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Unchangeable

A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison () - November 28, 2011 - 12:00am

Change is necessary only for the betterment of the person, place or thing subject of the change. As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. This thought comes to mind after I came across a news report in the USA Today about the supposed revision of the Roman Missal. On reading further, I learned that “the 41 year old liturgy with its colloquial English phrasings will be replaced by a revised Roman Missal that’s word for word more literally tied to the original Latin Mass”. I also learned for the first time that the revision was proposed by US Bishops and authorized by Pope John Paul II way back in 2001.

Hence the first question I asked myself is why? Is there any need to change the Missal? Why do we have to revert back to the original Latin Mass when it was already changed at the onset of Vatican II precisely to make the Mass more accessible to Catholics by allowing them to replace Latin with their vernacular language?

I am not questioning here the sacred truths that my Church, the Catholic Church, teaches as revealed by God who is the infallible Truth. I am just wondering if these sacred and unchangeable Truths may be affected by this ordinary human ritual with fixed formulas.

The first of these truths is that during the Mass, Christ, the only begotten Son of God who came to this world to redeem us, actually speaks to His people through the priest as the “other Christ”, the “Alter Christus”. Second is that during the Mass celebrated everyday throughout the world until the end of time, the greatest miracle happens – the miracle of the bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ during the consecration. Hence attending Mass is the most important event of any day in our life as we are actually witnessing this miracle. Third is that during the Mass there is a renewal of the bloody crucifixion and death of Christ at Calvary thus enabling us to realize and appreciate God’s love for us, the greatest love of all graphically illustrated by His words “greater love than this no man hath than to lay down His life for His friend”. Fourth is that the Mass is supposed to be a community prayer where the people of God the “Body of Christ” gather and pray not only for oneself but for each other and for all the others.

According to Church officials promoting the new Missal, this English language translation is “intended to be closer to the Latin liturgy that was used for centuries than the current version” so that “it will bring an elevated reverence and authenticity to the Mass”. In this connection let me just cite portions of the article I came across the internet since my knowledge of Latin language is limited only to some legal maxims I used in my pleadings before the courts if I want to sound more impressive and convincing. This is the article of Erik Baker a 16-year old high school student who has been studying Latin since 6th grade. This young Latin whiz found the translation better and more accurate, and tried to use the changes as “an opportunity to examine the value of the Latin Mass and ultimately the nature of the Mass itself”. And these are his findings:

In the “Confiteor”, “I have sinned” has been changed to “I have greatly sinned” while the “mea culpas” have been translated to “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault”. Baker finds these changes as “hyperbolically critical of humanity” because they promote “a vision of human nature as overwhelmingly and inexorably sinful”. Instead of promoting humility, it “fosters guilt”, so the “Latin is more condemnatory” without any scriptural basis.

Then in the “Gloria”, “peace to His people on earth has been changed to “on earth peace to people of good will” To these change Baker asks, “why are we only praying that people of good will receive peace? This seems to say that people without ‘good will’ are not deserving of peace”, which is “anathema to everything Jesus taught. There is simply no sound reason for abandoning ‘love your enemies’ simply because it is closer to Latin”. It is even a “mistranslation of the original Greek text” that recognizes this teaching of Jesus and expresses ‘good will to all people’”.

Finally in the Nicene Creed, “all the ‘believes’ are in the first person. This destroys the sense of communal vision found in the ‘we believe’ of the previous translation”, Thus “Faith becomes something of the individual, by the individual for the individual” whereas “Catholicism is supposed to value unity and togetherness”. Then there are also “two bizarre translations of particular words in the Latin that sound awkward and even obscure: ‘cosubstantial’ and ‘was incarnate’. These English words may really “resemble the Latin words” in long and rare forms but “comprehensibility matters more” so that the people can understand the Mass, Baker observed.

In conclusion Baker has these to say: “The problem with the new translation and indeed the notion of a codified Latin Mass is that it destroys the communal and egalitarian nature of the act. Rather than an act of communion through which the churchgoers relates to God, it becomes an individualistic act through which the churchgoers relate to the experts in Rome. It sets certain people above others in terms of their knowledge of a dead language and of dogma – concerns that clearly distract from the message of God. If the Mass has any meaning, it must be grounded on communal concerns and vision – not an effort to include as many four syllable words”.

I am not saying that Baker is correct. But being “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic” Church, it would be good to look into his observations if only to avoid division and discord. Indeed we cannot really erase the “possibility of human error in writing church text”. Per reports however the CBCP has already approved the adoption of the new English version. So let us just put our complete trust in God and hope that like the Director of the American bishop’s secretariat overseeing the introduction of the new Missal in America who was shocked when he first read the text, we may become “more comfortable with it, the more time we spend with it”’; and realize that the “new translation tries to be more faithful to the Scriptures and a little more poetic and evocative in terms of imagery and metaphor”.

ALTER CHRISTUS BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST BODY OF CHRIST LATIN LATIN MASS MASS PEOPLE ROMAN MISSAL
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