Roman Missal: How Does the Translation Change the Meaning of a Prayer?

Last week, we discussed the different ideas of how we translate things, both with dynamic equivalence, a more general and everyday translation, and formal equivalence, a more literal or direct translation of the original.  Just think of Mr. Schaberg and his sixth grade class!  Well this week, I had the idea to give you a sneak peak of one of the new translations of a prayer…before it even comes out!!!  I know, I know, it’s pretty outstanding, but just try to contain your excitement.

This is the opening prayer (called a collect) for this Sunday, the 31st Week of Ordinary Time:

Current Translation

New Translation

God of power and mercy,

only with your help

can we offer you fitting service and praise.

May we live the faith we profess

and trust your promise of eternal life.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ,

your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Almighty and merciful God,

by whose gift your faithful offer you

right and praiseworthy service,

grant, we pray,

that we may hasten without stumbling

to receive the things you have promised.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

So lets take a look, shall we?  At first glance, we can definitely see that the new translation has much more complex and formal sentences and words, while the current translation is a bit easier to read.  But the new translation is a much more exact translation of the original Latin text (I wanted to print the Latin words here too, but I was afraid the parish secretary would kill me if I didn’t get in my article in time.).  That’s dynamic and formal equivalence in action!

What about the meaning?  The new translation prayer has a slightly different meaning than the current, and what a rich meaning it is!  Let’s look, for example, at the line: “May we live the faith we profess” versus “that we may hasten without stumbling.”   The current version is certainly an important part of our faith – living out what we say in church – but the new translation makes us think of a race, an image that St. Paul uses in his second letter to Timothy (2 Tim 4:7).  Our life of faith truly is a race, with us each striving toward the goal of being with God forever in heaven.  Unfortunately we know that there are obstacles in our lives – hurdles like sin and failure – that cause us to stumble and slow down.  But like a good runner, we get back up and do what we can to move faster and closer to our goal!

The more exact translation of the Latin gives us this imagery that the looser translation doesn’t.  This is not to say that the current prayers don’t have value, but I think this is a good example of how the new translation might give us a new perspective.  Tune in next week!

Homily for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to spend a little time out at our parish Trunk-or-Treat.  Now, of course, I bailed on them after a while to go inside in the heat and watch Game 7, but that’s not the point.  I just remember seeing the excitement of some kids at wearing masks.  You’ve got scary masks, funny masks, and rather disgusting masks.  It didn’t matter if the mask was hot, sweaty, smelly, or uncomfortable, those kids loved wearing masks!  And they covered just about every topic out there from presidents to ghosts to serial killers.  Now, maybe some of you parents can prove me wrong, but I doubt your 8 year old is a serial killer.  But they wear that mask for others – to entertain them, and ultimately, to get whatever sweets and attention they can out of them.

Well, your child is a hypocrite!  I mean that purely in the Greek sense, of course.  In ancient Greek theatre, a hypocrite was an actor.  They would wear masks with huge exaggerated expressions on them, in order to hide who they were and to draw emotions out of the audience.  That’s actually where we get this term “hypocrite”.  It’s somebody who acts like they’re wearing a mask.  They’re outward appearance doesn’t match what’s underneath the mask.

In the Gospel today, Jesus is correcting the priests and Pharisee of the Jewish people for being hypocrites.  He invites the crowd certainly to adhere to the teachings and practices of Jewish law and worship, but he’s criticizing those who interpret the law for their own benefit.  He is talking about them building up their outward appearance for themselves.  Some of them were carrying around these large and very noticeable phylacteries, containers that they would tie to their forehead, which contained passages from the law.  They were meant to be a symbol of keeping the law in the forefront of the person’s mind, but in some cases, these Pharisees had used them to gain more prestige.  The larger the phylactery, the more impressive you were, and the holier people expected you were as well.  But Jesus is pointing out to them that it isn’t what is worn on the outside that makes a person a follower in God’s ways.  Different titles like “teacher”, “father”, “mother”, or “master” aren’t what make a person holy.  Rather, it is what is coming from the interior disposition.

Jesus is certainly not saying, “Just do whatever you want, as long as you’re a good person.  It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside.”  Rather, he’s pointing out that holiness comes from our hearts, and then it’s manifested to everyone else by the things we say or do.  As human beings, we’re inside-out people.  In fact, we’re in contradiction with ourselves if we go outside out.  Let me tell you what I mean by that.  The question for us isn’t about whether I wear a cross, but rather whether I bear the cross.  It isn’t about whether others see us going to Mass, but about leaving to live what we’ve received.  As a priest, I wear all sorts of fancy vestments of different colors and beautiful fabric.  I use a fancy golden chalice.  I practically read my homily to you every Sunday.   But these things aren’t so I look good (although I certainly do).  These nice things are here and are important because they reflect what’s going on here (pointing to the altar).  Something glorious and beautiful and incredible and miraculous is going on!  And so my job, just like any priest, isn’t to show you Fr. Awesome so that I can be everyone’s favorite person.  It’s to show Christ, and the extraordinary love that he has for each one of us, most especially displayed to us through the Mass.  And each of us are called to the same.  We’re called to remove those masks that we use to hide who we are and fool others, and to show them only one thing: Christ.

The day after Halloween is of course All Saints Day.  And this is important for us because we celebrate all of those who put aside their natural pretenses, and lived to show Christ within themselves, inside-out.  Running around with masks and costumes is fun, but removing our falseness and showing others Christ is a joy.  We don’t pretend what we’ve received, or pretend that we’re only a costume of a Christian.  No, you and I are called to give what we’ve received, by loving God with our whole hearts, and manifesting that love to others.


Thanks to Fr. Larry Gillick, SJ for the inspiration!