And with your spirit

Fr. Dwight Longenecker, complete with wife and family, is Catholic priest of the Diocese of Charleston, serving in Greenville, South Carolina. Formerly Anglican. From the looks of his Web site, his liturgical style is rather traditional. At his blog Standing on My Head he has a post on the new missal translation, “And with your spirit.”
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The hot topic for our priest’s convocation is the implementation of the new English translation of the Roman Missal. We’ve had sessions from our diocesan liturgist explaining the rationale of the new translation, and going through the texts. We’ve learned about the Scriptural basis and practiced singing some of the ‘priest’s bits.’

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.

5 comments

  1. This:

    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.

    Reminded me of something I said in a (mostly unrelated)post about Quality in Catholic Music:

    I am sometimes deeply bothered by those who seem to obsess over music, liturgy, and ritual (even though I like them) because Jesus clearly was more concerned with things like feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, comforting the dying, visiting the imprisoned, and caring for orphans than He was with things like proper ritualism.

    But, I think a certain amount of obsession, by those who are called to it, is actually quite worthwhile. It is in the public liturgy of the church that we come to understand the love of Christ which we are called to emulate. It is in the sacrifice of the Mass, dwelling in the sacrifice of Jesus, that we hear our calling to sacrifice ourselves. Recognizing Christ in the Eucharist, recognizing Christ in the assembled family of believers, gives us the eyes to recognize Christ in His “disturbing disguises” out in the world. We know how to clothe the naked because our God has clothed us in the garment of Baptism; we know how to feed the hungry because our God has fed us with His very body; we know how to comfort the dying because Our Lord has died in our midst; we know how to visit the imprisoned because God has visited us in the prison of our sin; we know how to care for orphans because our God has given us a spirit of adoption…

    So, yes- what we do in Mass is important, rightly to be called the “source and summit” of our Christian lives. And we must take care to bring our best to it, and teach our children to do the same.—

    My original post is here.

    1. I am really shocked at the frivolity of this piece. He has only just cast a first glance at the new translation and blithely accepts it as a “done deal”. It reminded me of Tony Blair’s loathsome self-exculpation yesterday, the way the Iraq War was a done deal with Bush. Blair dragged his cabinet and Parliament into a moral mire, and supporters of the new translation risk being similarly compromised.

    1. Actually, Tim, it’s “Et cum spiritu tuo.”

      Do you work for Vox Clara?

      And it’s gonna be a cold night tonight, Tim, so “Semper ubi sub ubi”! The Vox Clara translation for that is “Always where under where”

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