New Translation of the Mass -- Why back to it being more literal? And other questions

How did it come to be that the new translation of the Mass reverts to a more literal version? I would have expected otherwise. I would have thought that the previous English translation would have been the more literal one, then the new translation adapted to suit English idiom better. Yet what it looks as if it’s the opposite that’s happening. Just wondering why. It’s interesting to see how this develops.

Why is it going to be “and with your spirit”? I’ve heard two explanations for this, not sure if any of them are the real answers. One explanation was that it has to do with the priest acting in persona Christi, so when we reply that way, we wish to give benediction to him as the priest, not him acting in the priestly office. That doesn’t sound quite right to me (but what do I know). The other explanation I heard was that it fits the old Hebrew ways of saying things. That one sounds like it could be the real answer, but I don’t know.

Is the new English translation going to apply to all English-speaking countries, or is it just going to be for the US? From how I understand it, the US Bishop’s Conference’s ICL came up with the translation, then submitted it to the Vatican for approval; if that’s true, will the new translation only be used in the US?

ICEL is the*International Commission on English in the Liturgy. It’s not strictly US. And yes, the new translation is being approved by all/for all English speaking countries.
*

Why would we want a loose interpretation? This is not a passage or prayer that can be loosely translated (like the Dies Irae, which is loosely translated so it can rhyme in English like it rhymes in Latin).

The Mass is intended to be in Latin. Therefore, any translations must be extremely accurate. That is, the meanings of the words must be replicated as exactly as possible.

For instance: at the consecration of the wine, the priest now says “it will be shed for you and for all.”

But the Latin doesn’t say “for all.” The Latin says “pro multis,” which means “for many.”

“For many” and “for all” are very different things.

The Mass is the highest form of prayer in the Church and therefore, the texts must be as accurate as possible and I think this new translation takes us a huge step closer to that.

Why would we want a loose interpretation?

I wouldn’t want a loose translation but if (and I don’t believe this to be the case, because that would mean that idiots were running the ICEL, and I don’t think that’s remotely true) the translators were slavishly transcribing one word from Latin into English, and moving onto the next word, that would be a poor translation indeed.

Rigidly taking Latin word A and making it into English Word A will distort the meaning of phrases, and make grammatical contortions that don’t exist in English; at some level, there has to be some flexibility in phrasing, otherwise we’d get gibberish or distortions of the meanings.

The unofficial vernacular translations in personal missals were very accurate and literal translations. The 1961 personal missal I have has a very good English rendering of the prayers of the Mass. The 1965 English Roman Missal was also a very good English translation. But between then and 1969, the Consilium for implementing Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy decided that a more dynamic translation was preferable. See Comme le prevoit for the over-arching translation philosophy of the time.

So we went from very good unofficial translations to a very good official translation to a lower quality official translation. Now we’re returning to a good official translation; not the same as we had in 1965, but still quite good.

It’s going to be “and with your spirit” because that’s what the Latin says, and because that’s what the Greek says in the Eastern Rites, and because that’s what the translation of the Latin already says in Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese, just to name a few. As for the meaning of “your spirit”:
Why “your spirit” instead of “you”? This question was addressed in 2006 by Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago and current president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
[INDENT]Our current translation might seem more personal and friendly, but that’s the problem. The spirit referred to in the Latin is the spirit of Christ that comes to a priest when he is ordained, as St. Paul explained to St. Timothy. In other words, the people are saying in their response that Christ as head of the Church is the head of the liturgical assembly, no matter who the particular priest celebrant might be. That is a statement of faith, a statement distorted by transforming it into an exchange of personal greetings.
[RIGHT]Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People, p. 29[/RIGHT][/INDENT]

The ICEL is the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. The English translation being devised is going to be used around the world in all episcopal conferences where English is an approved vernacular language for the liturgy. That includes Canada, the US, England, South Africa, and Australia.

This is true. Given the very good unofficial translations that were already in many Latin-English Missals,
I was quite surprised that the official ICEL translation was so poor.

I’ll have to do some searching, but there’s a quote in the Documents on the Liturgy compilation that basically says “we have to create completely new translations, we can’t use unofficial texts that already exist no matter how good they are.”

I’ll look for it tomorrow. It’s nearly midnight here.

Very interesting.

I knew this in general but I have never seen it in writing.

I have a very long blog post (really, probably my longest ever) answering objections from an Australian group called “Catholics for Ministry” about the new translation, which their leader believes is a betrayal of Vatican II.

The first 2/3 of the post dissects his argument, the remaining 1/3 is quotes from Church documents about the process of translation and the role of Latin in the liturgy. The post took me six hours to research and write, and the documents I refer to at the bottom are really quite important to know about in the translation debate.

When I go home for lunch (shortly), I’ll be sure to find that quote from Documents on the Liturgy that expresses the need for brand new translations.

I found the quote I was looking for, and it turns out I mentioned it on CAF about a year ago.

I’d like to give a small historical trail of texts. Italicized text is in the original, bolded or underlined text is my emphasis. The number in {braces} is the DOL paragraph number, not part of the original document, but part of the DOL reference system.

DOL 111, Consilium, Popularibus interpretationibus, 1 June 1965:
{773} 6. In the meantime, that is, until a better translation is prepared, it is permissible to adopt texts already familiar to the faithful. Such texts, however, require the Apostolic See’s approval, that is, confirmation, for use in the liturgy.
That means that “unofficial” translations, like are found in personal missals, could be used for a while, until:

DOL 41, Consilium, Dans sa récente allocution, 21 June 1967:
{486} Since last March the Holy Father has acceded to the request of numerous episcopates to admit the spoken tongue in the canon of the Mass and in the rites of holy orders. This concession is in order to permit the Christian people to better understand the spiritual riches of these celebrations and to draw from them yet greater profit. This is in conformity with the principles of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, which placed no restriction on the use of the vernacular in the liturgy.

After the initial point of departure (cf. Inter Oecumenici nn. 57, 61) and the extension of the gradual spoken language to the preface (27 April 1965), this is the last step in the gradual extension of the vernacular. In liturgical celebrations it will no longer be necessary to pass frequently from one language to another: this will certainly be welcome. In particular the great eucharistic prayer will derive added dignity from this.

It should be borne in mind that for the canon the Holy See is not approving translations which are already found in the missals of the faithful and which have been allowed ad interim in past years. It will be necessary to prepare a new translation, and one that is made with care. Moreover, this translation should be accurate and integral. The texts should be taken as they are, without mutilations or simplifications of any kind. Adaptations to the character of the spoken tongue should be sober and prudent. The periti should accept this norm in good spirit, since its application is necessary at the present time. It is not opportune to “jump the gun.” When the time has come to create, then it will no longer be necessary to be tied down to the restrictions of literal translation. But, for the present time, we are still at the point in which we must more fully uncover and live by all the riches of our liturgical heritage.
I’m at a loss for how saying the Eucharistic Prayer in the vernacular adds to its dignity, especially if the rest (or majority) of the Mass is in the vernacular. And while Vatican II’s Constitution on the Liturgy didn’t say “you can’t use the vernacular here,” it did say that Latin is to be retained and that the faithful should be able to make the responses. (And yet, the responses of the faithful were changed to the vernacular early on!)

The last paragraph scares me. It sounds like they (the periti who should accept the need for an accurate translation “in good spirit”) are just itching to innovate, and not innovate in Latin, but innovate in the vernacular, without a normative Latin text to base themselves on. That leads to an American Mass and a Spanish Mass and a French Mass and a German Mass, each with their own “proper” texts that have nothing to do with one another. Is that really for the good of the Church, as Vatican II required? Is that developing organically out of existing forms, as Vatican II required?

Note, too, that this expected the new translation of the Canon to be “made with care … accurate and integral … without mutilations or simplifications … literal.”

DOL 118, Consilium, Aussitôt après, 10 August 1967:
{820} As soon as the Holy See allowed the use of the vernacular to include the canon of the Mass, the “Consilium” asked study groups from the various commission and the national liturgical commissions to prepare the necessary translations. The work of translation and revision necessarily requires time, dealing as it does with so serious and important a liturgical document, touching the very heart of the Mass.

Moreover, it is the desire of the Holy See that the work proceed in such a way that the different translations of the Roman Canon correspond among themselves. Thus, as far as possible, a certain uniformity would be preserved, at least in the very sacred text of the celebration of the eucharist. …]

{821} 1. The version which is in the procession of preparation, the sole version for the languages spoken in several countries, is to render faithfully the text of the Roman Canon, without variations, omissions, or insertions which would make it different from the Latin text.

…]

{825} 5. …] I hope that the complex and delicate work, preparing and revising the translation of the Roman Canon, so worthy of respect, will lead to a more perfect presentation of the text, a better aid to understanding, and be of greater advantage to the devotion of the faithful.
I would recommend you compare the following translations of the Canon: an “unofficial” one from before Vatican II (such as here), the 1965 text, the 1969 text (left column), and the 2011 text (right column). Which stands out as drastically different from the others? I’d say the one which was said to be “made with care … accurate and integral … without mutilations or simplifications … literal … without variations, omissions, or insertions … a more perfect presentation of the text.”

I’d also recommend (for polyglots) comparing different languages’ translations of the Canon. I could compare French and English pretty well, I think. Is there the desired correspondence between them? Is a “certain uniformity” preserved?

I think the vernacular has a certain place in the Mass, I really do. I just don’t think it has a place everywhere in the Mass, and I think its introduction was done really poorly 40 years ago.

Why is it going to be “and with your spirit”?

I think the main reason is that the Latin (and every other classical Liturgy) says “and with your spirit” (et cum spiritu tuo, kai tou pnevmati sou, i dukhovi tovyemu, etc).

Only English and Brazilian Portugese say “and also with you.” Not even Spanish says “y también contigo” but “y tu espiritu.”

Does that sound likely?

The advantage to a more literal translation is greater accuracy. The more dynamic the translation, the greater the problem of introducing the personality or opinion of the translator into the translation.

I just got an email response from my Metropolitan See (my diocese is a suffragen of the archdiocese). He wrote, in part:

Please keep us in your prayers as we come to the end of the approval of the translations this November. We hope to have the new translations approved by the Holy See soon… It will be a special time of grace for the Church in the United States as we reflect on the beauty of the Liturgy and our Communion with the Holy See and the Universal Church.

There is hope yet! :thumbsup:

Yes. The actual Latin says “and with your spirit”. I used to laugh when I went to St. Matthew’s Cathedral in DC, and they have missals for Latin ordinary form, and it would show the translation as “and also with you”.

The Eastern Churches (Catholic and Orthodox) also use “and with your spirit”.

So we’re wishing peace to Jesus? That something I don’t get. Jesus has peace; why do we bother wishing it to him? It seems to me that Jesus is the Source of Peace, so isn’t wishing him peace a little redundant?

We are praying that the priest truly be “animated” by the Spirit of Christ. When we say “[The Lord be] with your spirit” or “[Peace be] with your spirit,” we are saying that a) we recognize the priest received a special character (spirit) at his ordination, and b) we are praying that “the priest [receive] divine assistance of God’s spirit and, more specifically, help for the priest to use the charismatic gifts given to him in ordination and in so doing to fulfill his prophetic function in the Church.” (source)

JesuXPIPassio said: So we’re wishing peace to Jesus? That something I don’t get. Jesus has peace; why do we bother wishing it to him? It seems to me that Jesus is the Source of Peace, so isn’t wishing him peace a little redundant?

japhy said: We are praying that the priest truly be “animated” by the Spirit of Christ. When we say “[The Lord be] with your spirit” or “[Peace be] with your spirit,” we are saying that a) we recognize the priest received a special character (spirit) at his ordination, and b) we are praying that "the priest [receive] divine assistance of God’s spirit and, more specifically, help for the priest to use the charismatic gifts given to him in ordination and in so doing to fulfill his prophetic function in the Church."
usccb.org/romanmissal/translating_notes.shtml

I have read the proposed new translations for the people’s responses at Mass. I also have read the rationale behind the changes. I have celebrated the Eucharist in Latin - I was even a server for three years - and in English. I really do not care which language is used in the Mass, though I would much rather have it in English. But the text should not resemble a poor performance on a writing examination in an ESL class.

When I was in high school, I took four years of Latin - people did that in Catholic high schools back then - and when we were doing the Gallic Wars or Cicero, the Irish Christian Brother teaching the classes would go through the ceiling whenever somebody gave a translation that obviously was coming from one of the interlinear translation books that were common then. I can well imagine Brother B’s reaction to this latest translation. I feel the same way.

Can you give some examples instead of simply disparaging the whole translation?

The present example being discussed is et cum spiritu tuo. As has been pointed out before, Italian, French, Spanish, French, and German all render that phrase as “and with your spirit” (in their vernaculars).

And how would the Christian Brothers have graded a Latin Exam where the Student translated “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” as “my fault:stuck_out_tongue:

. I really do not care which language is used in the Mass, though I would much rather have it in English.

Isn’t this self-contradictory?

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