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The new English Missal COLIN CAMPBELL

Did the ‘first cab off the rank’ go into top gear?

In Britain, the new translation of the Order of Mass has started being introduced into parishes, while in pioneering New Zealand it has been in use since Advent last year. Here, one of its bishops explains what happened when he asked the faithful for their response

A s a bishop, I have been concerned

about the proposed new changes in liturgical language in the Mass. As has become evident, there are big question marks over what is proposed and the process by which it came about. We need to remember that generally priests, Religious and lay people were never consulted about these changes. One has to acknowledge, as would be the experience of English- speaking bishops’ conferences, that what they finally voted for will not be the end product. What the International Commission on English in the Liturgy submitted was taken over by Vox Clara which made further sub- stantial changes. Since New Zealand was the “first cab off the rank” (apart from South Africa which apparently “jumped the gun”), I took the opportunity to consult our faithful in the diocese for their reaction to the changes. Indeed, in the Vatican II document Presbyterorum Ordinis, clergy are exhorted to “listen to the laity willingly, consider their wishes in a fraternal spirit and recognise their experience and competence in the different areas of human activity, so that together with them they will be able to read the signs of the times”. Here in New Zealand this first stage – much of it the people’s responses in the Mass – was introduced in Advent 2010. Without being too scientific, I asked the people to consider three points: what they liked about the changes, what reservations they had about them, and what their thoughts were on the musical offerings. My intention is to collate the responses and include them in my diocesan ad limina report for Rome later this year.

While some parishes provided a group reply with a number adding their name to the sub- mission, there were altogether about 180 replies. The answers were revealing. A small number gave a pass mark with such comments as: “We have to get used to change” and “It will be OK when we can memorise it”. Only two were very happy about the changes, with one of them saying they were “thrilled”. Of all the comments, 17 per cent were positive and 83 per cent were negative. While the minority gave reasons such as “it deepens the meaning of the Mass” and that it “is a more reverent

translation”, opponents declared that it was “unnecessary”, “confusing and meaningless”, that the “rationale was unclear” and that it was a “backward step and pre-Vatican II in language style”. The musical offerings that have been put

forward for the Proper of the Mass also took a battering, with a combined percentage of over 70 per cent complaining that the music was “hard to sing”, “too complicated and slow”, “difficult to learn” and “more suited to choirs than congregations”. Admittedly, this problem of music will be alleviated in time when new compositions come on stream. Words and phrases most opposed to in the

new translation were “with your spirit”, “come under my roof”, “consubstantial” and the “I confess” (the Confiteor). The biggest com- plaint, though, was reserved for the use of the word “men” in the Nicene Creed. One of our New Zealand bishops’ conference submissions to Rome on the text was for inclusiveness (not only in the Nicene Creed but also in the Fourth Eucharistic Prayer). This was not permitted by the Congregation for Divine Worship. Let

A small number said,

‘It will be OK when we can memorise it.’ Only two were very happy about the changes

us be clear about this. Christ died for all – not some, not many, but all. It is an embarrass- ment to our Catholic Church and its claim to inclusiveness. To persist with only saying “men” in the Creed is offensive and disparaging to our womenfolk who make up the majority of our faith family. There is also a blatant inconsistency when homines used in the Gloria is translated as “people” whereas the same word in the Nicene Creed is translated as “men”. This is a no-brainer. I hope that most of us will continue to pray in the Creed “for us and our salvation”. Other reasoning given by the faithful surveyed in opposing the new translation is that “the sentence structure is convoluted”; “stilted and lacks syntactical

flow”; many words are “archaic and never used in colloquial English”. There was oppo- sition to this literal translation that was considered an inferior choice to dynamic equivalence, and the move from communal to personal profession of faith was seen as another backward step. I detected behind many of the comments in the survey that a number were seeking a deeper theological dimension. This was the understanding of how God was being pre- sented and perceived. There was a feeling of a loss of God’s closeness to us, that God was aloof or distant, almost a sense of deism. Of course we need to stress the transcendence of God but not at the cost of losing that sense of intimacy that our faith celebrates, that of an incarnational God; that it is Abba Father who draws us to himself by and with and in Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Some people mentioned a loss of the “spirit in the Liturgy” and I think this is what they meant. The liturgist Raymond G. Helmick made the same point in his telling article (The Tablet, 6 November 2010) that a God who is perceived as distant becomes irrelevant and unreal. Any thought that our spirit-filled liturgy celebrating God’s unconditional and life- giving love for us becomes remote and distant should seriously give us all pause to think. We need to take heed of what Pope Benedict

has been saying. It is encouraging to see him quoting with approval the principles for trans- lation proposed by the Pontifical Biblical Commission in Verbum Domini: “A transla- tion, of course, is always more than a simple transcription of the original texts. The passage from one language to another necessarily involves a change of cultural context: concepts are not identical and symbols have a different meaning, for they come up against other trad - itions of thought and other ways of life.” Before we go any further with implementing

this translation in the English-speaking world, it is imperative that we consult with the people of God and hear them. Then, I pray, that all of us together may hear “what theSpirit is saying to the churches” (Revelation 2:29).

■Colin Campbell is Bishop of Dunedin, New Zealand.

17 September 2011 | THE TABLET | 13

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