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Friday, June 23, 2006


The Language of Prayer
Today opponents of the new translation cite concern over the effects the changes will have on congregations, which have grown accustomed to ICEL's old renderings. While change can certainly be destabilizing, there is a difference between changing in order to move away from tradition and changing in order to return to it. And it is odd for those who pushed for a radical shift in 1970 to be now making the same arguments about continuity their detractors once did.
The current controversy is also interesting because it reveals a fundamental misunderstanding over the nature of liturgical language. The Rev. Lawrence J. Madden, director of the Georgetown Center for Liturgy, dislikes the new and more accurate translation because "It isn't the English we speak. It's becoming more sacred English, rather than vernacular English."

Yet that is precisely the point. When Vatican II permitted translations of the Mass in 1963, it spoke of translating into the "mother tongue," not into everyday speech. Contrary to widespread belief, there has never been a tradition of the vernacular in Christian liturgy, if by "vernacular" you mean the language we speak on the street. Many of the earliest Masses were offered in a language the congregation could understand, but not in the language that could be heard in the marketplace. Before a native language was used in divine worship, it was first "sacralized"--its syntax and diction were gingerly modified, archaisms were deliberately re-introduced and even new rhythmic meters and cadences were invented. All of this was done in order to produce a distinctive mode of communication, one that was separate from garden-variety vernacular speech and capable of relaying the unique mysteries of the Gospel.

Thus, if English is to convey sacred mysteries, there should be a "sacred English." The very word we use for everyday speech, "profane," comes from pro-fano, "outside the temple." If Catholics wish to make the world Christ's temple, as Pope Benedict recently put it, they must first be careful not to make Christ's temple the world.
A good analysis of the recent changes in the translation of the Mass: why it matters and how it will help American Catholics.

Comments:
Wow! I learn something new every day. I guess that's why I am surveying Catholic Blogs. My reaction "Ahhh, so that's why the language of the Bible is so weird." No instead of my Mind wandering, focusing on the strange wordins, I can appreciate it and it's uses. Thanks for the post
 

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