The Roman Missal: a pause for reflection on the meaning of our prayers
The new translation of the Mass that we'll start using this Advent is exciting.
Our excitement is not for any lack of love for the current translation, to be sure. We can be aware of some of the shortcomings of the current translation, but still love it deeply. For many of us, the current translation has shaped our entire lives as Catholics. We were born into it. It is, in some sense, our "native language."
But there are three things in particular that we can look forward to about the new translation:
• A more precise translation from the Latin into the English -- with all that means for the ability of the Church to pray as one Body.
• A translation that brings out the biblical references in the Mass with even greater clarity -- and all that entails for the depth of meaning in the words we say and pray.
• The deep sense of unity we can get from the fact that all English-speaking nations around the globe have worked together on this translation and will be praying in the same words. In short, the precision of the language, the meaning of the language and the role of the language in fostering communion are three big things we can look forward to.
At the same time, we are still anticipating the new translation of Mass with some trepidation.
When we learn a new song at Mass, it takes some time before we're not just trying to remember the words and the notes but really praying the song. We want to be praying the song, but we have to work through a process to get there and it's not immediately comfortable. Just because the process is uncomfortable doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the song. (In fact we may really like the song and still dislike the process of learning it!)
The same will probably be true of the new translation. It's going to take some work before we're not just reciting the words, but really praying them and letting them shape the way we think and feel.
There's something even deeper than that, though, that's going to take some time before it becomes fully accepted. Many of us were raised in a Church where the basic movement was to try to bring the Church's teachings and practices down to a level where they could be easily understood. In some ways, the old translation did the same thing -- it tried to make the language of the Church more comfortable.
The new translation reverses that movement. It takes the Church's language as the standard and asks us to "step up" to that language. That's not necessarily going to be comfortable. But truthfully, as we look around at our culture, we don't think the Church's standards need to be conformed to the culture. Rather, the culture's standards need to be transformed by the Church. That shift may not be comfortable. But in the long run, it will be worth it.
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- Use of musical settings for new Roman Missal can begin in September
- Praying anew | Understanding our prayerful relationship before God through humble language
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