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Using poor language in the liturgy


New Mass TranslationThe most pressing issue for the Church over the last year has been sexual abuse. Given the Royal Commission and other enquiries, it will surely also dominate this year's news. So it is understandable that there has been no space to celebrate such anniversaries as that of the introduction of the New Mass Translation. But this bears reflection because language is the underlying canvas on which life and conduct in any community are painted.

One year on it is clear that the more dramatic hopes and fears about the new translation were not realised. There were no reports of widespread rebellion in the pews, of continuing cacophony as different versions of responses mingled, of mass defection.

But nor has the introduction of the new translation been accompanied by the great spiritual renewal, the fresh understanding of the liturgy and the heightened sensitivity to scriptural echoes within the liturgy that some promised. The reverence and sense of transcendence claimed for the translation seem to have been perceived by few of those exposed to it. Nor has it changed the way in which people conduct themselves in church.

The lack of spectacular consequence is hardly surprising. Few people attend church services simply for the beauty of the language. Their faith is more deeply grounded and has endured worse challenges. The ways in which they engage with the liturgy, combining variously participation in a ritual duly conducted, identification with a community gathered in prayer, space for personal prayer and reflection, and presence to memories and hopes, are unlikely to be touched substantially by a change in wording only half attended to.

Nevertheless, the new translation is important because it will shape in small ways the sense of what it means to be Catholic. It is hard to see that it will be helpful in the longer run. Any change from the familiar to the new inevitably makes new boundaries. In this case it divides regular participants who are familiar with the new responses from occasional church goers who are rendered silent. Such discriminations are not helpful at a time when links with the Church are already so strained.

But perhaps the more important challenge facing any community is to find words that its members can identify and own. In many churches, such as the Greek and Russian Orthodox, this language is associated with their national and cultural history. Even though the liturgical language is archaic and is not understood by many hearers, its resonances have been incorporated into common language and people see it as their own.

The same was perhaps true of Anglican liturgy, when the language of Cranmer and of the King James Bible, brought together the memory and the experience of a people.

Certainly the language of liturgy needs to have purchase in the world of its time. It need not be demotic — the language of the King James Version was deliberately remote in its formality, but it was what people might imagine the speech of kings to be. Kingship was a central fact of Jacobean life, and its language could be stretched to other forms of communication.

Similarly, the language of the recently superseded English translation was deliberately plain, aiming at the rhythms and clarity of ordinary speech. Plain and sparse speech is part of our everyday life from newspapers to government forms. We can imagine it being stretched to become, if inadequately, the language of love, grief, passion, contemplation, and declamation. It is grounded in both senses of the word, but it could be given wings.

The experience of most Catholic celebrants is that the language of the new translation is not grounded. It is self-referential in that it belongs to no living part of our world. It suits neither prayer nor declamation nor passion nor love, nor wonder. To be understood it needs adaptation, but even then it remains ungrounded in any shared discourse. That of course is not the fault of the translators, but reflects their riding instructions.

This malady is not fatal. But at a time when Christians increasingly experience a gap between faith and their world, a language of liturgy that is disconnected from the ways in which people can speak about things that matter puts unnecessary lead in the Catholic saddlebag. 

Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street


Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, liturgy translation



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Existing comments

Thanks Andrew the only comment I can think of is "Have the numbers in the pews gone up or frther down in the last 12 months?

bill spillane | 17 January 2013  

I would suggest there is a revolution going on in Catholicism. Not by rioting in the streets or firing guns into the air as in the Arab Spring. Catholics see the futility of this violence. They simply walk away from an institution that is becoming increasingly irrelevant, answering questions that nobody is asking, dealing with issues that people have long resolved. The two issues that are most troublesome for the Church today are the two issues withdrawn from the Council's agenda and reserved to the Vatican, Clerical celibacy, and human sexuality. Catholics are rebelling in the only way possible, and that is to just walk away from the Church they once loved because it seems to them it is now irrelevant and incompetent to deal with the pressing issues of life. The Church's record of dealing with the real core issues of sexual abuse in the Church is damning for most Catholics. They are simply walking away and finding life elsewhere.

John Dobson | 17 January 2013  

If this "new" translation is so important to our lived faith experience, why was the allegedly inferior translation, which most of us loved, allowed to drag on for so long? Why have those who purport to be our leaders not apologised for this? I suspect the answer is that the taliban are using the "new" translation as a means of dragging us back to a pre-Vatican II way of doing things, and that the next item on the agenda is a return to Latin.

Peter Downie | 17 January 2013  

Invariably, as our congregation stands to affirm our faith by reciting the Apostles Creed, our minister challenges us: "if you mean these words say them with conviction." And in doing so, we are acknowledging God's grasp on culture. After the service, we go out into the world again and interact with culture. And, for my part, experience the ongoing struggle, and sometime joy, of that interaction.

Pam | 17 January 2013  

As a pewsider regularly attending Sunday Mass for more than seven decades may I ‘graciously’ agree with this article? The language of the New Translation has made no difference to my Faith or spiritual renewal, nor perhaps was that the intention to do otherwise of those who fought so hard to introduce the change. It seems to me that the long and sometimes bitter history of the now successful battle to ‘reform’ the liturgy demonstrates that regaining power and achieving greater control of the participants were the motivating factors of the change makers. When I pray “and with your spirit”, or ‘blood shed for many’, for example, I am drawn more into the world of Church politics than to a sense of reverence and transcendence. That may change before the ‘dewfall’, or at least before I die. .

Brian | 17 January 2013  

Andrew how very true. I've yet to respond to people who wish me well with , "and with your spirit" and I certainly don't think of myself as having a "roof". It is so sad because the translation prepared by the Australian Liturgical Commission was so meaningful.

Phil van Brunschot (Mrs) | 17 January 2013  

Andrew's article reminds me of an incident during World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008. I fell into a conversation with a stranger on a crowded train about the state of the church. This is not the usual conversation provoked by Sydney public transport but there we were. He said that he was most troubled by abuse. I was inclined to agree until, after a time, I realised he meant liturgical abuse. He was off to join a Latin mass, the only form of worship he believed that was 'abuse-proof.' I was off to the city with 35 terrific teenagers, full of questions. We were, indeed, on parallel tracks. A N Wilson wrote of Ronald Knox that his discovery of Catholicism was about 'a systematic exclusion of experience.' The revised liturgy is a bit like that.

Michael McGirr | 17 January 2013  

The strange disjunction in this essay is between Andrew’s belief that “language is the underlying canvas on which life and conduct in any community are painted” and his admission that liturgy in Catholic worship is “only half attended to.” One has to wonder what kind of community we have in which some of the most important language we can use is simply a formality that we are not connected to. The problem seems to be not just about a retrogressive English of reintroduced Latinisms, but about the way in which liturgical language binds together and affirms the faith of those who use that language. A need to maintain traditional forms has taken precedence over the courage of the liturgists to use their own English wisely and well. Which brings us to Cranmer. The Anglican Prayer Book and the King James Bible are sometimes idolised as great works of English, but their actual purpose was to present prayer and Scripture in a way that connected with all people and could be used with ease and comprehension. This is the basis on which new revisions are formed and we find that there is very little in the way of straying in traditional Anglican worship today from the spirit of Cranmer and his confreres. At the heart of this discussion is English itself. While the Orthodox use language that has stood for centuries, at the Reformation the Western Church divided into those who wanted the vernacular and Rome, which opted for various historical reasons to stay with Latin. That choice remains the sticking point to this day, with a Catholic Church that cannot countenance 400 years of the best liturgical English as used by the Anglicans


Reading Dr Hamilton's typically measured essay has encouraged me to return to the December 14 issue of "The Times Literary Supplement", in which that paper's Religion Editor, Rupert Shortt (who is also a Visiting Fellow of Blackfriars Hall in Oxford) reviewed "The New CTS Sunday Missal". Shortt recapitulated the authoritarian and bruising history of this new translation. He recalled Bishop Maurice Taylor's description -- "a disciplinary Exocet missile" -- of the "extreme and astonishing" instruction of Cardinal Medina, the non-English-speaking Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship (and factional ally of Benedict XVI) that the project of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), to enhance the 1973 translation should be abandoned entirely. This was hardly likely to achieve a spiritually or aesthetically satisfying outcome! Shortt summarised the new translation as "a work with some virtues but profound flaws", with "a good deal of clumsiness" and, importantly, a return in places to "a more exclusivist understanding of salvation". It seems to represent a victory for the Pope's view that it is the translator's task (in Shortt's words) "to suggest the flavour of the original. But the importance of that "flavour" is not absolute: with texts it differs for scholars, for example, compared with those who would speak and hear it week after week as part of liturgical activity sand participation. In this sense, "Traditionalists" -- and we're all that to varying degrees in our quotidian lives -- need to recall that those largely baroque "originals" were written by human theologians and liturgists, to serve theological and contemporary imperatives, with largely uneducated (and scarcely participatory) congregations). Part of the problem which both Shortt and Hamilton seek to respond to is a persistence, in the Catholic church, of an aristocratic power-elite for whom trappings seem more important than substance; where archaic formulations (whether in elegant Latin or its maladriit Anglicisation) have a fundamental -- almost sui generis -- superiority over the potency of direct and personal experience. What effect might this abuse of power have? Shortt reminded his readers that Dr Ratzinger was one of those who -- despite the profound simultaneous changes in education, communications and the greater understanding of science, to mention only a few -- believed that it was the loss of the Latin Rite, as a result of the reforms of Vatican II, that led to the extraordinary decline in church attendance during the final decades of the last century. Whatever the real reason for that socio-ecclesial change, it seems difficult to believe that the result which Medina and Benedict have achieved will alter that reality; but it will persistently affront the sensibilities of many who dutifully persist in their church attendance.

Dr John CARMODY | 17 January 2013  

I am one of the "regulars" who has been rendered mute of recent times. I am a member of one of the largest multi-cultural parishes in Australia and I can't help wondering what the wonderful devout people around me each week make of this archaic, incomprehensible jargon we are forced to endure....

Graham Quinlivan | 17 January 2013  

Thank you Andrew for keeping this important issue on the agenda. The new translation is a pastoral tragedy and a liturgical disaster. As you point out, it is an obstacle, not a help, to prayer. In the way it was conjured up, and in the damage it is doing in the English-speaking world, the new translation is a betrayal of the vision of Vatican II. I have added your article to a growing file of articles about the horrors of the new translation at http://www.v2catholic.com/johnw/2012/2012-11-19the-new-translation.htm

John Wotherspoon | 17 January 2013  

Is the language of the new translation, new? I think not. As Andrew Hamilton says, "Iit is self referential". That term identifiably refers, not to the body of churchgoers - the Church community, but to the Hierarchy, who once again have misread the Signs of the Times, and through their wilful ignorance, have applied abstractions and mystique to what should be ordinary, familiar, easy to relate to and expressive of ordinary human emotions. When will they learn!

Shirley McHugh | 17 January 2013  

I agree with Graham. Not only is our parish diverse, but many are newly arrived migrants from non English speaking backgrounds. There is also a proportion who are not tertiary educated. Language is meant to facilitate access, but to my deepest dismay, the language of the revised liturgy is exclusionary and isolating. Some of the meaning that I took from the words, and which shaped my faith, has been subverted: the communal 'we' into the individualistic 'I', the wholistic 'you' to the reductive 'spirit'.

Fatima Measham | 17 January 2013  

Phil van Brunschot (Mrs), You may wish to read, for a deeper understanding of the word "roof" in Matthew 8:5-13, the centurion, a Roman officer over one hundred soldiers, came to Jesus and implored Him concerning one of his servants (Greek pais, a male or female child), a paralytic, who was suffering greatly. Jesus agreed to go to the man’s house and heal this servant. The centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my "roof". But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, "Go," and he goes; and to another, "Come," and he comes; and to my servant, "Do this," and he does it."This man understood the power and authority of spoken commands, and believed that all Jesus had to do was to "speak a word" and the power of the Lord's word would heal the servant. Jesus was impressed, and commented to those who were following Him that He hadn't witnessed this kind of "faith" among those who should have had faith. "I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!" Jesus then told the centurion, "Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you." The servant was immediately healed.

Bernstein | 17 January 2013  

Language matters; words matter. Words' meaning, sound, the manner of their grouping, the user's humanity, knowledge and heart which informs their connection, are the crucial sculptors of our lives. At 17 I was entranced by the Latin words and medieval liturgy of the Catholic church. I was then led to its deeper meaning by the revered Father Lachal SJ. After 35 years, suddenly, surprisingly and without any spiritual crisis, my connection with the church slid off me like a mantle. This may have happened because of some of the unworthy changes within the church...a shallow reason, but possible. It is sad to hear of a "New Mass" which "suits neither prayer nor declamation nor passion nor love, nor wonder." Where, then, is the Christ and His message if passion and love are secondary to Papal rulings?

Caroline Storm | 17 January 2013  

Andy, thanks for opening up this timely discussion. While questioning the timing of the introduction of the new translation of the missal given there seemed so many other areas of Church life that could have done with at least a similar level of attention, like many of the People of God I “sucked it up”. I attend Eucharist regularly and try really hard to pray the new prayers of the liturgy with an open heart but there are chunks of it that still stick in my craw. What many women found disturbing about the new missal was its absence of gender-inclusive language. For example the use of the male pronoun in the Eucharistic prayer “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. The origins of this can be found in Psalm 118. In my NRSV bible it reads “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord”. As followers of Christ we are all called to be “the one who comes in the name of the Lord”, irrespective of our gender. When we participate in the Eucharist we are becoming part of the Body of Christ. Christ’s gender has nothing to do with His Christ-likeness. When you use non-inclusive language when referring to God, the perceived sub-text is that only males can be fully Christ-like. This is accentuated in an egalitarian society like Australia where almost all of our contemporary secular texts are required to be gender-inclusive. It is the only kind of text a whole generation (Gen Y) of women and girls have been exposed to so when they attend Mass, the language adds to many younger women’s sense of alienation and exclusion from participating fully in the liturgy. The absence of women in processions and on the sanctuary doesn’t help this much either. One thing I do like about the new translation of the missal is the expression “It is right and just”. Is it right and just to continue to exclude the experience and participation of women in the Eucharist in this day and age?

Donella Johnston | 17 January 2013  

Honestly, the Anglo-centrism here just makes me cringe. Polish people have been saying "and with your spirit" ever since the Mass went into the vernacular. As have the Italians. And I presume, so have people from other non-English speaking countries whose translations were rendered more faithfully to the original than ours. The old English translation was out of step with the rest of the world. Finally, we've come in line with the universal church. At last!

Meg | 17 January 2013  

Some of the language is simply very poor English usage - Fowler would be spinning in his grave. But what of the flamin' hymns we have had to endure since the great VatII reforms? Not the sort of musical experience that lifts the human spirit as did the magnificent music of the Masses written by the grand composers. The sung Mass rather than the spoken word was in far greater need of revision methinks.

john frawley | 17 January 2013  

you are ever so nice, Andrew, and most probably sincerely so in reference to this botch up of language that has no small role in formulating the spiritual constructs we establish in our lives. It is an ideological driven botch up, the official dictates emerging from 'the house of riding instructions' that seems to be getting more and more out of touch with the pew people who have been so often nobbled with the 'pay and pray' restrictions of being of the Church. 'How much did all this cost?' is often a query that rises from the pew people. I think their sensitivities belie doubts about this linguistic venture, expressed in a monetary concern yet sadly I think the cost goes much further than pecuniary interests. As to the laity not revolting, that indeed could be part of a systemic issue that also underlies the botch up.

Paul Goodland | 17 January 2013  

As a mere garden variety diocesan P.P. I take some exception to Andrew's view that the new translation has been accepted without revolt. Yes most priests are obsequiously compliant with the new prayers and the regular attendees at mass pray and sort of obey according to script. Outside this the greater majority of catholics use the church for their own purposes hardly noticing that the double dutch has now tripled. So the roman show goes on and we wil have to suck it up. I for one cannot in good conscience say such appalling prayers, so replete with negative deity to be appeased with toadying praises, bare faced flattery and unctuous piety. yes there is a crisis in our church re sexual abuse but this crisis is part of a greater crisis of misuse of power and authority all so evident in all the mendacity and cavalier coercion employed to bed this translation down. Those who claim this liturgy beautifies the liturgy and advances faith are deluded. Ironically once the elders are gone and the new zealots left to their ghettos there will remain liturgical vandalism and enduring obstacles to faith.

Vincent Jewell | 17 January 2013  

Phil van Brunschot (Mrs), in Matthew 8:5-13, the centurion, a Roman officer over one hundred soldiers, came to Jesus and implored Him concerning one of his servants (Greek pais, a male or female child), a paralytic, who was suffering greatly. Jesus agreed to go to the man’s house and heal this servant. The centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my "roof". But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, "Go," and he goes; and to another, "Come," and he comes; and to my servant, "Do this," and he does it."This man understood the power and authority of spoken commands, and believed that all Jesus had to do was to "speak a word" and the power of the Lord's word would heal the servant. Jesus was impressed, and commented to those who were following Him that He hadn't witnessed this kind of "faith" among those who should have had faith. "I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!" Jesus then told the centurion, "Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you." The servant was immediately healed.

Bernstein | 17 January 2013  

Please excuse the dog-English of my manufacturing world: 'If it ain't broke, don't mess with it!' Like many, I was not enthused about changing the English language of the Mass but, in accord with Andrew's general observations, the change was not sufficient reason to withdraw from attending Mass. For me, the meanings of the words used matters more than the quality of language spoken. Earlier I have expressed concern about the change from 'will be shed for all' to 'will be shed for many'. Now 12 months on, with that change now firmly entrenched, a question: Who is excluded? For whom was Christ's blood NOT shed?

Ian Fraser | 17 January 2013  

Andrew, there won't be a cacophony of language variations in the pews if only those in agreement with the archaic translation remain. I am grateful that you have raised this issue again. It is on my mind also. Language forms us, and usually we form language to reflect the current relevant parlance, but unfortunately in this case, only a few have formed the liturgical language. I would like to believe that it doesn't matter but my own history tells me it matters a great deal what we say to each other. God is in our midst and even in the new liturgy calling us to listen to our consonance and dissonance. Responsibility demands that we are not silent. Thank you.

Marlene Marburg | 17 January 2013  

The "gap" is less between the"faith and (their) world" as between the claimed Authority declaring these changes and the believers required to accept its imposition.In a word, consultation based upon discerning trust of such members.I say "claimed" becasue Authority it is but ratified by emancipated believers? Not sure!

Peter Wearne | 17 January 2013  

I suggest that there are many who are very disappointed with the new translation but this disappointment is so overshadowed by the much greater grief and disappointment with the Church hierarchy on matters such as its handling of Child Abuse, a lack of true self reflection and the lack of transparency and justice in its processes for disciplining dissident voices male and female that there is a sad resignation to the so called new translation.

Brendan McCarthy | 17 January 2013  

If the new translation reveals 'Christian' thinking as distinct from ''Catholic' then the words serve well.

Helen Martin | 17 January 2013  

To stay with your analogy Andrew ,the problem is the chief Steward gave riding instructions to worldwide local jockeys (eg ACBC ) to deny any liability towards abuse victims and the only one( Bishop Bill M ) who rode for a win for the abused (as Andy Regan did on Father Rileys Horse )was scratched by a corrupt Steward (Cardinal Chaput ). Yet they expect us to accept the reported $ 40 /copy of the laminated race program.

john kersh | 17 January 2013  

I can only remain silent whilst the English language is so abused by the current abuse of the lexicon and the sounds and rhythms of our language at mass. The high point for me is when the priest seriously intones the prayer for us to remember those "who have gone to sleep . . " without realising the irony that the sleepers are there in front of him, having tuned out to communicate with God in a far more appropriate language.

Timothy | 17 January 2013  

Thanks Andrew, Brian and Michael. You've hit the nail on the head. "...it divides regular participants who are familiar with the new responses from occasional church goers who are rendered silent. Such discriminations are not helpful at a time when links with the Church are already so strained." As a regular mass attendee, I can say that the new translation has not made me feel any more or less reverent than before. Sometimes it makes me feel self-conscious. As you say, Andrew, when there are people in the congregation who are not regular attendees, it divides me from them, as if I am somehow holier than them. As for deep bowing and striking my breast at the prescribed point in time, I leave that up to those who can manage to mean it reverently.

Susan | 17 January 2013  

YES! Thank you, Andrew. Judging by the comments on your article, the New Mass translation is still a sore point with many. And I will continue to stage my own private and inefficient protest by keeping my mouth shut at the offending words!

glen avard | 17 January 2013  

If my memory serves me correctly, the Latin Mass.'Dominus vobiscum.' 'et sum spiritu tuo' and 'Credo in unum Deum partrem omnipotentem..." have been translated into English to provide the current liturgy. I liked the latin better particularly as the missal provided an english translation.

RDM | 17 January 2013  

Thanks again, Andrew, for the clarity and insight you bring to such matters - and warm thanks to the many who've shared insights and experience. As a long-term Catholic, grounded, I like to think, in a lifelong experience of the grace and healing that can be in Church liturgy, I agree totally: "the new translation is NOT grounded ... and suits neither prayer not declamation nor passion nor love." Parishioners in my neck of the woods are pretty loyal and submissive. But it's sexist, disjointed, clumsy... and imposed in such an authoritarian way, I say. It seems to me a betrayal of God's Spirit within us, and within our church, when we simply submit to this nonsense!

Brian Gagen | 17 January 2013  

To Meg: Really it does not matter whether the Italians and the Poles say "and with your spirit" to us English speakers. What offends is the reversion back to the clunky awful direct translation of the Tridentine Mass (shades of 1964). This does not put us in line with the "universal church" (which after all includes non-Catholic Christians as well). Bernstein: Thanks for the extended quotation from Matthew. Does this prove that we will not be healed if the centurion's prayer is not repeated in its (reported) entirety? I doubt it. Glen Avard: Quite so; agree that inappropriate/superfluous/offending words are better left unsaid. God is still listening!

JR | 17 January 2013  

Frankly i always wondered whether it was a political move to put the yanks in their place. Was the Latin American translator a non-speaker of any of the languages involved?

hilary | 17 January 2013  

SOLUTION: Just sing everything! (The Mass is meant to be a great dramatic opera/musical - not a dirge that's mumbled or chanted monotonously) Let's get Andrew Lloyd Webber in to jazz it up a bit!

AURELIUS | 17 January 2013  

If I may inject a bit of trivia, the bit that annoys me most is 'in a similar way' instead of 'in the same way'. In my opinion the latter is the correct translation; the former is used because the word 'similar' is a direct descendant of the Latin word. Another one: I have been unable to find justification (from Latin grammars I have looked at) for translating 'Dominus vobiscum' as 'The Lord be with you' instead of 'The Lord is with you'.

Gavan | 17 January 2013  

Thanks for revisiting this, Andy. Heartily endorse Dr Carmody's comments and Rupert Shortt's analysis. We have been rendered mute at many points of the new transliteration (it is not a translation), because it jars and offends. What is regrettable and sad is that the responses of the congregation are less audible and more hesitant; the congregations have further shrunk; and this for the non-consulting patriarchy to score another Pyrrhic victory on their side of the moat.

Gerard | 17 January 2013  

...and so say all of us!!

Trish taylor | 17 January 2013  

I think the problem is that there is a lack of understanding amongst laypeople about what the Mass is. And I think the new translation certainly makes it clearer (though the grammar and syntax doesn't roll off the tongue in some places!) I love "And with your spirit" because it reminds me that Mass involves participation in something outside the material world. I love "under my roof" because its a scriptural reference uniting my unworthiness to the centurion's. I love that instead of "This is" it's "Behold" - sounds much more worthy for the Lord as the Eucharist rather than "This is". I don't see the new translation as self-referential. I think the old one was, but the new one is directs ourselves more to God, emphasising that transcendence away from ourselves and towards the Eucharistic banquet, and the Holy Sacrifice. Being a young Catholic, I like the new translation because it doesn't talk down to me or patronise me. I actually think more deeply about these prayers said in Mass now. Full, active and conscious participation as Vatican II says can be found easily in the pew as on the sanctuary.

Adrian | 17 January 2013  

In our parish, many Italians (some who came to the parish in the fifties) have always used Italian for responses while the rest of us used English. Since the change, despite the teaching efforts of our Parish Priest, Italian is blended with both translations. Many frequent Mass goers simply are simply ignoring the new translation.

Margaret McDonald | 17 January 2013  

JR, In good speaking, should not the mind of the speaker know the truth of the matter about which he is to speak? Plato

Bernstein | 17 January 2013  

I too, like Glen Avard, am now mute in my responses. But I'm not at all gracious about it.

Terry McKiterick | 17 January 2013  

I could go on and on about the translation. Three points suffice: 1) How much more powerful is it to stand in a like-minded group and proclaim "WE believe...";

2) When the celebrant says "..for many.." just who is it who missed out if it is not for all?

3)Like many others, I still refuse to say that convoluted word in the Creed and say for all to hear, "..of one being.."

Petre R Kenny - Toowoomba | 17 January 2013  

"The experience of most Catholic celebrants"?? Again Fr H, I plead for solid, scientific, analysed, survey of "most celebrants"[with ethnic variables:USA/GB/EIRE etc] before Fr H gratuitously speaks for most priests in the english-speaking world,he requires,demanding, extensive, researched conclusions.

Father John George | 17 January 2013  

I've tried to resist feeling alienated and irritated by the new translation, tried to be open to finding the supposed deeper meaning - but I just don't get it. One example: how are we supposed to explain to primary school children about Jesus going to hell in the new Creed? I'm in my 50s and this is certainly news to me. Mass now entails a ridiculous juxtaposition of happy-clappy 'hymns' and this archaic, sometimes scary language.

Deb Fox | 17 January 2013  

Andrew Hamilton writes beautifully about language. His prose blends humour with an urbane mixture of: simile, metaphor and a little hyperbole. He understands language... probably helped by a a dose of classical education The language of the Mass is like his writing, it too should be beautiful , inspiring and leading us to a higher level of expression and thought, not following along behind for fear of being un-appreciated by the less 'willing'. Should public language not be exceptional. The Roman's and Greek's thought so! Why can we not use exceptional, inspiring language, in public acts , like liturgry? Why should all language be reduced to the vulgar.. the common tonuge. Surely liturgy is meant to lift us to the Divine Action, it is not meant to take us down and leave us on the street as if nothing had happened. Language encapsulates the transcendence of God.. the arcaneness of God. Litrugical language should boldly go, leading into pray and contemplation between the terrestrial and celestial. This is the role of language in the Mass. Let's have inspiring language, not the dribble given to us in 1970. Our western heritage, crafted and protected by the Church is built on beautiful language,producing exceptional art, vocal and instrumental music. Would we have seen Mozart, Bach, Palestrina, El Greco, Titian and all the Velazquezes if the language of liturgy had been vulgarized 500 years ago? I think not! Language has been central to the flourishing and survival of the Church. It drew people to the Church, kept them there. The loss of beautiful language has heralded the loss of the faithful. Banal language has and continue to, drive people away: it's boring, lifeless and atrocious. It's not just sex scandal, secularism and the age we live in that has decimated the Church.. language has played a large subliminal part. The numbers speak! The language of which Mr Hamilton writes, this regular, vulgar, inclusive language has not inspired the man on the street into the Church- he remains where he was prior to 1970.. on the street. But alas he has been joined by many ex-Catholics.

Paul Gerard | 17 January 2013  

The former translation was largely accepted by other Christian Denominations and was a force for good in the area of ecumenism. Were any of these churches consulted for this new effort?

Paul Meagher | 17 January 2013  

I suggest the problem of the "new translation" is the better English spoken or written is in a lilting sense of dialogue called Prayer. What the Priest lacks in delivery is perhaps Dobsons observation of people walking away... I would say the Teachers of the Christian Faith have failed. The Liturgy is Drama. The "Sermons" are so reflective of a lack of Prayer Life...for what you don't have, you can't give. The Music we have is simply Childish words and rhythms and are now even more irrelevant to setting the words of the "new" translation to music.

Francis Douglas | 17 January 2013  

Perhaps there is no apparent 'widespread rebellion in the pews' because the issue of this new translation, is to many, ridiculous, embarrassing, ( in the time and money spent) and a complete non event. Why do we suddenly say "I" believe, when we are supposed to be the 'people' of God,. The collective pronoun ''we'' is used at other times during the Mass. It dose not make sense to me! Their are many other issues for me, but ho!hum!...other things more important . I for one, and may be for many, stay with the words I love.

bernie introna | 17 January 2013  

Yes I agree Andrew. As a lay Catholic, I have adapted to the language I must use in my responses. However, I sympathise for what the poor priests have to say. The language of the new English translation is archaic and clumsy. It is not easy to follow, so I must concentrate closely and even then, it is difficult. It is certainly an obstacle to understanding the Mass, at least for any children still attending.

Frank S | 17 January 2013  

I think that most people just ignore it and just 'put up' with it. It is sad that the church itself does not understand what. It means to be church - to be a 'people of God' bound together. I spent 2.5 years in Kiribati as a volunteer with the Catholic mission there. One thing that helped me learn their language was their words for the mass. The translations even brought me to a new understanding of the words themselves ( the Holy Spirit is translated literally as 'the picture/ reflection of goodness) so the relationship with God is even more apparent. As long as the church structures continue to ignore the bigger issues like The dignity of all people, in favour of focussing on superficial experience such as the translation of the mass, people will continue to leave in search of a more authentic experience of community, just put up wit h it because they know it doesn't really matter anyway, or revel in the fact that the captain has turned the ark around and is heading for a distant past that most of us have transcended. Heaven help us.

Judith Hurley | 18 January 2013  

Excellent article and very heartening set of readers' comments. "Do you hear the people sing?"

Jim Jones | 18 January 2013  

Well, yesterday I tried to do a phone poll of a some of Catholic English speaking celebrants to provide some scientific research on this matter at the suggestion of FATHER JOHN GEORGE, but I could not find "FATHER JOHN GEORGE" in any list of ordained Catholic celebrants.

AURELIUS | 18 January 2013  

I like the new collects

Adrian | 18 January 2013  

Talk about history repeating itself. I can remember comments such as these being used to critique the the English Mass at the changeover rom the Latin in the late 1960's. Thirty-nine years of that (1968) translation, it's a short time really, but these comments seem to put it in league with the Latin text of Mass which was in common use - and part of the 'sensibilities' of Catholics for over four hundred years. Fr Andrew, nice try to curry up continued doom and gloom about the new translation, I'm hopefully going to wait for at least ten before I offer an opinion.

Fr Mick Mac Andrew | 18 January 2013  

It must be very difficult to be around Petre Kenny at Mass in Toowoomba while she bellows "for all to hear" her own personal responses. She may not feel very consubstantial, but she sure is not building unity in the pews around her.

Dennis Carroll | 18 January 2013  

'The flesh is flesh though dressed in silk.'

Mark | 18 January 2013  

It has been mentioned in a previous comment: this translation now sticks to the wording in use in non English speaking countries. I am originally French, never had issues to follow a mass in Spanish, Italian, even Croatian, but always was unsure wether I was in the right place when it came to a liturgy in English language. In non English speaking countries, we don't have any reference to Anglican liturgy so I always wondered wether I was mistaken and in the wrong place... We usually associated old school English with monarchy ad therefore with anglicanism. I am certainly not saying this was right, i'm just trying to show you my confusion. The new translation just puts you in line with the rest of the roman catholic church. Having said that it must be distressful as for a lot of us wordings were learned in childhood and any change brings confusion. For instance the credo used to bring me confusion whereas the new translation strictly sticks to the French version I know, so I can imagine how distressful it can feel the other way round....

Berengere | 18 January 2013  

Judith Hurley’s experiences on Kiribati (“One thing that helped me learn their language was their words for the mass”) reminds me of the 16th century transformation of worship that happened in English churches when the language changed to English. To call a prayerbook one of Common Prayer was no idle claim. The common experience of English usage inside church helped in the formation of modern English. Indeed, the language of the BCP was used more often and familiarly by the people than any other text, and I include in that list such monolithic sources as Shakespeare. For Anglicans, to worship in English is the norm. This is why Anglicans look at this internal Catholic debate with some amazement, and not a little dismay. To judge by many of these blogs, English is still not treated as the norm for many worshippers today in a Catholic church. Resistance to the language change in the sixties was widespread, for varying reasons. Many Catholics have found it hard to adapt to changes that many of them did not agree with in the first place. Blogs here show that the recent overhaul of the liturgy (Vatican approved) is full of English that is not common English in any way. I have even heard remarks over time that one reason why people didn’t like the new English versions forty years ago was because for the first time they actually understood what the words meant, and were less than enthused. They wanted the ‘mystery’ of the Latin, even if it meant not knowing what was really being said half the time. Both the revisers themselves and those who must follow the new Catholic liturgies are caught in a dispiriting and fractious debate about language and practice because no one can agree about what is ‘common prayer’. Another reality of Tudor and Stuart England that is different from today, of course, is that everyone (almost, not the recusants) heard and used the words on a regular basis, and knew what the words meant.


Bernstain, it is best not to confuse truth with literalism.

JR | 18 January 2013  

Having grown up in the German speaking World, I was used to what we now call the new english translation. I always felt it was stupid, vernacular at its worst and a literal latin translation. However, when I came to Australia, I was very happy to find an easily understandable, meaningful and prayerful liturgy. Pity we had a German Pope who felt our praying was wanting! I am still saying the old responses, and I am sure God will understand my prayer. A seminary rector said not so long ago "Our faith does not mean assent to a list of tenets, our faith is a person: Jesus Christ". As for Andrew's article - it is certainly thought provoking.

Peter M | 18 January 2013  

JR, ... As you have believed, so let it be done for you?

Bernstein | 18 January 2013  

As I read the comments I couldn't help remembering that the Greek of the New Tastament was not Classical Greek. It wasa koine or common.

Bee Jay | 18 January 2013  

I usually forget to take the new responses to Mass, and end up answering the old ones, or not at all.

Anonymous | 18 January 2013  

It is best not to confuse truth with literalism.

zacharymackenzie2@gmail.com | 18 January 2013  

What WERE they thinking? What a waste of money and resources that could have been better used elsewhere.

John Morris | 18 January 2013  

Paul Meagher I agree about the ecumenism aspect. When I attended a service in the Anglican tradition as I do frequently, I felt sad that the new language of the Mass had moved us further away from our fellow Christians
And wondered if this was intentional.

Elizabeth Mulrennan | 18 January 2013  

I returned to the Catholic church just over a year ago to find the words I grew up with and knew so well were muddled or gone. Try as I might, I fail to see how the changes made better reflect my faith or experience of liturgy. Andrew, your final paragraph captures my dismay for the broader Catholic community. I sincerely hope that future revisions will inspire faith...

Sharon | 18 January 2013  

John Morris wonders what happened. It has been quite easy to follow the tribulations of ICEL over the past few years by reading the pages of The Tablet. The original liturgical revisers were on a steady path before being hijacked, or commandeered is a better word, by a bunch of conservative bishops. They ran roughshod over all the work that had been done up until then, got rid of people they disapproved of, and ended up penning liturgies to suit their Latinate predilections. The idea that the rest of the clergy or laity had any say at all in the prayers they use each week is, well, out of the question really. Some of the original ICEL members must be mortified by the results now put forward as the best usable English.

TO JOHN MORRIS | 18 January 2013  

Bernstein: and your point is?

JR | 18 January 2013  

For people concerned about the "for many" in the Eucharistic Prayer, please consider that those are the words found in Matthew 26 and Mark 14.

The juxtaposition should not be between "many" and "all" (the former translation of the Latin "multis") but between "many" and "you". The blood is poured out, not just for "you" (the disciples present / the congregation) but for "many" (more than just them / us).

Jeffrey Pinyan | 18 January 2013  

After a year I still find the wording of the changes clumsy and uninspiring. The late Joseph Kitagawa, an historian of religion, once told me that he thought the church was crazy for making the changes it did in the 1960s and early 1970s so rapidly. Now language purists have repeated the same error in a different way.

Bill Burrows | 18 January 2013  

JR, All that is said of the wise man by Stoic or Oriental or modern essayist, describes to each reader his own idea, describes his unattained but attainable self.

Bernstein | 19 January 2013  

I am sad that Andrew Hamilton, and others, find the New Translation added lead to the saddle bag!

I have long felt the true opposition comes from the threat to the freedom (autocracy) of certain clerics. Their opposition began long before the New Mass hit the press.
Since then their compliance is lip service. In some cases celebrants deliberately omit parts of the service or pass them by with sly remarks.

For those who took advantage of the diocesan measures to introduce The Mass, the changes are far from unsuitable for declamation, passion, love or wonder. The response it aims for is supposed to be far different from that evoked by our papers, media and trite gossip columns.

Personally, I am now more involved, meaningfully, deeply and intimately in the great sacrifice as it unfolds.

Roy Fanthome | 19 January 2013  

I don't have a dog in this fight, as I abandoned the Novus Ordo decades ago, with great relief, for the Traditional Mass. I did so for diverse reasons - including the woeful vernacular - which could be summed up in Fr H's valuable term: the Novus Ordo, on so many levels reaching deep into our humanity, simply isn't "grounded" - something that even little children and simpletons seem to recognise. Wild horses, or even a vastly improved English version, will not drag me back.

Saying that, one would not have guessed from Fr H's post that most Catholics, it seems on preliminary analysis admittedly, approve of the new translation:

"A new poll finds that 70 percent of U.S. adult self-identified Catholics agree with the statement, 'Overall, I think the new translation of the Mass is a good thing.'

The poll, conducted in September 2012 by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, sought to gain an understanding of how adult Catholics perceived the third edition of the Roman Missal that went into use on Nov. 27, 2011.

The overwhelming majority of respondents either agreed – 50 percent – or strongly agreed, 20 percent, that the new translation is a good thing."

I'm instinctively suspicious of polls and their methods. Eg. there's a "U.S. Catholic" magazine poll of its readership that goes the other way - anyone who knows where the "U.S. Catholic" is coming from will know why.

But what if Georgetown poll is accurate? Wouldn't it suggest that perhaps the language of the new translation is more "grounded" than Fr H and his fellow clerics believe?

HH | 19 January 2013  

Jeffrey Pinyan: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The Latin multis is one possible translation for the Greek pollwn. But Liddell and Scott also tell us that it can mean also "the people", "the commonality", "the multitude". We have to distinguish between language and theology. If you want a Eucharist, a Calvary, that is only for some, not all, then you adopt a theology based on a translation of "many". If you want a Eucharist or calvary which is less selective and restrictive, then you adopt a theology based on "the many" (i.e "all"). Take your pick.

smk | 19 January 2013  

It is fascinating to see how many miss the point. There is no English Rite of the Mass. There is the Roman Rite which is in Latin. As we know, the Church in her wisdom has allowed the the Roman Rite to be translated and promulgated in various vernacular languages.

The simple fact is that the previous translation was flawed. In some parts to an extent where the original meaning and intention of the Latin form was lost or obscured. At least we now have a much more faithful translation of the Roman Rite.

If there are issues or problems with the meaning or intention of the Roman Rite. Then one should not complain about the translation such as in the domine non sum dignus. The only real avenue is to change the entire Roman Rite, starting at the latin form. To do otherwise is to lose the universality of our church and to descend into the mess that proceeded the Council of Trent. A mess which led to the reseting of the Roman Rite to its more primitive, centuries older, form.

The choice of certain words in the new translation, that perhaps are more complex or less familiar, is of course a different issue. I will only say that it would be sad to lose the various words that have been developed over centuries to try and help describe the rather complex topic (to us mere humans) of the simplicity of God.

Francis | 20 January 2013  

Rest assured Aurelius,I have celebrated Mass in Australia,Philippines and Japan,in Cathedrals,hospitals, necropolis, schools, universities [Aust and O/S],monasteries, and convent chapels and numerous parish churches and Mass centres over 37 years,in many dioceses[as patochial vicar,locum tenens[retreat giving,parish missions etc. All either in english and latin novus ordo ritual- and odd Italian Mass]
But truly Aurelius phone surveys are the bottom rung of controlled professional surveys[noting dependent and independent variables!]
Moreover I am an incardinated priest in Sydney Archdiocese in good standing with full faculties to celebrate Mass and minister the Sacraments,as I have done in English,Latin and French
Aurelius be assured I am a fully approved Roman Catholic Priest,utterly orthodox in continuity with the great Vatican council!

Father John George | 20 January 2013  

Fr Hamilton says: "The experience of most Catholic celebrants is that the language of the new translation is not grounded." I say, "prove it", and "what's your evidence for this assertion of fact?".

Fr John Irving Fleming | 21 January 2013  

During the Consecration a new, awesome and wonderful annihilation and creation happens.The rest is semantics.

Game Theory | 21 January 2013  

Thanks, Andrew, for your reflections. I found myself identifying strongly with your arguments about language and culture. Taking just one of many examples where the new translation is jarring and does not relate, I simply cannot bring myself to use the new translation of the verse before communion 'Lord, I am not worthy ..., and my soul shall be healed.' Roof in my experience and in the Scriptures where it is mentioned refers to a house. Using the words 'Lord I am not worthy to receive you ... and I shall be healed', is for me a much more meaningful and deeper expression of my faith in receiving communion. I live in hope the 'I', and not just 'my soul' will be healed.

Bernie Sontrop | 21 January 2013  

And the rebel in me just ignores the new translation and says it how it was...the old words just sit more truthfully for me.

john | 21 January 2013  

"John", it seems, will understand the stance of Traditionalists for all those years. Except that the traddies didn't disrupt the Novus Ordo Settlement with their dissent. Rather, in a most polite fashion, they found priests who would simply do the Mass in the old way, and quietly adhered to them, patiently enduring the scorn and calumny.

But, isn't it curious that liberals, who so objected to traditionalist Catholics doing their own thing all those years, are now evincing similar attitudes, as if it were only now a brave thing to do? There's material enough for a thesis there.

HH | 21 January 2013  

I'm also reminded of a priceless ABC interview between Paul Collins and a (Queensland?) aboriginal woman. I'm paraphrasing, but it was very close to this (as Paul Collins may testify.): P.C. "You've seen many changes over your lifetime." Aboriginal woman: "Yeah. They took away the Latin. We'll never forgive them for that."

HH | 21 January 2013  

Thank you FATHER JOHN GEORGE, for your curriculum vitae - and I assure you that I am a fully approved Roman Catholic sinner. Maybe I will confess my sins to you one day (or maybe I have)

AURELIUS | 22 January 2013  

Nice one!- HH

Myra | 22 January 2013  

Recently a young lady from Catholic Missions visited our Parish and spoke of the need for funds for the misions especially in Africa. Quite rightly; a dollar goes a long way in Third World countries! What a pity then that the Australian Church has just wasted probably about $100,000 (and maybe millions of $ in the World's English-speaking countries) in implementing this useless and unnecessary change in the Liturgy. The Catholic missions could have done with that money! In my case the new Liturgy has made me more diligent in turning up at Mass on time. I now sit in the second pew from the front and when the Confiteor comes to "through my fault...", (and bash your breats) I stand with arms folded and mouth firmly shut and look directly at the priest. I call the olde/new Mass translation the Book of Pell". "So, can any of the Uaual Suspects tell us how saying "consubstantial"is going to attract more people back to Church? Pell gave as a reason for changing and also with you was that this phrase was only used in English and Portuguese-speaking countries. Well, speakers of those two languages are the majority of the World's Catholics.

Bruce Stafford | 22 January 2013  

To Francis: Yes the Roman Rite is in Latin, and yes, the Church allows its translation into the vernacular. The vernacular however is not a slavish literal translation, it is the language as it is generally spoken. I would suggest that if a uni student studying Latin submitted in an exam a translation of the Latin Mass as its been done in the olde/new translation, they would get an F.

To Meg: Polish people speak Polish, Italians speak Italian; we speak English. A more literal translation of the Mass works in Italian because it is a Romance language like Latin. It doesn't work in English.
The re-introduction of the words "greatly sinned" and "through my most greivous fault"is a real problem. This guilt inducing formula is a device used by many fundamentalist sects to exert power and control over its followers. It should have NO PLACE in Catholic practise. Read Matthew 11:28 for what Christ was really on about. He didn't say: feel really really guilty.
To Paul Gerard: listen to Handel's Messiah and Mendellsohn's Elijah for biblical texts written in beautiful and easily understood English (and for them English was their second language!).

Bruce Stafford | 22 January 2013  

To Bruce Stafford: Jesus also said John 6:43.

Myra | 22 January 2013  

Liturgical reform is a matter of importance to members of the laity. The problem is we have no means of advocating changes. The changes to the Mass were imposed from on high and I assume were drawn up without general lay input.Two changes I wouod love to see implemented. 1).. The calisthenic Mass should be abolished. The continuous standing, kneeling, sitting etc ensures that a contemplative and reverential Mass cannot be prayed. There is no reason for the calisthenics. We ought to stand for the entry of the priest, then remain seated until the consecration and stand fdor the Our Father till the end of Communion. 2). Our prayers should all be collective as Our Lord taught us. Our Father..not My Father. We believe not I believe. The difference is very important.

jim macken | 22 January 2013  

There's one part of the Latin Mass which I am glad is making a comeback: it's the Kyrie. It's a reminder that the original Masses were not in Latin but rather in Greek for the first several centuries. BTW Christ almost certainly spoke Greek, like most educated people of His time. In fact, Greek was the Lingua Franca of the Roman Empire, not Latin. If we are "going back to the original", let's get to work on the Hail Mary." The Ave Maria is not one direct quote from Luke's Gospel, but rather an amalgam of a few. The Greeks and the Russians say in essence: "Godbearer Virgin, hail! Blessed are you Mary, the Lord is with you! And Blessed is the fruit of your conception." These words make people sit up and take notice. The current English version has suffered from over-familiarity, and I suspect some indifference to the words has set in.

Bruce Stafford | 22 January 2013  

Bruce, with respect your argument might have some validity if you didn't immediately shoot yourself in the foot further down in your post. Despite being only slightly proficient in Latin, it seems to me that "quia peccavi nimis" could only be reasonably translated as greatly or excessively sinned. As you say yourself, your issue is with the theological implications of using the term 'greatly sinned'. Respectfully, you seem to be hiding behind a dodgy translation to reach the attainment of your goal. In terms of the theological value of the specific term, I say that your quote from the bible only strengthens the cause for including greatly sinned in the confiteor. One of the most beautiful psalms starts with: "Have mercy on me God in your kindness" and continues with: "Oh see in guilt I was born, a sinner was I conceived" and then towards the end: "my sacrifice, a contrite spirit, a humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn." In this psalm David is expressing his sorry for the sin of adultery that he committed. He truly bears humble contrition for his sin even to the point of saying that he was a sinner from birth. He expresses part of the journey in which we must travel for God's healing. His weariness and his burden is sorrow for his wrongdoing. And Jesus is talking directly to the psalmist when he says "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light". As the psalm says, we come to Jesus with the burden of a contrite humble heart and he most beautifully and magnificently heals us by the fruits of his cross. Thus the consummation of our humble sorrow and the wonderful kind mercy of God is complete, restoring us wonderfully anew, wiping away all guilt and sorrow. This is of course realised in the absolution that directly follows the confiteor, where the priest acts In Persona Christi. At this point we can just start to glimpse at the reality of St. Augustine's theory of Theodicy in that the utter joy that we receive at this instance makes up for all the sorrow and damage arising from the most horrible and foul crimes. The Exsultet, proclaimed at Easter, says: "O truly needful sin of Adam, which was blotted out by the death of Christ". We don't rejoice in the evil of the crime but rather in the great act of mercy by God that came about as a result of evil done by humans. The extreme of Jansenism and some fundementalists is to have all sorrow and no mercy. This doesn't mean we go to the other extreme of all mercy and no sorrow. To misquote the famous phrase from the Spiderman sag: "with great sorrow comes great mercy". And in that perfect balance we get a glimpse into divine joy on earth.

Francis | 23 January 2013  

The thesis, HH, is perhaps not so much in just why liberals are just like traditionalists but also why traditionalists are just like liberals: in fact, the common phenomenon that where religion is concerned, and worship in particular, people always and everywhere, and from east to west, rarely embrace what they don’t like. Yes. Standing still or kneeling with a Latin missal, keeping eyes fixed ahead during the kiss of peace (!) There is a consubstantial dose of “non serviam” in all of us.

smk | 23 January 2013  

It is worth noting how the blog conversation has grown from arguments about language to complaints about the actions of the Mass. When someone can censure the service as a “calisthenic Mass” one realises how far many Catholic worshippers today have moved from a common understanding of the physical actions that go with the rite. “There is no reason for the calisthenics”? On the contrary, there are reasons for all of the actions of the Mass. We kneel for contrition, stand for the Gloria and the Gospel, sit for the sermon. The problem really seems to be that the priests are not in the business of explaining to the congregations why. There are very good reasons for all of these actions, which is why they evolved into tradition in the first place. The actions are there to remind the worshipper of the meaning of that part of the Mass. But if they don’t know the meanings they will complain that “ We ought to stand for the entry of the priest, then remain seated until the consecration and stand for the Our Father” &c., which we note is as strict an instruction for how to worship as the rubrics of the Mass, if a little Quakerish.


Jim Macken needs to be corrected on two other matters also. He says that “our prayers should all be collective as Our Lord taught us.” Both by example and instruction in the Gospels, it seems to me that Jesus encourages both personal and collective prayer. Even though public worship is, by definition, collective, there is always space for private and personal prayer in any worship, including the Mass. Also, Credo not Credamus. This was a big issue in the 1970s in the Anglican Communion when the revisers changed the opening of the Creed form “I believe…” to “We believe…”, the intention being to make the Creed more inclusive, amongst other things. Those who argued for Credo (which is the Latin original, remember, of the Greek) said that even in church no one can actually speak for anyone else about their personal beliefs. I can only attest that I believe these things, i.e. credo. Even in a collective setting, at the Creed we are saying what we believe as individuals. It was not one of the big battles in Anglican liturgy and no one fusses too much these days; after all, we still have to have our own understanding of what the voters at Nicea actually meant, whether we say We or I. Is the difference important?


SMK, here's the chronology: 1960's - traditionalists object to the top-down imposition of the Novus Ordo, and are reprimanded by moralising liberals (and even conservatives) for refusing to accommodate the changes, adhering instead to the allegedly "outlawed" traditional liturgy. 2011 - liberals squeal at changes in liturgy and defiantly refuse to abide by them, since they are top-down impositions. So the issue is not whether people tend to resist changes in liturgy they don't like - which nobody denies. It's how liberals can look at themselves in the mirror in the morning with their double standards. P.S. If ever I am forced to attend an O.F. Mass, I don't stare ahead at the sign of peace. I go off and light a candle at a side altar.

HH | 23 January 2013  

HH: The English (and other vernacular) translation of the 1970's was well received by the vast majority. It was also a fairly gradual transition over several years, which made it easier. I do agree that those who wanted to continue to attend Tridentine Masses should have been allowed to do so. Francis: your long explanation is fine, but what's the average person in the pews to make of it? They're not all Biblical scholars. The average 12 year old (the 5% of them that still attend Mass, that is), will say: in what way have I greatly sinned since last sunday? Maybe there's some slight theological justification based on David's Psalams and St Augustine, but pastorally - which is where it really counts - it is very problematic. You interpret Christ's reference to being weary and burdened to being burdened with sin. A modern reader is more likely to interpret that as being burdened with cares and woes, and who knows if Christ wasn't also thinking in those terms? There is an echo of this in his "lilies of the field" statement (Matthew 6:28).

Bruce Stafford | 23 January 2013  

Let's get away from this divisive traditionalist/liberal, left/right, commo/tory mindset and get back to what it's simply about - a translation. As any translator knows - no two translations will ever be exactly identical. It's not about which one is right or wrong. (Oh, shock horror! Subjective morality!) I heard a man once filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues - I had no idea what he was saying,

AURELIUS | 23 January 2013  

Hi Bruce, with regard to your issue with 12 year old children being exposed the possibility of examining their wrongdoings, I say: bring it on. As Christ says in Matthew 5:48, "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect". The sins of a 12 year old may be by comparison slight and of little note. However, by emphasising the complete lack of minimisation of sin, we are greatly strengthened in our resolve to attain this heavenly perfection which Christ desires for us. It is a common topic of modern commentators in which the talk of crippling guilt is imposed upon the poor victims of religion. This is a gross exaggeration of just one side of the story. We emphasise our sinfulness but then we emphasise even more strongly the loving mercy of God forgiveness.

However, the worst thing that could possibly happen to us is to fall into Luther's complacency of sin and an over-emphasis of faith in the spiritual life, in direct opposition to 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 and St Paul's exultation of charity. At all times we must strive for sinlessness and perfection.

Sadly, the majority of us will never reach this ultimate goal. However, Christ is waiting there with ever outstretched arms to heal us. Thus we never ever need be crippled by guilt as we can just run like a child to our loving saviour. Psalm 65 is a most amazing psalm, part of it goes like this
"To you all flesh will come
with its burden of sin.
Too heavy for us, our offenses,
but you wipe them away." and it is in this spirit that we have balance between guilt and redemption. This is not complex. I can clearly remember my mother teaching me this in preparation for my first reception of the Blessed Eucharist some 15 years ago at the tender age of 6. In fact the simplicity of a child can in some aspects can lead to a fuller understanding of forgiveness. Not least in that a child can relate the love God directly with their relationship with the safe haven of a parent.

Francis | 23 January 2013  

Bruce, thanks. You're right - the English/Novus Ordo was generally well received by most Catholics. (Not me and my family, at least after the first translation in about 1964, which was literally the Old Rite simply translated into English as in our old missals, and just great. From then on it was cactus, in our opinion.) Just as, according to the poll I've cited above, the new translation is generally approved of by most Catholics. But my point is that the liberals who were chiding the traddies for objecting to the top down imposition are themselves squealing about this top down imposition. So they're (unlike yourself, judging from your comment re. the Latin Mass) perfectly happy with top down impositions that accord with their ends, but when it goes against them, they complain about the "top down" process. It's a rule of thumb for liberals: always complain about "process", "transparency" and "consultation", etc. Reason being: on the substantive issues, they haven't got a leg to stand on. In this case their double standards have been well and truly exposed. It reminds me of my seminary days, when you could celebrate the Novus Ordo in four and twenty wacky ways and no-one would bat an eyelid, but if you dared suggest having the liturgy as celebrated by the Roman Church for 1500 years, you would have been promptly consigned to the Order's resident shrink.

HH | 23 January 2013  

In Tridentine Mass days, the altar boys didn't always say "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima cupla"in the Confiteor. They often would say (especially if Father was a bit deaf): "Me a cowboy, me a cowboy, me a mexican cowboy!" So much for liturgical correctness and purity.

Now, however, "consubstantial" is becoming the joke word. "Did you win a consubstantial amount in Lotto?""No, I won a nonsubstantial $10". And so it goes.

The inclusion of such odd, peculiar words in the Mass text only invites such lampooning and has precisely the exact opposite result to the stated reason for its inclusion which was to give reverence and meaning to the Creed.

Bruce Stafford | 26 January 2013  

I thought we needed a little explanation of “perfection” since Francis’ emphasis might be misunderstood and did not totally match my understanding, and so in the interests of getting an unbiased opinion, I went to the following link: http://www.catholica.com.au/gc0/ie3/164_ie_print.php which gives it a little context. The following direct quote extract essentially summarises the article there:
“So when Matthew's Jesus speaks of seeking to be perfect (Mt 5:48), he is speaking of the response of the whole heart, mind and body; a total or thorough commitment to God's will — not sinless perfection. Humans being human will fail to live rightly. But for Matthew's Jesus the pursuit of righteousness is derived by seeking to obey God's will in all aspects of life – personal, social and communal (Mt 6:33). It is not simply a matter of morality or right practice, but a matter of seeking to live rightly; or as Matthew himself puts it, it is found via constancy in the "practice of piety" (Mt 6:1).”

Frank S | 27 January 2013  

The undoubted enormous expense of this new translation to the church and to us in the pews will surely mean we're stuck with it.

Besides doubtless the priority now is to rewrite the Divine Office with inclusive language.
Or are priests (and laymen and women) stuck forever with such intercessions as (Week 1, Wed, morning prayer)"We give thanks to Christ and we praise him because he was not ashamed to call us his brothers. R Lord Jesus, we are your brothers.
Help us to live the new life of Easter, - so that men may know through us the power of your love."
If ever there was a subtle way to reinforce the status quo, that has to be it.
And no amount of "making a mental reservation" will excuse the insensitivity of it to over half the population.
But seeing as the chance to drop 'men' out of 'for us men and for our salvation...' was ignored, am I hoping in vain?

DC | 27 January 2013  

Thank you for those illuminating insights Frank. The proposals put forward by Dr Elmer, whilst perhaps are not as strongly supported as one might hope, seem to have a prima facie truth about them. It is, however, the conclusions that he draws from these proposals that are worrying in nature. It is inarguable that the most strongest condemnations used by Christ were in reference to an external display of piety while inwardly harvesting pride with no thought of love. In Matthew 23, he describes the Pharisees as “whited sepulchres” that “within are full of dead men's bones, and of all filthiness” and also “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you make clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but within you are full of rapine and uncleanness”. We can then contrast this with concepts from the psalms: “The man with clean hands and a pure heart shall climb the mountain of the Lord”. From these scripture passages we can see that there is a great emphasis on consistency of action with interior will. Dr Elmer seems to follow on from his conclusions with a very strange and conflicted dichotomy between God's will, sinlessness. He separates God's will from sinlessness. It seems that God's perfect will could never be for sin, for then he would not be good. Therefore, obedience to God's will must include sinlessness. Dr Elmer, argues, and rightly so, that adherence to God's will is above sinlessness, however he fails to see that it is above sinlessness in a hierarchical aspect and that the natural consequence of constancy to God's will is sinlessness. It is impossible to have constancy in God's will and to sin. Sinfulness ascribes failing and guilt. Therefore, without choice or freedom of will it is impossible to sin or be guilty as there was no ability to do otherwise. This we can see when we consider that no blame can be ascribed to those that murder due to madness as there was no ability to do otherwise. Thus if one of the requirements for sin is choice, and we ascertain that God's perfect will is absolutely at opposition to evilness and sinfulness, every action that is sinful is at opposition to God's will and implies a divergence from His will. Dr Elmer talks of “outward conformity to the Law or an appeal to ritual observances” and seems to equate this to sin. He then implies that it is that which is internal that matters and that which is external is of less importance. He uses as ammunition for this opinion the denunciation of the Pharisees who were so obsessed by little aspects of the law and not of the true spirit of the law. “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you tithe mint, and anise, and cummin, and have left the weightier things of the law; judgment, and mercy, and faith. These things you ought to have done, and not to leave those undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel”. What he fails to recognise is that morality is a consequence of an internal spirit. Outward morality can come about as a result of pride, which Christ denounces, or it can come about due to a good spirit which is pleasing to God. Furthermore it is impossible have a full constancy with goods will without a natural flowing on of outward morality. This does not mean that those who sin are at complete opposition to God's will, but that they have not reached perfect accordance with God's will. Finally, he implies that what is meant by perfection, is the desire for accordance with God's will, not the actual accordance of His will. This is false as the very nature of God is that of a complete unity of will and action. For instance: “he spoke and it came to be” as is said in Psalm 33. Thus the concept of perfection being a desire, without the consummation of an action, is completely antithetical to the intrinsic nature of God as he has demonstrated to us in the fullness of his mercy. To say that such a thing is of the Father is nonsense. The very word perfect has in its meaning fullness or completeness. A desire without an act is desolate. Christ does not just ask for a pure heart but clean hands also.

Francis | 31 January 2013  

One part of the new translation that makes me choke is "daring" to say the Our Father. When did Jesus ever "dare" us to pray? As for "consubstantial" perhaps the it could be used instead of "marriage" when referring to same sex marriage. That would get it out of the Creed quick smart.

Michael O'Donnell | 03 February 2013  

Michael O'D, not so fast! In the previous Novus Ordo missal there was an optional preamble to the Dominical prayer that ran, "Jesus taught us to call God our Father, and so we have the courage to pray ..." Which essentially captures the idea that we have to be courageous ("audemus"), or daring, to call God our Father, that's there in the Latin. This is what distinguishes the Gospel from paganism, and even transcends the Old Testament relationship: Christ's coming enabled us to be not just servants or worshipful creatures - wonderful and just as that might be, - but sons! - adopted sons - of God. To be an early Christian proclaiming you were a "son of God" must have seemed blasphemous and worthy of torture and execution, to pagan and Jew alike. It would have taken great courage. That is merely one reason why this idea should be kept and cherished. I salute you, a fellow son of God, and I pray I have the courage to confess that, even if it means my death.

HH | 04 February 2013  

HH, have you heard about the Pro-Life initiative that aims to give legal recognition to human embryos? :) www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=dEHqawe_EGw

Myra | 06 February 2013  

May I suggest the editorial board of ES draw up a league table of the kinds of articles that draw the most comments. A bit like the AFL games that draw the biggest crowds. This by no means indicates the standard of the game but rather some emotional attachment to the two teams competing.For example, no matter where they stand on the AFL ladder, the Richmond v Collingwood clash always draw a huge crowd. Something similar has happened here with the latest English Translation of the Latin Mass. In the overall scheme of the church's mission to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth, the language (Latin or vernacular) of the Holy Scarifice of the Mass is not a top priority. The question we have to ask ourselves is this. Does the Mass inspire us who participate to love one another, not just us catholics, nor just our felllow christians, but the whole of mankind, under the Fatherhood of God, through His Son Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit? If the language of the Mass hinders us from answering this positively, then it might be an indication that there is something wrong with the appropriateness of the language. On the other hand there might be something wrong with us. Or maybe a bit of both.

Uncle Pat | 07 February 2013  

I think you are mistaken when you write that "Few people attend church services simply for the beauty of the language". That's exactly the reason I go - and to think no one else does is to deny the importance of the written word in the history of religion. I find it very hard to sit through a mass where I am being fored to change the words that I learnt when I was a child. So I don't go to my local church, I go to the cathedral, where I am surrounded by people from all different backgrounds all speaking in variations.It works, as it always has, and it's beautiful.

Brigitte | 10 February 2013  

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