Monday, July 03, 2006

Liturgical revisionism

Some comments about the new liturgical translations and the liturgical reform in general need some response, I think, and since this is my blog, I’m going to bring them up front.

Two common inaccuracies keep cropping up: first, that the liturgical reforms after the Council somehow went beyond what the Council actually asked for; and second, that the 1970 translations were somehow bad or inaccurate.

As for the first, Sacrosanctum concilium called for a “general reform” (#21) of all the rites with "full, conscious and active participation" being the “paramount concern” of the reform (#14). By and large the Novus Ordo follows the general order of Trent minus the Latin and a lot of medieval attachments.

The Novus Ordo is not a "new Mass," and Trent itself was hardly some "pure" liturgy; it was simply the Roman liturgy of the time imposed on all the churches, thanks mostly to the printing press. And evidently, the reformers after VCII got the intention of the Council right, because the liturgical reforms of the Council have been widely welcomed and imitated by other Christian churches. Besides, one has to interpret SC (which received only 4 negative votes) not just as an independent text but by how it was received and implemented.

As for the second objection, it's completely inaccurate to say that the Mass wasn't translated correctly in the first place. It was done well, using the principles of dynamic equivalence as found in Comme le prevoit, which outlined the rules in force at the time. This claim that we currently have "bad translations" is completely spurious. They're "bad" only because Rome changed the rules.

The new translation, quite frankly, was prepared more quickly and by fewer qualified people than the 1970 edition and is more ideologically driven. And the purpose of the translation is not somehow to mimic the Latin original, the editio typica, which is more or less a model for the creation, translation, and adaptation of liturgical books for other churches.

No one celebrates the liturgy from the editio typica anyway, except maybe in Vatican liturgies. Everyone uses the translations and texts found in their own language group's liturgical books (created by the bishops conferences; see SC, 22[a]), many of which (German, Italian, English RCIA and OCF), incidentally, include original texts composed in the vernacular language, all of which were approved by the Vatican.

What has happened in the past 15 years is simply regime change, and with the new regime has come a new liturgical theology (or ideology) that treats Roman texts as if they fell out of heaven. Which they didn't. And this approach is quite frankly a novelty in Catholic tradition, which has always permitted liturgical variation. Note that the Eastern churches in communion with Rome have never, not even after Trent, been required to replace their liturgies with those of Rome.

If the Tridentine liturgy receives wider use, we'll know for sure that what's going on is not some great desire for uniformity, but a concerted effort to overturn the 2,147-to-4 vote in favor of liturgical reform.


At 12:48 PM, Anonymous anr said...

Do you suppose some of the enthusiasm among young priests for the Tridentine rite is that it's easier for them to carry out? Think about it: They don't have to particularly engage the laity, and the only people who would make a point of attending this Tridentine service with enough knowledge of it to be critical would be enthusiasts anyway. No fear of criticism from the great unwashed, unlike with the current ritual, of which many laypeople have well-formed liturgical knowledge and aren't shy about pointing out infelicities. (There's a woman in my parish who's famous for that. She takes notes and she knows what she's talking about. It takes a very self-assured person to take her constructive criticism in the spirit in which it's meant.)

At 2:02 PM, Blogger Nate said...

I've responded to this here, if you're interested.

At 9:15 AM, Blogger Anne Kadera said...

I disagree with the blogger. First of all, the Mass we celebrate now does NOT live up to Vatican II or SC...which says that Latin is to be given pride of place in the Liturgy. It is a rare occasion when that happens in Mass unless one is fortunate enough to find a parish with a priest who isn't freaked out about Latin.

The Mass we have now IS a bad translation. How they got "And also with you" out "Et cum spiritu tuo" is beyond me. Notice other languages, such as Spanish, didn't have this problem, they respond correctly with "Y con tu espirito."

I am so excited for the new changes: the more poetic, theological language I pray will increase reverence and mystery in the Mass and point us toward heaven. I am sick of the liturgical improvisation that happens on any given Sunday in many parishes in the US.

In the last 30 years Mass attendance has dropped (CNN/FOX/NBC are constantly quoting a poll citing that only 30% of Catholics attend Sunday Mass regularly). This Mass does not bear fruit. They rarely inspire awe and mystery of the Sacrifice of the Lamb....Eastern Liturgies (and I have been to many) do bear fruit. They are beautiful, reverent, and draw our souls up to God.

I also look forward to the day when the priest and people are facing the same direction....There is a reason it is called the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. When the priest and people face the same way (the dreaded "turning the back on the people!!!) the sacrifice of the Mass is ordered to God, and the priest and people are one in praying the Mass. What could be more beautiful? The first time I saw Mass done this way, when the priest elevated the chalice, I was reminded of the Old Testament, and the priests of Melchizedeck in the Holy of Holies, offering the sacrifices for the people.

Contrary to what you may feel, I (and others like me) don't have an "agenda"...we just want an authentically Catholic liturgy that edifies and challenges us to holiness, not mediocrity. I'm 22 years old and I am tired of guitars in Mass, random hand-holding, and irreverance. I love Gregorian chant, I love palliums, and I love being CATHOLIC. I love that our Church has beautiful traditions (even if they are....GASP..."medieval") beacuse we shouldn't look like the rest of the world. When I walk in to Church, it shouldn't look like a warehouse. How does that set my mind on the heavens? It does not. I'm young, I like Gregorian chant, elaborate vestments, and what John Paul the Great said, "radical, evangelical style." So..bring on the "And also with your spirit" because the new springtime has arrived.

At 5:17 PM, Anonymous anr said...

Okay, I'm a member of a Catholic parish that has a beautiful old building full of gold and mosaic and marble and statuary and candlelight. We have rigorously trained musicians, both professional and volunteer, and chant and elegant vestments and incense and all those delicious accoutrements. We have six Masses per weekend, all jam packed with young people. The people speak the responses with vigor. The people sing too; even the young men sing. There's a bus that brings people from a retirement home nearby. The parish school has a waiting list. There are twenty baptisms of adults every Easter vigil and another two dozen receptions into communion. The parish is the mainstay of a homeless shelter, a jobs center, and many other ministries. I could go on.

What kind of liturgy do you suppose is carried out by this living community that worships inside a work of art? Hmm? Modern. Devoted to the renewal. With attention to detail and a conscious decision to make the liturgy dignified and beautiful every single week.

It's not the language you pray in; it's the heart and soul and dedication and care and training you put into the prayer.

I'm sorry you grew up in a parish that didn't make its eucharistic liturgy -- the source and summit of our Christian lives -- beautiful enough to touch your heart. It's not the fault of the liturgy. It's the fault of some human being who didn't know enough (or care enough) to put enough time and thought and energy into this most important part of our lives together.

Since that person failed in their work, you're ready to throw out the work of the Council Fathers, which was clearly inspired by the Holy Spirit. See how pernicious bad liturgy can be!

(And see how heated up I get about it, too!)

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