Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Consubstantiálem Patri.

This is the first time that I have posted anything on this blog regarding the new English translation of the Roman Missal, which recently came into force in the United Kingdom and will be introduced in Roman Catholic parishes in the United States at the beginning of Advent. One of the aims of the new translation is to make the English text of the Mass more faithful to the Latin of the Missale Romanum; thus, for example, the congregational response Et cum spiritu tuo will now be more accurately rendered in English as "And with your spirit," instead of "And also with you," while the English rendering of the Creed's affirmation that Christ is consubstantiálem Patri will shift from the current "one in being with the Father" to the more precise "consubstantial with the Father."

How will the new translation be received by the people in the pews? I am sure that the changes will take some getting used to, but I hope that many Roman Catholics will take the opportunity to engage with the text of the liturgy in more deliberate and intentional way and thereby come to a deeper understanding of their faith. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

The opportunity for engagement that I suggest above is one that is available to practicing Catholics of all ages - not simply to mature and seasoned churchgoers, but also (and perhaps especially) to the young, who should be able to approach the new translation without the baggage and hang-ups of their change-averse elders. Consider this anecdote provided by Father Tim Finigan, a parish priest in the London suburb of Blackfen, on his blog The Hermeneutic of Continuity:
The mother of a young family was talking to me today about the new translation of the Mass. She said that her children have really latched onto the word "consubstantial" and look forward to it in the Creed. They were disappointed last week because we did not say the Creed at the school Mass (it was a weekday).

I know that the younger ones may not yet understand what the word means. They probably like it because it is a long word that is difficult to say and to spell, and there is a sense of achievement in getting it right so that they can say it at Mass (actuosa participatio n'est-ce pas?). With that enthusiasm, it is quite likely that when they are old enough to understand a little trinitarian theology, they will be keen to know exactly what "consubstantial" means.

It is not a good idea to shield children from difficult words. Better that they know them and are fascinated by them and then learn more about them as they grow older.
As I look forward to the introduction of the new translation of the Roman Missal in the United States, I pray that many adults can learn from the example of the children that Father Finigan mentions. May the awe and enthusiasm of children discovering exciting new words help Catholics of all ages come to a fuller understanding of the mysteries of faith. AMDG.


At 3/17/2012 4:01 PM, Anonymous jmorley@wcs.org said...

I studied both classics and theology at Fordham Graudate Arts and Sciences and still believe that the art of translation includes being comprehensible. Why change "one in being" to "consubstantial" a word which almost no one uses and implies a concept of being in or with (con = cum) substance for Jesus the Son and God the Father which, as Jesus was man, he was most surely not.

Too many of the linguistic changes to the mass seem to be awkard -- was it really necessary to change "all things seen and unseen" admittedly a poetic rendition of Visibílium ómnium et invisibílium - to all things visible and invisible - come on, this is not first year latin class.

Finally, as long as there seems to be a wish to revisit the text perhaps we should revisit the insertion of "filioque" and "deum de deo" into the original latin rendition of the greek proceedings of the Council of Nicea?

At 3/19/2012 8:41 PM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...

Mr. Morley,

You raise a number of issues of admittedly significant theoretical interest, but for the moment I'll simply say that, taken as a whole, I find the new translation far better than the text it replaced. There are things in the new translation that I don't like, just as there were some thinks in the old translation that I did like, but on balance I prefer the new one because I find its elevated tone to be more aesthetically appealing as well as more appropriate to the liturgy than the old text ever was.


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