August 5, 2012

Some Unfinished Thoughts on Vulgarity

It's been interesting, after all the anticipation surrounding the appearance of the new translation of the Mass in English, and after the larger part of a liturgical year praying it myself, moving to Italy and encountering the Mass in Italian.

I say it's been interesting because in some of the places where the changes to the English provoked the most praise and condemnation, the Italian Mass is more like the English used to be. The most glaring example is the pro multis. Some praised the new for many in English while others condemned it. But after all those discussions, presentations, bulletin inserts, etc., explaining and defending the change, it's curious that here in Rome, offering Mass in the diocese of Rome herself, the chalice is still versato per voi e per tutti, 'poured out for you and for all/everybody.'

The prayer before Holy Communion is another example that strikes me. In English we used to say simply that we weren't worthy to receive the Lord, but now the biblical text has been restored, in which we proclaim our unworthiness to have the Lord come under our roof. I appreciated this change very much; to me it speaks to the body as a dwelling, in the Pauline sense of the tent. I proclaim my absolute unworthiness for this act of hospitality. Others didn't like it. They can move here because in Italian the roof and the hospitality are as missing as they used to be in English: O Signore, non sono degno di partecipare alla tua mensa..., 'O Lord, I am not worthy to share at your table...'

More and more I realize that the whole idea of liturgy in a local language means something a little different here in Italy, and especially here in Latium, i.e. Lazio. Perhaps, the use of the modern, local language, in the sense of carrying within itself a set of theological and ecclesiological assertions, carries even more force here at the historical and administrative center of Latin Christianity. In other words, in a certain sense, it means something stronger, theologically and ecclesiologically, to offer Mass in Italian in Rome than it does to offer Mass in English in New York. Exactly how to describe what this sense is I haven't quite figured out yet.

I have also begun to think that maybe the new translation in English is a bigger deal than I even realized. I say this because living here has made me understand better the powerful place of English in the world. It's amazing to see, as I often do, two young people from very different parts of the world communicate with the little bit of English they have in common. It makes me realize the power English has gained as a common language. What this means for the significance of the liturgy in English is something I'm also not sure about, but I'm convinced it means something.

5 comments:

Mark in Spokane said...

Your last paragraph is the key. English is the new Latin. That is why the curia and the last 2 Popes have taken such an active interest in English translations, both of liturgy, but also of the Bible and of the Catechism. English is the effective universal language of the Church now -- with French and Spanish and Portuguese falling behind. Only Italian can compete within the Church, and that only because the headquarters of the Church is in Italy. But globally, the language of the Church is becoming English, just like English is the global language of commerce, transportation, even law courts in many countries where English isn't the 1st language.

Only the Italians and some Swiss and people living in Italy and Italian Switzerland celebrate the Mass in Italian. People all over the world celebrate the Mass in English. So, English gets the attention. Molto bene!

Brother Charles said...

Yes. That makes sense. Thanks!

Your Friend Aaron said...

You haven't experienced mass until you've experienced it in the original Esperanto.

Word in the Hand said...

A pity though that English doesn't translate so comfortably from Latin and little allowance has been made for that in the New Rite. Maybe it doesn't feel so clumpy to someone who has English as a second language.

Father Richard said...

In my humble opinion, which is rarely sought after, the whole world should speak Italiano - and we should all eat the way they do and rid ourselves (United States) of one major problem at least - obesity!