As a prefatory remark, I want to make clear that I mean this post quite sincerely and am not engaging in any sort of irony, though I recognize that I am pointing out a certain “situational irony.” I am in part inspired by Fr. Philip’s post on “Sense and Sensitivities” and his comment on 2/19 at 12:48 pm that he struggles to find a middle position between outright rejection and enthusiastic acceptance of the new translation that will not be spiritually corrosive. I have no answers, but I would suggest a perhaps surprising place to look for one.
Critics of the soon-to-be-implemented translation, among whom I number myself, find themselves in the position of learning from those whom they might normally consider their opponents, namely, those who enthusiastically welcome the new translation after having spent years praying a translation that they dislike, if not detest. I was not a huge fan of the current translation, but it was familiar and, to my mind, usually innocuous, if a bit bland. But I know that some found this translation quite nocuous (yes, this is actually a word), but used it anyway. My question to these people is, “how did you do it?”
For example, I would be interested in hearing someone like Fr. Z, who for years was a vociferous critic of the current translation, offer some reflections on his experience of celebrating Mass using that translation (I know he typically celebrates the Extraordinary Form these days, but I presume there was a time when he celebrated the Ordinary Form on a somewhat regular basis). Was he able to recite the orations without a subtle sneer in his voice? Could he pray these words while inwardly cringing at the gross simplification or even misrepresentation of the Latin? Was the act spiritually debilitating? Even if he believed that the nocuous translation did not affect the ex opere operato efficacy of the sacrament, how did he keep it from affecting the fruitfulness ex opere operantis?
I suspect part of the answer might involve a recognition of the value of obedience and spiritual mortification, and perhaps a way forward to Fr. Philip’s “middle position” might involve a re-appropriation of those values by us who are critics of the coming translation. I’d like to think that the years to come will be able something more than a continual mortification of the senses (particularly the sense of hearing) that the new translation will involve. I’d like to find a way to love these words. But I must also reckon with the possibility that perhaps this must remain an always deferred object of hope, and that in the meantime I may simply have to cling to obedience and mortification.
But what I hope Fr. Z and other critics of the current translation would tell me is that obedience and mortification can themselves be an exercise of love. I have always tried to love the Church as she is, and not as I would have her be. Perhaps the soon-to-be-implemented translation will provide yet another occasion to cultivate such love.