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From the Editor Rev. Thomas M. Kocik Different theological and pastoral rationales have been given for the changes in Roman Catholic liturgical life after the Second Vatican Council. A central assumption underlying most of the changes is that the traditional, pre-reform modes of worship were too remote from the lives of ordinary Catholics and that the language of worship had become incomprehensible. Much of the reform was consequently a great turn toward the vernacular. The Latin liturgical texts were subjected to translations that were supposed to make the message and the rites more understandable to the people in the pews as well as more relevant to their lives. Little empirical evidence was furnished at the time of the Council to indicate that ordinary Catholics found the Latin Mass remote or difficult to understand (especially with Latinvernacular missals in hand). Liturgical experts and prelates posited the incomprehensibility a priori. The fact that Pentecostalism, with its glossolalia-dominated worship, is the world’s fastest-growing Christian movement suggests what may well be the underlying mistake of the vernacularist assumption. It is not the only mistake. There is also the patronizing notion that ordinary people are unable to find their way through sacred proceedings in an unfamiliar idiom. But there is a more fundamental error in the notion that worship must minimize the remoteness of God as much as possible. To be sure, the error is not total, as anyone who believes in the Incarnation must admit. Of course every form of worship seeks to mediate between the remoteness of the supernatural and the reality of everyday human existence. However, it is fundamentally wrongheaded to use linguistic means to try to conceal the divine transcendence, to pretend that in liturgical celebration we can speak of God and to God – even an incarnate God – in the style and language of ordinary speech. I say this as one who favors a liberal use of “sacral” vernacular in the liturgy, together with the Latin (and Greek and Hebrew).   For a humorous critique of this aprioristic attitude see Andrew Greeley , “Liturgists and the Laity,” Antiphon 6.3 (2001) 5-8.   Michael P. Foley makes an important distinction in his article “The Language of Prayer,” Wall Street Journal (23 June 2006), published shortly after the U.S. Catholic bishops approved the new English translation of Antiphon 13.3 (2009): 188-192 189 from the editor As work on the current number of Antiphon nears completion, the Catholic bishops of the United States have completed the approval process for the English translations of texts of the Roman Missal. This follows decades of controversy over the colloquial approach of the translation in use since 1973, issued by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). A reformed ICEL began its work of translating the third typical edition of the Missal in 2002. In June 2008 the Holy See granted its approval (recognitio) of the ICEL texts of the Ordinary of the Mass, and this past November the bishops approved the Propers. Final approval from Rome is needed before the new English texts can be used. The new translation is to be welcomed as it is a considerable improvement on the one currently used, both for its faithfulness to the original Latin texts and for its dignified and sacral language. It will, I am certain, prove a monumental step toward moving Anglophone Catholic worship to a point “beyond the prosaic.” the Ordinary of the Mass: “Contrary to widespread belief, there has never been a tradition of the vernacular in Christian liturgy, if by ‘vernacular’ you mean the language we speak on the street. Many of the earliest Masses were offered in a language the congregation could understand, but not in the language that could be heard in the marketplace. Before a native language was used in divine worship, it was first ‘sacralized’ – its syntax and diction were gingerly modified, archaisms were deliberately re-introduced and even new rhythmic meters and cadences were invented. All of this was done in order to produce a distinctive mode of communication, one that was separate from garden-variety vernacular speech and capable of relaying the unique mysteries of the Gospel” (p. W-11...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-9933
Print ISSN
1543-9925
Pages
pp. 188-192
Launched on MUSE
2020-03-24
Open Access
No
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