6 August 2008

The Text is binding

I am no Vaticanologist; but I can't help wondering if these words of Cardinal Arinze, in his letter announcing to the RC bishops of the USA that Rome has now finalised the new translation into English of the Order of Mass, really means that Rome is unwilling to receive further nagging from the remnants of the old American liturgical establishment, whose pastoral sensitivity sometimes manifests itself in a determination to retain 40-year-old mistranslations. And the other good news is that it appears to be a unitary translation with no national opt-outs: so American voice-boxes will somehow have to accomodate themselves to 'difficult' words like 'consubstantial'; and we shall see the end of the horrible ditty 'Christ has died etc '. Fingers crossed. But the accompanying letter from the USCCB suggests that the new Order will not come into use until the whole Missal translation is completed, which seems to me to invite procrastination from the usual suspects. I wonder if Rome is wise to have offered this hostage to liberal fortune ... if, indeed, she has. Feet were dragged for a whole decade in the 1990s as liberal Americans waited with indecorous impatience for the long-expected death of John Paul II to give them a chance of bullying a new papal ear. It will be sad if they now try to play things out until after the death of Benedict XVI quem in multos annos conservet Omnipotens Deus Ecclesiae suae pontificem doctum sapientem benignum, and who, we are told, has laid down a very useful marker in saying non expedire to a tentative move by new ICEL to show some initiative with regard to Eucharistic Prayer IV.

But enough of arrogant Anglican intrusions into the affairs of another Communion. What, from the 'Ecumenical partner' angle, can an Anglican say? Firstly, surely, that it is good to see the RC Church breaking free of the old 'Let's do Liturgy by Ecumenical Consensus' policy. It led to unwholesome games in which the old ICEL snuggled up to Anglican liturgical trendies, and said 'We're planning to do X, Y, and Z; why don't you do the same?' The Anglicans - we are simple folk easily outwitted by subtle papists - bought this with enthusiasm. Old ICEL then attempted to bully Rome by saying that X, Y, and Z were an ecumenical consensus to which Rome, it was implied, was morally obliged to agree. We are now happily through this phase with the result that the Anglophone RC Church is at last free - for the first time ever - have a decent vernacular Liturgy to worship with.

Anybody with an academic interest in liturgy could pick holes in the details of this text (my own main objection would be that new ICEL, by ignoring what Dom Leo Eisenhofer established 50 years ago is the meaning of communicantes, has provided a mistranslation). But I will hope in some future posts to make some comments from the point of view of Anglican traditional Liturgy; and content myself now with saying that the only phrase of Cranmer that I can find in the new Order is 'not weighing our merits' as a rendering of non aestimator meriti.


Mgr Andrew Wadsworth said...

As I understand it, English-speaking episcopal conferences were offered the possibility of utilising the approved Ordo Missae without the missal propers but they agreed to wait for the whole missal rather than use the new ordinary with the old propers. A further reason may be that the General Instruction on the Roman Missal which will bring an end to all sorts of liturgical abuses does not come into force until the new translation of the missal is promulgated.

Steve Cavanaugh said...

Another phrase of Cranmer that is retained is in the dialog before the Preface:
V/. Lift up your hearts.
R/. We lift them up to the Lord.

"With regards to the translation of the sursum corda and its response 'Let our hearts be lifted high' and 'We hold them before the Lord', that was made public among the bishops of the English-speaking world, as is the usual practice with ICEL, and it was very poorly received. An awful lot of people said...everybody knows that sursum corda means 'Lift up your hearts.' Why did this happen? Why was it not possible to change that translation, despite the very strong scholarly arguments that would have favored a change. The answer can be given in two words: Thomas Cranmer.
He it was who gave us the dialog, 'Lift up your hearts”, “We lift them up unto the Lord,' which has lodged itself deep in the English language. Perhaps I should have entitled my paper 'Thomas Cranmer’s contribution to the development of the Roman Rite.'"
From a talk by Msgr. Harbert of ICEL at the 2007 Anglican Use Conference

As for not using this new translation until the Propers are done, I think that is well thought. Parishes will not want to purchase a new missal with the new ordinary, then have to buy another missal with the new ordinary + new propers a few years later. And there is a need for music to be composed for the new texts. And it is the propers that really need the work! The real poverty of the current ICEL translations was revealed to me in force when I saw the difference between the collects in the current English missal with the collects in the BCP and Book of Divine Worship.

Little Black Sambo said...

The writers of the present English version of the NO seem so often to be leaning over backwards to avoid familiar English forms, perhaps because they are tainted. For instance: "The kingdom, the power and the glory are yours" - utterly perverse. Such bits of the new version that I have seen show signs of the same tendency. If a good vernacular version is already well established, why not draw upon it?