New Translation of the Mass
By Fr Dylan James, Shaftesbury27
March 2010In September 2011 the prayers that we currently use in the Mass are going to be replacedby a new translation. This change is going to be the biggest change that we haveexperienced in the Mass in 38 years.
Why is this happening?
The prayers that we use the Mass are the same prayers said by Catholics all across theworld. The official version of these prayers is written in Latin and was revised after theSecond Vatican Council in the 1960s. In 1973 we started using the current Englishtranslation of these prayers, however, this translation was produced in something of a hurryand it was always planned that it would be revised. The revision has taken a long time andgone through many different drafts, many of which have been rejected or approved by ourbishops and by the Vatican. A new improved text is now finally ready.
Why is this important?
The prayers we say in the Mass
what we believe, however, by the very fact that wesay these prayers they also
our belief and potentially change what we believe. As theancient saying goes,
, the rule of prayer is the rule of faith. It istherefore important that the prayers we say are truly a worthy and accurate expression of our Catholic faith. Making sure that the new English translation is a better reflection of theoriginal Latin will help make sure that the prayers form us into better Catholics.
What principles have the translators used?
The 1973 translation drew on principles of translation that were fashionable at the time. Inparticular, they avoided formal equivalence methodologies that aimed at a word for wordrendering of the words of one language into another language. Instead, they drew on thedynamic equivalence methodology of Eugene Nida. This theory avoided focussing onexact word translations and instead tried to produce the same
in the new languagethat a text in the original language had produced. In practice, however, it can often bedifficult to faithfully produce the same effect unless you also faithfully translate theparticular words. As one of the new translators has put it, sometimes formal equivalencecan be the way to achieve dynamic equivalence.
What was wrong with the old translation?
The translators of the new text have been keen to say that it is not so much that the oldtranslation was "wrong" but that the new translation will be better. This said, there arecertain weaknesses that have been consistently noted in the old translation. One of theproblems in the 1973 translation is that it often failed to convey the Scriptural imagery thatwas in the Latin text. In contrast, the new translation includes many words and phrases thatwe will recognise as being from the Bible, and this should help us appreciate the significanceof the prayers better. Another problem with the 1973 text is that many specific Latin wordswere given no English equivalent in the translation, with the consequence that the 1973translation often had a very reduced meaning. In particular, priests have often noted thatthe Opening Prayers of the Mass can often feel rather vague and as if they lack content. Inaddition, the general style of the English used in the 1973 translation lacked the sacred