New English Language Mass Approved--and Available

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has released the Vatican-approved new translation of the Mass, after years of research, debate and controversy  The new translation, now available on their website, means that both priests and parishioners will soon find that the most familiar part of Catholic worship, the Mass, has been changed for the first time since the Second Vatican Council.  According to Robert Mickens of the Tablet, none of the proposed changes made by the U.S. bishops were accepted by the Vatican.

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While the changes are small, they are significant, since they present the Mass in more "elevated" language than before.  Critics of the old translation, in place since the Second Vatican Council allowed for Mass to be celebrated in the "vernacular," argued that the English language translation was too conversational to be reverent.  On the other side were those who have criticized the new translations, arguing that a conversational language enabled parishioners to participate in a "full, conscious and active" way, as Vatican II had intended. 

Language is important in the spiritual life: the way you relate to someone influences the way you speak to someone, and vice versa.  It’s the same with God.  The way you relate to God influences how you speak to God in prayer.  And the language used in the liturgy will, over time, influence your image of God.  Moreover, the way we worship influences what we believe.  As the ancient saying goes, "Lex orandi, lex credendi." 

The changes start at the very beginning of the Mass.  In answer to the familiar "The Lord be with you," the people will no longer say, "And also with you," but "And with your spirit.”  In the Penitential Rite, the congregation’s response reverts to the older, pre-Vatican II, formula, “Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”  And, significantly, the Creed no longer begins “We believe,” but “I believe.” 

While most of these translations are also taken directly from the original Latin, critics have long argued that looser translations actually do a better job of conveying the original meaning, and may better fit the needs of the local church.  So, for example, while supporters contended that “Credo” is more accurately translated as “I believe” critics felt that the “We believe” more accurately reflects what happens when an entire congregation speaks these words together.

One easy place to see the decided change in tone is when the priest prays a blessing over the bread and wine, in one of the most important moments in the entire Mass. 

Compare the old translation:  “Let your Spirit come upon these gifts, to make them holy.” 

With the new one:  “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall.” 

What will all this mean? 

First, almost all priests and parishioners will have to struggle through the new translations for a few months, perhaps even a few years.  (This will mean more parishioners loudly flipping through missalettes, and fewer priests knowing the prayers by heart, since most churchgoers can say these prayers by rote, as can their priests and deacons).  Some parishioners will likely find it odd to have to consult a booklet to remember a prayer that they’ve had memorized for forty years.  Second, while some may find some of the newer translations jarring--like the "dewfall"--others may cheer what they see as a more reverent tone.  Third, for some time, many will reflexively say the old responses, especially with the more familiar phrases like, “And also with you."  Rumors are that some more liberal-leaning parishes may stubbornly stick to the old books, but this will become increasingly difficult, as the old Sacramentaries, the books used by the priests during Mass, wear out. 

Eventually everyone will grow accustomed to the new language.  But for a time, the most familiar thing in Catholic life--the Mass--will be, at least in parts, unfamiliar.

James Martin, SJ 

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9 years 3 months ago
What exactly is the objection to conversational language in the liturgy? The gospels are written in Koine (vulgar) Greek and the Tridentine Mass is in the Latin equivalent of Ebonics. Christ preached in a common dialect, Aramaic. If he had spoken Hebrew nobody would have understood him. The entire history of Christianity is in low-brow speech. Isn't this just the aural analogue of a twenty foot cope and five pound pectoral cross? Just throwing out the gospel in favor of feudal vanity, frivolity and pomp.
9 years 3 months ago
I'm eager to see the new translation. Let me rephrase that: I am eager to see the translation that now replaces the treacherous old paraphrase. If anybody wants to argue that we should not say, for example, "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault," let 'em argue that the Latin of the Novus Ordo should be changed, because "through my own fault" is just a banal simplification of "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa." Same thing for the words of the centurion. If you want to retain "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you," argue that the Latin -- almost verbatim from the word of God -- be changed. Not "Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbum et sanabitur anima mea" but "Domine, non sum dignus ut te accipiam, sed tantum dic verbum et sanabor". I would not do to a secular poet what the old manglers and flatteners did to the Bible and to the liturgy.
9 years 3 months ago
One facet of the need for a new translation that is not touched upon in the article is the blatent and deliberate mistranslations found in the first ICEL version. Another aspect that is not addressed is that there are definite theological reasons as to why the official Latin text uses certain words or phrases over others, credo instead of credemus for example. Until the rendering of the Nicene Creed into English for the Sacramentary in the 1970s it was never translated into the first person plural. The Creed in the liturgy was never viewed as a corporate affirmation of belief, but as an individual affirmation of belief made together. The rendering of "Credo" into the third person plural exists only in English. Also in the Nicene Creed is the rendering of "visibile et invisible" as "seen and unseen." The two phrases mean two very different things. That which is invisible is incapable of being seen. That which is unseen is not within my field of vision. At this moment the Washington Monument is unseen to me but it is not invisible. "Invisibile" in the Creed refers to the spiritual world, the angels and fallen angels. The word "unseen" clearly does not impart the meaning of the original text. The horrible mistranslation of the words of institution which began with the non-Biblical and heretical "shed for you and for all" is another example that must be changed. The scriptures are quite clear that Christ did not die for all men and women. Someone wanting it to be so does not make it so. Christ died for the many, that is, those who would accept him, despite whom the politically correct would like him to have died for. The truth cannot be changed. The sad reality is that for forty years Roman Catholics of the English speaking world have had to endure banal inaccurate translations that water down the faith of the Church and express the opinions of a few who would push their opinions over the teaching of the Church. It's time to put an end to it.
9 years 3 months ago
It's a shame that differing positions on the liturgy can get so bound up with the ''liberal/conservative'' divide -- I know you can't separate liturgy and theology, but it seems like too often, for example, if you like Latin or this or that element of the extraordinary form (Tridentine, 1962, whatever), it's assumed that you hold conservative positions on the hot-button social issues, etc. I see myself as both traditional and liberal -- and when it comes to the Mass, I just want it to be more beautiful. With regard to the new translation, I like some of the changes, but not others. I kind of wish we could use ''thou/thee/thy'' -- although I don't like ''thou,'' I do really like ''thee,'' just because it has a lovely, intimate, breath-like quality: I'm thinking particularly of ''And let my cry come unto Thee,'' a line which I know isn't in the ordinary form (1970 form, whatever), but which I've always loved, in part because of its use in the Rite of Exorcism. I hate to see it rendered unpoetically as ''And let my cry be heard by you'' or ''And let my cry come to you'' or whatever. About the line ''Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall.'' -- I like the first part, and also the image of the dewfall, but the construction of ''by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall'' just sounds clunky. It might be better as ''Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, and send down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall'' or ''...and let your Spirit descend upon them like the dewfall'' or ''and like the dewfall let your Spirit descend upon them,'' etc. As it is, it just seems to land with a THUD.
9 years 3 months ago
Some other things I wanted to add: I don't like the change from ''shed for you and for all'' to ''for you and for many.'' Yes, I know the latter is more faithful to the Latin, but... I mean, even if when talking about subjective redemption, He might not die for all (although I'd agree with Balthasar that we can and should hope that all will be saved, and I think there are good grounds for that hope, though of course we can't affirm as a doctrine that all will be saved), certainly when speaking of objective redemption, He does indeed die for all; God wills that all be saved. Fr. Bailey, on this topic, you wrote the following: ''The horrible mistranslation of the words of institution which began with the non-Biblical and heretical 'shed for you and for all' is another example that must be changed. The scriptures are quite clear that Christ did not die for all men and women.'' -- Are you sure this is correct? Remember that the Church is the only one who can interpret Scripture authoritatively, and I think we should look to the councils and popes here, etc., not to Scripture alone. I think this is a case of objective vs. subjective redemption. The ''shed for you and for all'' is true if it means objective redemption. I'm looking at Ludwig Ott's ''Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma'' (the Imprimatur is from 1954), and on pg. 188 it gives the following statements: 1) ''Christ did not die for the predestined only.'' -- This is marked as ''de fide''; then there's the next statement, which is ''sententia fidei proxima'': 2) ''Christ died not for the Faithful only, but for all mankind without exception.'' It cites Pope Innocent X in 1653, Alexander VIII in 1690, and also the Council of Trent; the Denzinger numbers given are 794, 1096, and 1294, with 319 and 795 also mentioned.
9 years 3 months ago
I too am puzzled by the ''dewfall'' image in EP II. The word is in the Latin original, and perhaps it works there. However, the image of the dew ''moistening'' the thin bread wafers used in the liturgy doesn't work for me. Those of us living in warm climates know what high humidity does to our communion hosts! As for the English expression, would not ''by sending down your Spirit like dewfall upon them'' flow much more smoothly? Can we hope that there will be a little ''ad experimentem'' period with the new texts in order to iron out any problems that surface immediately?
9 years 3 months ago
RE: ''The changes start at the very beginning of the Mass. In answer to the familiar 'The Lord be with you,' the people will no longer say, 'And also with you,' but 'And with your spirit.' In the Penitential Rite, the congregation’s response reverts to the older, pre-Vatican II, formula, 'Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.' And, significantly, the Creed no longer begins 'We believe,' but 'I believe.'' Interestingly, we won't need to make the changes you refer to in Hungary/the Hungarian language, because the changes you speak of are how we've ALWAYS said the Mass in Hungarian -- whether the Mass is celebrated in Budapest or in Cleveland! And with your spirit: És a Te lelkeddel Through my fault...: Én vétkem, én vétkem, én igen nagy vétkem I believe: Hiszek Not sure why that was the case, but at any rate, we Hungarian-Americans are 'good to go.'
9 years 3 months ago
'On the other side were those who have criticized the new translations, arguing that a conversational language...' I think you've drastically oversimplified this debate. There was a significant third side who rejected both of these stances you've listed. My criticisms of the current ICEL work do not extend to an endorsement of the 1970's work of a former ICEL that rushed to get the vernacular into print. I prefer to reject both and triangulate. I think it's very possible to elevate the language without resorting to easy archaisms. ICEL didn't do it. Likewise they haven't attended to expanding the Roman Rite prayers (see sections II and others) to better harmonize with the modern Lectionary. Modern English usage is not entirely congruent to informality. The Vatican has simply refused to brush the cobwebs away--with the result of a further impoverishment of the vernacular liturgy. I find it interesting that no episcopal suggestion was incorporated into the Ordo Missae. Do you suppose that will hasten or slow the approval of future sections of the Roman Missal translations?
9 years 3 months ago
The weakest argument against the new translation (to my mind at least) is that people have gotten used to the 4-decade-old new translation, and a return to a translation that's similar to the one they were used to before the old new translation came out would confuse them. People will be confused for a while, but that didn't bother the translators of the old new translation. As for me, at my parish we still sing parts of the Ordinary of the Mass from music that was set to the Latin original, so the new new translation will end up being less confusing in the future.
9 years 3 months ago
I have most certainly simplified the extensive debate over the English-language translation, a story that would take many more words to explain adequately. Readers who wish to find out more about the incredibly complex process that led up to Monday's document--a process that included organizations like International Committee for English in the Liturgy (aka ICEL) and Vox Clara, documents like 'Liturgiam Authenticam' and concepts like 'dynamic equivalence'--can search our archives and use the word 'ICEL' as a search term. There you will find articles by a wide variety of scholars and experts, some of whom were intimately involved in the process.
9 years 3 months ago
It's certainly an interesting discussion, thanks to God that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church. To me, there should be very little controversy over the translation itself. Our Church's source text is written in Latin, and it seems to me that we should value an accurate translation. The controversy, it seems to me, is be over what some folks think the canon SHOULD say. Those folks would like to change either 1) the words of the Mass to make them more contemporary or 2) that local churches are required to follow the words of the missal exactly. We do not have that license. We recite the words that the bishops agree best mirrors the original text. That is the structure of the Catholic Church. Unless one of the above two things change in the nature of the Church, it seems to me that this issue of translation is not the source of controversy--it's merely a symptom. Praise God that His Spirit will continue to guide us!
9 years 3 months ago
Lets not fool ourselves. This translation being imposed on the English-speaking world has nothing to do with sacredness of liturgy, the universality of our worship, and everything to do with punishing wicked users of inclusive language. While I thoroughly agree with those who see some parts of the 1970 liturgy as poor, this new 'translation' is not the way to go. It is archaic in style, difficult to follow and at times uses language and images that are quite simply a little bizarre. How will non-native English speakers, particularly in countries where English is the common language that not the mother tongue, understand it? Its also a sad comment on the erosion of collegiality and the roles of episcopal conferences that none have rejected outright this translation. What has happened to bishops - are they now nothing more than regional branch managers of the church? I thought that they had some say in the church, even if they were no longer elected as they were in the early church. I sometimes think that the church I believed in, the church of Vatican II, is truly dead. It all makes me wonder about whether there is any future for people like me in it.
9 years 3 months ago
Forgive me if I am missunderstanding this concept- but how can the creed begin "I believe"? My study of liturgical theolgy has led me to believe that the eucharistic celebration is the most vivid representation of our unity in the Church. It is a powerful and dynamic reality that when the Chuch is gathered in communion together, it is the presence of Christ on Earth (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 7). By beginning the creed "I believe", we are reducing our statement of faith to a personal utterance and not a genuine expression of our shared vision. We are going from one Eucharistic banquet table to millions of individual tables. If I may quote again from CSL: "The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people's powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation." (CSL, 34) Now look at the prayer over the gifts: “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall.” Just try reading that prayer aloud. Four commas in the first 8 words, not to mention the term "dewfall", which without a missal, could be easily mistaken for "do fall". This text may be truer to the translation, but is there anyone who can realisticly tell me that it has a "noble simplicity" to it? God bless Trautman and the others who fought for dynamic equivalence.
9 years 3 months ago
In response to the comment by MLE which asked: ''What exactly is the objection to conversational language in the liturgy? The gospels are written in Koine (vulgar) Greek and the Tridentine Mass is in the Latin equivalent of Ebonics. Christ preached in a common dialect, Aramaic. If he had spoken Hebrew nobody would have understood him. The entire history of Christianity is in low-brow speech. Isn't this just the aural analogue of a twenty foot cope and five pound pectoral cross? Just throwing out the gospel in favor of feudal vanity, frivolity and pomp,'' my answer is, ''absolutely not!'' Yes, Jesus preached in Aramaic, but at the Last Supper, following the Passover ritual, He would have used proper Hebrew prayers. The entire problem is that the Mass has become too ''low-brow'', too much of an emphasis on ''what's in it for me'', leaving a sense that the Mass is my personal possession that needs to speak only to me. Poor translation of prayers leads to misunderstanding of beliefs. By translating the Latin more precisely, we are reminded that we are part of a tradition and are praying in union with Catholics all over the world, not just with the people in my church building on Sunday. We are part of a whole and have an obligation to be faithful members of that whole. By using more elevated language, we remind ourselves that the Mass is not something banal, something ''low brow'', but rather, something sacred, specifically, the perpetuation of the Pschal Mystery; the act of salvation, the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are made present to use for all of time, and at every Mass we suffer, die and rise with him, and our sins are forgiven. There is nothing ''low brow'' about that!

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