Thursday, May 27, 2010

And also with you...

I found this recent, if brief, report from a Catholic priest-blogger on the new translations of the Mass in English to be heartening:
I`m on the diocesan clergy retreat at Ushaw this week so this is just a quick post. Some priest bloggers have discussed recently using the new translation of the OF Mass before the official launch date. I thought readers might be interested to know that Mass at the retreat today was celebrated by our bishop and priests using the new texts. Everyone dutifully replied `And with your spirit`. No-one died and no horses appeared to be frightened. My impression was that it seemed a bit more wordy but it was a huge improvement on what we have had. I expect we`ll be using the new translation the rest of the week.
Father Brown then updates--no, they're using the present translation after that one "trial run" of the new one. Like a commenter on Father Brown's site, I like the line about the horses. :)

There seem to be quite a few priests blogging about the new translations, such as Msgr. Pope, who posted this piece today about the difference between "And also with you," and "And with your spirit." Msgr. Pope explains:
Of all the questions I’ve had about the New Translation of the Roman Missal the most common revolves around the response of the people “And with your spirit” as a replacement for the current “And also with you.” One woman said to me, “It sounds as if our bodies no longer matter?”

Flawed Premise? Most of the controversy around the issue is premised on a notion that the current expression “And also with you” is a more formal equivalent of “Same to you.” As if, when the Priest says “The Lord be with you” and the congregation were to respond “Same to you, Father.” But this is not really what is being said by the congregation or what is meant by the Latin response et cum spiritu tuo (and with your spirit). The current translation is not only inaccurate, it is misleading because most people think they are say “same to you, Father.”

Well, if that isn’t what is being said, what really is being said? In effect, the expression et cum spiritu tuo (soon to be accurately translated “and with your spirit”) is an acknowledgement by the congregation of the grace and presence of Christ who is present and operative in the spirit or soul of the celebrant. Christ’s Spirit is present in the priest in a unique way in virtue of his ordination. Hence what the dialogue means is:

  • Celebrant: The Lord be with you.
  • Congregation: We do in fact acknowledge the grace, presence and Spirit of Christ in your spirit. [All emphases in original--E.M.]
Read the rest, here.

It's interesting that what is meant, in the liturgy, to be an acknowledgment by the people of the priest's unique role in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has dwindled into a mere "you, too, Father!" which has, in turn, become so rote and so mechanical that it barely means anything. Most of us have heard a variation of the joke about this phrase, which goes something like this:

A priest is struggling with a microphone which keeps cutting in and out on him as he attempts to say Mass. Finally, in his frustration, he says "There is something seriously wrong with this microphone!"

And the congregation replies, "And also with you."

For forty years now, the English world has used a translation of the Mass which has been, to put it politely, somewhat lacking. My Spanish-speaking parish family members, when they attend Mass in their native tongue, say, "And with your spirit," (Y con tu espiritu) among other responses which are close to the Latin. That the English has been so vastly different for so long from the Latin, the Spanish, and other translations is actually rather embarrassing.

And the resistance to the new translation is telling, too--because it seems to be not so much a resistance to the idea of making the English align more closely to the Latin, as to the repudiation of the model of "dynamic equivalence" in translation and the notion that the English used at Mass should be the kind of ordinary, simple, inelegant English prevalent in modern speech. The defenders of "dynamic equivalence" seem to be defending not merely a translation model, but an unfortunate notion which swept through the English-speaking Catholic world following the Second Vatican Council--the notion that churches exist for a community to gather and share its stories and journeys in a friendly, folksy, down-to-earth environment devoid of anything majestic, reverent, awe-inspiring, or, indeed, conducive at all to that act we call "worship." An example of that kind of thinking can be found here, among many other places:

Where we worship shapes our prayer and how we pray shapes the way in which we live. Using metaphorical equations to design the worship arena my hope in any project is that the congregation will be transfigured by the very space it is helping to create or transform. I believe that places for worship become sacred when the celebrations of life-cycle events occur there. In this sense the building is designed primarily to house the assembly and its worship of God. It is not an object of devotion by itself nor is it a temple to honor the deity. The fundamental blueprint for the building is found in the memories and hopes of the community. This is why participation of the congregation in the building or renovation journey is extremely important.

The time honored ingredients of a worthy place for worship include stories of faith, pilgrimage pathways, transforming thresholds, intimate settings for personal prayer, art work that prompts works of justice and seating plans that engage the community in the public rituals. To evoke a sense of the sacred the building must be designed with attention to detail, scale, proportion, materials, color, illumination and acoustics. All art and furnishings must be of the highest caliber afforded by the community. Sensitivity to ecological and economical factors cannot be overlooked.

Memory and imagination are the main tools in any worship space project.
The above is Richard Vosko's philosophy, from his website; he has designed many "worship spaces" in which "...and also with you..." sounds appropriate for the mundanity and banality of the space, but in which "And with your spirit," may sound rather...jarringly ineffable inside such temples to humanity.

Resistance to the new translation will come, then, primarily from that quarter which thought that the Second Vatican Council heralded a new age in transformative religion, an era in which incense, bowing, majestic words and reverent attitudes would give way to casual demeanor, everyday speech, hand-holding and hugging, and the like--all leading up to that day when men stopped worshiping God, and showed up at church primarily to give Him an opportunity to admire us in our great specialness. The sloppy translations were a piece of the new edifice called the "worship space"--not the only piece, to be sure, but an important one.

Those who resist the new translations seem to be deeply afraid that if people begin praying the Mass according to a more reverent, dignified, majestic translation of the Latin into English, that all of a sudden all sorts of other things, from garish art to the explosion of EMHCs to the shoddy, banal-sounding music to the "druid temple in-the-round" architecture will seem, suddenly, cheap--too cheap and too silly to present as our best efforts to the almighty God Whom (Richard Vosko notwithstanding) we gather to worship and adore.

"Wait!" they seem to exclaim, wringing their hands. "We worked so hard to change the Mass from some stuffy, remote thing fixated on God to something the whole family can enjoy! We've spent our whole lives trying to sing a new Church into being! And now...now you're turning the clock back to a time of formality and reverence! Can't you see that this makes it look as if, all along, there was something terribly wrong with all of our ideas, and plots, and plans???"

It would be too terribly unkind to mutter in reply, "...and also with you."

8 comments:

John Thayer Jensen said...

When I became a Catholic and first heard 'And also with you' I had to control the giggles. What came to mind was "Oh, yeah?! Well, same to you mate - in spades!"

Chris-2-4 said...

I think it is unlikely to quell the outcry of those objecting to "And With Your Spirit", by explaining that we are really acknowledging the unique presence of Christ's Spirit within him.

The "We Are Church" and "It's the Action of the Congregation that confects the Eucharist" crowds are likely to resist all the more.

I'm just sayin'...

kkollwitz said...

The new translation is great! Just look at this:

Almighty God, we pray that your angel may take this sacrifice to your altar in heaven. Then, as we receive from this altar the sacred body and blood of your Son, let us be filled with every grace and blessing.

And:

In humble prayer we ask you, almighty God: command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty, so that all of us who through this participation at the altar receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing.

This upgrade will make it easier for me to teach catechism, regardless of any other benefits.

c matt said...

Does the new translation also track the Latin "but only say the word and my soul shall be healed" or does it stick with "and I shall be healed?"

Just curious if you can point to where to find the new translation.

kkollwitz said...

c matt:

Here's a link to the revisions, you have to click around the links:

http://usccb.org/romanmissal/samples-priest-prayer1.shtml

Here's the new text:

Lord, I am not worthy
that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word
and my soul shall be healed.

But I wish it (and the Latin) hewed more closely to the story:

Lord, I am not worthy
that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word
and my servant shall be healed.

I posted about this very passage awhile back:

http://platytera.blogspot.com/2009/12/i-remember-it-well.html

Red Cardigan said...

Kkollwitz beat me too it, c matt! The new translations that I've seen so far have been wonderful.

Dr. Bill said...

"and with your spirit" is great.

But who uses the word "mete", ever??? Will people even know what that word means?

SC said...

Mete? You don't know anyone who speaks of, say, "justice being meted out to the villains", or anything like that? I wonder where I've heard the word... was it Tolkien, or just cornily faux old-fashioned drama in videogames?