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A New Translation of the Mass?

This week’s National Catholic Register is covering the upcoming vote by the U.S. bishops on the new English translation of the Order of the Mass. The new translation is more faithful to the original Latin. However, some bishops prefer the current more contemporary language. Leading the charge against the new translation is Bishop Trautman. Quoting from the Register:

But Bishop Trautman told the Register that he and about half of the nation’s bishops believe the proposed text contains too many complicated words, as well as sentences and phrases that are too long. The words “precious chalice,” for example, replace the word “cup” during the consecration prayers.

“To me, ‘precious chalice’ says something gold with diamonds all around it,” Bishop Trautman said. “Jesus used a drinking cup at the last supper, not a precious chalice”

Interesting. I don’t think of the “precious chalice” as covered with diamonds. I think of it as containing the Real Presence of Christ. That is why we call it the Precious Blood, not wine.

Actually, I think a key point to consider is Bishop Trautman’s effort to use current and contemporary language. We have a dynamic language. What is current and contemporary today will not be so twenty, thirty, or forty years from now. Anybody still saying “groovy”? The Mass on the other hand is timeless. Staying faithful to an unchanging Latin rite offers stability. The push to maintain a “current and contemporary” English translation is actually a very narrow and self-centered view.

I also find it very insulting to the laity to say we are not smart enough to learn and adapt to a translation that uses big words and long sentences. The Church and the Mass have existed for 2000 years. Only forty of those years have we been celebrating it in the vernacular. Is Bishop Trautman suggesting that during those other 1,960 years when the faithful learned Latin, they could not appreciate the liturgy as well as the faithful of the last forty years? Judging by the state of vocations and Mass attendance now compared to forty years ago, I would have to strongly disagree with such an assertion.

I believe Archbishop Chaput put it best when he stated in the Register:

“It seems to me that if the translations of the past are incorrect or inadequate, they should be changed. How we pray influences how we believe,” he added. “I’m convinced that the Church can find a beautiful translation that’s faithful to Liturgiam Authenticam


Michelle said…
I really think the Bishop is wrong by claiming that Jesus used a "drinking cup" and not a precious chalice. To me, this implies that Jesus picked up any old cup and used it with little regard for the significance of what he was doing, as if he didn't know.

Jesus was particpating in a seder. They had special reserved dishes used just for this meal. They had special "cups" used just once a year for this feast. This would be like saying Grandma's china, reserved for Christmas Eve dinner, isn't "precious".

And given Christ's forethought about what was truly going to be happening - the Last Passover with the Blood of the New Covenant - I can not fathom that Christ would have used a common drinking cup or that, even if he had, that same cup would have later been reincorporated with common dishes. The mere fact that we keep all the chalices used for Mass in a special place and only use them for Mass (and not allow them to be used for any other purpose) makes them precious. And yes, the fact that it holds the Blood of our Salvation makes it precious too.

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