Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Weekend of the New Translation

It has been a whirlwind of a weekend, beginning with the much-anticipated but still surprising announcement of the final text for the new translation of the Missal.

It is a good time to read through the new order of the Mass. I've read many drafts along the way but now that it is final, my own impressions are becoming much more vivid.

We've had a translation for the Mass for many years that is hazy and obscure at too many points, one that generally strikes many people as somehow less confident about Catholic belief that, say, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Sometimes it is hard to put your finger on it.

And there are of course many specifics about the translation in use that have been points of estrangement. Many traditionalists have wrongly blamed the "Novus Ordo" for problems of the translation itself -- and this becomes very clear upon reading the PDF file linked above. The improvement is dazzling. Even the famous "pro multis" controversy of old is settled at last. Most of the in-print attacks on the ordinary form that are in print will have to be thrown out or seriously revised. This translation provides far more continuity with Roman Rite history than any previous attempt.

Looking for a metaphor, I would compare the difference between the current and future translation as similar to a window that is frosted and one that is clear, or a pair of glasses once smudgy but now clean. It allows us to see the same reality but more vividly. With new translation, there can be no question about why we are there and what is happening about Mass -- and it is tragic to say that has not always been true.

In some ways, the difference will not amaze anyone in the pews but it will settle many hearts. At last we will experience a lining up of what the sense of the faith tells us - what tradition and sound doctrine teaching - and what the celebrant, schola, and people say and sing during the liturgy. In some says, then, the new translation will be an instrument of peace in our parish. It will help the faith cohere in our public worship. My guess is that the difference will be slight in the short term but immense over the long term.

There is a strong expectation that the new Missal translation will lead to a gradual but dramatic reform of the music to which we've become accustomed at Mass. The propers of the Mass will once again take priority over hymns with random texts. The chant, as a style of music and a vessel for the text, will ascend in importance even as pop music will seem increasingly out of place.

Is this reform of the reform? Most certainly. It is a dramatic step, even a new chapter in postconciliar history, but not the last one. It is a new and very promising beginning.
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