October 11, 2011

Grieving the Soon-To-Be Old Translation

Now that we are allowed to have copies of the new translation here in the United States, I've been looking through it. For the most part, I like it. I think that a lot has been improved. I like very much the restoration of and with your spirit. I like that the bees got back into the Easter Proclamation. It's going to be a challenging transition, though, especially for priests.

So far I have but one complaint with the translation, the little prayer the priest says quietly before consuming the Body and Blood of Christ. "May the Body/Blood of Christ keep me safe for eternal life," to me doesn't capture the richness of Corpus/Sanguis Christi custodiat me in vitam aeternam. I'm not in love with the current, outgoing translation either, "May the body/blood of Christ bring me to everlasting life," but I like it better than the new one. Not that it probably matters to me in the end; I usually say this prayer in Latin anyway.

That's a little thing. Here's another, maybe more important: One of the first priests I ever knew was the pastor of the parish where I was baptized, Fr. Leo Sutula at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Quaker Hill, Connecticut. May he rest in peace. He gave me my first Holy Communion and also (six days later) heard my first confession. He had a gentleness that gave glory to God. He also had a funny habit, at least at daily Mass, of saying all of the secret prayers out loud. So, until I learned the Mass well myself several years later, his Mass always seemed to have more prayers in it. I remember being especially struck by the private preparation prayer before Communion, which he would say out loud:

"Lord Jesus Christ, with faith in your love and mercy I eat your body and drink your blood. Let it not bring me condemnation but health in mind and body."

When I use this option myself, I always think of Fr. Sutula. Until I came to be a priest myself, he was my only experience of this prayer. As I pray the words myself, I'm aware of my connection to the man and his ministry in the economies of grace in my own journey. The prayer is a glimpse for me of the communion of saints.

So there's a little grief in my heart at the thought of losing that little prayer at the end of next month. The new version is quite different, and I'll probably just start saying the other option, the Domine, Iesu Christi... in Latin.

It's not a big thing, but in thinking about it I started to guess that there are probably many such things for all kinds of people, connections and devout memory associated with the particular words of the outgoing translation. I bet that a lot of folks have certain parts of the Mass that serve to remind them of specific blessings and graces, or of struggles with which God's help was saving.

I'll grieve the loss of Fr. Sutula's little prayer, but I'll remember that the gift of the new translation serves our devotion and love for the same Eucharist he celebrated for me on that day of my first Holy Communion, and thus is no betrayal but rather a movement of love. As we approach and engage this new moment in our eucharistic lives, I'll also be praying for everyone else who grieves some particular thing soon to become liturgical history.


Lisa M. Hendey said...

Thank you for this lovely reflection. It's great to see the inside of a priest's heart and to know that you too have to "deal with" these changes. You are in my prayers today!

GMRUNNER said...

Unfortunate Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again was not preserved in some fashion such as Christ, You have died, You have risen, You will come again.

Jeanne said...

Great post and yes, you put into words what a lot of people are feeling. I sing with the church choir and learning the new words to the Gloria has actually been more challenging than I thought. I like it better, but it's challenging and I do feel a twinge of nostalgia.

Ben Trovato said...

Your comments remind me very much of my parents' comments when the outgoing translation was introduced. They lamented the Latin, and my mother said Domine non sum dignus etc (3 times of course!) until her dying day.

Plus ├ža change...

For myself, as something of a linguist, I love the new translation as much more faithful to the Latin. We've been using it for a few weeks, and one quickly adjusts.

Father Schnippel said...

Funny, I remember a priest from my youth saying that same prayer out loud: Fr. Louis, an Indian priest, who would often visit the parish during the pastor's vacations or during times between pastors (not that this occurred often.) I especially remember his Indian accent in saying this prayer aloud and often think of him, too, when I'm praying that prayer.

Hmmm.... this certainly helped my vocation, I wonder how many others....

Thanks for sharing.

Barb, sfo said...

I too have a memory of a priest reciting that prayer aloud. I wonder how many other prayers there are that priests customarily pray silently before & during Mass? Probably most of us don't know about these.

I am looking forward, for the most part, to the changes, but as Jeanne said, as a musician, they do present challenges. However, it's good sometimes to go off "auto-pilot."

Judy Kallmeyer said...

There is one of the silent prayers that I wish were prayed aloud:
By the mystery of this water and wine, may become partakers in the Divinity of Christ Who humbled Himself to partake in our humanity." I find it a very touching prayer.

As far as the coming changes, I do not comprehend why everything must conform to Latin. Never having been a fan of Latin to begin with, this "need" to keep harkening to it kind of annoys me. I mean let's face it! Latin was the vernacular in the earliest days of the Church. Is it really any more meaningful or reverent that any current vernacular anywhere in the world. I sometimes feel that Latin is somehow being made a "sacred cow."

Gail F said...

Thanks for such a great piece. I am very much looking forward to the new translation but it is good to remember that many people have emotional attachments to parts of the current one... I, for one, have no problem understanding what "one in being with the Father" means and, though I do agree that "consubstantial" is more accurate, it is a very clunky word. There's nothing poetic about it! So I'll be sorry to see that bit change. We all need to be kind to each other as this (probably simple) transition takes place.

Ben Trovato said...

@ Judy the reason everything must conform to the Latin is that the Latin is the official version of the Mass, as authorised by the Holy See.

When translators pepare translations, it is only reasonable that they should reflect the original!

The philosophy of translation of the early 70s when the current translation was prepared was rather lax (technically they called it 'dynamic equivalence'); as a result much of the richness of the texts was lost - and that is what the new translation is trying to put right.

It's nothing to do (in this case) with the antiquity of Latin: the Latin texts being translated are new texts composed post-Vatican 2.