This Sunday the Catholic Church will be using a new liturgy – newly translated, closer to the original text, and apparently a greater sense of the mystery of God.
I don’t know the specifics of the Mass since I have only been to one once, and I certainty don’t know the Latin text, so I don’t know if the original is better or not. I have seen some of the examples of the translation in an article from the Providence Journal. One jumps out at me not very good:
Before, in the Nicene Creed, Jesus Christ was described as “one in Being with the Father,” and now will be described as, “consubstantial with the Father.”
That seems much more confusing and cold.
To be fair, there probably are some changes that are smoother and cleaner but I don’t feel like looking for them right now. I’m sure they are out there – find them and let me know so you can show me up.
The thing that stuck out to me was the move to make the prayers more formulaic and structured and to offer less freedom to the priests. The intent seems to be good. I won’t read into the idea of the existence of a smoky, underworld, bureaucracy of the hierarchy clothed as charlatans pretending to care about the blue haired women while they wring their hands counting their coffers as the copyright fees are updated and St. Peter’s builds a brand new bathroom. I won’t comment on that because it probably is more of a canard than anything else (but fun to write).
What I will comment is on the particularity of the local parish. I understand the necessity for uniformity in a movement/church, and that liturgy is a place where that uniformity can be celebrated. One of the arguments for a Latin Mass was that you could go to Mass anywhere in the world and know that the words themselves will always be the same.
However, there is something else to be said for contextualization. It took a number of years for missionaries to realize that the gospel cannot be told with the same language and in the same exact way to people of different cultures. The gospel needs to be contextualized. I would argue that to a degree that is the case for the Mass. Different communities have different characteristics; they will hear and receive the a message in different ways depending on how it is conveyed. For example, some prayers are heard better by one community using very formal language while another community would respond to language used in a more vernacular language. I would argue that the pastor of the parish should have the freedom to nuance the Mass in such a way that it will speak to the people of that particular congregation. Having a written liturgy will insure uniformity, but when it is made to strict there is a danger that the Holy Spirit will be ignored and no one will be reached.
Of course I am sure that I have some Catholic brothers and sisters who would take great offence at this post and say something like:
“What the **** does this two-bit Baptist know about uniformity and liturgy? How dare he criticize the one true Church?”
“Who does this Malone character think he is telling the all-powerful and mighty Church what is right and what is wrong? He should return to he back-woods Baptist group of slack-jawed yokels and leave real worship to us.”
Feel free to choose either one as a critique. I do recognize that I am an outsider and don’t expect my comments to change any minds in the hierarchy. I’m just sharing my humble, simple thoughts. Thoughts that are probably right, but humble and simple nonetheless.