Though it has only been three Sunday Masses and a handful of weekday Masses, I’m ready to declare a truce with the translation of the third editio typica of the Missale Romanum. In some ways I could have simply added this as a “me-too” comment to Jonathan Day’s “Changing the Conversation” post below, but decided that I had slightly more to say on the matter than would fit in a combox.
I lived with the previous translation for my entire life as a Catholic — 29 years — and loved it despite its flaws (which were many). Some of the prayers, such as Eucharistic Prayer III, I found quite beautiful. I had long hoped that the translation could be improved and was heartened by what I saw of the 1998 Sacramentary (while being worried by some of the changes proposed for the order of Mass). I was dismayed by the drafts I saw leaked from the post-Liturgiam Authenticam ICEL in 2004 — does anyone recall “Let our hearts be lifted high / We hold them before the Lord” — and my dismay was only slightly alleviated by subsequent drafts. The post-recognitio tinkering was perhaps most dismaying of all, because it left me with the feeling that shadowy figures with incomprehensible motives were moving the furniture around in the House of the Lord.
All of which is to say that this is an issue I’ve been worrying about for a long time. And now, I’m ready to call it quits. In the few weeks since the introduction of MRIII, I have had a few surprises that have made me rethink my previous anxiety (or, in the current translation, “distress”).
I have found that the changes in the people’s parts of the order of the Mass are not as great as they seemed at first and that in many cases I have them already committed to memory (and I have a very bad memory).
I have found that the orations, while containing more than a few clunkers, are sometimes comprehensible and occasionally striking.
I have found that I often don’t even notice “for you and for many,” and when I do it sounds perfectly fine — in fact, it sounds a lot like Isaiah 53.
I have also found that I can’t get through an entire Mass without at least once saying “and also with you” (or, sometimes, “and also with your spirit”). I have found that the Eucharistic prayers (even more than the orations) still sound like the translators seriously over-egged the pudding, including every Latinate awkwardness possible. I have found that “chalice” is really a kind of ugly word and having it repeated three times in quick succession is EPIII is far more distracting than “for you and for many.”
But most of all I have found, somewhat to my surprise, that I am ready to move on. While I am still interested in hearing people point out errors — such as the implication in the collect for Immaculate Conception that it was Thomas Aquinas and not Duns Scotus who was right about Mary’s sinlessness — I’ve exhausted my interest in the translation issue as such. I’m exhausted by discussions of the machinations of Vox Clara, of the relative merits of 1998 and 2010, of whether “for you and for many” would invalidate the consecration (really?).
Both the process and the product of the translation efforts have revealed some of the more unlovely aspects of the Church: the ecclesiastical careerism and back room dealing, the intellectual and aesthetic mediocrity that often gets foisted on the People of God, the sheer ineptitude of the Church’s bureaucracy, etc., etc., world without end. But all of this is hardly news. And all of this showed itself — and, alas, continues to show itself — in far more demonic guise in the Church’s response to the sexual abuse of minors. Indeed, if I am going to exert energy in a battle with the Church’s leadership, I think I’d rather fight on that front.
So I’m calling a personal cease-fire. The current translation is not the one I would have chosen, but it’s the one I’ve got. It’s still the Mass and in the end that’s all that really matters to me. I realize others might not be ready to move on, and that is fine by me. But I’m ready to cease the hostilities that have raged in my heart.