October 23, 2011
NEW TRANSLATION OF THE MASS, continued. Last week we discussed the changes to the Creed, or Profession of Faith, which basically (except for the ever-changing “Prayer of the Faithful”) is the last part the “Liturgy of the Word.” Now we move into the second major part of the Mass, or the “Liturgy of the Eucharist.”
After the priest has prepared the altar for the offering of the sacrifice, i.e., arranging the Missal, sacred vessels, linens, and the gifts of bread and wine, he then offers the gifts to God, taking first the paten with the host and then the chalice with wine, elevating them toward heaven as he prays the Offertory Prayers.
The new translation (NT) of the first of these, offering the bread, is very similar to the old translation (OT) but reflects a few changes that significantly add to our understanding of the action. While both versions begin, “Blessed are you Lord, God of all creation….,” the next phrase is somewhat altered:
￼￼OT: …Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made…
NT: …for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands …
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼The NT more exactly translates the Latin, and so adds new clarity to the prayer. While in the OT this phrase begins a new sentence, in the NT it is a continuation of the previous sentence, joined to the previous phrase (“Blessed…all creation) by the word “for.” This helps us understand why the Lord is “blessed” (i.e., worthy of supreme worship): the very bread we givetoHim in sacrifice we first “received” from Him. It is confusing in both translation and theology to say “the earth has given,” since the earth is an impersonal instrument and so cannot really “give.” God, who is a real loving person, is the true giver, and as “Lord God of all creation” he creates and gives us first the earth and then its “fruit.” As the OT of Eucharistic Prayer I (the Roman Canon) reminds us: “from the many gifts you have given us, we offer to you, God…”
This is emphasized as the NT says that the bread is the “work of human hands,” while the OT said, “which human hands have made.” This much more accurate translation of the Latin reminds us that God is the true “maker” of the bread (as we pray in the Creed, He is “maker of heaven and earth, of all things…”). At the same time we see that while we “receive” the gift He has made for us, through our “work” we add something of ourselves to it, so that it becomes truly our own, and a symbol of all our work and even of ourselves, which we can then truly give back to Him as a gift. The NT has given us a much different, and more spiritually rich, prayer.
In response to this prayer, if the priest says it out loud, the people still respond: “Blessed be God forever.” Then, after offering the wine and washing his hands the priest turns to the people and says:
￼￼OT: Pray, brethren (brothers and sisters), that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.
NT: Pray, brethren (brothers and sisters), that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.
Here again we find another small but important change. In the Latin the priest refers to “meum ac vestrum sacrificium,” which is properly translated in the NT as “my sacrifice and yours,” rather than the OT’s “our sacrifice.” This subtly reminds us that there are actuallytwosacrifices being offered here: 1)the people’s offering of their own personal sacrifice of themselves (including all their prayers, works and sufferings), and 2) Christ’s own sacrifice of the Cross which the priest offers in persona Christi (“my”). The people’s self-gift (represented by the simple bread and wine, “the work of human hands”) is united to and perfected in Christ’s self-gift to the Father on the Cross in the consecration of the Eucharist.
The people’s response remains mostly unchanged, except for the addition of one word missing from the OT, “holy”: “May the Lord accept …. and the good of all his holy Church.”
Skipping ahead to the “Preface” of the Eucharistic Prayer (we will return later to the “Prayer over the Gifts/Offerings”), we first examine the “Preface dialogue.” Notice, there is no change to the priest’s “side” of the dialogue.
Priest: The Lord be with you.
People: OT: And also with you.
NT: And with your spirit.
￼￼￼￼￼￼Priest: Lift up your hearts.
People: OT and NT: We lift them up to the Lord.
Priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. People:
OT: It is right to give him thanks and praise.
NT: It is right and just.
Latin: Dignum et justum est.
Of course the ubiquitous change “and with your spirit,” which we covered in my Oct. 9 column, is incorporated here. But we also note the change to the final response. The first three words remain the same in the NT as in the OT: “It is right” accurately translates “Dignum…est.” The rest of the response is substantially different, however. “Justum est” means simply “It is just,” not at all meaning “to give him thanks and praise.” This was an easy and necessary change to make, especially given Liturgiam Authenticam’s mandate that “the original text…must be translated …without omissions or additions….” The Latin and NT remind us that justice demands we give the thanks to God that He is due.
￼￼￼￼One small note: while the middle response, “We lift them up to the Lord,” remains literally unchanged, it will be a “practical” for some folks: many people currently respond, mistakenly, “We have lifted them up to the Lord.” I may be mistaken, but I believe this comes from one of the interim translations in use in the 1960s; folks memorized it and it stuck even when it was changed and finalized in the “OT” of 1973. Memorized responses become part of us, and they are hard to change. That’s one reason why I’m so concerned about the implementation of this new translation. But I am convinced that if we know why we are saying different words, we will more eagerly and easily embrace the new translation as our own.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles