Why Does the English Translation Have to be Closer to the Latin? A Further Comment

Further to the recent article giving some explanation on the move to Formal Equivalence in translation (or an “as close as possible” match between the English and Latin), one matter I did not go into was how the texts of the prayers we hear and use at Mass form us in faith.

If you lose a degree of meaning from the texts through the translation process (which many people argue did happen when the translation we currently use was prepared), then you also diminish the capacity of the prayers to convey the fullness of what we believe in.

Some would argue that to preserve that depth of meaning, and to continue to pass on the faith through our prayer texts as fully as we have done in the past, we need to faithfully translate the Latin texts as close as possible. Others would argue (see the comments in the blog post linked above) that Latin is not the “be all and end all”, and there are riches to be discovered in all cultures and languages. For now, translation of the Latin text according to the method of formal equivalence is how we have been asked in the English-speaking world to respond to the challenge.

Regardless of our own viewpoints, I think we can agree that given the ability of our prayer to shape us in faith, our prayer texts need to be the best they possibly can be. The question a lot of people are pondering now is “are we there yet?”

12/9/10 – Is What We Say at Mass Going to Change?

As we mentioned before, a new English translation of the Roman Missal is being prepared.  This will be used in English speaking countries throughout the Catholic Church.  To help us learn more about this new translation, we’re trying to answer some of the key questions here.

Is what we say at Mass going to change?

Altar Missal which belonged to Cardinal NewmanYes.  A key characteristic of this new translation is an attempt to make the English version match the original Latin text more closely.  As such, we will see changes to prayers such as the Gloria, the Creed, and the Sanctus (Holy, Holy).

Some of the revisions are minor, while others are more extensive.  The Gloria, for example, is quite noticeably different, while only the first line of the Sanctus changes to “Holy, holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.”  Other prayers, such as the “Our Father” and the “Lamb of God” will not change.

There are other words which we say which will change.  These can be found within the responses in which we engage during Mass.  One of the most obvious, and most commonly used will be the phrase “And also with you.”  In the revised translation of the missal, this phrase will be “And with your spirit”, which is closer to the original Latin text of et cum spiritu tuo (you can see “spiritu” there which translates to “spirit).  This phrase has a direct connection with the greetings made by St Paul in his letters to the early Christian communities.  Some of you may also remember that when Mass was first celebrated in English in the late 1960’s, the response was “And with your spirit.”  So in some ways, this is a return to the first English texts we used.  There are other responses which will also change in an effort to bring them into closer harmony with the Latin.

Photo: IMG_5153 by jdbradley