I was going to wait until Thursday (when I will have been to Mass in English once more) to post some thoughts on the new translation of the Roman Missal, but here it is Tuesday and I’m scrounging for blog fodder.
This past weekend involved a surprise party (I was surprised), and I ended up at the “last chance” Mass on Sunday evening at a Traditionalist-leaning downtown church.
I will say that the new translation has lengthened that Mass (no music and oftentimes a speed-talking celebrant) from 35 minutes to a more respectable 50.
It was a mixed experience (for lack of a better adjective.)
On the one hand, some parts of the Mass in English that formerly set up a constant low level discord with the Latin in the back of my mind are wholly corrected, which I think is a great improvement. And I almost laughed out loud inappropriately at the “May the Lord accept the sacrifice” response, because the new translation is literally what I have had to restrain myself from saying for years.
But the change is disconcerting, too, for various reasons.
The Crescat made the point a while back that is it perhaps easier to say memorized responses automatically, with an empty or distracted mind. That is true enough, but I find that memorization frees the mind to meditate on the meaning of the words and not the “mechanics” or effort of saying them, so in that way, even a good change can be an obstacle.
The mechanics of speaking the prayers was most difficult in the prayers where only a single line or a few words had been altered in the new translation and those alterations changed the rhythm in which the prayer was said. Where the changes don’t alter the rhythm, the whole congregation, myself included, did a bit better saying the responses.
Some of the prayers where only a line or two was re-translated were also a bit wince-inducing to me, because the rest of the old shoddy translation of the prayer was left intact, so the effect of a line or two of accurate translation was kind of like small, bright, annoying clean spots on a dirty floor.
The priest used Eucharistic Prayer III, which is, funnily enough, the Eucharistic Prayer I am most familiar with in Latin. (The pastor of my elementary and middle school years had a distinct preference for it.) The changes to the Eucharistic Prayers (and Collects and Secrets) are more extensive than the changes to the people’s responses and it was interesting to hear the new translation more fully on display.
But, boy, was it a mixed bag.
Some words and phrases were so parallel to the Latin, so Latin-esque, as to be distracting to me. (“In a similar way” during the consecration set “simili modo” ricocheting around in my mind.) And some phrases were just un-English and clunky and some were very English (” give kind admittance into your kingdom”) without violating the Latin*.
Very uneven overall was my first impression, but still generally an improvement.
*(The very English bits set me to wondering why we don’t just use a sanitized version of the first Anglican translations of the prayers – rather like the ages old English words of the “Our Father” and the response “Thanks be to God” – instead of this translate and re-translate business. I know, I know, theology, controversy, Protestants, etc.)