Thursday, August 27, 2009

Importance of Background & Context

Why a new translation of the Roman Missal (the book used at mass, containing a great variety of texts for celebration)?

On the U.S. Bishops' recently-released website--which they "hope...will be a central resource for those responsible for implementing the text"--one page is devoted to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). It begins with
Why is there a need for a new translation?
The Missale Romanum (Roman Missal), the ritual text for the celebration of the Mass, was promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as the definitive text of the reformed liturgy of the Second Vatican Council. That Latin text, the editio typica (typical edition), was translated into various languages for use around the world; the English edition was published in the United States in 1973. The Holy See issued a revised text, the editio typica altera, in 1975. Pope John Paul II promulgated the third edition (editio typica tertia) of the Missale Romanum during the Jubilee Year in 2000. Among other things, the third edition contains prayers for the celebration of recently canonized saints, additional prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayers, additional Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Intentions, and some updated and revised rubrics (instructions) for the celebration of the Mass. ... (emphasis added)
The evolution and development of liturgical books has a long history. The key dates above are a slender sliver of that history within the Latin rite of the Roman Catholic Church. The unique quality of expression called "Roman" is economical use of language. Its economy is concise, noble and not given to abstract expression.

Every translation is an interpretation. In the case of the Roman Missal, the translations into the vernacular languages are from Latin. In the recent editions of the Roman Missal from 1970 to the present, the challenge has been to make more faithful translations, extraordinarily difficult from one language to another, here from Latin to English, two languages which diverge in ways of expression. That heightens the challenge to be faithful to the doctrine liturgical language both expresses and conveys.

The site offers examples of changes in the parts spoken by the assembly. The layout allows readers to note that more words in those spoken parts remain the same than have changed in the most recent edition of the Roman Missal.

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