This interview is the first in a series of articles which address the third edition of the Roman Missal. This new translation of the Mass will be implemented in the United States on the first Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2011. In the following interview, Fr. Ronald Vierling, the rector of Morrissey Manor, to share his thoughts about the translation, particularly from his pastoral perspective.
What is your opinion on the new translation?
From what I’ve seen of the new Missal, I find it very favorable.
What do you see as deficiencies in the previous translation?
When the Mass was translated from the Latin into English, it was a different time. After 40 years of using the English translation, the deficiencies of that original translation became apparent. The first deficiency was the loss of theological concepts and biblical motifs; for example, where the Latin had paraphrased, now those concepts are rendered more explicit. The rich spiritual metaphors and the biblical references were obscured. These have been restored by the new translation, which is a literal translation from the Latin into the English. As you know, the former translation followed the concept of “dynamic equivalency,” which was the translation of ideas, not the literal words.
What is the opinion of the average Catholic on the translations?
If you were to ask the average Catholic in the pew, “Is there a new translation coming out?,” chances are they won’t be able to tell you that there is. What impact it is going to make on their spiritual life, once the new translation is rolled out, is difficult to gauge until it comes out.
I would have to say, our Catholic people will be challenged to delve a little deeper into the meaning of words. The richness of the Mass is something that they’re going to be challenged to explore more fully.
As far as the impact, I would say we’ll just have to wait to see what it is. For myself, as a priest, I am looking upon the implementation of the new missal as a teaching moment. This is a chance to take what is ordinary, and what we have taken for granted, to look at it in a new way, and maybe for the first time, for these young me to delve into what the Church’s liturgical life is all about.
Do you have any plans for the implantation of the new missal in Morrissey?
I am taking my cues from Campus Ministry, and from the diocese of Fort Wayne/South Bend. I think that much of what we do will be a campus approach to the implementation of the new sacramentary.
There is a wonderful program though, that is being put out by Ascension Press called “A Biblical Walk through the Mass.” It is a series that will not only catechize the men on the meaning of the sacrifice of the Mass and the sacred liturgy of the Church, but will also introduce them to the new translation. This is a program we project to use at the tail end of October, right after fall-break. It is a 4-week program, so it is timed to end right before the implementation of the translation of the Mass, the first Sunday of Advent.
Do you see anything further beyond the new translation, in the way of liturgical reform?
The Church is a living organism, so the liturgical movement is something that never has an end. Its full completion will be the heavenly banquet of the Lamb of which is written in the book of Revelation, so in that sense, because the Church is a living organism, her way of expressing worship is a thing that will always be renewed – “ever ancient, ever new.”
Can you give any comment on the contrast between the enthusiasm of some with the hesitancy of others about the new translation?
I haven’t really encountered much hesitancy. You read the newspapers, or the headlines about certain pockets of priests who are dissatisfied with the new translation, who oddly enough are falling into the same trap as those who prefer the Tridentine Mass. There are people who take a liturgical expression, and they freeze it as the pinnacle of development of the liturgical life of the Church. So it is somewhat odd, that those who wish to retain the present translation of the Mass in a sense have adopted the same posture as, let’s say, the Society of St. Pius X and Archbishop Lefebvre. I find that somewhat comedic.
What else would you like to add about the new translation’s significance?
After 40 years of experience celebrating the Mass in English, the Church simply came to see certain areas where the English text could be improved. For example, when the Latin text was paraphrased, a number of rich spiritual metaphors and images were lost. Also important theological concepts, the relationship between creator and creature, the theology of grace, the sacrificial nature of the Mass, as well as several biblical allusions were obscured at best.
The new translation is what I call an ennobled English, which rises above conversational speech. I think that the language of the new sacramentary is nobler in tone, and therefore inspires a greater degree of reverence for the sacred mysteries.
I also think one of the strengths of the new sacramentary is that it preserves the traditional theological terms, like in the creed, where Christ is referred to as “consubstantial with the Father,” that He is made “incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit,” which expresses a wealth of theological richness.
That vocabulary is a sacred vocabulary, a vocabulary that has been canonized by the Church, because it becomes the highest expression of what we believe in, speech has limitations, but these are words that express the totality of what we believe in; speech has limitations, so therefore it’s very important to retain that language and to hand it on, and I think that the new translation obviously does that.
The final point, which I think is extremely important, is the relationship between “lex orandi, lex credenda.” Orthodoxy (right belief) is supplemented by the orthopraxis (right action), and all this flows from the liturgical life of the Church, so therefore right belief is enshrined in the liturgy, which reinforces right conduct. This is why the liturgy has always been referred to as the “School of the Christian Life.” It is there that we meet the person of Jesus Christ, Who forms us into His image and likeness, so that we can take seriously those words that are spoken at the end of Mass, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”
Our encounter with Christ in the Mass overflows to being sent out on mission. All of this was obscured by the old translation. I think that Catholics who are more social justice-oriented in nature should be appreciative of the new translation, because it highlights even more so the fact that we are being formed into the likeness of Christ, and that we have to be Christ to others. And so I think that’s a positive for all of us.
Dale Parker is a junior classics major of Morrissey Manor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fr. Ronald Vierling is a diocesan priest who also belongs to the Oblates of Mary at the Foot of the Cross. He will be leading a series on the liturgy, “Biblical Walk through the Mass,” beginning October 24. He can be reached at email@example.com.