About this blogger:
Richard J. Clark has served since 1989 as Music Director and Organist at Saint Cecilia Church in Boston, Massachusetts. He is also Chapel Organist (Saint Mary’s Chapel) at Boston College. For the Archdiocese of Boston, he directed the Office of Divine Worship Saint Cecilia Schola. His compositions have been performed on four continents.
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"Religious worship supplies all our spiritual need, and suits every mood of mind and variety of circumstance."
— John Henry Cardinal Newman

Blessed Relief – The Rejected 1998 Translation
published 23 August 2013 by Richard J. Clark

OW IN MY 40’s, I am part of a generation that should be most upset by the 2010 English translation of the Roman Missal. The 1973 translation is all we ever knew. Yet, my internal reaction of the 2010 translation was something else quite entirely: relief—absolute blessed relief! It was like arriving home after a long journey.

Not that the 2010 translation is perfect. In fact it is wanting in some areas. For example, strict adherence to word order, which has greater flexibility in Latin, does not always work well in English. The collects have been the most controversial, some exquisitely beautiful and some rather wanting. Yet, as time goes on, the people and priests are getting more and more used to the sacral style of language and its cadences.

Still, why did I react as I did? There are many reasons. Among them was that I knew there were terrible inaccuracies and glossed over phrases in the 1973 translation. I am not a Latin scholar, but even I could tell there were serious problems with the 1973 translation! (E.g., Gloria.) More intuitively, I felt relief in the restoration of the timeless wisdom of the ages.

In my post last week, I speculated in part why it was inevitable that the 1973 translation with its use of “dynamic equivalence” would not, nor could not, survive. Noting that this translation –- although thoughtfully done according to the Apostolic See’s Instruction on the Translation of Liturgical Texts (1969) –- was rushed and was never intended to be used for more than a few years, no less for nearly forty.

As such, through the 1980’s and 1990’s, ICEL was working on a new translation under the same guidelines from 1969. Two readers very kindly sent me what appear to be a draft of the 1998 Translation. You can view it here:

      * *  1998 Sacramentary (DRAFT COPY)

This draft will admittedly take a great deal of time to absorb; just a few days of reflection does not do this subject justice. However, there are some palpable points that only heighten my appreciation for Pope John Paul II’s 2001 guidelines for translation: Liturgiam authenticam (LA) that brought about the 2010 translation. For others, this may heighten their disappointment.

Between the 1998 and 2010 translations, there is an appreciable difference in priorities: One placed great value on composing many new texts. The other placed enormous value on restoration of many ancient texts. One placed some value on increased accuracy, but never at the expense of any drastic change in the people’s parts. The other placed the highest value on precise theology and accuracy. One is easily readable for its day and age, even assimilating some popular practices. The other is intentionally countercultural, not to be tied to time or place.

HE FORWARD TO THE 1998 TRANSLATION is telling of its intent. There are no fewer than three mentions of “additional texts newly composed in English.” E.g.:

TEXTS COMPOSED IN ENGLISH: Throughout the Sacramentary, additional texts have been supplied, newly composed in English, which reflect the genius of the English language and the shared literary heritage and religious experience of the English-speaking world. In the Order of Mass, additional prefaces and interpolations for the Eucharistic prayers as well as solemn blessings are provided for seasons or occasions not included in the Latin Missal; additional introductions and invitations are given for the opening rites and communion rite. (emphasis added)

Pains were taken to limit any changes in the people’s parts. (Interestingly, the people have adjusted quite easily to the 2010 changes.)

TRANSLATED TEXTS: The presidential prayers have been translated afresh in the light of thorough research and critical comment upon the 1973 Missal. The texts of the Order of Mass, on the other hand, which are more familiar to the people, have been changed only where necessary for greater clarity in the light of the Latin or to avoid language increasingly perceived as discriminatory.

ATHER TROUBLING is the vagueness of wording for the Introductory Rites. It reads as a list of choices on a restaurant menu:

71. One of the following opening rites is selected. The choice may be made on the basis of the liturgical season, the feast, the particular occasion, for example, a particular ritual Mass, or on the basis of the circumstances of the assembly that gathers for the celebration. Each of the forms of the opening rite begins with an invitation by the priest. On occasion the invitation may appropriately be incorporated into the introductory remarks that may follow the greeting.
On the menu:
1) Rite of Blessing and Sprinkling of Water
2) Penitential Rite
3) Litany of Praise
4) Kyrie
5) Gloria
6) Other Opening Rites

Furthermore, general encouragement of improvisation on the part of the celebrant is fully explicit in the “Litany of Praise.” This demonstrates the priority placed on invention of new texts rather than restoration of the ancient wisdom.

74. The litany of praise is addressed to Christ our Redeemer. A number of models are offered for imitation and adaptation. All such adaptations should, like the models provided, focus on Christ and his mercy.

Also disturbing is the vague language regarding the Gloria, which gives the general impression that the Gloria is optional:

• The Gloria is one of the Church’s most ancient, solemn hymns. In the West its use was originally restricted to the opening of only the most solemn Eucharistic celebrations.
• Its use is particularly appropriate during the seasons of Christmas and Easter.

What it does not say is that the Gloria is always part of the Introductory Rites when prescribed. Its use is left widely open to interpretation (a common popular practice) and is presented as just another option from the above list.

I could go on and on with other notes of interest on the 1998 translation, however, I am going to stop looking at it and make better use of my time and go play with my kids now.

However, before I go, I leave with a few last thoughts on the 2010 translation:

• The clergy have taken the brunt of the work in implementing and preparing to proclaim the texts of the 2010 translation. I am not a priest, and I cannot judge any priest who feels negatively or otherwise about the new translation. However, I know many good priests who despite not liking everything in the 2010 translation, have worked very hard to proclaim it as reverently and as best they can.

• With regard to sacred music, an unequivocally major upgrade in the Third Edition is the music. There is significantly more music in the Third Edition than either the 1973 or 1998 translations. This reflects renewed understandings of the mass as sung prayer and of the primacy of Chant. The ICEL Chants—all based on traditional chants of the Church’s Sacred Treasury—are firmly rooted in our ancient traditions. Therefore, they carry more weight and have far greater staying power. Msgr. Wadsworth, Director of ICEL since 2009, has often pointed out that all eleven Bishop’s conferences approved these chants and that they were under no obligation to do so.

Finally, I am breathing once again a great sigh of blessed relief that the Church took a different direction than ICEL did in 1998. OK, I’m off to the playground with my kids.