The new translation - or is it the first real translation?
You know, very soon after I came back to the Church I learned that the Church "used" to use Latin.
Then a little later on I learned that "the Church" still uses Latin but not our Church (dynamic equivalent translation: Maybe in some idealistic vague reality the Church still has Latin as an official language, but seriously, practically speaking there's no such thing any more as actually using Latin in a Mass).
Then, still later on I heard Latin for the first time in a church, being used in Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament (thank you St. Thomas Aquinas!).
This plain fact, that I just experienced Latin in a church, thus threw into question my whole "knowledge" about Latin as previously understood - and I immediately asked where I could go to a Mass that used this language? By this time, thankfully I had found, by God's grace, a good crowd of orthodox young adults who were, needless to say, a bit better informed than the parish liturgist I had asked before. They knew what I was talking about, of course, and I was told to go to the (I later learned) famous St. Agnes parish in St. Paul.
The next Sunday I went. There, I first heard the Latin language used in a Mass, and thanks to the handy booklets I first saw the Latin text side-by-side with the modern English translation. I sure didn't know much of Latin (I still don't!) but it was immediately obvious to me that there had to be more of a difference between:
Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam,
Domine Deus, Rex caelestis, Deus Pater omnipotens.
Lord God, heavenly King, Almighty God and Father;
We worship you, we give you thanks,
We praise you for your glory.
Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram.
You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us;
than met the eye.
I mean - the Latin obviously adds more lines in the first example (and has a different line ordering), and in the second one it repeats something! And, looking at the text, it was obvious that throughout the Gloria there were lines that didn't "match". Hmmm. Ok, fine. Whatever. At the time I just noted it as being "interesting" and let it be - I mean, I didn't really know what was going on, and it must be right - right?
Then, fast-forward a few weeks to an excursion to one of the coolest book stores on earth, standing before a dusty, dimly-lit bookshelf it all crystalized. I found an "old modern" Missal, you know, the one from between The Council and the 1970s - the "literal" English translation. With one glance I went, what? Here's what it gives for the Gloria translation of the two parts above:
We praise You.
We bless You.
We adore You.
We glorify You
We give You thanks for Your great Glory.
O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father almighty.
You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
You take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.
(for bing-bang-boom online texts of all three Glorias, go here.)
Wait a minute! What happened? What the heck is this current banal fluff I've been singing for my whole life in the same cheesy tune? This means that the modern texts aren't just an attempted translation, they are purposely weakened re-interpretations! I want my money back! (Ok, maybe I'm over-reacting a slight bit here - but you get the idea!) Where did this modern dumbed down "translation" come from?
ICEL. Those guys from the late 60s to the 90s who thought that we American Catholics are just too dumb to understand sacred langauge. Kind of like the "inclusive language" proponents who think that we women are so stupid that we lack the mental ability to understand when the Bible uses the word man in the universal sense. I always love that attack on my dignity as a woman. And now, whenever I heard that dreadful ICEL-speak, I just gotta love the attack on my dignity as an American Catholic.
Thankfully, Rome has spoken - and has been heard. ICEL was "reformed" some years ago, and work began on a new, actual translation of the original Latin texts of the Mass. That is what all the talk in the Catholic media has been about lately - not the "new" translation of the Mass, but I would say a restoration of a translation of the Mass.
The composers who brought us the endlessly repeated tunes of the Gloria we sing today may not be happy about having to rewrite their musical settings to accomodate a new Gloria text - but when that day comes I sure will be!
Check out more line-by-line comparisons at the Me monk. Me meander. blog