New Words for Worship Part 2: A New Type of Language

New Words for Worship Part 2
One of the final steps in the process of preparing a new liturgical translation is the handing over of the complete text to Rome for recognitio. Although the Latin word might suggest that this is merely a formal recognition of the document, it is both a statement of final approval, and, according to the document Liturgiam Authenticam, “an exercise of the power of governance, which is absolutely necessary… and modifications – even substantial ones – may be introduced by means of it.” (80)
We still do not have the complete final texts of the missal because changes have been made to the text that was approved by the Bishops Conferences and a great deal of editing work (the finished volume runs to more than 1,000 pages) will have to be carried out by ICEL before the Missal can be published and implemented. Individual bishops' conferences will then make arrangements for printing, binding, distributing and introducing the missal.
In last week’s column, I mentioned that the first edition of the Roman Missal in English was published in 1969. I have been asked when the second edition was published if this new one is the third. The second edition of the Roman Missal in English was issued in 1975. It was more complete than the first edition because it took account of documents and directives issued since the publication of the first edition. However, much of the translation of the second edition of the Roman Missal was the same as the rushed translation of the first edition. In the 1970s, ICEL was working overtime to provide the English translation for all the sacraments and documents coming from Rome. With so many tasks at hand, it was decided that, rather than completely reworking the English text, major weaknesses of the first edition would be corrected. As a result it did not differ greatly from the original version.
It is important to note that the third edition of the Roman Missal represents a change in the language but not in the ritual. There have been only a few minor adjustments to the rubrics (instructions) of the Order of Mass, and most of these represent changes that were already in effect through other documents, such as the revise General Instruction of the Roman Missal issued in 2002.
It is the change of language style that will be most obvious. The vocabulary, syntax and sentence structure will be markedly different from the current text. The guiding document for the new translation advocates a ‘vernacular of a sacred style’ which may differ from usual speech and which may adopt a manner of speech considered obsolete in daily usage. Words and expressions which differ from usual and everyday speech are deemed to be often truly memorable and capable of expressing heavenly realities. The aim is a ‘sacred style proper to liturgical language’.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Chair of the Roman Missal Editorial Committee, offers this reassurance to those who have reservations about the language style used in the new translation:
“This does not mean that the language of the new Missal will be hopelessly formal or incomprehensible. It does mean, however, that it will have an elevated quality which may sound strange at first. But it will be above all the language of the Church’s prayer.”

Elizabeth Harrington