Monday, October 4, 2010

A dynamic and engaging look at the new translation

This past Saturday, I had the privilege of attending a one-day workshop on the upcoming new translation of the Novus Ordo in English (see the countdown clock on my sidebar for the date of the transition, which I join many in eagerly awaiting). The workshop, titled Mystical Body, Mystical Voice, is a work of the Liturgical Institute.

There is really no way, in the confines of a blog post, that I can give sufficient praise to this excellent program (and I should, in this Internet age, hasten to mention that I attended as a cantor/choir member and was not asked to review the program publicly on my tiny insignificant blog, the existence of which nobody in the room would have known about anyway). To put it simply, I found the one-day workshop of Mystical Body, Mystical Voice to be invaluable in helping me to understand the work of the new translation, the goals and aims proper to translators, the way in which the new translation will deepen the faithful's ability to recognize the Scriptural nature of many of our prayers at Mass, the understanding of the words we pray as containing a sacramentality all their own, and the need to see this new translation as an ongoing effort, per Liturgiam Authenticam, to continue the work of the renewal begun by the Second Vatican Council in a way that is authentically Catholic and deeply connected to the past (e.g., to understand the idea of the hermeneutic of continuity).

The presenters, Fr. Douglas Martis and Mr. Christopher Carstens, did an excellent job of presenting the often-complicated information in a way that was dynamic and engaging--no small task, considering that this was an all-day program touching on such varied topics as Church history, Scripture, salvation history, mystagogy, and the like, and relating all of them to the Mass and particularly to the new English translation. Both Father Martis and Mr. Carstens had a palpable enthusiasm for and a thorough grasp of their topics, and their style of presentation was at the same time warm and friendly but suitably dignified for the subject matter. They encouraged questions and participation from their audience but kept things firmly in hand, which prevented any "derailing" into side issues that would have been beyond the scope of the day's topics. I have honestly not been to any other diocesan event in which time was used so efficiently and well, so that the whole day seemed to be flying by quickly as each new section of the material was presented.

As for the material itself, again, it would be impossible to do justice to it in a blog post, though I am eagerly waiting for my copy of the book Mystical Body, Mystical Voice which will be available as soon as some minor editing (for typographical errors and so forth) of the new liturgical texts has been completed by the appropriate authorities. For now, though, I can say that the approach to the topic, to see the new translation in light of the sacramentality of language, the reality that the words we use at Mass, along with ritual gestures, music, etc. must all point to Christ Who is the reality of the liturgy, is nothing short of brilliant. Focusing on this aspect of language sidesteps the usual liturgical squabbles and directs the minds of the audience on what the Mass is, what the Church is saying and doing in the liturgy, and on the ultimate heavenly reality to which we are connected by our presence and participation in the Holy Sacrifice. In light of that great eternal, transcendent meaning, it's hard to get hung up over the word "consubstantial," or other such minor points (though, in fact, many of the attendees at the workshop voiced the belief that "consubstantial" would be the hardest thing for the people in the pews to get used to). It is even harder to reduce the Holy Sacrifice to the plaything of the divided liturgical groups in our nation as we are often wont to do.

Here I'd like to share just a few of the points/quotes which struck my attention and which I jotted down; any errors in them will be the fault of my ears or of my pen, not of the original material:
  • If the priest at Mass acts as though he knows what he is engaging, then the people will follow him.
  • The liturgy re-presents the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, and the restoration of Heaven and Earth in the Divine Communion of love.
  • Words are symbols; symbols bring with them the reality to which they point; a chalice is more than a cup.
  • The Church says what she means when she prays and she believes what she says.
  • To hear the words of the Mass we must uncover their meaning.
  • We should see Christ in the words and signs of Mass, and lead others into this mystery.
  • Our liturgical efforts (especially when the transition happens) may not be perfect, but they must be authentic.
If any bishops are considering scheduling this workshop for the priests, deacons, and lay people of their dioceses as an introduction to the new translation, I would heartily encourage them to do so. Though in some senses this is more of a preliminary and conceptual program instead of an immediate "training course" in the use of the as-yet-unavailable new translation of the Mass in English, it is most truly needed, and well worth the time of those who are able to attend.

UPDATE: We need Fr. Martis and Mr. Carstens, and their beautiful exposition of the Mass.

What we DON'T need is this pseudo-Broadway jazzy "Peanuts" cartoon monstrosity proposed as one of the new musical settings of the Gloria. If this is the kind of 1970s inspired ridiculousity that is being proposed as the best and highest music we can offer in the presence of God and of His angels surrounding His throne, we'd better forget about our culture--it's totally doomed.

And if that's what the new Mass settings sound like, you can look for me at the local Extraordinary Form Mass, because that will be the last straw.

UPDATE TWO: What we DO need is this:


priest's wife said...

I'm excited to learn this new translation- now what about Oregon Catholic Press- can we get rid of 'Gather us in'?

Muscovite said...

I'd be happy if they chuck the whole Breaking Wind disposable-missalette-printed-on-newsprint monstrosity.

Red Cardigan said...

Amen, Muscovite.

Alas...see the update.

Anonymous said...

Good God, what wretchedness I endured! In listening to that piece. I mean HOLY CROW. YUK.

Could the Holy Father not write an encyclical on liturgy, music and architecture? That'd be real, real helpful right now.