Last week a new English translation of the Roman Missal was completed and will be implemented in parishes as soon as it is approved by Pope Benedict XVI. [The Roman Missal contains prayers and instructions for the celebration of the Roman Catholic Mass.] This translation is based on Pope John Paul II’s 2002 third revised edition of the Latin text. While this is certainly not the first time the Vatican has revised the language of the liturgy, what is unique about this edition is the criterion used for translation into English. According to Ratio Translationis, the English translation will be marked by a grammatical structure that closely follows the Latin text and reflects the noble tone of the Roman Rite. Consider the following examples, available on the USCCB’s website:
- Any time the celebrant greets the congregation with the phrase: “The Lord be with you,” the congregation is to respond “And with your spirit.” The current response is “And also with you.”
- The penitential rite will be expanded to include the words “greatly sinned” and “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” The present version is simply “sinned through my own fault.”
- The Nicene Creed also reflects a number of changes in translation. “We believe in one God” becomes “I believe in one God,” “consubstantial” replaces “one in being.
As feminists have long argued, God-talk is far from value neutral. Liturgical language does more than point toward the reality that is God; it functions in the human community, shaping our commitments to one another and the earth. In a time in which the church is the midst of a crisis, our communal prayer needs to be that which empowers and nourishes the community to work to bring about justice and peace in the world.