In This Case New Is Better Because It’s Really Old: Vetus Melius Est

The 1973 ICEL so-called “translations” of liturgical Latin, for Mass and the Hours, are gone. Deo Gratias.  The work of the late Father Frederick McManus, founding member of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, is now buried. What would McManus think of this? Well, thirteen months ago, his close friend, Bishop Trautman, of Erie, Pennsylvania, addressed the question of Rome’s revising the ICEL translations and conforming them with the traditional Latin. He said:

The translated texts of the Third Edition of the Missale Romanum must be more than accurate and faithful to the Latin original; they must communicate — they must be intelligible, proclaimable, reflective of a sentence structure, vocabulary and idiom of contemporary American English. The primary purpose of the Missal is to provide spoken and sung prayer texts for the liturgical assembly. If those texts employ lengthy sentences with clauses and dangling participial phrases, comprehension by the assembly will be nearly impossible. If those texts use esoteric words, archaic expressions, technical theological vocabulary, incomplete sentences and Latin syntax in place of English syntax, then we have a translation that is not pastoral — a text that does not promote full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy. The New Missal is intended for public prayer, worship, lifting up the heart and mind to God. People in the pews must own the prayer text, its vocabulary, its style, its idiom, its cadence. The people in the assembly must be able to make the proclaimed prayer their own, and so raise their hearts and minds to God.

Father McManus would surely agree, especially with the supposition, “People in the pews must own the prayer text, its vocabulary, its style, its idiom, its cadence.” Problem is that the “people in the pews” didn’t want to own the prayer text.” They assumed that liturgical prayer was the prayer of the Church; public, yes, but the public prayer of the Church. The laity had never asked for liturgical proprietorship. Nor should they have. That why Jesus established a hierarchy in His Church, to regulate liturgical norms in the light of doctrine and tradition. Lex orandi est lex credendi (The law of praying is the law of believing) The “people in the pews” are taught the Faith and they assent in grace. They do not decide the doctrinal vocabulary and prayer texts.

Latin scholar Jake Tawney has a very good article on this on his website, Roma Locuta Est.

I feel like each Sunday this year presents a funeral of sorts … a passing of Mass texts that will never be heard again.  Rather than mourning this passing, my heart finds solace in the assurance that these texts will rise again in a more perfect form with the “advent” of the new translation.  While we have a full year to pay our respects to the passing Ordinary, there is a rejoicing of sorts that the current Propers have reached the end of the proverbial line: their days are numbered, their time has passed, and blessed be God for that. Read full piece here.