For several months, the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg have been invited to participate in workshops, retreats, and parish adult faith formation programs in anticipation of the First Sunday of Advent (Nov. 26-27). They have heard homilies and read articles in the North Country Catholic and their parish bulletins preparing everyone for some changes at Mass.
So, why is the Catholic Church introducing a new English translation of the Mass on November 26-27 of this year? In its desire to promote full, active and conscious participation in the Mass, the Second Vatican Council [1962-65] authorized the translation of the Mass and sacraments from Latin into modern languages.
Forty years ago, the strategy for translating the Mass from Latin into English was to provide the basic meaning of the Latin rather than a word-for-word translation of the text. While this approach to translation provided a simple and understandable English text of the Mass, unfortunately many of the scriptural and theological allusions present in the Latin text did not make it into the English translation.
We will find the style of language in the new English translation of the Mass possessing a richer vocabulary, a stronger sense of the poetic and full of allusions to the scriptures. Some may object to certain words in the new English translation of the Mass, saying, “We don’t use these words at work, or in school or on the street. Why use them in church?” People who share a vocabulary and special phrases which are particular to them fashion what is called, a speech community. There are many examples of people forming speech communities: the healthcare profession, computer techs, economists, the building trades, military and law enforcement personnel, musicians, etc. Their specific use of language bonds them together; they experience community through their shared vocabulary and speech. The Catholic Church is a speech community. We share particular words and special phrases that are specific to us Catholics.So, it should not be suprising that words and phrases that have been part of our Catholic speech community for centuries will be found in the new English translation of the Mass.
Change is never easy. It is said that the only humans who like change are wet babies! Change interrupts the rhythm in our lives. Everyone likes predictability. English-speaking Catholics have been accustomed to the vocabulary, phrasing and style of the current translation of Mass for some 40 years. It is important to remember that while there will be some significant changes in the wording of the Mass, the structure of the Mass remains unchanged.
The new English translation of the Mass is going to take some time to get used to for both the laity and the priests. Catholics will need to be patient during the upcoming time of change remembering that the goal of these changes is a deeper experience of praise and worship of God and a greater spiritual nourishment of the Church.
May that be our experience.