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Q. & A. on the New Translation of the Mass
by Michael J. Ruszala
This Advent (starting Sunday Nov. 27, 2011), the Church in
will be implementing the largest change in the words we say at Mass since 1973. America
Why does the Mass need to be translated?
The Mass to which we have grown accustomed after Vatican II is still going to be the same basic
The post-Vatican II Mass was issued in Latin, the official language of the Church and the language in which our liturgy developed through God’s providence over the course of centuries. The translation from Latin is a sign of the universality of the Church and its faithfulness to Tradition which is animated by the Holy Spirit. Mass.
Why do we need a new translation?
The art of liturgical translation has progressed since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s, which permitted translations of the Mass from Latin into the languages of the people (the vernacular). The new translation will be more literal and will render the sentiment intended by the original Latin.
For example, in the layout below, we see one of the most prominent changes: “The Lord be with you / And with your spirit.” The old translation reads “And also with you,” which paraphrases, omitting spiritu from the Latin. The theory behind the old translation was dynamic equivalence, translating concept for concept, whereas the new translation uses formal equivalence, which translates word for word.
Why does the translation need to be literal?
The response seen above comes from Scripture – as do many of the prayers at
The literal translation emphasizes this connection whereas with a paraphrase we are apt to forget that these words come from an inspired text. Mass.
The inspired words of Scripture always carry meaning with them – and so does “spirit.” A person’s spiritual soul is their highest part. Analogously, we sometimes refer to a person’s or group’s demeanor as their spirit. And of course both of these should be transformed by the Holy Spirit. This is what we do at Mass – we allow ourselves to become transformed.
How does the new translation serve our Roman Catholic identity?
The book the priest prays from at Mass was formerly called the Sacramentary. It will now be called the Roman Missal to emphasize that the Mass celebrated by Roman Catholics around the world is the same Roman Rite of the Mass, distinguished from other legitimate and beautiful Catholic rites such as the Byzantine Rite (from Byzantium in modern-day Turkey).
Literal translation from the Latin preserves the tone of our Roman Rite liturgy and what sets it apart. The Roman Rite liturgy we celebrate is profound, succinct, and transcendent. The new translation emphasizes these qualities. It is simple enough to be memorized by heart but deep enough to be studied and lived for a lifetime.
Who called for the New Translation?
In 2001, the
’s Sacred Congregation of Rites, under Blessed John Paul II, issued a document called Liturgiam Authenticam. There, with an aim to further and mature the implementation of Vatican II’s liturgical reform, they laid out guidelines for translation of the Mass from Latin to the languages of the people. They called for formal equivalence (literal) interpretations conveying the sense of the Roman Rite in its transcendence, depth, and conciseness. They also recommended that there be only a limited number of vernacular languages, and that these be developed liturgically; they taught that since liturgical actions are not the same as casual actions, liturgical language should differ from casual conversation. The actual English translation was done by bishops and scholars of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, authorized by the national bishops’ conferences. Vatican
What does this mean for me?
This is a particular opportunity to dive into the liturgy so we can participate in it more fully. By learning about the changes, we learn more about the nature of the Mass as such. In Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy we read, “
earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy.” Mother Church