The new translation of the Mass is designed to be more faithful to the original Latin, to re instate allusions to the Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church where they had been lost, and to bring into the liturgy an ‘elevated’ or more ‘dignified’ language. The problem with the texts that we have looked at is that in being more faithful to the Latin the translators have sometimes chosen a syntax that is unwieldy and awkward. This is not so much in the parts of the Mass which the people say or sing. I think the faithful will get their tongues around that pretty easily. Instead there is some downright awful ‘clunkiness’ of style in the Collects and prayers. We seem to have exchanged the banal and dumbed down version from the seventies with stuff that sounds like an eighth grader trying to write Shakespeare.
Well, it’s a done deal. We’ll have to live with it, and on the whole I trust the few examples I have seen this week are unrepresentative, and that most of the prayers will still retain a noble simplicity which is also characteristic of the Latin. One of the most interesting things about the new translation in my opinion is the shift away from it being quite so people centered. So before the acclamation of faith the celebrant no longer says, “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.” Instead he simply says, “Mystery of faith” and the people reply, “As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes again.” This shifts the attention to what has just happened on the altar rather than it becoming an affirmation of faith centered on the congregation there present.
This is my first look at the new translations, and people are surprised that I’m not already spending my free evenings poring over Mass texts and Gregorian chant variations. They’ve got me wrong. I’ve never been that interested in liturgy for liturgy’s sake. I simply want to turn up, say the black and do the red lead the flock and focus on Jesus. Excessive fuss about liturgy (either to make it all happy clappy or to make it high falutin’) has never really had an attraction for me, although I’m glad there are people out there who do like to pay close attention to these things.