With the posting of this blog entry on the First Sunday of Advent 2011, the new translation of the Roman Missal is now being used across the United States. Like many pastors, I’ve been busy in the last few weeks talking with people about this big change in the Mass. On Facebook, in workshops, in conversations with some of my parishioners, I’m still amazed that people have questions about the new translation.
The biggest question is still the “why?” question. As a guy at the bottom of the hierarchical pyramid, I can only answer that question with, “It’s what the pope wants.” Depending on your view of how the liturgy is celebrated in the U.S. in the 21′st century, you may either applaud that reason or complain about it. (And your answer may not show any disrespect to the pope’s authority.)
Some folks believe that the reforms of Vatican II in the 1960s and 70s have been carried too far. They believe a lack of reverence pervades our Sunday Mass. The translation made some 40 years ago was too free, losing the values contained in the Latin basic text, which is the basis of all translating.
Others do not see our liturgy as “broken.” They like the freedom from the rigid rubrics of the Mass as set forth in the first Roman Missal, used for centuries until Vatican II. They feel the translation made in the 1970s renders the timeless texts into workable contemporary prayers.
But guess what: The time for arguing is past. At a recent workshop, I listened to the second group listed above, and tried to provide a context for what we’re doing as of this first weekend in Advent. Then, we moved on to what I am much more comfortable doing—namely explaining how the new translation works.
At this point, I’m reminded of the times that I’ve acquired a new cell phone. Cell phones are always changing. There are flashy new features, which you see in the ads: touch screens, new phone apps that play music, check your bank account, take photos, and send email. But then, you get the phone home, and you find out it’s more complicated. You have to set up the e-mail, learn how to make a call, adjust the volume, keep it charged. You try to read the manual and that just makes it worse! It takes work to understand the technical stuff.
Finally, for many of you, the use of the new translation is really “no big deal.” (Pity us priest for just a moment, can you? We have dozens and dozens of new prayers to navigate through, especially ones we formerly memorized!) Like that phone I got last year, the new translation will eventually become the prayers we pray most without effort.
But hopefully, the experience of change will give us a deeper treasure: to experience the great riches of the Eucharist, the “source and center” of all Catholic life, all over again!