of victory” with things like “Wir glauben”.

    I often feel as though the modern Roman liturgy is like a “ship with many captains”. Vox Clara’s work is sensible—indeed, in some ways was *only* sensible—in the context of considering Latin still to be the “source” language of the rite. This, of course, was the explicit vision of V2 and the pope who convened it; however, in practice few parishes use Latin to any degree more appreciably than their neighboring Episcopal church. Those parishes—and, it seems, many of our current bishops—see the modern rite as having essentially “divorced” Latin, and with it any sense that the translation into one vernacular language is at all beholden to that into a different one.

  7. One more interesting point from Gotteslob. Only the first of the Eucharistic Acclamations is provided. There is no mention of the other two. This has the great advantage that everyone can ACCLAIM the response to ‘Mysterium fidei’ without having to think which of several is expected/required.

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