Each Sunday for decades, Roman Catholic priests have offered the blessing — "Lord be with you." And each Sunday, parishioners would respond, "And also with you."
Until this month.
Come Nov. 27, the response will be, "And with your spirit." And so will begin a small revolution in a tradition-rich faith.
At the end of the month, parishes in English-speaking countries will begin to use a new translation of the Roman Missal, the ritual text of prayers and instructions for celebrating Mass. International committees of specialists worked under a Vatican directive to hew close to the Latin, sparking often bitter protests by English speakers over phrasing and readability. After years of revisions negotiated by bishops' conferences and the Holy See, dioceses are preparing anxious clergy and parishioners for the rollout, one of the biggest changes in Catholic worship in generations. [...]
Many clergy are upset by the new language, calling it awkward and hard to understand. The Rev. Tom Iwanowski, pastor of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Oradell and New Milford, N.J., turned to the section of the new missal that calls funeral rites, "the fraternal offices of burial."
"How can I say those words? It doesn't make sense," said Iwanowski, who has been a priest for 36 years. "It separates religion from real life."
In the new translation, in the Nicene Creed, the phrase "one in Being with the Father," will change to "consubstantial with the Father." When a priest prays over the Holy Communion bread and wine, he will ask God for blessings "by sending down your spirit upon them like the dewfall."
There are a lot of things that could be said about this sort of complaining, and most of them have been said already; I find it interesting that it's mainly priests of a certain age who are upset with the new translation, while younger priests don't seem to have as many difficulties. But what I really notice here is that two of the main complaints people seem to have are cropping up over and over again--iterum iterumque, as it might be put in Latin.
"And with your spirit." "Consubstantial."
Of all of the many changes made to the heretofore poor and unsatisfactory English translation of the Roman Missal, why are these two small bits brought up again and again as problematic or unwieldy?
I think that these two parts are being brought up because they are symbolic of what the former translators tried to change about the Mass in English, and are a clear sign that their view of what translation should be has indeed been rejected in the present age.
There is simply no way to get around it. Those responsible for the English translation of the Mass had an agenda to strip away not only the sacredness of the language used at Mass by English-speaking people, but also to downplay scriptural references, loosen the connection between the English translation and the Latin original, and impose a dull, mundane, banal, trivial and trite language of prayer upon the English-speaking world. This is not, of course, how they saw it: they saw their work as making the Mass more relevant, more ordinary, more easily accessible to modern man.
And so they translated Et cum spiritu tuo as "And also with you," when it clearly meant no such thing. And they imposed the clunky, grammatically awkward, theologically inaccurate phrase "one in being" for the closer (if still not completely theologically precise, according to some, though that's far outside any area of expertise I might have) perfectly good English word "consubstantial."
These two changes were only two of the many made, but I think the reason so much of the resistance is centering around these two is that these are two that will be easily seen by the people and understood for what they are: a firm reminder that the words prayed at Mass do matter, and that the careful, accurate expression of theological and spiritual concepts is far more important than creating a sort of lounge-hall/tearoom environment where people can shuffle in wearing sweats and tee-shirts, relaxing in the laid-back gathering space and shooting the breeze with their neighbors until Father processes in to some seventies-inspired tune or other to begin the Mass with the important unofficial Rite of Asking All the Visitors to Stand and Tell us Where They're From so we can Clap for Them, followed by some joking folksiness on Father's part, followed by the loosely-interpreted Introductory Rite, followed by the Rite of Dismissing the Children so They Can go Color Things...
The new translation will not be an immediate cure for the problems many people experience at Sunday Masses in the English-speaking world. But it is a huge step in the right direction; the new formality, theological depth, scriptural references, and sacred nature of the language we will pray at Mass will make the innovations, the clapping, the tyrannically-imposed folksy-down-home atmosphere, and similar abominations seem significantly out of place when compared to the words being said and sung. I think that those who like the status quo know this quite well, which is why, given the opportunity to complain about the new translations, they keep harping on "And with your spirit," and "consubstantial." Iterum iterumque, so to speak.