Monday, September 12, 2011

The Latin hasn't changed

Several prayers of the Mass in English will soon change
A pew card with the new wording.

I'm hearing some discussion that implies that the Church has decided to change the words we say in some prayers at Mass.  I don't think the Church has changed this since the changes after Vatican II, or was it about 1980 or 1981?

The Church has given us the prayers for Mass in Latin, and these haven't changed since they were given.  What has changed is the English translation of this unchanging Latin.  The fact that our words in English will be changing is only an indication that the translation previously done was inaccurate.

It may be a testament to how poorly it was done that the Vatican released Liturgiam Authenticam in 2001 to explain how translation was supposed to be done.  It seems surprising that this would be needed.

When someone speaks at a UN meeting and everyone listens in his own language via earphones to what is being said, that is because a translator is telling them what he is hearing.  I suspect the translator doesn't have a Liturgiam Authenticam to tell him what to do.

He doesn't need to be told, for instance, not to make anything up, not to make changes to conform to his own beliefs on the subject under discussion, not to express ideas with modern expressions that actually convey different information than what he heard.  If he did make any such changes to what he was hearing, then people in his language group would not be getting the same message as people in all the other language groups.

When people of many languages are participating in the Mass together, for instance at World Youth Day, wouldn't it be lovely to think that they were all saying the same thing at the same time in all the languages of the world?  That is so, with the exception of English.  The Pope says, possibly in Spanish, "The Lord be with you," and I believe the French reply, "Et avec votre esprit."  The Polish reply, "I z duchem twoim."  They, and probably every other language group, are saying, "And with your spirit."  English speakers are saying, "And also with you."

You needn't have studied Latin past the Grade 12 level to realize many of the differences between the Latin from which the English was translated and the English we are given.  Memorial acclamation after the Consecration: 3 options in Latin, and, I assume, every other language, but 4 in English; Opening Prayer for the Mass for 33 of the 34 Sundays in Ordinary Time: one short prayer in Latin, and, I assume, every other language, but 2 in English: one short one and one much longer one as an alternative.

As a interesting exercise, take phrases from the Latin-language novus ordo Mass (that's the one we say) available at this website, and insert them into the Latin to English translator available on the web, if you haven't taken Latin 12, and see what that gives you for the English.

"Lord, I am not worthy" ... and then the Latin says, "ut intres sub tectum meam," and the translator says, "that You should come under my roof," not, as we say, "to receive You." And on and on it goes with all the prayers mentioned in this story about the changing English-language prayers of the Mass.

It's interesting to read Liturgiam Authenticam, but you might find it a bit long.  There's also the Vatican summary of the document.

The Pope has urged memorizing some prayers in Latin.  We could at least have them available for ourselves in print in case we ever need them to pray with others who are praying in Latin.
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