Saturday 4 June 2011

New Translation - same old problems!

We are being asked to see the new translation of the Missal as an opportunity to catechise and re-evaluate the liturgy. I certainly will try to do this, as it is not just a new translation - there is a raison d'etre behind it. The more faithful translation of the Latin and the attempt to use more poetic and elevated language reflects the mind of the Church and of our Holy Father to reform the reform and re-enchant the liturgy and the celebration of Mass. It surely speaks of a wider desire on the part of the Church not to dumb-down the liturgy or take over the language and attitudes of daily life and use them in the Mass. To me, it seems that the attempt to do this in recent years as a misinterpretation of the Second Vatican Council's decrees has had the effect of secularising the Faith instead of Christianizing the world.

I do hope that a thrust towards re-sacralising the way most people experience the Mass will be a fruit of the new translation but I fear that many will simply say the new words without taking on any of the new thinking that wafting through the Church on the breath of the Holy Spirit. in these times. Even worse, that priests will use the new translation but continue to add and change the texts according to their own personal lights, thus depriving their people of some of what is the meant to be the gift of the Church to them. Even worse again, as I have heard some priests say, that they simply will not use the new translation, although I don't think this will be tenable for very long in that bishops cannot be seen to be tolerating such disobedience in their dioceses. Funny how liberals left over from the 1960s are now becoming heretics by being behind the times and stuck in the past.

In my own diocese a special prayer has been produced to help people pray about the new translation - but within the prayer it seems that in quoting the words of consecration, the words of the new translation are studiously avoided .

O God, Father most holy,
it is our joy and desire,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ,
who on the same night he was betrayed,
took some bread and gave you thanks
and broke it and said:
This is my body which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.’ In the same way he took the cup and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’
Therefore, O Lord,
grant that as we prepare to celebrate,
with a new translation, the memorial
of the death and resurrection of your Son,
deepen our awareness of the gift of the Eucharist
and grant in your loving kindness to all who
partake of the one Bread and one Cup that,
gathered into one body by the Holy Spirit,
they may truly become a living
sacrifice in Christ to the praise of your glory.
We make this prayer through Christ our Lord.

Dom Daniel Kirby has some similar concerns over at Vultus Christi, expressed in his usual insightful and thoughtful manner. His experience of continental churches where the lectern is so cramped together with he altar is one I have had myself - even in a church with as much grandeur as St Mark's Basilica in Venice, a church where there is much space available but the pressure to conform to some misguided notion of modernity has led to a sorry state of affairs.

Reading the Gospel at Mass some years ago with Cardianl Paskai of Hungary. You can see how close the lectern is to the altar - all to avoid the sacred action taking place on the actual sanctuary behind the screen where the altar is hallowed by centuries of prayer and embellished with the palla d'oro - a byzantine masterpiece no longer good enough to enhance the celebration of Mass but downgraded to a bauble for tourists to gawk at.

Salford Cathedral suffers from the strange attempt to make everything ultra-visible as well. In a cathedral sized church the font, altar, lectern and Cathedra are all squashed into a few square metres of one visual space, while there are acres of open space behind (for concelebrating priests).

The recently re-re-ordered Leeds Cathedral (third time unlucky!) also suffers from this - plus the added disadvantage that when the the bishop is seated on the Cathedra it gives the impression that he is sitting on the diminutive altar!

Here is Fr Kirby's excellent post:

Will the New English Translation Be Enough?


Having had time, over the past few days and nights, to reflect on various aspects of the reform of the Sacred Liturgy, and in the light of what I have been experiencing here in Italy, it occurred to me that I might share some of my thoughts with the readers of Vultus Christi.

Mass Facing the People: The Single Greatest Obstacle to the Reform

Here in Italy it is evident that churches were designed and constructed with an eye to the absolute centrality of the altar with priest and people facing together in the same direction. The placement, within perfectly proportioned sanctuaries, of secondary altars to allow for Mass facing the people has utterly destroyed the harmony, order, and spaciousness that the Sacred Liturgy, by its very nature, requires.

The Cheek-by-Jowl Ambo

Adding insult to injury, these versus populum altars are, more often than not cheek by jowl with a lectern (or ambo) that effectively impedes any movement around the altar, and positively discourages the incensation of the altar at the Introit and Offertory of the Mass.

Crucifix, Candles, and Flowers

Here in Italy -- and also in France -- the traditional symmetrical arrangement of the candles and crucifix has all but disappeared in favour of a curious asymmetrical disposition that nearly always includes a bouquet of flowers place at one end of the altar, one, two, or three candles at the opposite end, and a crucifix somewhere in the sanctuary that may or may not be construed as having an inherent relationship with the altar.

The Priest Magnified

Apart from these considerations, the most deleterious effect continues to be the magnification of the priest and of his personality. The theological direction of all liturgical prayer -- ad Patrem, per Filium, in Spiritu -- is obscured, while the priest, even in spite of himself, appears to be, at every moment, addressing the faithful or engaging personally with them.

It's All About Me

Certain priests and bishops, marked by a streak of narcissism, abuse their position in front of and over the congregation to soak up the attention and energy of the faithful, attention and energy that, by right, belong to God alone during the Sacred Liturgy.

Placed in front of and over the congregation, priests an bishops all too easily give in to an arrogant liturgical clericalism, subjecting the faithful to their own additions amendments, comments, and embolisms. The faithful, being a captive audience, are subjected to the personality of the priest, which can and often does obscure the purity of the liturgical actions and texts that constitute the Roman Rite.

Translation and Business As Usual

The New English Translation of the Roman Missal will not, of itself, be enough to bring about an authentic reform and renewal of the Novus Ordo Missae. A deeper and broader reform is needed, one that must, necessarily, begin with bishops and with their priests charged with the care of souls.

Where to Start?

What concrete steps might be taken? It is fully within the authority of bishops to mandate and prescribe, for example, that two arrangements of the sanctuary will be allowed in their dioceses.

The Altar

In churches possessing an ad orientem altar integral to the architectural genius of the original design of the apse or of the sanctuary, secondary versus populum altars should be removed, and the sanctuaries should be restored to the original order, harmony, and spaciousness that characterized them.

In churches possessing only a versus populum altar, that altar should be so arranged as to place the crucifix, with the corpus facing the priest, in a central position with three candles at either side, following the Roman practice. Ideally there should be a space of minimally five feet on all sides of a free-standing altar, so as to facilitate the necessary ritual incensations and so as to allow, whenever possible, the celebration of the Mass ad orientem.

1 comment:

Leo Darroch said...

In speaking solely about the new form of Mass there is one improvement I would like to see introduced immediately. Most reordered sanctuaries have the altar on a flat sanctuary and the priest stands on the same level as servers, ministers of all kinds, and uncle Tom Cobley and all. Every notable event in the Gospels has Christ raised on a higher level than everyone else; the sermon on the mount and the crucifixion are but two examples. During the Mass, and especially during the Canon, the priest is an alter Christus and should be placed above everyone else on the sanctuary. This was always recognised by Catholic architects in the past. Therefore, as a matter of priority, a footpace should be constructed around each freestanding altar on a flat sanctuary to raise the priest physically above those others on the sanctuary and to signify to everyone in the church the pre-eminent position of the priest during the celebration of Holy Mass.