Fr. Bob shares his homily notes from Sunday, November 20, which was the Solemnity of Christ the King. He also gives us some background on the upcoming changes in our Liturgy, which reflect the New Roman Missal. He speaks of the criteria that was used when bringing this new translation to fullfillment.
Homily Notes from November 20 by Fr. Bob Weighner
Christ the King. End of the liturgical year. Ancient times – the King would always go last in the procession. Like when the Bishop was here. Or like King David – dancing before the Ark. Protocol – befitting the royal dignity. King – last in the liturgical year. Think of the procession of the liturgical year: the purple robes of Advent, the White robes of Christmas, first Green of OT in Spring, then again purple and white for Lent and Easter.
Then Green of OT. Now and then – robes of RED – Palm Sunday, Pentecost. And at
the end, as our year closes, the glorious King – in white.
Jesus – INTRINSICALLY a King. King of King and Lord of Lords – glory and honor and power. He is a GOOD KING – Scripture speaks of him as a SHEPHERD – goes in search of, seeks out the lost. And power – at the end, he will separate his followers from those who do not honor him.
This last Sunday liturgical year, eve of Advent, is different. After 40 years, there is a NEW TRANSLATION of the Roman Missal = the prayer book of the Mass. A new translation of the Latin Missal that was approved at Vatican II. Not ‘going back’ as some have said.
Translation of Latin done with some haste. Not sufficiently faithful to the text. Some detrimental elements reflecting the cultural prejudice of the English language (especially USA)
2 groups: ICEL – International Commission on English in the Liturgy (founded 1963) – composed of all English speaking Congregations (US, England, Australia, South Africa, Philippines, etc.) to work on the new translation. Vox clara – ‘clear voice’ (founded 2001). A Committee of senior Bishops from around the English-speaking world (vox clara groups exist for 4 different languages – English, Spanish, French, German) was established in 2001 to give advice to the Congregation for Divine Worship and ICEL regarding matters of liturgical translations of Latin liturgical texts into the English language, and to strengthen effective cooperation with the Conferences of Bishops in this
regard. English ‘vox clara’ commission headed by Cardinal Pell of Australia. Overall, translation elaborated since 1961. New translation finally approved by
Translators – huge task. What were they looking for?
Basically, 3 things.
First – an elegant, courtly language. Fits – the Solemnity of Christ the King . New translation restores the courtliness, elegance of the original text. Latin prayers go back many centuries. Authors knew they addressed a king – of the universe. Not the language of the street or casual chatting with friends.
How would you speak to a dignitary – president or bishop. Won’t use slang. “Dude, check it!”. That’s no way to talk to a king, a president, a dignitary!
Liturgical language is like that of the court. Fit for a king.
USA – always a ‘business language’. Even more, in the late 60’s – speech became even more direct, unadorned, honest, blunt. Compare Dialogue in movies from 30s or 40s as compared to 70s and 80s. Or listen to Fulton Sheen vs. how we preach today. We developed a prejudice against fussy or ornamental speech. This “cultural prejudice” – also influenced the Church, translations. Critics of the first translation said it “flattened out” the language of the liturgy.
E.G. – Let’s look at OPENING PRAYER from Monday first week of Advent – contrast them:
CURRENT: ‘Lord our God, help us to prepare for the coming of Christ your Son. May he find us waiting, eager in joyful prayer. We ask this…. Short sentences, direct.
New translation – ‘Keep us alert, we pray, O Lord our God, as we await the advent of Christ your Son, so he may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in his praise. Who lives and reigns…
More formal language. Reflects the rhythm and style of the Latin. More PRECISE, more ACTIVE.
Second – a greater theological density to the new translations. Prejudice then that an overly theological language would turn people off. Make it less accessible. Another
Post communion prayer, 30th Sunday OT.
CURRENT: “Lord bring to perfection within us the communion we share in
this sacrament. May our celebration have an effect in our lives.”
New translation (remember, these are translated from the same Latin text). “May your sacraments, O Lord, we pray, perfect in us what lies within them, that what we now celebrate in signs we may one day possess in truth.” Same Latin? Seemingly not even a vague relation. First – short, blunt – like an instruction manual. ‘have an effect in our
lives’. What KIND of effect? An “effect”. Cold term. 2nd version – theologically dense – ‘may your sacraments perfect in us what lies in them’ = speaks of a sacramental grace that lies in the sacraments. THAT’S the effect we’re praying for. ‘What we now celebrate in signs we may one day possess in truth’. Beautiful, rich.
3rd quality – more poetic and scriptural. Conscious decision earlier translators – to ‘trim’ the imagery we find in the Bible, make it ‘practical’. But, Psalms, prophets –
richly imaged. Metaphor, poetry.
EG – 1st Sunday Advent, opening prayer.
CURRENT version: “All-powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good, that Christ might find an eager welcome at his coming and call us to his side in the
kingdom of heaven, where he lives and reigns…” What we’ve prayed the last 40
New version – more true to the original: “Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom. Through our Lord Jesus Christ… “ Almost comical how different. Courtly – language of petition. Really, so much has been missing…
Another change you’ll note ‘and with your Spirit’. Unique to English speaking countries. Not just addressing the priest, but the Holy Spirit that came upon him at ordination, allows him to function as ‘alter Christus’, another Christ. Roughly = ‘and also with the Holy Spirit, that enables and empowers you to act in the person of Christ’.
Unleashing some of the power and imagery and beauty of the Latin text that we’ve been missing in the past years.
So – keep in mind as we work through the new translations:
1) Courtly language – befitting a King
2) Theologically richer language – truer to the original prayers
3) Poetic language with rich images – truer to the Scripture