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Rules Before Needs: It Doesn’t Have to be that Way

When the new Roman Missal (big, red book the priest prays from during Mass) was brought into effect on the first Sunday of Advent 2011, it brought about a major shift in language. If you have ever participated at a Mass I presided at, you may not have noticed much of a change. Why? Let me explain. The new Missal is full of language like: oblation, sanctify, exultant majesty, homage, expiation, consubstantial, virtues of heaven, beseech, etc. (If I was to use words like that, I would make it mandatory for you to bring your dictionary or thesaurus to Mass; you would need it just as much as I do.) The reason you haven’t noticed much of a change, when I’m presiding, is because I’m translating those words on the fly. For example, when I see the word “oblation,” I immediately say the word “offering”; when I see the word “sanctify,” I promptly translate it into “to make holy.” Those bishops and theologians, who felt the need for a new translation, must have felt the more lofty-sounding and the more Latin-sounding a word is, the holier it must be. But they made the cardinal sin that no public speaker should make—they ignored their audience. A parishioner once said, “the audience doesn’t matter; it’s the message that matters.” What is the message, then?  This is clearly the message: The audience is not important (99% of the Church doesn’t matter). And Jesus could not have known what he was doing explaining the Kingdom of God with simple language like wheat, coins, bread, wineskins, water, oil; he must have meant to say “consubstantial with the Father.” Right?

For example, the clause (remember from your English grammar that a clause, placed between two commas, can be eliminated without affecting the meaning of a sentence) “we pray” is said over and over and over by the presider at Mass. All liturgy is prayer; you don’t have to keep repeating it like a parrot. Translators of the 2011 Missal wanted, according to Bishop Barron, to communicate the majesty of God the King. Period! Bishop Barron goes on to say that “we pray” is the equivalent of “we beg” or “we beseech”. I have no problem with God as king. But this repetitive language of “we pray” conjures up the idea of a king seated upon a throne while a servant comes in groveling on hands and knees feeling guilty for having disturbed the king in the first place. Jesus is my king and always will be. However, the Missal portrays him as an earthly king who lords it over his subjects and just loves it when His subjects beg at a safe distance. If those who did the translation of the new Missal would have read the gospels, just once, they would have known that Jesus avoided all overtures to make him an earthly king. The Missal perpetually uses language that keeps the distance between us and God. Ask yourself: Does the language you hear at Mass bring you and God closer? Jesus is my king and always will be. Jesus is the servant king who never sat on a throne while he walked among us. Jesus is the servant king who washed his disciples’ feet. Jesus is the servant king who said, “I do not call you servants, but I call you “friends” (Jn. 15:15).  We prefer kings on thrones over foot-washers. Had those in charge of the Missal’s translation read John’s gospel, even just once, we would not have the terrible translation we are stuck with. I suspect they did read the gospel, but they chose to ignore it. They preferred language of “we pray,” the formal and stately language of beggars coming into the king’s court. You know who doesn’t use this language? Children. They don’t beg, beseech or pray to come into the Lord’s presence as groveling servants. They sit in the Lord’s lap as friends. They come before the Lord with singing, with joy, and with confidence, as we are all supposed to do. I guess those responsible for the new Missal, (and those priests who recite these words mindlessly), clearly put rules before needs. It doesn’t have to be that way; Jesus showed us another way.     

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