Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Biblically Oriented English Translation of the Mass Approved!

Huge news for Catholics! The English translation of the Mass that you've known for the past forty years is now officially going to change! The translation approved by the primary English speaking national conferences of Catholic Bishops around the world has finally received the green light from Rome. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops was the last body to cast their ballot, voting in favor of the changes last year.

This is exciting news. The Washington Times reports:
The Vatican has approved and is ready to release a new English translation of the Mass and its associated prayers and texts.

Pope Benedict XVI spoke Wednesday at the Vatican to Vox Clara, a special committee of Catholic bishops and consultants from English-speaking countries convened to assist with the translation.

"I welcome the news that the English translation of the Roman Missal will soon be ready for publication, so that the texts you have worked so hard to prepare may be proclaimed in the liturgy that is celebrated across the anglophone world. Through these sacred texts and the actions that accompany them, Christ will be made present and active in the midst of his people," Benedict told the assembly.

The Roman Missal is the official Latin texts for the Mass promulgated after the Second Vatican Council, commonly known as the Norvus Ordo or Paul VI Mass. The latest update was approved by Pope John Paul II in 2000 and the International Commission for English in the Liturgy (ICEL), consisting of bishops from all over the English-speaking world, has been working on the translation since.

The ICEL's work needs formal and final approval by the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which Vox Clara has been aiding.

While the Vatican-approved text of the Missal translation has yet to be released publicly, various changes proposed by the ICEL have been. Some sections already have received Vatican approval. The aim has been to translate the Latin texts more exactly and literally into English.

As an example of the style of changes, before receiving Communion, the parishioners are to say "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof," instead of the current "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you."

Read the rest.

I realize, as the article quotes the Holy Father as explaining, some people are going to be upset about the change--there always are those. But this new translation is far better than what we've had.

In fact, this new translation will underscore the biblical allusions in the Mass, the way the Old Testament is seen to be fulfilled in the New, and the continuity between Jewish and Christian worship.

Case in point: the prayer mentioned above, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof". That of course is a direct quotation from the centurion's words to Jesus in Matthew 8. Notably, the scene ends with Jesus talking about how many will come to sit at table in the kingdom. Of course, this corresponds to what happens after this prayer is prayed in the Eucharistic celebration; that is the last prayer that is said together by the faithful before reception of Holy Communion.

In short, the New Missal is a biblically focused translation.

I'll have more to say on this news in the days to come. St. Joseph's Communications is sitting on a new CD set of presentations I have done on the new English translation of the Missal. In this series I go through each and every prayer and rite looking at the biblical allusions and similarities to Jewish prayers and traditions about the temple.

For example, at the Offertory the priest prays: "Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life."

This prayer has largely been formulated in consultation with Jewish tradition. Consider the table prayer described by the ancient rabbis in the Mishna: "Blessed are thou. . . who bringest forth bread from the earth. . ." (m. Ber. 6.1).

I'll have more soon. Stay tuned!


Duane said...

I've been following this for the past year and have a rather basic question. Does this affect the ICEL translations used in the Liturgy of the Hours? I currently use "Christian Prayer" and am considering purchasing the full LOTH 4 book series, but I've hesitated because I'm not sure if this news affects only the Missal or also the LOTH.

Sister Mary Agnes said...

Duane has a great question. Have you read anything about the Liturgy of the Hours changing? That would be a big impact for our sisters, not to mention the investment of new 4 volume sets for everyone...

Michael Barber said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Barber said...

Duane and Sister:

Indeed, they will eventually be retranslating the Divine Office. When that will happen though is a bit of a mystery though. The question people are asking is, "What next?" Will it be the Divine Office or perhaps the Sacramental rites?

We'll need to wait and see!

Charles said...

The new Missal translation would not directly affect the Liturgy of the Hours, but it is my understanding that ICEL will now turn to the Liturgy of the Hours and similarly revise the translation there as well. It will likely take a few years, but perhaps not so long as the missal, since I would think there would less controversy about changing the LOTH than about changing the Missal. The recent approval for use of the new revised Grail psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours will affect the LOTH.

Anonymous said...

Is the translation a result of our culture today? Language is a function of time and environment. Are the Italians, French etc calling for a new translation? Is this a result of the relativism in our culture today

Duane said...


You will be pleased to know that the translation is more faithful to the long standing traditions in Mass and represents a more literal translation from the Latin. I don't know if other languages similarly need revision, but among people who adore the liturgy in the English countries this new translation seems rather well-received.

Thank you to others who weighed in on my question about the Liturgy of the Hours.

Anonymous said...

So it took the Latin Church 40 years to realize it had botched a really important job. Typical. Now the big guys expect the folks down there to applaud and compliment the new and better wording. Do they think we're all idiots?

ericpaulcarreiro said...


as a human being to whom 40 years represents most of my own lifetime, and as someone who has experienced the current translations for nearly all of my conscious church experience, I have felt twinges of the same sentiment you express. But the answer that followed swiftly on its heels was simply this: Take a long view. Take a historical view.