WASHINGTON – The U.S. bishops will be asked to approve a new translation of the Order of Mass when they meet in Los Angeles June 15-17.
If the new translation is adopted as proposed and subsequently approved by the Vatican, Catholics will have to learn a number of changes in their Mass prayers and responses. Among the more obvious will be:
- Whenever the priest says "The Lord be with you," the people will respond, "And with your spirit." The current response is "And also with you."
- In the first form of the penitential rite, the people will confess that "I have sinned greatly... through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault." In the current version, that part of the prayer is much shorter: "I have sinned through my own fault."
- The Nicene Creed will begin "I believe" instead of "We believe" – a translation of the Latin text instead of the original Greek text.
- The Sanctus will start, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of hosts." The current version says, "Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might."
Approving a new text of the Order of Mass is only the first step in a long process of considering and approving a new translation of the entire book of prayers said at Mass. In the United States that book has been called the Sacramentary since 1970, but the Vatican wishes to restore the name Roman Missal, since it is an English translation, with minor adaptations, of the normative Latin "Missale Romanum."
Officials of the bishops' Secretariat for the Liturgy told Catholic News Service May 23 that it is uncertain whether the bishops will seek to publish the new Order of Mass for U.S. use as soon as possible or wait until they have the new English translation of the entire Roman Missal completed. Completing the entire Roman Missal is likely to take at least two more years.
Once the bishops adopt new liturgical texts, they must also be confirmed by the Vatican before they can be authorized for use.
In general, people will find many of the Mass prayers in the new version slightly longer and fuller, as the new translation is based on rules for liturgical translations issued by the Vatican in a 2001 instruction. Unlike the previous Vatican rules – which encouraged freer translations more adapted to the language into which one was translating – the new rules require closer adherence to the normative Latin text.
In a recent letter Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, told the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that if a current text does not conform to the new translation norms it must be changed.
"It is not acceptable to maintain that people have become accustomed to a certain translation for the past 30 or 40 years, and therefore that it is pastorally advisable to make no changes.... The revised text should make the needed changes," he wrote.
He said his congregation is open to dialogue about "difficulties regarding the translation of a particular text," but the 2001 instruction calling for translations more faithful to the Latin text "remains the guiding norm."
His letter, dated May 2 and addressed to Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., USCCB president, was posted on the Catholic World News Web site in late May.
In response to a query from CNS, Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, Pa., chairman of the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy, said Bishop Skylstad sent the letter to all Latin-rite bishops in advance of the June meeting.
"I see this letter as a clarification and further restatement of criteria for translation previously authored by the congregation," Bishop Trautman said. He said it "offers additional input for the deliberation of the bishops."
The Order of Mass, found at the center of the Roman Missal, consists of the prayers recited every day at Mass, as distinct from the Scripture readings and prayers that are proper to the day's feast.
Thus what the bishops are to vote on in June are new versions of the prayers that Massgoers are most familiar with because they hear or say them so regularly.
Within the Order of Mass are some prayers for which there are a limited number of alternatives, such as the forms of the penitential rite, the four different eucharistic prayers or the various acclamations following the consecration.
The text the bishops are to vote on in June does not include the prefaces, solemn blessings, prayers over the people or elements found in the appendix that also form part of the Order of Mass.
The International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), which prepared the text to be voted on, is still consulting with English-speaking bishops' conferences around the world on the translation of the prefaces and other elements and does not have a final version of them yet.
Churchgoers will have to learn a different version of the Gloria when the new texts are put into use because part of the current prayer in English does not follow the structure of the Latin version.
In the Nicene Creed, where the current version refers to Christ as "one in being with the father," the new ICEL translation says, "consubstantial with the father." In the documentation sent to the bishops before the meeting, however, the Committee on the Liturgy has recommended keeping the "one in being" translation in the United States.
The new ICEL text for the people's prayer before Communion says, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."
The committee proposed that the bishops seek to keep the current shorter version of the beginning of that prayer, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you." The committee did not, however, propose a change from the ICEL translation at the end, where the people currently pray, "but only say the word and I shall be healed."
The bishops will also vote on several American adaptations in the Order of Mass, such as adding the acclamation, used in the United States since 1970 but not found in the Roman Missal in Latin, "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again."
Copyright (c) 2007 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops