Monday, August 7, 2017

WHEN THE NEW AND GLORIOUS ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF THE MASS FAILS AND HOW FACING THE PEOPLE IS A GREAT TEMPTATION FOR MANY PRIESTS TO THINK THEY ARE ACTORS ON A STAGE, ESPECIALLY THOSE OF US/THEM, WHO WOULD HAVE LIKED TO BE AN ACTOR ON SCREEN OR STAGE!



As everyone knows, I love the new and glorious English translation of the Mass. It is a far cry better than the older version which simply was corrupt, theologically, doctrinally, and devotionally.

However, the Preface for the Feast of the Transfiguration was simply an abomination. Here it is:

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, through Christ our Lord.

For he revealed his glory in the presence of chosen witnesses and filled with the great splendor that bodily form which he shares with all humanity, that the scandal of the Cross might be removed from the hearts of his disciples and that he might show how in the Body of the whole Church is to be fulfilled what so wonderfully shone forth first in its head......

WELL! I always chant the preface at all our Sunday Masses. I have done it so long now that I don't need to rehearse prior to Mass. I forgot that the Preface was different for the Transfiguration and thus did not read it over or rehearse to chant it before Saturday night's Mass--a huge mistake!

As soon as I got into it, I thought I was really botching the words on my own and wondering what the hell I was chanting and praying. While no one complained after Mass, I am sure that some must have thought that I had forgotten how to read while on vacation and continuing education!

Apart from how horrible the English is in this newly but ingloriously translated Preface, what annoys me to no end isn't so much that the Roman Missal capitalizes words such as Priest and Cross and Body but that it doesn't capitalize pronouns referring to the Deity such as His, Him and He!

But read the Transfiguration Preface above and honestly tell me what you think! Keep in mind I have capitalized and not exactly what is written in the Missal.

Oddly enough a priest friend of my complained yesterday about the Transfiguration Preface too and said he wished he had used the Second Sunday of Lent's Preface in Year A when the Transfiguration Gospel is read. I had forgotten that there  was a Lenten Transfiguration Preface and that it is to be found on the pages that have the Propers and Collects not in the normal Lenten Prefaces section of the Roman Missal.

Here it is and it is certainly a glorious English translation:

It is truly right and just....

For after he had told the disciples of his coming Death, (please note death is capitalized but not His and the other caps are as is in the Roman Missal!) on the holy mountain he manifested to them his glory, to show, even by the testimony of the law and the prophets, that the Passion leads to the glory of the Resurretion....

And finally--priests fulfilling their thwarted vocation to be an actor on stage or screen:

Having celebrated both forms of the Mass for the Feast of the Transfiguration, and having celebrated the EF Mass now for over 10 years, I realize how Mass facing the congregation can fulfill for some priest's their closeted or out in the open desire to be an actor on stage and that the Mass does it for them. Of course, this turns a priestly function of prayer, spirituality and the act of priesthood into an acting job and NOT sacrifice, prayer, adoration, devotion and spirituality.

The culprit is facing the people and the ability in the vernacular to be very affective with the written language that is spoken aloud.  Plus the vernacular makes possible the acting technique called improvising which many priests do with the vernacular Mass. Improvisation is perhaps the greatest corruption of the vernacular Mass and is related to this desire to be an actor or to flamboyantly show the intellectual ability of the acting priest in his ability, (in his mind) to be smarter with the vernacular than the Magisterium which gave us the Missal.

It is simply impossible in the EF Mass for a priest to think of himself as an actor and to do the things that actors, good or bad, do on stage. This is the genius of the EF Mass lacking completely in the OF Mass.

34 comments:

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Yes, this preface is one of the more tortuous. It is necessary to "adjust" things....

Henry said...

It's been many years since I've attended an OF Mass of the Transfiguration. But I would have had been glad to hear this new preface in its new English translation. It would be understandable if the celebrant had prepared himself adequately in advance to recite or chant the separate clauses separated by brief pauses (/):

For he revealed his glory in the presence of chosen witnesses /

and filled with the greatest splendor that bodily form which he shares with all humanity, /

that the scandal of the Cross might be removed from the hearts of his disciples /

and that he might show how in the Body of the whole Church is to be fulfilled /

what so wonderfully shone forth first in its Head.


Of course, the order of these clauses is inherited from the original Latin. At any rate, this new preface might arguably have been more apt than the “generic” Preface of the Holy Trinity that I heard at the EF Mass of the Transfiguration I attended yesterday.

John Nolan said...

It's not necessarily the fault of the translation. I heard it sung yesterday in Latin and found it difficult to entangle. The Preface of the Transfiguration for Lent 2 (all years) is much clearer. Since neither Preface is used in the Roman Rite, one has to ask why the authors of the Novus Ordo felt it necessary to compose not one, but two new Prefaces on the same theme.

Some of the new Prefaces are admirable, and their inclusion in the EF would be acceptable. The Roman Rite was adding Prefaces in the 20th century. My 1961 Liber Usualis has an optional Advent Preface which I have heard used. It didn't make it into the new Missal, however, which has two new ones.

John Nolan said...

Should be 'disentangle'! I had the Latin in front of me, but my 1990 Solesmes 'Gregorian Missal' has the old ICEL version interleaved, which doesn't help. (The later edition has the new translation.)

The style of Latin used in the Mass is not uniform, and the authors of the NO were of course aware of this when they composed new prayers. The Collect form, which has influenced the way we pray in English, was scrupulously retained - not that this was reflected in the corrupt 'translations' in use from 1973 to 2011! The Prefaces are in a more declamatory style, often with ideas following on from one another which are not necessarily easy to understand in the first place. They are intended to be sung, and are the most elaborate things the celebrant has to chant (which is why not many bother to do so). There are three tones, their use depending on the solemnity of the occasion.

A good translation should not be slavish, but needs to convey both meaning and style. A superb example is Fortescue's version of the Salve Regina (Hail, Holy Queen ...) which accurately renders a Latin text into poetic and memorable English. Among the felicitous touches:
'Hail, Holy Queen' for 'Salve Regina' - a literal rendering would be too abrupt. 'Poor, banished children of Eve' for 'exsules filii Hevae' - omit 'poor' and the phrase has less impact. 'To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears' - the expansion of 'suspiramus' shows that the translator had an excellent ear for his native tongue.

A pity that no-one of Fortescue's calibre was given the task of producing English liturgical texts; it would have taken a fraction of the time and produced a better result.

A good reason for sticking with the Latin, as I fully intend to do.



Double Diamond said...

I'm glad Father Kavanaugh is "adjusting" prefaces. VCII clearly taught that "anyone, especially if he be a priest, may add, remove, and change anything in the liturgy on his own authority".

Fr Martin Fox said...

Dear Father:

I agree with you about the most recent Missal translation being a big improvement; and I agree, there are rough spots, and this is an example. However, I find that those prayers that seem awkward work much better when chanted.

Unfortunately, I am not one of those who received permission from the Holy See to "adjust" prayers at my own initiative. I'm not sure how one gets that permission? Can anyone tell me?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Martin - If you know English well, and are not afraid of violating the law-for-its-own-sake, you have my permission. Personal initiative is not a bad thing . . .

"When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’"

John Nolan said...

Fr Fox

Surely you are aware that the Roman Rite has been changed 'time and time again' by 'popes, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, monsignors, fathers general, priests, theologians' and Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all?

Fr Kavanaugh is simply upholding tradition (albeit a tradition he has invented for himself!)

TJM said...

Father Kavanaugh, a staunch defender of Vatican II surely could not have forgotten this"


The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2002) also says

Nevertheless, the priest must remember that he is the servant of the Sacred Liturgy and that he himself is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, to remove, or to change anything in the celebration of Mass. [GIRM§ 24]

The GIRM is here quoting the Vatican II Constitution on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 22.3:

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John - I would not agree the the words (syntax, grammar, capitalization, etc) are matter of tradition. They're certainly not matters of Tradition. Adjusting awkwardly translated phrases is hardly an offense against tradition.

If "permission" is needed to make such adjustments, I will take as my authorizing agent the three years of excellent education I received from my high school English teacher, Fr. Briant Halloran, OSB, and my English teachers since. Not only did Briant teach those willing the learn the mechanics of English, as our literature teacher we also learned a good deal about the beauty and grace of the language.

Fie on redundancies!

Henry said...

Actually, I think it inaccurate to call the new English translation of this preface "rough". It seems to me a rather smooth and elegant translation of an unusually complex Latin construction which it faithfully mirrors. Each of its four clauses seems spiritually evocative. For those who find this preface challenging, perhaps a reminder that the purpose of liturgical language is latreutic rather that didactic, to foster worship and awe rather than rational understanding of the ineffably mysterious.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Henry - I think "rough" or, better, "awkward," accurately describes the preface in terms of American ears. Others might say "clunky."

As a presider, I want my words to be understood, and they generally have to be understood on the fly, if you will, since most are not reading along. That preface makes comprehension especially, and unnecessarily, difficult.

I understand that the mysteries described by them are ineffable. But I don't think that the meaning of the words and phrases prayed during the mass should, themselves, leave people wondering....

TJM said...

Father Kavanaugh,

So you ignore the GIRM and Sacrosanctum Concilium, so either you're just another renegade priest or Uber Pope.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Father Kavanaugh:

I view myself as a servant of the liturgy, not it's master (GIRM 24), and I think obedience is called for here. After all, if I found the text of the preface so terribly troubling, I could always address it in my homily. That is to say, where an obedient option readily presents itself, I can make no good case for disobedience. And I do not consider intentionally altering the texts of the Missal a minor thing.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Martin - I also am a servant of the liturgy and not its master. We have differing ideas on what constitutes those states.

I would not address such a matter in a homily. Homilies are based on the scripture readings of the mass, not my personal preferences, likes and/or dislikes.

I do consider making minor alterations to the texts a minor thing.

TJM - I drive my own car so, no, I'm not an Uber anything.

TJM said...

Father Kavanaugh, so you're a renegade priest, disobedient to liturgical law, and a priest I would avoid. It's the Roman Rite, not the Kavanaugh Rite. Fortunately, your style of "ministry" is dying out.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

TJM - Thank you for avoiding me.

John Nolan said...

Fr K

A homily 'should be an exposition of some aspect of the readings from sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or from the Proper of the Mass ...'

Which might well include the Preface, nicht wahr?

And spare a thought for those priests who when celebrating in English before 2011 loyally stuck to texts they knew were grossly deficient (since they were familiar with the Latin originals).

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, John, the Scriptures permeate the Mass and are not to be seen as only being found in the Lectionary. One can preach on the Introit, the Offertory or Communion antiphons or even on some Scriptural aspect of the Mass, such as "Behold the Lamb of God" or "O Lord, I am not worthy" all of which are Gospel oriented. And certainly to preach on the Preface of the Transfiguration, which has Gospel allusions in order to clarify it would be wholly appropriate. But even apart from that no priest or deacon is forbidden from giving a topical sermon that refers to the faith and morals of the Church found in the Catechism.

FrMJK makes the post Vatican II's liturgists' narrow mistake about Scripture in the Mass and what is in fact actually allowed. It is a stupid mistake to say the least.

Fr Martin Fox said...

I would not address such a matter in a homily. Homilies are based on the scripture readings of the mass, not my personal preferences, likes and/or dislikes.

Well, then, as you admit that your concern about the Transfiguration preface isn't a substantial matter, but a question of "my personal preferences, like and/or dislikes," then I find it appalling that you would consider it appropriate to introduce them into the prayer texts of the Mass.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Father Kavanaugh said:

As a presider, I want my words to be understood...

And therein lies the problem, dear Father. The words of the Holy Mass are not your words. It's not "your" Mass. It's not about you, Father.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Fr. Fox, I appreciated Henry's praise of this Preface when he indicates the proper pauses with a slash or comma which I think a priest could add to the missal. I fault the editors of the missal for not doing so especially when a Latin syntax is used in this English translation of the original Latin.
Once again FrMjk misses the mark as you highlight in that priest pray the universal language of the Church, not their own concoction and the prayer uses sometime inadequate word that Are meant for God to hear who understands the heart of the Universal Church's prayer. This even if I don't have and English translation of a Latin Mass, I may not hear or understand every word, but God does to whom these prayers are directed.
To help FrMjk to understand this truthI would recommend he pray the Mass ad oriented and the canon in a low voice. Ecause facing the people has led him to a corrupt understanding of prayer in general and the Mass in particular. The direction of prayer is the direction of belief!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Forgive the mistakes above as I typed it on my iPhone's small screen and damn auto correct!

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Adding slashes and commas? What next? Rearranging phrases, eliminating unnecessary redundancies? Where will this end? With an Uber-Anti Pope?

Of course a priest can preach a topical sermon. I didn't say he couldn't. "Homilies are based on the scripture readings of the mass, not my personal preferences, likes and/or dislikes."

Of course a priest can speak on some text of the mass. "Behold the Lamb of God" and "Oh Lord I am not worthy" are both biblical texts, so...

Martin - I am sure you choose to be appalled by many, many things. The words of the mass are mine inasmuch as I speak them. I believe the Church wants them to be heard and understood. No, I am sure that is the Church's desire inasmuch as it is expressly stated. To understand words that I speak as "mine" is not a problem - at all. If I recite one of my favorite lighthearted poems, "George Who Played With A Dangerous Toy And Suffered A Catastrophe Of Considerable Dimensions," the words that come out of my mouth are mine, authored, of course, by Hiliare Belloc. His authorship - my words.

John Nolan said...

In my opinion, the idea of the priest as 'presider' is the greatest heresy attached to the abortive liturgical reforms of the 1960s. It has given rise to untold evils and driven countless numbers away from the Mass. It's not the fault of the Novus Ordo, either (although that rite is not blameless) since it was being pushed from 1964 onwards.

The universal language of the Western Church is of course Latin. I suppose it is conceivable that an 'emancipated' priest might tweak the Latin of the NO Mass to suit his own semantic preferences - but it is hardly likely.

However, there is a doleful precedent. Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644) was an excellent classicist, and insisted that the Latin of the office hymns be made to conform to classical models. In this he was aided and abetted by the Jesuits. Some of these hymns were already a millennium old and were effectively re-written.

Thankfully the monastic orders resisted the change and after Vatican II the original texts were restored (hooray for at least one aspect of liturgical reform!) Unfortunately those of us who rely on the Liber Usualis are stuck with the Urbanite revisions.

TJM said...

Fr. Kavanaugh, you're a parody, comedy gold.

Henry said...

For the cognitively challenged, an important distinction:

When a priest reads the prayers of the Mass, he is speaking in persona Christi, not as himself.

When he reads the words of Belloc, he is speaking as himself, not as Belloc.

Comprende?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Henry, But in both cases, HE is speaking....

Henry said...

Nope. In the first case, it is the glorified Christ who is speaking. The priest is simply the material instrument that gives human voice to the divine words of Christ, who (not the priest) is the actor in the Mass.

TJM said...

Henry,

Fr. Kavanaugh should do his flock and the Church a huge favor and retire. The Age of Aquarius is so over and so is he.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Sorry, Henry, Grace Builds On Nature. The Human nature, on which grace builds, of the priest remains 100% when he is acting in persona Christi. The human voice is heard, the human movements are seen, the human hands are extended over the elements at the invocation of the Holy Spirit.

Anonymous said...

Speaking for ourselves, we had the great grace of attending and assisting at a local TLM (rare as hen's teeth here in the Augusta area!) for the Feast of the Transfiguration; celebrated by a Wonderful, new committed priest at Our Lady of Peace, North Augusta. Beautiful, reverent liturgical perfection. Worship with no distractions/distractors...TBTG! Fr. McDonald, I hope one day you and this holy priest can meet and concelebrate!

Bean said...

Is there concelebration in the "TLM"?

John Nolan said...

'Is there concelebration in the TLM?' In practice, only at ordinations and episcopal consecrations. It was more common in the early Church, both East and West.

In the West it was revived in the 1960s and the Canon was permitted to be said aloud in concelebrated Masses.

In the Novus Ordo it's overdone (surprise, surprise).