The New Translation - what New Translation?
In September 2011 we started to use a new translation, the previous texts had been in use since 1970.
Looking at these changes is a great opportunity for us all to learn more about the Mass and deepen our understanding of the liturgy and its meaning and relevance for us in our lives today.
Whose idea was it anyway?
Until the early 1960s, Mass was celebrated in Latin throughout the world.
At the Second Vatican Council, in the early 1960s, it was agreed that Mass could be said in the language of the country in which it was being celebrated. There would be no fundamental change to the Mass itself, just the language being used. This enabled us to understand more fully what was being said and help us to participate more fully. An English translation was made available as quickly as possible, but it was intended to be temporary; a more considered translation would be issued later. Some 40 years have since passed! This new translation has at last been agreed by Rome and we will begin using it in our parishes this September.
More detail can be found in the liturgy document issued by the Second Vatican Council.
When and how will it be introduced?
Although we have already received the official approval from Rome, it will still be some time before the new translation will be used in our parishes. In England and Wales the new texts will be introduced at the same time, to avoid any confusion.
It is planned we will be able to celebrate Mass in the new translation from September onwards, though permission has been granted to learn new music for the mass, and hence some new wording, immediately. This gives us plenty of time over the next few months to understand the changes: how they will affect us and our liturgy and why they have been made. There will be a lot of resources available to help, both locally, nationally and including internet.
Please pray that we will all make the most of this opportunity to learn more about the Mass and to deepen our relationship with Christ.
If you want to find out a bit more, why not look at the Liturgy Office website?
Why do we need one?
Subsequent to the Second Vatican Council’s decision, in 1970 Pope Paul VI agreed the official Latin text that would be used for the mass. This was then translated into different languages to be used throughout the world. It proved to be a huge task and, because it was done so quickly, some of the richness of the original Latin prayers was, quite literally, ‘lost in translation’. It was seen that a further translation was needed. The new translation would keep the original words, meaning and style of the Latin as far as possible. There will be a new edition of the Missal which will include some additional text such as, prayers for the saints who have been added by the Church to the liturgical calendar.
The four presences of Christ
The Second Vatican Council reminded us of our ancient faith: Christ is always present in his church, especially in its liturgical celebrations.
So, each time we come to Mass we experience the presence of Christ in four different ways:
The more we are able to understand and join in the Mass, the more we will come to love it. The new translation will help us to do that because the words we will now use will say more clearly what our faith is teaching us.
As we use the new translation we will perhaps notice more biblical connections.
The texts of the Mass are precious to us, partly because they were inspired by the bible. These words have come down to us over the centuries, and most of the words we speak at Mass are rooted in the bible. When we gather for Mass, we are praying with words that have been given to us by our ancestors, who knew the bible well and prayed it well. The revised translation tries to make clearer the connections between the bible and the Mass.
It will also mean that we will have some new music for Mass to take account of the changes.
‘And with your spirit’
One of the first things we will notice with the new translation is that, when the priest says ‘The Lord be with you’, we now say ‘And with your spirit’. This is much closer to the original Latin.
When the Mass was first translated internationally, English was one of only two languages that did not translate it as ‘your spirit’. It is a very biblical response: Paul concludes four of his letters with a very similar expression: for example, at the end of his Second Letter to Timothy, ‘The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you’. If you think about it, for nearly 2000 years Christians have been greeting each other, ‘The Lord be with you’, ‘and with your spirit.’ Hence, the new translation will bring unity to this response in all the languages of the world - and with all previous Christian generations.
‘The Word of the Lord’
At the end of the readings and the Gospel at Mass, we are used to hearing ‘This is the Word of the Lord’; ‘This is the Gospel of the Lord’.
In the new translation, the words ‘This is’ are now left out and we will hear ‘The Word of the Lord’ and ‘The Gospel of the Lord’. One of the reasons is that the Latin does not include ‘This is’.
However, there is another concern. If the priest or deacon lifts the book and says ‘This is’, it can suggest that he is talking about the book itself. In fact, he is talking about the Word of God - which is alive and active. The words at the end of the readings are announcing a great event. They are telling us that God has spoken; that Christ is present. We respond ‘Thanks be to God’, or ‘Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ’ which is our acknowledgement that what we have heard is, indeed, the Word of God. For more about the Word of the Lord, see ‘Verbum Domini’ by Benedict XVI, available to download as a pdf file.
The Gloria and the Creed
We will also notice some changes in the Gloria and the Creed. In fact, there is not a great deal of change in the new words that we will pray, so care will be needed to ensure that we do not slip into the old texts!
The first lines of the Gloria echo the angels’ message to the shepherds, announcing the birth of Christ (Luke 2:14). With the Creed we will notice the first change immediately - ‘I believe’, not, ‘We believe’. We are accustomed to praying the Creed all together as a parish. The trouble is, when we say ‘we believe’ it could suggest that, between us all, we believe everything being said. It is not clear that we each believe everything that is being said. To say ‘I believe’ makes it quite clear that each one of us believes everything we are saying.
The Mystery of Faith
For Catholics, a ‘mystery’ is not a puzzle that cannot be solved. It is a truth that is so deep; a truth we will never completely be able understand. One example of this is our belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We believe that Christ is truly present but we cannot wholly explain it. The priest shows us the host and then the chalice. Then he genuflects and says ‘The mystery of faith’.
We continue with one of three responses. These are all different from the ones we have been used to reciting and they come directly from the New Testament. So when the priest says ‘The mystery of faith’, he is inviting us to welcome this Real Presence of Christ. We then make our response, which we address to God.
‘Lord I am not worthy’
As the priest invites us to receive Holy Communion, he will say ‘Behold’, rather than ‘This is’, ‘the Lamb of God’. ‘Behold’ means ‘to look at’ and is our invitation to adore Christ whom we are about to receive in Holy Communion.
We are used to saying ‘Lord I am not worthy to receive you’ ... This will change to: ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed’. This is almost exactly what the Roman Centurion said when he came and begged Jesus to heal his servant. When Jesus says he will come to the Centurion’s house, the man knows that Jesus doesn’t need to do that, that just his word will be enough. The Centurion says: ‘Lord I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word and my servant will be healed’. Our new reply changes only one word of the Centurion’s speech - my servant becomes my soul.
The above information is taken from resources produced by the Liturgy Office, Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.