Whereas it would seem that more emphasis was placed at times on the receptor tongue and culture the first time around, namely for example, rendering “Et cum spiritu tuo” as “And also with you,” a different balance is now being offered to our worship. English was the only major language which had dropped the reference to “the spirit” in that exchange of greeting; the German, Italian, French, Portuguese and Slavic languages all retained the more formal equivalent to the Latin original.
This may be a small thing, and I have appreciated the phrasing to which we have become accustomed, but the question remains: How do we pray in and with the church in a way which takes account of the particular individual congregation at prayer, on the one hand, and still retain a sense of unity with the larger worldwide church, on the other?
We have become accustomed over these 40 years to the direct Anglo-Saxon phrasing of our prayer at Communion, “I am not worthy to receive you ….” As a student of Scripture, however, I know that the simplicity of that phrase has lost the clear allusion to the words of the proud Roman centurion, begging for the healing of his servant and humbly admitting his unworthiness to have Christ “enter under his roof” (Mt 8:8; Lk 7:6).
Similarly, the reference in the third eucharistic prayer to a perfect offering “from east to west” masks the original biblical Latin “from the rising of the sun to its setting” which is in fact a direct citation from the prophet Malachi (1:11). What initially now sounds like mere geography is in fact praise which spans the entire day as well as the far stretches of the rotating globe.
The more clearly those allusions can be preserved and expressed, the easier it will be, at least in my judgment, to pray with a sense of rootedness in the Scriptures and unity with the church universal. Those proposed clarifications will make our liturgical prayer more faithful to the admonition of the Second Vatican Council, namely that our prayer, preaching and catechesis should be expressed in biblical accents.
Once again, the question is preserving the balance between the imagery of the original and the manner in which it could be expressed in the new “receptor” tongue.
The new rubrics will also ask us to rise at the presider’s first invitation to prayer at the end of the preparation of the gifts, and to remain standing for our initial common response as well as for the presider’s prayer over those gifts. The principles are that the entire unit of public prayer should be spoken while standing, and that it should not be broken up by the congregation’s movement. That makes sense.
I have been very clear in stating my personal conviction that the new English translation of our Missal should take the time needed to be rendered in smooth and fine English, clear in revealing its biblical origins and easily understood by the people who gather for the Eucharist. The new basic rubrical adaptations, however, seem wise and helpful for public prayer.
I suspect that what we don’t always understand in our discussions and complaints is the simple fact that at this point in history we are immersed in the globalization of the church. There is a wider world, and we are not the center of it, nor should the whole world be held hostage by our American viewpoint on things. As Americans we certainly have something to offer, and our experience should belong to the larger world, too … and theirs to us.
Being in those magnificent ancient Roman basilicas last week, and hearing the cadences of so many different nationalities at their public prayer made me think of many things … the needs of the poor and oppressed, the terrible injustices which ravage lives, the great works of justice and charity everywhere … and the need for elegant prayer with and in the entire worldwide church. I also thought of my father who often said, “If you’re going to do something, do it right!”