Examining the Translation

This is a segment of an article written by Fr. Peter Stravinskas in America Magazine entitled, Defending the New Missal, in which he replies to Fr. Michael Ryan's criticisms.

Finally, Father Ryan highlights as examples of a liturgical agenda “at best trivial and at worst hopelessly out-of-touch” several new texts that are products of “flawed principles of translation.” I am delighted with the examples he proffers because each is, in fact, an exemplar of what is so important about the new translation project.

And with your spirit. The earliest translation of the Mass from 1965 actually used this wording. St. John Chrysostom explains that when the people respond in this way they are affirming the ontological change that has taken place in the priest by virtue of the Sacrament of Order, thus enabling him to call down the Spirit upon the elements of bread and wine, transforming them into the body and blood of Christ.

Consubstantial. There is nothing inherently wrong with the present “one in being” in the Nicene Creed; it is not unfaithful to the meaning of either homoousios or consubstantialis. However, one of the underlying principles of the new translation was to use explicitly sacral and theological vocabulary whenever possible. Does the average Catholic know what “consubstantial” means? Probably not. But that same Catholic probably does not know what “one in being” means, either. However, because the latter phrase contains three very common English words, that person in the pew thinks he knows its meaning and thus passes over it without a thought. Coming upon “consubstantial,” that same person will be forced to pause over the significance of the term; it will give the priest the opportunity to preach about its profound meaning.

Incarnate. The present version is plainly inaccurate (“He was born of the Virgin Mary”). The Latin reads: Et incarnatus est...ex Maria Virgine; the moment of the Incarnation was not when He was born (liturgically celebrated on December 25), but when He was conceived (March 25). The translators could have given us “He was made flesh,” but, again, seeking to use more precise language, they gave us “incarnate,” thus giving the clergy yet another “preachable” moment. Several years ago Archbishop Rembert Weakland boasted that the church in the United States was home to the most intelligent and theologically astute Catholics in the history of the church. Surely, then, our congregations should be able to comprehend words like “consubstantial” and “incarnate.”

Joseph, spouse of the same Virgin. This line comes from the Roman Canon. The Latin speaks of Joseph as eiusdem Virginis sponsi, which is exactly “spouse of the same Virgin.” One reason the church was reluctant to highlight St. Joseph until relatively recent centuries was the fear that his relationship to Mary would or could be misunderstood. And so when Pope John XXIII added Joseph’s name to the Canon, it was determined that no one should be led into error or confusion, thus giving us “of the same Virgin.” Which is to say, that while Joseph and Mary were indeed husband and wife, Mary remained a virgin—a critical theological point.


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