Thursday, August 18, 2011

More About the Upcoming New Translation of Mass--Sacred and Secular

Cardinal Wuerl celebrates Mass with the noble
simplicity that facilitates prayer on the part of
priest and people, 
  We have already looked somewhat at this issue of the new translation of the Roman Rite of the Mass that Catholics will begin using this November.  I think one of the things that concerns me most about the proposed new translation is that the desire is for a more “sacred” language appropriate to the Liturgy.  As I said in  yesterday’s entry, I am all for good use of language in the Liturgy.  I like a somewhat formal tone to such events, not because they are “sacred” but simply because public discourse merits public language, i.e. the English (or whatever the vernacular language may be) that is common to us all regardless of region, ethnic/racial background, socio-economic class, or educational level.  I remember studying public speaking years ago—more years than I like to think about—while I was at university. (I actually have a teaching-minor in public speaking; I took it seriously.)  Our professors always held up “six-o’clock news English” as the standard.  By and large, I think that is the appropriate linguistic tone to strike whether it is a city council meeting, a Memorial Day wreath-laying, a High School honors assembly,  a College valedictory address,  or Church.  As for ‘sacred” language (as opposed to secular) I am not so sure.  It seems to me that our belief in the Incarnation sees that the “secular” is shot through with the sacred.  As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote: “earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes – The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.  Or Gerard Manley Hopkins:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;  
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
     Frankly, this talk of sacred vs. secular language frightens me because beneath it I see the ancient heresy that tells us the lie that between God and this fragile world there is an immense gap which no one can cross while I believe and our faith proclaims that God has broken into human time and place and in Jesus Christ is gathering this mortal creation back into his Divine Self.  I am by no means in favor of a Lèse majesté towards God.  I think that worship, in word and action, should have a dignity, a noble simplicity.  But it also must be real and reflect the real us, or it is not prayer.  A sacred/secular dichotomy or a body/soul dichotomy potentially undermines the essential doctrine of Christianity:  that the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father—consubstantial (to use the newly rediscovered word) with the Father in his Divine Nature—has pitched his tent among us (to use the phrase Saint John uses in his prologue; the habitavit in nobis [“and dwelt among us”] was Saint Jerome’s “dynamic equivalency” translation) among us making this “secular world” sacred by his Incarnation.  But then, over the years, I have noticed that Monophysitism is the operative faith of most Catholic Christians.    Just read the annual Christmas letter of almost any bishop to get a good glimpse of unorthodoxy.  Given the principle of lex orandi; lex credendi this new translation is only going to reinforce that.    

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