Letter from Fr. Lar O’Connor to the Irish Catholic
WHAT A MISTAKE !
I am becoming more and more annoyed as expensive advertisements for the New Missal arrive in the mail. Having reviewed the text of this document with the most favourable disposition I just cannot imagine how anyone in the English speaking world with a modicum of literary or sonant intelligence could accept it. It is latinized; It is abstract; it is impersonal; it is archaic; it is full of redundant and superfluous language. It will do nothing to bring a modern congregation to life.
The chief problem with the new text is that its basis is very wrong. The basis is the literal translation of the Latin text of the missal into the local vernacular. The proper basis for the translation of any text should be hermeneutic, the accurate interpretation of the narrative in a way that makes it accessible to contemporary generations. By focussing on the Latin translation the Missal ignores the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic subtexts that lie behind our Christian liturgies. In doing so the new translation makes basic mistakes. It returns to “And with your spirit” instead of the now familiar “And with you”. The Hebrew did not have a personal pronoun. So it used the word “spirit” as a substitute. When Jesus used the expression “Into your hands I commit my spirit” he was saying effectively, “Into your hands I commit myself.”Unfortunately the New Missal does not take account of the meaning of the Hebrew/Aramaic original which is far more personal than the latinised text. In the words of consecration over the chalice, “for many” replaces the present translation “for all” in reference to the death of Christ. This does not take account of the ambiguity of the Hebrew original which could be translated as “all” or “many” depending on context. The critical background text is Isaiah 53:12. where rabim (all/many) is always inclusive, understood as “all” in the later Jewish tradition of this text. The new translation seems to threaten the theology of the universal redemption of Christ, in other words, that he died to bring all humankind to salvation.
“Pray brethren that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Almighty Father” is another strange alteration. The placing of “my sacrifice” in first place suggests strongly that the priest’s sacrifice is more important. This contradicts the whole history of sacrifice where the priest offers sacrifice on behalf of the people. It is the people’s sacrifice that matters. Surely “our sacrifice” in the present translation is both adequate and accurate.
If we make a comparison between the old and new we see in some texts how inadequate and awful the new is. We take a sample from Eucharistic Prayer I. The present translation reads: “Almighty God, we pray that your angel may take this sacrifice to your altar in heaven. Then, as we receive form this altar the sacred body and blood of your Son, let us be filled with every grace and blessing.” The new translation reads as follows: In humble prayer, we ask you, almighty God: command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty, so that all of us through this participation at the altar receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing.” What a contrast between the concise and the superfluous!
There is much talk these days about renewal and reform. It is very difficult to bring about positive reform in the best of circumstances. This new missal is not in the realm of reform and renewal. It is both retrograde and backward looking. It may be too late now to prevent this detrimental infliction on the Irish church. But is it ever too late to show guts and make a stand for what is better and more appropriate for our present and future?
Fr. Lar O’Connor P.P.