The Vatican has granted its recognitio (approval) to the revised English translation of the Order of Mass (common prayers) agreed upon by the US Bishops Conference in 2006.
In a letter dated 23 June 2008 to Cardinal Francis George, President of the US Bishops Conference, Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, said that his Congregation was 'confident that the universal use of these texts will greatly contribute to the building up of the Faith throughout the broad and diverse English-speaking world.'
While the Vatican approval covers the United States, the key changes should be the same for other English-speaking parts of the world.
A further promising development is that the US Bishops' Committee on Divine Worship (BCDW), chaired by Bishop Arthur Serratelli, is taking a leading role in providing Catholics with formation materials for the new translations via a 'Missal Formation' section of the BCDW website, rather than leaving it to the liturgical specialists as in the past.
In his letter introducing the new resources, Bishop Serratelli said that these were being provided for 'our priests and faithful' to be used 'for catechesis and preparation for the eventual implementation of the revised texts'. He added that there were other 'international and national efforts underway to provide materials for formation'.
Most Australian Catholics may even now not be aware of the imminent introduction of a new Missal translation and much work will be needed to ensure they understand and accept the need for the revisions. Certainly they will notice that the language is far more elevated than that of the present 'everyday' one.
The present translation, put in place almost 40 years ago, is grossly inaccurate, reflecting haste, the cultural climate of the time and fashionable theologies that emphasised the Mass as a meal or community gathering and blurred distinctions between the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of the baptised.
The following changes, some noted in earlier AD2000 reports, are final, having had Vatican approval.
As the latest ICEL Study Text for the Order of Mass shows, the first obvious change worshippers will encounter is 'And with your spirit' (Et cum spiritu tuo) instead of the present 'And also with you'. This underlines the concern for accuracy (both in language and theology) in the new translation.
Next, at the 'I confess ...', people 'striking their breast' are to say, 'through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault' (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa).
During the Gloria, worshippers will say (sing) 'and on earth peace to people of good will' instead of 'peace to his people on earth' - the present wording had arbitrarily omitted the 'good will' (bonae voluntatis) which is in the Latin text. However, 'people' remains for hominibus instead of the generic, inclusive 'men' which feminists abhor.
Accuracy returns to the Lamb of God, with 'you take away the sins of the world' instead of 'sin of the world' (the Latin peccata is plural not singular). The present translation suggests a collective or 'social' sin rather than individual sins.
The changes are particularly striking in the Nicene Creed, with the most obvious being the replacement of 'We believe' by the accurate 'I believe' (Credo). 'Visible and invisible' replaces 'seen and unseen' and 'Only Begotten Son of God' replaces 'only Son of the Father'. The earlier attempt to drop 'men' from 'for us men and for our salvation' (propter nos homines) has been overruled and 'men' remains (not 'people' this time for homines).
At the words 'and became man', the people are to bow (in the pre-Vatican II Mass, people were required to genuflect at the et incarnatus est). The faithful likewise will bow during the words 'who was conceived by the Holy Spirit ...'. Significantly, the approved Order of Mass allows for use of the Apostles' Creed as an alternative to the Nicene Creed, especially 'during Lent and Easter time'.
A further return to accuracy is evident with 'Pray, brethren (brothers and sisters), that my sacrifice and yours ...'. This replaces the present 'our sacrifice' (although 'my sacrifice and yours' was always an option, though rarely used). The 'our' blurs the distinct roles of priest and congregation.
A radical change occurs with the Memorial Acclamation, 'Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. This now becomes: 'We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again' - which accurately renders the Latin original.
Perhaps the most contentious word in the current translation - causing some to even question the validity of Novus Ordo Masses - has been the 'all' in 'which will be shed for you and for all ...' in the words of Consecration. In the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper the relevant word is 'many', as the Latin multis (not omnibus) in the original makes clear. In English 'all' has a very different meaning from 'many'.
There are numerous changes to the words said by the priest, particularly in the Eucharistic Prayers. For example, in Eucharistic Prayer III, the words 'from East to West' become the more accurate and uplifting 'from the rising of the sun to its setting'.
The last example of change in this brief overview is one of the most welcome.
The words 'Lord I am not worthy to receive you, only say the word and I shall be healed' purport to translate Domine non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbum et sanabitur anima mea.
During my many years as a Latin teacher, any student offering the above 'translation' would have been failed. Fortunately, the new translation passes with flying colours: 'Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.'
Catholics have much to look forward to when the revised Missal translations are fully implemented. One hopes they have not much longer to wait.