Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The New Translation of the Roman Missal

Dear Theophilus,

This coming Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, will mark a momentous change in the Mass for the English-speaking world. The English translation of the Roman Missal is changing, and along with it, many of the responses and prayers that most English-speaking Catholics have grown up with.

Change is difficult to deal with at the best of times, even if we are well prepared, and it will probably take a while for the new wording of the Roman Missal to sink in. Some of my fellow Catholics are so disconcerted, I’ve heard them referring to the change as Vatican III or as a reactionary move from a conservative Pope Benedict XVI. I’ve found the following short video from Life Teen to be really good in helping explain the why’s and wherefore’s of the new translation.

If you are looking for a more in-depth commentary on the new translation of the Roman Missal, Fr. Robert Barron offers some excellent insight.

A notion that I find best suits the reason for the new translation is that of its linguistic register – the language we use to dialogue with Christ the King through the Mass. A great example of linguistic register that I’ve come across is that of Shakespeare. If you take Shakespeare out of the original Elizabethan English and put it into contemporary language, although the meaning remains the same, the whole feel or spirit of his work is lost. Imagine Juliet’s pining of “Romeo, O Romeo! Wherefore art thou, Romeo?” being read as “Hey Romeo! Where are ya?” Both ask the same question, but the language of one evokes so much more emotion that the other.

I know that I’ll be one of many stumbling over my words this Sunday, but I also look forward to the heightened prayerfulness that the new translation of the Roman Missal promises.

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