Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Word On Those NEW Translations.

I've been seeing a lot on the blogs lately about the upcoming new translation of the Mass from the Latin to the English, so I though I'd throw my hat in the ring.

The new translations are said to be more literal, but does that mean it is more accurate? I don't know the answer to this question. However, I do hope the translation is richer. Also, I do know that in a number of cases the better translation is often the more poetical translation and not the more literal: "Hold us in your heart" (Exactly how do you hold someone held in a heart?). This is especially true if the aim of what is being read or recited is to move people to action and work (I do believe the liturgy is the 'work of the people', and I do believe we are to go out into the world and work to make the world a Christian culture via the holy Spirit and liturgy.).

I do not mean to apologize for the unnecessary remarks made by certain bishops and cardinals that went to the effect: "We can't use the new translation because everyone is dumb." What I will say is that a literal translation is not always the best translation. Literal translations often have a tendency to be cumbersome, that is, difficult to read and speak, confusing in grammar, syntax, and meaning. Certainly the current translation is not the best we could have, but is this new literal translation going to solve our problems?

I do not see how words like “sullied”, “unfeigned”, “ineffable”, “gibbet”, “wrought”, and “thwart" are going to be problematic. Even with a fifth grade reading level those words should be easy to comprehend with the surrounding context clues of the text. Also, if the person is already familiar with the previous translation and format of the Mass, there should be no problem. Also, there is a great invention called a dictionary that almost all people own. You can use it to look up words like “sullied”, “unfeigned”, “ineffable”, “gibbet”, “wrought”, and “thwart". Besides, have you ever asked a person in RCIA what "begotten" means? You'll be surprised at how many people don't have a clue as to what it means even though they say it every Sunday in mass.

One concern I have is how ecumenical is the new translation? Ok, before you stop reading let me ask the question a different way: How is this new translation going to help bring back into union our separated brothers and sisters? Every article and blog post I have seen on the the new translations seem to think that the new translation is solely about Roman Catholics. It appears to be a very 'me' centered attitude, without even considering what this new translation means for the world. After all, the liturgy is for the sake of the world and not for the sake of one particular rite or group of people. What I mean by this is that there are a number of protestant sects (certain Lutheran, Anglican, Episcopalian, and Presbyterian churches-- to briefly name a few) that use the current Roman English translations of the Greeting, Creed, Gloria, and Sanctus in their own liturgical celebrations by the mere fact that it is used by the Church of Rome and that it is a suitable and good translation -- there are even some Baptist sect that use these translations (if you can believe it).

The denominations that use these translations have adopted them only over the past 30 or so years. What exactly are we saying to these other denominations that are using the current Catholic English translations? Are we extending our hand in friendship welcoming them back home or are we slamming the door in their faces? How difficult is it for a number of protestants to come home to the Catholic Church. How much harder is it for an entire denomination to reunite with Rome! Must we catholics go making it more difficult by issuing revision after revision -- change after change? These new translations aren't about Rome: they are about the world.

Certainly there is a need on a number of levels for a new translation, but the new translation is only going to be successful if it is a good translation, an inspiring translation, a universal translation -- a translation rich with imagery and symbols that speaks not solely to the mind but also to the heart; after all, the church isn't made up of only intellectuals -- my grandmother never graduated high school. Sadly, according to a Professor from the Gregorian in Rome (I do not think it appropriate to mention his name) tells me that the current proposed translation is not a good translation and is in need of work. The problem he says lies in the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) and not with the bishops and cardinals. He also mentioned to me that people seem to forget that the primary language of the Liturgy is not the spoken words, but the act itself -- after all, actions speaks louder than words.

Instead of harping on the Bishops and Cardinals who oppose the new translations, why don't we wait patiently and pray for a good translation. It might just be worth it in the long run ... for the sake of the world.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good thoughts. What is a dik shun nari?

Simon-Peter Vickers-Buckley said...

"these other denominations"

The Church is not a denomination.

Anonymous said...

Catholicism is a Christian denomination.

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