Saturday, August 19, 2006

Novus Novus Ordo


The current activities surrounding the Vatican directive to bring our current English translation of the Mass more into line with the Latin, and thus what the text actually says, continue to fascinate me.

Not ever having seen the Latin of the Novus Ordo, the Mass that most of us know, I never gave the English translation a thought, other than I thought it incredibly dry. But I just chalked that up as my own spiritual problem.

However, now that I have this beautiful Daily Roman Missal published by Midwest Theological Forum which has the Latin text alongside the English, I can’t help but be fascinated by the contrast between what the text actually says and what the English translators made it say.

The Novus Ordo, or the New Order of the Mass (as opposed to the traditional Latin Rite), was promulgated by Paul VI in 1969. The English translation soon followed with what I will call the Novus Novus Ordo, simply because there are so many liberties and deviations from the original Latin Text as to almost be a new order of the Mass in and of itself.

Of course the translation in question is completely valid and licit and I will never take issue with what has been approved by the appropriate ecclesial authorities. But since the Bishops have been ordered to redo the thing, it is fair to say what I have always thought…that there is something definitely wrong or at least incomplete with the current text.

One of those is the famous “mea culpa”. I was surprised to see that “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” is still part of the Novus Ordo. I thought that all that apologizing was done away with in the “spirit of Vatican II” and the new liturgy. But there it is…on the left side of my missal.. The English, as you know, flatly reads “through my own fault” as opposed to the literal “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault”. Again, this is not the Latin of the Tridentine Rite. This is the Latin of the Novus Ordo. It’s what we are supposed to be saying.

The threefold apology reminds me of the famous 70’s dictum “the medium is the message”. Huh? Let me illustrate. In many languages there is no recourse to the comparative and superlative senses of a word. And even where the language affords such recourse, the cultural application may supersede. Here’s an example. I was a teacher on an English speaking Caribbean island for several years. It was common when one wanted to emphasize something to repeat it three times (e.g. “The wave was big, big, big!”). The description was usually accompanied by both the appropriate physical and facial gestures and ended with the colloquial “missun” as in “big, big, big, missun!” (You had to be there.) Somehow, saying the wave was “very big” or even “very, very big”, just didn’t get the point across.

Same reason why we say “Holy, Holy, Holy” instead of “very, very Holy”, or why we say the Lamb of God or the Lord Have Mercy, three times. There is also the scriptural echo of Peter’s threefold denial and the later threefold “Do you love me?” There are scriptural and linguistic reasons for repeating something three times. The creators of the Novus Ordo, despite seeming to have no problem with massive revisions on other parts of the Mass didn’t mess with the threefold mea culpa. That in itself should say something. However, enter the English translation and it's gone!

Now, one more, and this one really get me. I hope the Bishops will vote to change this one. It’s in the Gloria, 2nd line where it says “and peace to his people on earth”. It’s just amazing to me at how the English not only does this not come anywhere close to the Latin, but completely negates what the original text actually says.

The Latin says “et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis”, literally translated it says “and on earth peace to men of good will”. It’s “peace to men of GOOD WILL”, not “peace to his people”. And I’m not even arguing the inclusive language thing. They could have translated it “peace to people of good will” for all I care, but the main deal is they left out “good will” altogether. No need to be good. Peace is for everyone. That’s not what the Latin says and that’s not what the Church says.

History Quiz

Every Friday I receive an email newsletter from CT at the Movies. CT stands for Christianity Today and I enjoy their movie reviews as well as appreciate their fair and open treatment of all Christian religions.

However, every once in awhile I am amused by a very obvious, albeit probably unconscious, anti-Catholic slip. I say “amused” because, the slip bespeaks an anti-Catholic understanding of history that is so inbred in most protestant Americans that they haven’t even the foggiest clue that their comments have all the grace and tact of the proverbial bull in the china closet; assuming of course that the Catholic reader actually knows something of history other than what he got from the Discovery Channel or the Da Vinci Code

Sadly, or perhaps, mercifully, most Catholics, since they’ve been spared the task of learning any real history for the last two generations, will never know the attack that was just leveled against their Faith, and will go on their merry way whistling “all is well, all is well”.

The “slip” in question is the following statement taken from the CT at the Movies email newsletter of 8/18/06:

World Trade Center illustrates how people can respond when under attack— when
their fellow human beings, under the veil of terrorism disguised as religious ideology, turn into mass murderers.

Variations on this theme have certainly happened before, many times in the course of human history—the Crusades, the Holocaust, and the Rwandan genocide being just a few examples.

The context of course is a review of the recent release of the movie “World Trade Center”. Now, Catholics, here’s your history test. Can you spot the problem, the error, the gross error, the hostile anti-Catholic bigotry, the… Okay, I’ll stop. It’s actually not that bad simply because it was unintended (or at least I think so). But it’s still an error, an error which first bespeaks the aforementioned inbred anti-Catholic understanding of history in this country, but second, an error that has the potential to undermine the faith of unaware, but otherwise sincere Catholics.

The more I looked at “it”, the more “bothered” I became and decided to get the attention of the writers by sending a nice message with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. However, the last paragraph mentioned the name Steven D. Greydanus. Steven is an Catholic movie critic and publishes his excellent reviews on Decent Films and in the National Catholic Register. His name was mentioned because CT was welcoming him as a new contributor.

In the spirit of God sparing Sodom at the insistence of Abraham (which of course He eventually didn’t do), I mercifully chose to spare CT the “unsubscribe” notice on account of their addition of Greydanus. However, I wasn’t about to overlook CT’s grievous transgression but decided to complain via Greydanus as per my following email which will also provide the answer to the above history quiz…which by now you should have answered.

Hi Steven,
I almost unsubscribed to CT at the Movies just now, but then saw your name in the last paragraph of the I decided to stay on and voice my concern to you. Though I normally like everything they write I took strong exception to their throwing the Crusades into the same category as the Holocaust and Rwanda. (typical protestant mistake). There were bad men and bad things associated with the Crusades, but the original cause was noble, or at least thought to be. It was the Pope who called for the crusades. To allow for the conection that CT is trying to make is to equate the Pope with Hitler. Just my opinion. Hopefully you'll be able to help these guys.
Thanks for all you do.
Tim Rohr

I have very up close and personal experience with certain persons’ Catholic Faith shaken and sometimes shattered by this type of anti-Catholic historical revisionism. The three favorite topics in this genre are the Avignon Papacy, the Crusades, and of course the Inquisition.

By the way, I do not blame those whose faith was “shaken” or “shattered”. I will not just write them off with a casual “Well their faith was weak”. Where would a Catholic learn of these things, and even more important, learn the truth about these events in order to combat the constant harangue of both the secular media and anti-Catholic propagandists?

Alas, we shall leave that discussion for another day. Meanwhile, may I recommend “Triumph – The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church” by Harry Crocker III. This is an excellent and very readable history, a history we should know.
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