Concern at the story behind new Missal
It has been disturbing, on several levels, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, to read the first two articles of the account by Robert Mickens, of the road to the new English translation of the Missal (The Tablet, 18 and 25 June).
Indeed, the “noble simplicity” of the current translation (1975) has formed my beliefs and the practice of my faith, day by day, week by week, through the liturgical seasons over the last 35 years. For example, in the opening prayer for the recently celebrated Most Holy Trinity, we prayed “Father, you sent your Word to bring us truth, and your Spirit to make us holy. Through them we come to know the mystery of your life. Help us to worship you, one God in three Persons, by proclaiming and living our faith.”
However, the new translation (2010) for the Opening Prayer for this Sunday says: “God our Father, who by sending into the world the Word of truth and the Spirit of sanctification made known to the human race your wondrous mystery, grant us, we pray, that in professing the true faith, we may acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory, and adore your Unity, powerful in majesty.”
In the words of [Catholic author] Harold Winstone, the latter does sound “stodgy”, and even worse, appears to obfuscate and remove us, rather than bring us into the truth of our relationship with the Trinity.
The sense, and therefore the theology, just in these examples, seems to have changed. Will it be the same for all, many, or even some of the other texts that are coming our way? Is the “definitive” 2010 text really a “sacral vernacular” that is going to form us and our children, and children’s children, in a living faith? I wonder if the subsequent revisions made in Rome, even after our own English-speaking bishops’ conferences had approved the text, were carried out in a true spirit of prayerful reflection, in consultation with our bishops, with the aim of enabling a more deeply prayerful, conscious, active participation by the members of our English-speaking worshipping communities – or were there other issues at stake?
Scripture and doctrine often uses familial language to describe our relationships – with God and one another. The Church is described as having “a mother’s concern”, nourishing us, supporting us on our journey in faith. I am a mother. I trust my children, and even more so as they are young adults making their own way in the world. I understand the power of experience to form them in the habits of a lifetime.
But just now, in the wake of this disclosure about the process of receiving the new translation of the Roman Missal, I am wondering, does the Church really have this “motherly concern”? Does the Church trust me, and the rest of my brothers and sisters who make up the people of God in the English-speaking countries, to be able to discern together what is a life-giving liturgical language, one that gives us our identity and shapes our belief, and has implications for how we live? The experience of good liturgy in good English is indeed capable and worthy, enabling the encounter with our God – and it can and does transform us. I am a little afraid that what we are about to receive may not.
Caroline Dollard, York