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New Words for Worship Part 3: Some Implications
New Words for Worship Part 3
Those of you who read the Weekend Australian will have seen extensive coverage of the new translation of the missal in the May 22-23 edition.
Whatever about the new translation, referring to the existing translation as “dumbed-down” or disparaging the present Mass as a “parish tea-party liturgy focussed on celebration of the parish, the year 7 class, or the netball team” will not help people accept the changes. For more than 40 years these “dumbed-down” texts have been the words used by good and faithful people in their communal prayer and that have supported and sustained them in their Christian life.
It is also not helpful to make light of the potential ramifications of the new missal by claiming, as some have done, that most changes are to what the priest says and relatively few to the congregation’s responses. This suggests that the people in the pews need only know their own responses and that understanding and praying the collects, invitations and presidential prayers of the Mass is the responsibility of the priest alone. That attitude contradicts the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy which says:
“In the liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and his members …. every liturgical celebration is an action of Christ the Priest and of his Body which is the Church.” (CSL 7)
Certainly the impending change in the way English-speaking Catholics worship is nothing as momentous as the move from the Missal of Pius V to the current Order of Mass in the 1970s. The structure of Mass and the elements that comprise it remain the same. The change that will be most evident is in the language. The new rules for translation require that every word in the Latin original must be represented in the English translation and that the Latin sentence structure has to be maintained as far as possible. Among other things, this means that:
¨ The Catholic Church will have its own versions of texts such as the Gloria, Creed, Holy Holy and Our Father that had previously been translated ecumenically and were used across denominations.
¨ The current repertoire of musical settings which has been built up and learnt over the last forty years will become obsolete and parishes will have to learn new music for the Mass.
¨ Nearly all of the people’s responses that millions of Catholics know by heart have been changed so that, until they have re-learnt the texts, people will have to rely on worship aids to help them get their lines right. It is actually more difficult to learn a new text that is similar to one already in the memory bank than it is to learn one that is completely different, so claiming that the changes will not present many problems underestimates the potential impact of the change.
The people’s response to the priest’s greeting is a good example. Instead of And also with you, people will say And with your spirit. This is different from the response used in Anglican and Uniting Churches, communities will be unable to use existing music for greetings and the preface dialogue, and people will need to change what has become a natural ritual response.