Friday, 16 June 2006

Keeping the Coffee in the Cup

The US bishops have approved over 60 amendments to the English translation of the Missale Romanum (despite the best efforts of liberals like Bishop Trautman), marking a key step towards the publication of the new version of the Order of Mass. Readers will be familiar with many of these changes. The response ‘and also with you’ is replaced by ‘and with your spirit.’ The Confiteor includes the lines, ‘I have sinned greatly ... through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault’ rather than 'I have sinned through my own fault.’ The Creed begins ‘I believe’ instead of ‘We believe,’ the Sanctus starts ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of hosts’ and the cup in the Roman Canon becomes a 'precious chalice.'

These are more accurate translations than those of the early 1970s and it is hoped that they will be carefully introduced and explained to the faithful, to prevent any unnecessary divisions over liturgical changes. Still, problems remain - such as the perenially controversial pro multis ('for many') which remains as 'for all.'

Most interesting, from the English point of view, is the intervention of Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds (formerly an Auxiliary in Westminster), who spoke to the American bishops in his capacity as President of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL).

He spoke about the theory of ‘dynamic equivalence,’ now hopelessly outdated, which was behind the first translations. This was achieved when ‘a translator detaches the "content" of an utterance from the "form" in which it is expressed’ – so that we get ‘from east to west a perfect offering may be made’ rather than the more correct ‘from the rising of the sun to its setting.’ The new translations are concerned with ‘formal equivalence,’ faithful (though not necessarily literal) translations, which will involve greater theological precision (with especial emphasis on the links between Sacred Scripture and the Sacred Liturgy) and a rediscovery of the ‘courtesy’ of the Missal (addressing God with humility and respect).

‘If you try to carry a cup of coffee across a room too quickly,’ he said, ‘much of the contents may spill. This time, we have tried to keep the coffee in the cup.’ Better late than never!

Bishop Roche was obviously quite a hit – Rocco of Whispers in the Loggia names him ‘Winner of the Week.’ Why? Because he seems to have achieved the feat of 'soothing many skittish US bishops, spearheading a months-long campaign which promised them that their concerns on the translations and their implementation would be assuaged, and brokering the deals which secured the highly-sought, seemingly-quixotic approval of the American conference on his Commission's text.' This will only fuel speculation that in the Bishop of Leeds there could be a future Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster.


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