Saturday, May 01, 2010
Found in translation...
As a Catholic that has a deeper growing appreciation for pure and Christ centred liturgy, I'm quite excited by the upcoming changes to the Roman Missal (i.e. the order of the Latin rite Mass). While I'm not going to go into the history behind this and the reasons for it, let's just say that these changes are very, very welcomed.
So why the changes? Well, let's begin by saying that these changes are not to "correct the errors" made by Vatican II and the transition from the traditional Latin (tridentine) Mass to the Novus Ordo Missae. The Novus Ordo Mass is completely valid, but granted initial translations of the Mass from Latin to English and mother tongues of countries around the world were arguably rushed and some things were lost in translation. I'm not going to pin point what these things are because by their nature they are still valid, but allow me to describe it this way: when the Novus Ordo Mass was brought to countries in Africa, for example, the Mass went from Latin to English, but then authorities on the diocesan level translated the Mass from English to their mother tongue. So what you had was this: a translation from Latin to English to mother tongue, rather than from Latin to mother tongue.
Why was this transitional translation problematic? While the languages of the world have progressed with the times and keep up with translations of the most common languages spoken in the world, there may not be words that "exist" to describe something described in another language, so a substitute word is used in its stead. An example I've often found humourous when the French attempted to translate the title of the remake of the movie The Planet of the Apes. In French, the equivalent to the word "ape" is "la singe" (pronounced "sahnge"), but when translated to English it means "monkey". So the title of the movie The Planet of the Apes in English then becomes La Planète des Singes, and when that is translated back into English it reads "The Planet of the Monkeys". It's not quite the same movie! The sub-titling in the movie makes for a good chuckle too when one of the leading ape characters attempts to explain to the Mark Wahlberg character that they, the apes, are not monkeys as the Wahlberg character insists on calling him. What you got in French was this (I'm not fluent in French so forgive my attempt at it, but fear not: I will translate):
"Nous ne sommes pas des singes; nous sommes des singes!"
("We are not monkeys, we are monkeys!")
What our simian friend actually said in the movie was this:
"We are not monkeys; we are apes!"
But of course the French translated it using words familiar to them or with an equivalent/similar meaning.
But I digress...
So what do these revisions (changes) to the Roman Missal do (and there have been a few of them over the years)? These revisions bring the words of the liturgy closer to the order used in the Latin (tridentine) Mass and shake off the ambiguity of certain terms and words and clarify meaning and understanding for those taking part in the Mass, be they the priest or the assembly. So what may have been lost in translation is either found again or fully defined in the use of the word or phrase.
To get an idea of what I'm talking about, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have published a first look at the revisions to the assembly responses of the Mass. You can find that here (revisions are bolded): http://usccb.org/romanmissal/examples.shtml
Go here for a pdf version.
Thanks for reading and may God bless you.