All those who have followed the tortuous progress of the revised English translation of the Missal over the past five years might be wondering if the project will ever reach a successful conclusion.
However, recent comments by Cardinal George Pell, chairman of the Vox Clara Committee (consisting of 12 bishops), indicate there is light at the end of the tunnel at last.
In addition, a 'leaked' copy of the latest available draft (2006) of the revised translation indicates that most of the changes appear to have been finalised, subject to ultimate Vatican approval.
An earlier draft (2004) was analysed in AD2000 and comparison between this and the 2006 draft indicates that the most obvious improvements from the present inferior translation, e.g., 'blessed' instead of 'happy', remain in place, while numerous relatively minor revisions to the earlier draft have mostly enhanced style and readability without sacrificing accuracy.
While in England for a meeting of the Vox Clara Committee in March 2007, Cardinal Pell was interviewed by the Catholic Herald. He was asked: 'Can you tell us what stage we're at in the new English translation of the Mass?'
The Cardinal replied: 'We're dangerously close to the bishops of ICEL [the International Committee for English in the Liturgy] approving the complete first draft of the Roman Missal into English. But this is a crucial time when we consolidate the good work or perhaps where it slips away from us just a little bit further. The quality of the work being done is very good, I'm sure it will prove to be generally acceptable. The worst fears of a few will not be realised in any way at all and it will be rich and nourishing for the religious life of people.
'As you know, criticism of the previous translation was that it was rushed ... Well look, we've been working for five years already. Whatever accusations might be levelled against us, you couldn't successfully argue that we've rushed.'
Asked for an estimate of when the new translation would be available in parishes, Cardinal Pell said, 'We've been going five years and since we've started I've said it was just two years away. That must be coming closer to the truth.'
Over this period, the unchanging parts of the Missal or the 'Order of Mass', having been reviewed three times by ICEL and sent to the English-speaking bishops conferences for comment, received affirmative votes by the bishops of the respective countries during 2006.
Archbishop Denis Hart, Australia's ICEL representative, last year estimated that at the earliest the bishops' conferences would be giving their 'definitive vote' on the first half of the Missal during 2007 and the second half of the Missal by the middle of 2008.
He thought that 'the earliest date for a Missal being available would be the end of 2008 or the start of 2009'.
This revised Missal will include most of the changes that were identified in a detailed report in this journal (July 2004), to judge from the latest draft to hand.
One notable difference arises from a Vatican ruling in November 2006 that the Latin phrase at the Consecration, pro multis, should be rendered as 'for many' instead of 'for all' in all new translations of the Eucharistic Prayers.
Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, had written to the heads of the world's episcopal conferences, informing them of the Vatican decision.
Overall, there has been a complete re-translation of the Missal, with the most substantial differences appearing in the words of the priest celebrant, especially in the Eucharistic Prayers.
The following will be the most obvious changes to the lay people's responses when the revised Missal finally becomes available:
* 'And with your spirit' instead of 'And also with you';
* 'through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault' as well as 'and you my brothers and sisters' instead of 'and you here present' in the Confiteor;
* 'peace on earth to people of good will' instead of 'peace to his people on earth' and 'Only-begotten Son' for 'Only Son of the Father' in the Gloria;
* In the Nicene Creed, 'I believe' instead of 'We believe', 'all things visible and invisible' for 'seen and unseen', 'by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary' instead of 'born of' and 'for us and our salvation', with 'men' deleted;
* 'Pray, brothers and sisters, that the sacrifice which is mine and yours [not our], may be acceptable';
* 'We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection until you come in glory' instead of 'Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again';
* 'Behold the Lamb of God ... Blessed are those called to the banquet of the Lamb ... Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed'.
These are just a few examples of the many improvements that will be found in the revised Missal. Apart from being more accurate translations from the Latin originals, while allowing for reasonable fluency, the wordings are also far more in keeping with the sacred mysteries being celebrated in the Mass than the often dumbed down language presently in use.