Einstein, Imagination and the New Translation

I’m always wary of using an Albert Einstein quotation because it seems somehow sort of well, sophomoric. There’s always that poster of the German genius with the googly eyes and goofy hair sticking out his tongue. Nevertheless, Einstein came up with some good ones about God not playing dice, and science being lame without religion and religion being blind without science – or one of my favorites: “When the solution is simple God is answering.”

So after a weekend of introducing the new translation of the Mass to my parish, I’m left pondering on the real worth of what we’ve got and why we’ve got it. After all, why did we go to all that trouble, all those committee meetings, all the arguments, and the quibbling about this word or that word, this comma or that semicolon? Surely, one might argue, “The former translation was good enough. It was workable. Sure, it was not elegant or eloquent, but who needs all that high falutin’ stuff. The people understood what was going on. Isn’t that what it’s all about?”

Of course it’s good that everyone understands what’s going on, but the good is the enemy of the best, and mere intelligibility is not really what the liturgy is all about. If intelligibility were the only good then we ought to get to work on the classics and have Hamlet say, “Gee whiz, I can’t decide whether to kill myself or not!” instead of “To be or not to be? That is the question.” Then in the midst of my meanderings a quotation by Einstein reminded me that the words of worship are about more than mundane intelligibility. Einstein wrote, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Bingo! Imagination is more important than knowledge because knowledge is limited to what we now know. Knowledge is, if you like, utilitarian. It’s useful. It works. As such, it closes the mind and heart with a solution. Imagination on the other hand, opens the mind and heart with wonder and with the apprehension of beauty. If knowledge is utilitarian, then (on its own–without imagination) it is also barbaric. If there is any question that utilitarianism is barbaric take a look at the practical, ugly buildings that have been built in the last fifty years that pass for Catholic churches.

What came into the church, in the wake of the second Vatican Council, was an unthinking acceptance of certain tenets of secular modernism – one of the most fundamental and insidious being utilitarianism – or the barbaric belief that what works is good. When this frightening aphorism was unthinkingly stood on its head, not only “what works was good”, but “what is good is that which works”, and consequently the only “Good” became “whatever works”.

This unquestioned utilitarianism influenced not only church architecture, but every aspect of Catholic life. Suddenly there was no use for such “pointless people” as contemplative monks and nuns. They all had to develop “ministries”. Church became a kind of club for social activists and do-gooders, and the Mass became the “gathering time” when we all met to think about Jesus the noble martyr and how we could change the world, and so we sang the rousing anthem, “We can make a difference. Yes we can!”

The 1973 translation of the liturgy fit into this modern utilitarian-determined church. The theory of “dynamic equivalency” dictated that the noble Latin language should not be translated literally. The words were too difficult. The concepts too arcane. The grammar and syntax too complex. Like a bare, modern church; like the polyester vestments; like the pottery vessels and the felt banners and the padded pews and the glory and praise music, the liturgy was supposed to be useful and understandable and plain. It ended up being beige, boring and bland, and the suburban clergy facilitated it all with a kind of dull resignation-topped layer of Kool Whip enthusiasm. It was a case of the bland leading the bland.

The dull liturgy left nothing to the imagination, and this is where the great liturgist Albert Einstein steps in and says, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

The banal translation of 1973 – in its sincere attempt to make the mass intelligible – was knowledge-based, and therefore it never went beyond what everyone already understood. Obscure references to Scripture were left out. Words that hinted of ‘complex’ theological concepts were ‘simplified’ or ignored. Language that was considered ‘lofty’ was brought down to earth, and dialogue that was considered courtly was thrown out of court.

Happily, the new translation brings it all back, and does so (in my limited experience so far) magnificently. Now here is where it all gets very interesting. Do the faithful people in the pew know and understand what is really being restored? Does Harry gasp and say, “Goodness Mildred, when I say ‘consubstantial’ I feel like my soul is opening up into the mysterious realm of beauty”? Probably not. Most of it will go over their heads, but as it goes over their heads it will also go into their hearts. We perceive the depth, the beauty and the magnificence in a more subtle way — as we do the beautiful poetry embedded in a Shakespeare play, or the beautiful architecture of an ancient church. Yes, we might comment on the nice stained glass windows, but when beauty is present there is something greater going on — something beyond words — something that we find impossible to articulate, and it is this connection with the ‘something greater’ which will be the lasting legacy of the new translation to our common imagination.

What is happening with the new translation is that our imagination is being engaged, and not just as as individuals, but all of us a part of a Catholic culture. The imagination is that part of our mind that connects with beauty. Beauty is the language of worship, and it is the imagination which perceives and processes beauty in our mind. As Einstein says, “imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” The new translation does not simply spout more beautiful language, it opens our heart and mind to embrace all things visible and invisible.

Therefore, as we return to beauty of language and thought in the new liturgy, and as the Vatican sets up its new commission on sacred music and architecture, we have every hope that a true new liturgical movement – in which young artists and architects and musicians and designers will renovate not just churches, but hearts and minds of ordinary Catholics — so that through the apprehension of beauty we might apprehend more deeply the mysteries and truths themselves.

When we do so we are not only truly Catholic, we are truly human, and that brings me to another quote by the German genius, “ The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious; It is the source of all true art and science.”

 

Fr. Longenecker is building a beautiful new church at his parish of Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenville, South Carolina. Go here to see pictures of it and read his articles on sacred architecture.

Rev. Dwight Longenecker

By

Rev. Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, South Carolina. His latest book is The Romance of Religion published by Thomas Nelson. Check out his website and blog at www.dwightlongenecker.com.

  • rtjl

    Recently I was browsing in a Catholic book store and I came across a copy of the Douay Rheims bible published by St. Benedict Press. Although I had never been attracted to this particular translation of the Bible, it was so beautifully bound that I couldn’t resist buying it. I took it home and started reading it and was immediately astounded.

    It was not as obscure and unreadable as I supposed it would be. True – I had to work a little harder at understanding it but not so hard that I couldn’t. If anything, the extra effort required, ensured that I could no longer take it for granted that I understood the text. I think we sometimes get lazy and say “oh yeah – I know this” when we really don’t. The Douay Rheims translation drew me into thinking about the text again and led me to once again probe for deeper meaning beyond the meaning immediately available at the surface. . I found that the Douay Rheims translation (Challoner revision)was close enough to modern English to be understandable but challenging enough to not allow me to take for granted that I understood the text at first glance and lyrical enough to unchain my imagination and set my heart beating.

    I will still use the RSV and the NRSV for study, but the Douay Rheims translation will now be my preferred translation for prayer.

    • sarto

      Whatever rocks your boat, I guess. My preferred Bible for prayer is the Liberation Bible, in Spanish, especially the Psalms.

      Two Masses under our belt with the new and ultra inspiring translation. As usual, it depends on the ability of the presider to express the spirit of prayer. One priest, a young Hispanic, did an excellent job, despite his accent. The other, a English speaker who racehorsed through the last translation in a monotone, racehorsed through this one as well. The more inspired latinized words did not lift the tone of the celebration.

  • G.

    Silly point: I’d love to see a satirical series of 1973-style translations of other major documents in history. Or an online “dynamic equivalence” generator to convert other English text (just imagine Shakespeare…)”.

    Serious point: I love the new translation. Everything is in sharper focus. It is more precise, but not like a technical manual; rather, it is at once more reverent and more poetic.

    It is a sad irony that the impulse to make things “more about the people” resulted in making things less beautiful, less attractive: bare churches like angular waiting rooms, dumbed-down music with dumbed-down text that can sound like James Taylor at a Renn-fest on the worst day of his life, and language made not only plain, but sacrificing meaning.

    I think (and hope) the new translation will have the gradual effect of elevating everything around it. It does a beautiful job of emphasizing anew why we’re there.

    • Sarto

      More poetic? In today’s Immaculate Concepton Mass, the prayer for the collect contained a fifty-three word sentence and more subclauses than a Hollywood contract. That ain’t poetry.

      • Rebecca

        It’s obvious that Sarto has never read Shakespeare in his life, and if he has, his English teachers should be taken out at shot.

        • Rebecca

          *and*

        • Sarto

          Just went on line and whipped up a copy of The Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare, of course, was an expert in the English language. Scanning through his verses, you see verbs in the majority of lines, which amount to short sentences sometimes separated by a semi-colon.

          Latin, in contrast, is an inflected language, and can have unbelievably long sentences filled with subordinate clauses and only a single verb! Not so easy to translate into word order English, which will go on and on, unconnected by any inflections and simply starving for a verb.

      • Sarto

        Quick report on this Sunday’s “Rejoice” Mass, from an old guy sitting about 2/3 way back in a standing room only church.

        Third Sunday with the new translation and I notice that the more elegant prayers just soared by, unheard by me and the relatives who were with me. The sermon was about five on a one to ten scale. One thing I noticed is this: About forty minutes had gone by in a seventy minute Mass by the time we got to the wonderfully noble Eucharistic Prayer I, which just went on and on and on. The celibrant, whose speaking style is staccato, spit through the list of saints: PeterandPaulAndrewJamesJohnThomasJamesPhilip/BarthalomewMathew….

        It was almost laughable. But it emphasized again for me that the celibrant’s celebratory style is what really counts and the most lofty words on earth cannot make up for a singsong or racehorse celebration.

        The same with the music. This music was mostly well chosen and carried the congregation along. As usual, the church was full of kids, with that unexplainable background static of kids crying, people moving, choir singing, priest galloping, etc. etc.. An average sermon, good music, and the reception of Communion made this a good Mass. Not a great Mass. But then, a great Mass is rather rare.

  • http://johnshope.blogspot.com/ Alan Shope

    Many excellent points. Imagination, beauty and mystery are crucial for human growth and development.

    I’m concerned that many of the comments I’ve heard in other places reduce the debate to conservative versus liberal ideology. This horrible oversimplification misses so much.

    As a convert, one quality of Catholicism I was drawn to was it’s broad net and diverse spiritualities… which is partly due to our appreciation of imagination, beauty and mystery, beyond simplistic doctrinal assertions.

    I have told many of my protestant friends, “there are groups within the Catholic church you would relate to. We are a diverse people. We don’t need all the denominations…just a willingness to embrace the deeper “oneness” and “unity in diversity” maintained by our communion with Rome…which still allows our personal journeys.

  • Allen Esterson

    “When the solution is simple God is answering.”

    Einstein? Sounds unlikely. Where did you get it from?

    Most of the “quotations” ascribed to Einstein online are not authentic.

  • Michael PS

    Beauty, alas, is very much in the eye of the beholder.

    I once took a friend into the Saint-Chapelle in Paris. It was a bright spring morning and the stained-glass windows, some of the finest in the world could not have appeared to better advantage and cast a mosaic of pale, pastel colours onto the pavement.

    “Gosh,” said my friend, “it’s chilly in here!”

  • Thomas C. Coleman, Jr.

    How ironic it is that since the introduction first of some use of verncular and then the actual Novus Ordo understanding of the Mass has actually decreased. I train the altar servers for my Norvus Ordo parish, and at each training I find children who have no idea what the Chruch teaches about the Eucharist and cannot connect it to the Last Supper and Calvary. The introduction of these new changes presents an opportunity to re-teach Catholics who were subjected to intentionally diluted and bebased catechesis. Some of the mistranslations that have now be corrected clearly seem to have been intended to alter original meaning. I ususally hate to hear trendy terms like ‘teachable moment,” but I really believe that the new and improved texts provide plenty of opportunities to widen and deepen the congregation’s understanding of the most important Event that happens every day all over the world–more importnat, in fact, than sunrise itself!

    • Deacon Ed Peitler

      I would recommend that bishops, who have primary responsibility for the teaching of the faith in their dioceses, set up some kind of standards about who is qualified to teach the faith at the parish level.

      There are far too many instances, I am afraid, of people whose piety leads them to believe them to be well-suited to teach catechetics to the young or in RCIA programs. Who will determine the basic requirements?

      Let’s remember that the people now passing on the faith at the parish level came of age in the 70’s and 80’s – the height of Kumbaya-ism!

  • Sam Schmitt

    Beauty, alas, is very much in the eye of the
    beholder.

    Actually, Michael PS, your story shows just the opposite. Everyone knows (or should know) that Saint-Chapelle with the sun pouring through the windows is beautiful – so we are struck by your friend’s comment precisely because he didn’t recognize that fact.

  • Andrew

    “Latin language should not be translated literally. The words were too difficult. The concepts too arcane. The grammar and syntax too complex.”

    I wonder how much of the propensity toward “dynamic equivalency” translation is rooted in anti-intellectualism.

    The odd thing is that the Latin of the mass, from a Latin standpoint, is actually quite simple and straightforward like the language of the Latin Vulgate. It’s meant to be understood. We’re not talking Tacitus here!

    • Michael PS

      True enough, for the most part, but some of the collects really do have something of the concise, epigrammatic quality of Tacitus at his best and, for my money, date from the same period, early 2nd century

      Who knows, perhaps they were vernacular prayers, dating from a time when the liturgy was still in Greek.

      • Andrew

        Let’s not get carried away, here.

        One would be hard pressed indeed to demonstrate any formal concordance whatsoever between the “vulgar” language of liturgical Latin and the highly artificial literary prose of the grand old author of the Annales.

        In fact, it would not be at all unreasonable to say that these two corpuses represent language as diametrically opposed both in style and intent as, say, the songs of Bob Dylan and the prose of Edward Gibbon. On the one hand, you have poetry that sounds nice and evokes noble sentiments. On the other you have dry lucid formal high brow prose.

        And here is the odd thing that I keep coming back to. I think Fr. Longenecker and others don’t quite have it right when they make assertions to the effect of the Latin of the mass being linguistically onerous or stylistically baroque. It’s not. It’s common, people’s language (i.e. vulgar). It’s meant for the vulgus, the people. It’s plain and straightforward like the Latin Vulgate.

        So the argument does indeed sit well with me that the translation also should be in language similarly plain and straightforward. I’m not sure we have that in the 3rd edition.

        • Ben Dunlap

          ” It’s common, people’s language (i.e. vulgar). It’s meant for the vulgus, the people. It’s plain and straightforward like the Latin Vulgate. ”

          This is something I’ve often wondered about. Can you point to any sources for this claim or is this mainly your sense drawn from your own experience with Latin? I’ve read a number of claims to the contrary, also unsourced, and my own Latin is entirely functional — I can translate it but don’t have much experience with Latin letters so I don’t know how to evaluate the claims.

          “So the argument does indeed sit well with me that the translation also should be in language similarly plain and straightforward. I’m not sure we have that in the 3rd edition.”

          I think there’s something to this, but at least the new translation makes an effort (perhaps over-the-top at times) to translate all of the content of the Latin. This corrects the principal deficiency of the 1973 translation, setting aside questions of style.

          • Andrew

            The problem is really one of education, and you get the same problem when you are dealing with Greek. Unless you have studied Classical Greek and Classical Latin, you are really on unstable ground in trying to make a philological assessment of Vulgar Latin or Koine Greek. Most members of the clergy, if they have any Latin or Greek at all, have received that training in seminary or in a similar circumstance where the aim is not philological but functional. I.e., to engage with the original languages of the Mass, the Fathers, the Scripture, etc.

            Such a person – through no fault of their own – will have no real historical/linguistic perspective of the language. Koine is the “common” Greek dialect of the oikoumene, a descendent of the Attic Greek of Classical Athens. If you have studied Attic and you have read Plato and Thucydides and the others, then you can plainly see Koine for what it is – a simplified and somewhat evolved Attic. You can make intelligent assertions about its style.

            So too with Latin. If you have studied Classical Latin with an aim towards fluency with the authors such as Cicero, Tacitus, etc. then it is easy to see what sort of Latin the Vulgar Latin is – simplified, non-literary Latin. I mean, first year Latin students can read the Vulgate; they can read the Latin of the mass. It’s non-literary, straightforward Latin. It’s meant to communicate, not to impress. And it’s CERTAINLY not imaginative. If you want imaginative Christian Latin, read Boethius.

            Case in point: the sermons of Augustine. Here we have nice, plain, communicative Latin of the 5th century that is meant to be understood in a liturgical setting. Its syntax, style, vocabulary – rather similar to the Mass. Pick up the City of God, or De Trinitate – a different beast all together. The linguistic register of these treastises is totally different. It’s not for the people, it’s not liturgical. It’s stylized and literary, both in terms of syntax and vocabulary.

            If you want to read more about Vulgar Latin I recommend Jozsef Herman’s book.

          • Andrew

            Ben – I would be interested to see what sort of arguments are made to the contrary. From a Classical Languages standpoint, I’m not really saying anything controversial here!

            Also, please note I am speaking purely from a stylistic standpoint. A new translation was certainly needed – most importantly to forgive the sins of omission!

            • Ben Dunlap

              Thanks for your lengthy comment, Andrew — plenty of food for thought. I was thinking in particular of a 2007 essay by Uwe Michael Lang called “Latin in the Liturgy” or something to that effect. I’ve had another look at it and it seems that he relies mainly on the work of Christine Mohrmann, whose 1957 “Liturgical Latin” argued that the oldest Latin of the Roman Rite (e.g., the Canon) can’t really be equated with what we now think of as “vernacular”.

              I haven’t read Mohrmann and am not familiar with the arguments against her position, but I did just find another brief discussion with some interesting excerpts here: http://whosoeverdesires.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/in-praise-of-clunky-translations

              I don’t know that any of this really contradicts what you’re saying — perhaps it just indicates a need for finer-grained distinctions. It’s one thing to say that liturgical Latin isn’t highbrow, but I don’t know that it follows from this that it’s the language of everyday life. Maybe the “vulgar” needs to be subdivided further into “colloquial” and “something-else” — I hesitate to say “technical” because it conjures up jargon-laden executive memos etc.

              The question becomes even more complicated when one considers the broad time-span of composition. The oldest parts of the mass such as the Canon certainly date from a time when ordinary people still spoke Latin in the street, but plenty more of it was composed in the centuries afterward, continuing all the way up through the 1960s (e.g., Eucharistic Prayers III and IV).

              So even if Mohrmann and Lang are wrong I’m not sure it makes much difference — it’s indisputable that for at least a thousand years the Roman Rite was prayed, transmitted, and amended in a language quite foreign to the common man (or at least “foreign outside of church”). This raises another complicated topic, I suppose, but I think it slightly unsettles the argument that a vernacular translation should be plain-spoken and straightforward.

              In general though we’re discussing something relatively peripheral — the style — and we seem to be agreed on the substance. I also agree with what I take your original contention to be; namely that a great deal of commentary in support of the new translation seems to confuse style and substance. To my mind it doesn’t need any more of an argument than “this new one has all the words”. In that light the questions of style fade into the background.

              • Ben Dunlap

                I should add that a great deal of commentary *against* the new translation also seems to confuse style and substance.

              • Andrew

                Ben – thank you for your reply and especially for the mentioned resources. Mohrmann sounds like an interesting read, and I suppose I shall forgive the author of the blog you linked for being a Jesuit! I confessedly come to the issue as a classicist and not someone who has been trained at all in liturgy. Therefore my perspective is unique but limited and in the end mere observation.

                The Jesuit’s remarks made me think of Augustine’s own initial distaste for the language of the Bible. This is early in his life well before the conversion. He is inspired by Cicero to seek wisdom in the holy Scriptures but is confronted by a swelling of his pride:

                Itaque institui animum intendere in scripturas sanctas, et videre, quales essent. et ecce video rem non compertam superbis neque nudatam pueris, sed incessu humilem, successu excelsam, et velatam mysteriis, et non eram ego talis, ut intrare in eam possem, aut inclinare cervicem ad eius gressus. non enim sicut modo loquor, ita sensi, cum attendi ad illam scripturam, sed visa est mihi indigna, quam Tullianae dignitati compararem. tumor enim meus refugiebat modum eius, et acies mea non penetrabat interiora eius (Conf. 3.5).

                Which might be rendered as:

                “And so I set my mind on studying the holy scriptures with a view to their quality, and what I saw was something humble in approach, sublime in outcome, and veiled in mysteries. I was not yet the type of man who could enter into it or crane my neck to its habit. When I studied the scripture my sensibilities were not as they are now. At that time it seemed to me rather lame when compared to the Tullian dignity. The swelling of my pride recoiled from its way, and my keen acumen was useless in penetrating its interiors.”

                This is the typical classicist’s response to “Christian Latin”. I’m reminded also of the Didascalion of Hugo of St. Victor. Apparently the early students and scholars at St. Victor were likewise susceptible to a “tumor philologicus”:

                Principium autem disciplinae humilitas est, cuius cum multa sint documenta, haec tria praecipue ad lectorem pertineant. Primum ut nullam scientiam, nullam scripturam vilem teneat; secundum ut a nemine discere erubescat; tertium ut cum sententiam adeptus fuerit, ceteros non contemnat. Multos hoc decepit, quod ante tempus sapientes videri volunt. Hinc namque in quendam elationis tumorem prorumpunt […] (De Humilitate).

                Which might be rendered as:

                “The beginning of real learning is humility, and although there are multiple examples of this, the following three precepts pertain especially to a scholar. First, that he regard no knowledge or writing as vile; second, that he be embarrassed to learn from no one; third, when he acquires knowledge, that he not look down on others. Many have been misled by wishing to seem wise before their time, and they rush eagerly into a kind of swelling of pride.”

                Your point, that simple language is not ipso facto colloquial, is well taken. Consider the American poet William Carlos Williams and his musings on plums.

      • Sarto

        And during my five years studying Latin in the seminary, I spent agonizing hours trying to put this concise epigrammatic writing based on word inflections with all their subordinate clauses, into readable English, which is based on word order.

        The prayers in yesterday’s Immaculate Conception Mass were particularly clumsy. After listening to the celebrant stumble, I went home and tried them for myself. Whew. But who knows, we might get used to it. When I was a kid I worked in a fish farm and there was this room where the fish food was stored. When I first arrived, I went in there the stench was so bad I threw up. But after weeks and weeks, I could go in there and eat my lunch.

  • http://platytera.blogspot.com/ Christian

    Both the objective existence of beauty and Einstein’s equation E=mc2 were instrumental my faith journey during my mid-20s.

  • Tony Esolen

    I have some little experience as a translator of poetry… When you’re translating poetry into poetry, you’re under all kinds of constraints that don’t apply when you’re working with prose. But I figured, when I was translating Lucretius, that my job was to render the various levels of meaning as accurately and as effectively (and as musically and memorably) as I could, regardless of the fact that I don’t believe a word of what Lucretius says. Well, that’s probably a bit strong — even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Still, the idea was to translate that great but philosophically mistaken poet, to make his poetry available to readers of English. My own political or philosophical or theological predilections were simply not to the point.

    And that certainly should be the case when one translates the prayers of the Mass. Sure, it is necessary that one be able, using a Christian imagination, to pierce to the heart of a prayer’s beauty, to understand its integrity as a prayer, and to hear the Scriptural echoes with which it resounds. Yet in the end the translation is a kind of puzzle to figure out — how do we render in English exactly what this prayer says, with the emphases of the original, preserving the figurative meanings, and the Scriptural echoes? And that is something that in 1973 they determined they were NOT going to do — quite the contrary. In 1998 they did NOT determine that they were going to do it; they’d be more or less in the ballpark (in 1973 they were on a different planet), but they wouldn’t attend too closely to what the prayers actually said.

    • Michael PS

      You are right

      To understand the task faced by any translator, look at a (hopefully) non-controversial example.

      The Roman poet, Juvenal wrote:

      “Magnaque numinibus vota exaudita malignis”

      Literally translated, in the same order

      And great/by spiritual powers/vows/having been heard (agreeing with “vows”)/malign (agreeing with “by spiritual powers”)

      This is plainly gibberish.

      “And great prayers having been heard by malignant powers” reproduces the meaning, but is flat and pedestrian; it conveys next to nothing of the experience produced by reading the original.

      Dr Johnson translated it as

      “Enormous prayers, which Heav’n in vengeance grants,”

      expressing, not only the sense, but something of the rhythm and cadences of the original – hence, his elision of the last syllable of “Heaven.” Above all, it preserves the terse, epigrammatic style of Juvenal.

      Has any modern translation of the Missal approached Johnson’s standard? In my opinion, no. Cranmer, at his best, achieved it, in some of the Collects, but that can now be appreciated only by someone thoroughly at home in Elizabethan English.

      Genius, alas, is not to be had for the asking.

  • Guy Murdoch

    I went to a Tridentine Mass for the first time tonight. I have to admit that I now at least understand what people talk about when they say they felt left out of the service in the old days.

    The funny thing is, I also looked through the Missal as we went along and it had Latin on one side and English on the other with helpful notes in the margin. I also noticed that there was a provision for a responsoral Mass in which the people were also to do the alter servers response. Everything you need to participate (even if you didn’t learn Latin in parochial school); the only thing that was missing was a translation for the propers.

    I pray that the new translation will be the beginning of a renewal of the liturgy, but even so we are behind where we started.

    What a tragedy to spend forty years (and counting) dying of thirst in the wilderness and springs of living water right there.

  • Miriam

    Now when do we get a real Bible in the Mass instead of the insipid NAB?

    As a convert the first time I heard the 23rd psalm in Mass, i didn’t recognize it. I realize that the American bishops hold the copyright to the NAB and so make money from it but, couldn’t they have left just a little of the poetry from the RSV in it?

    And my understanding is that the new translation of the NAB is not allowed to be part of the liturgy according to the Vatican.

    Let us use the Bible that our Holy Father uses.

  • bt

    I agree that the language will sink into people’s hearts. Awhile back, a priest at our parish gave a sermon in which he mentioned the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. Afterwards I told him that he should have listed them out. Both adults and kids like to learn about there faith, and it is done through language.

  • http://crisismagazine Robert

    I thought we where to pray to GOD in spirit and truth who IS Spirit and Truth. God knows what we need before we ask .so why the need to be so precise, and as for the shape of the place or workshop ,our souls are where that takes place.

  • rruais

    We cannot argue with the assertion that the liturgy is not all about understanding.
    However, CCC 1070 states,
    “In a liturgical celebration the Church is servant in the image of her Lord, the one “leitourgos”; she shares in Christ’s priesthood (worship) … The liturgy then is rightly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. It involves the presentation of
    man’s sanctification under the guise of signs perceptible by the senses and its accomplishment in ways appropriate to each of these signs. In it full public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and his members.

    And in 1144 “In the celebration of the sacraments it is thus the whole assembly that is leitourgos, each according to his function, but in the “unity of the Spirit” who acts in all. “In liturgical celebrations each person, minister or layman, who has an office to perform, should carry out all and only those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the norms of the liturgy.”

    Please note the use of the word “signs”. As unequal co-liturgists, we do / make signs of worship. Signs without understanding (words) appear as magic. Magic in contrast to the mystical will eventually lead to superstition. Without words and understanding, I am simply a pagan waving my arms, standing, sitting and crossing. However, if I can associate words and meaning to the signs, I begin to have sacramental, signs of some internal meaning.
    We are asked, no, we are commanded to participate in the Mass. If I participate in half,
    signing only, am I fully participating? If I am to participate completely in the liturgy of the Mass, I must understand what I am saying when I sign. Anything less is symbolism without substance.

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