Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Prometheus Bound (but not for long!)

Brian and I are obviously on the same wave length. I wrote up my reaction and priase for the new translation of the Ordo Missae and in the meantime, he snuck on and posted a blurb about it too. So, read both!

It’s done! Fire has been stolen from the liberals! Only problem, now they have us chained to a rock. Your Excellency, that’s my liver you’re eating!

If you haven’t done so already, make a visit to the American mitres’ website,, and check out the complete text of the new English language edition of the Ordo Missae. Translators and scholars have been hard at work for several years now preparing this edition, including myself, who early in this decade was called upon twice by the translation committee of the Diocese of Lafayette to submit my own commentary upon working drafts of the translation. Such commentaries were added to those the comments and suggestions of committees in Dioceses world-wide which were then submitted in the names of the bishops to the actual translators. The product of this work can now be seen at the website of the American bishops.
Both times I reviewed the work there were numerous quibbles regarding the nuances of the Latin text, especially trickier sections of the Roman Canon which, because of grammatical differences and idiom, posed real problems to the English rendering. Most of these areas have been smoothed over, a couple still remain a bit troublesome in this Latinist’s opinion, however, when considering the work as a whole, the end result is a stately, reverent text which vastly improves upon the faulty edition we’ve been made to endure for the past several decades. My opinion still stands that the best translation of the sacred texts into English is that of the original texts of the Book of Common Prayer, however this new English work comes the closest so far to Elizabethan mastery and the expert Scriptural translations of the subsequent generation.
For decades, we’ve been forced to believe we were all stupid Catholics: we suddenly needed a dancing diva in front of us to flail her arms at us when we needed to sing, we needed all the lessons explained to us in kindergarten English because we may not be able to follow the complicated basic language of Paul, and we needed an overly simplified gloss of the Mass texts so that, in the perception of delirious drug-buzzing hippie liturgists and bleeding-heart, borderline personality laywomen and those habit-kicking, polyester nuns, we could “fully participate”. Problem was, these annoying gals who successfully castrated the Church hadn’t read their Plato (more than likely out of a protest against the “establishment”) and therefore had not a single clue what the Epistle writer meant by “participation”, and subsequently not the foggiest what the Vatican II documents meant by the term. In the liturgical nuclear winter following the peasant rebellion which sung a New Church into being in the 1960’s, we had lost all concept of reverence and dignity in worship – in thought, word, and deed.
Not that this new English translation is some magic cure-all. Hardly. But it is a good step forward in the reform of the reform. And don’t think the American mitres aren’t fighting like hell to slow the implementation of the new text. They are. Why? Because many of them believe the translation is too “high brow”, that we stupid English-speaking Catholics won’t be able to grasp the vocabulary of our own language, and that long-term catechesis will be required before implementation. Catechesis Cateschmesis! That damn word is the excuse for a litany of sins. It’s a Greek word that means “to allow lazy priests to procrastinate and show their disdain for Roman authority.” Meantime, we can visit the USSCB (USSR?) website…and dream. Use of the new text will signal a weakening of the Bolsheviks’ hold on the Kremlin, urgh, I mean, the liberal bishops’ hold on the American Church to force, at least in language, a more dignified approach to the celebration of the Sacred Mysteries in English.
We will no longer be walking up to a hippie Jesus-dude to offer him a toke on our Mystery Mass Spliffs and inviting him to the pad after to drop acid with the chicks. I am most taken by the correct stress placed in the new edition upon the Grace of God and the Mercy of God. The new translation presents us approaching the Divine with reverence and awe, asking that we might be pleasing to him. The text forces us Americans to acknowledge that we actually do indeed have a monarch, and that he is the Christ of God. The new edition embodies the spirit of the original, which itself (as the Holy Father confirms in his excellent book Geist der Liturgie) is linked to worship in the ancient world – Classical period and before. From the tone of the text, we see that we don’t just casually come together “to do Mass” (like we’ve been doing since the early 1970’s), but that the Mass is an actual sacrifice (here’s where I ask the bleeding hearts to pick up Plato and figure out what I mean – If the language is too hard, call your local mitre for catechesis, or just do like the rest of us: pick up a Webster’s).
So what do we do now? We wait, and wait, and wait, and wait. Then we wait. We’ll know the waiting is over when we suddenly hear Chant and Polyphony again, we have an organ with a trained organist, we see the priest at the altar ad orientem, and we have a good, reverent and dignified English text of the Mass. Then we will know we American Catholics have reclaimed the church’s liturgical tradition, available since 1970 only among the Protestants. After that, the only hurdle remaining will be to convince the self-proclaimed and self-glorified “John Paul II priest(esse)s” that they 1) aren’t Shirley Temple, and that 2) the Wife of Bathe isn’t really the best role model.


Motherhen said...

"liturgical nuclear winter" I love that!

It'll be YEARS before they finally implement the new translation. And then it'll take YEARS before the people grasp it.

This past weekend at my parent's parish, the priest made them sit down and re-do the part of the mass (May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands...) because they stood up before the the priest was finished with his invitation prayer.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Good piece...I've read the English text, and while not perfect is a major improvement over the I love me excuse for a translation that is the current one.

In the meantime to's about using the Latin texts ;)