It is official the new translation of the Roman Missal will be released at the beginning of Advent 2011. I wanted to offer some of my thoughts on how the Church should address catechesis of the new Missal, especially catechizing on the Creed.
In many ways the new translation of the Roman Missal is a vast improvement over the current translation, but its implementation will be one of the most challenging catechetical endeavors in recent decades. But in the midst of every challenge is a silver lining and I think the silver lining of this particular challenge will be the opportunity to reintroduce the faithful to the history of the Church, particularly the patristic period. Catechesis on the translation of the Nicene Creed should include a history of this Creed in order to better understand the meaning of the words we recite every Sunday. That being said let us focus on the new translation of the phrase, “consubstantialem Patri”. The current translation reads, “One in Being with the Father”, while the new translation returns to the more literal “consubstantial with the Father.” Naturally, this phrase refers to the relationship between the Father and the Son.
Some preliminary observations to begin with: First, I think one of the key lessons from the controversy surrounding Nicaea and indeed from the entire study of the doctrine of God, is that we must be precise in our terms referencing God. It is amazing that the Fathers of the Church sacrificed so much just for just one word, like homoousios. If so much went into the use of term we should be careful not to throw it out lightly. Secondly, the term “one in being” is an ambiguous phrase. I remember when the US bishops were debating the new translation (unfortunately, I cannot find the transcript) this issue was raised about “one in Being”. Several bishops argued that “one in being” was not specific enough in describing the relationship between Father and Son, since you and I can be one in being in a room, etc. One in being in a time or place is not what the Fathers of the Church had in mind when they used the term homoousios/consubstantialem.
America, the Jesuit magazine, has an article against the new Roman Missal translation which attempts to rectify some of the truly wretched translations that the English speaking peoples of the world had foisted upon them in the Sixties. The piece is written by Father Michael G. Ryan. Little did he know that he was going to be subject to one of the best fisks ever delivered by the Master of the Fisk, Father Z.
“What if we, the parish priests of this country who will be charged with the implementation, were to find our voice and tell our bishops that we want to help them avert an almost certain fiasco? What if we told them that we think it unwise to implement these changes until our people have been consulted in an adult manner that truly honors their intelligence and their baptismal birthright? [What would that entail, this “consulting our people”? Would that mean, what… having our people do the translation? Would it involve, what… voting?] What if we just said, “Wait, not until our people are ready for the new translations, but until the translations are ready for our people”? [How would that work, exactly?]
Heeding Our Pastoral Instincts [Two really precise terms there!]
The bishops have done their best, [But apparently, they did a pretty bad job of it, according to the writer. Maybe “our people” can do a better job of making these decisions. Right! The bishops shouldn’t decide! “Our people” should decide! Down with the bishops! Up with “our people”! UNITE! Crush the IMPERIALIST…. er um… okay… sorry…. I digress….] but up to now they have not succeeded. Some of them, led by the courageous and outspoken former chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pa., [ROFL! You knew his name would pop up, right!] tried mightily [What a Hercules, he! What a David! What a … er… um…. sorry….] to stop the new translation train but to no avail. The bishops’ conference, marginalized and battle-weary, allowed itself slowly but steadily to be worn down. [By those wicked new translation loving types! DOWN WITH THEM!] After awhile the will to fight was simply not there. Acquiescence took over to the point that tiny gains (a word here, a comma there) were regarded as major victories. Without ever wanting to, the bishops abandoned their best pastoral instincts and in so doing gave up on the best interests of their people. [The writer is pretty worked up.]”
Go here to read the whole fisk. It is not to be missed.