Today (November 20, 2011) is the last Sunday we will use the old Sacramentary for the prayers at Mass. We have used the same translation for over twenty-five years (If you go to daily Mass or Mass on Thanksgiving this week you will still hear the old prayers until Sunday). Next Sunday we will begin using the new prayers (third edition since the Second Vatican Council).
This new translations have been in development for just over ten years since Pope John Paul II updated the Latin texts. Some people ask ‘doesn’t the church have more important things to work on that changing the prayers?’ I believe the answer to that is yes the church knows there are more important things. That’s why it took ten years to develop the new translation. They knew there were more important things to work on so they didn’t spend all their time on it. If they had, the new translations would have been done much sooner.
That being said, I believe the new translations are important. It may not be the most important thing but we should always work to make sure the words we are praying say what we really mean to say. I also think it is important that we be able to recognize when the prayers we use at Mass come from scripture that we be able to recognize where they come from. In the translations, we have been using you couldn’t always recognize the biblical verses (for examples see my previous posts on the Roman Missal).
I hope one of the effects of using the new translations is that it makes us stop and think about the words we pray. Using the same prayers for twenty-five years they can become pretty routine. We can recite the words without really thinking about what the words really mean. We should never just say the words. We need to pray the words.
Some who have seen the new translations feel there are some words we don’t use so how are we supposed to know what they mean. The primary example of this is the word consubstantial in the Creed. It will replace “one in being” with regards to the relationship of Jesus to the Father. Consubstantial is certainly not a word we use in everyday conversation. But the relationship between the Father and the Son that we use it to speak of is a unique relationship. There is nothing like it in this world. Realizing that, when the Creed was written in the fourth century, the authors actually came up with a new word to describe it. They felt no existing human word did it justice. I agree. Consubstantial is not a common word but I did just find it in the dictionary at www.infoplease.com (click here). It means of the same substance. I believe God deserves some unique words.
Are we going to have to look at the written prayers for a while at Mass until we memorize the new translations? Yes. Are we going to struggle to remember the changes at times? Probably. But I think it will be worth it. Don’t just say the words. To truly pray the words, we need to think about what they mean.
For more reading
My previous Blog Articles on the Roman Missal
My website articles on the New Translations
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on the new Roman Missal.