Living the Cardfree Life

“Your dead shall live; their corpses shall rise,” declares the prophet Isaiah unto the Lord.

We echo the words of the prophet whenever we profess our holy faith. We say, “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead.”

Speaking of which: Summertime can offer us a little extra leisure.

What a perfect opportunity to work on memorizing the new English translation of the Creed!

We can “get off the card,” so to speak.

Break the card habit. Get the Sunday-morning card monkey off our backs. Start living a card-free life. At least at Mass.

A clean, card-free Mass: that’s a healthier Mass.

So let’s spend some summer leisure time working on it. A few reps every day, right before the morning sit-ups and push-ups. Before we know it, we will be impressing all our friends at church with our fluid recitation of the Creed, utterly cardless!

In Medias Res

Anyone ever hear of Homer? I don’t mean Homer Simpson. I mean the storyteller of ancient Greece.

'Aristotle with a Bust of Homer' by Rembrandt
Homer told his stories in a famous way. He starts you out in the middle. Then, as the story unfolds, he fills you in on how things got to the point you found them at the beginning.

At the beginning of the Iliad, the Greeks have set up camp on the eastern banks of the Aegean. What are they doing there? Read on, and you will find out.

At the beginning of the Odyssey, Odysseus languishes in prison on the isle of Ogygia. How did he get there? Read on to find out.

Perhaps you will recall that, about a month ago, I started trying to review some of the changes in the English translation of the people’s parts of the Mass, the words which we will begin to use in two weeks.

When we first started talking about the new Missal, we discussed how we pray the Sacred Liturgy as our common work together. Liturgy means ‘public work.’

Continue reading In Medias Res

Yes. Liturgy. With Heavenly Songs.

Last week, we talked about our upcoming transition to a new edition of the Missal, our prayerbook for Mass.

The Lord be with you. –-And with your spirit.

Well done.

We will start using the new Missal on the First Sunday of…? Advent. November…? 27.

When we get together to pray and offer the Mass, the ceremony we perform has a special name: Liturgy. The word comes from ancient Greek and means “public work.” The common work we do together in church: the liturgy.

Our heavenly Father beckons us to do this work of prayer together. When it comes to adapting ourselves to this new Missal translation, maybe some of us are thinking, like the first son in the parable: “No! I will NOT re-learn how to go to Mass!”

Let’s think about it. The first son’s reply may have come from honest fatigue. Maybe he had intended to rest on that particular day. Maybe his lazy, good-for-nothing, con-artist brother had not done a lick of work for months or even years. Who knows? The second son may very well have had a good reason to resist his father’s directive.

Continue reading “Yes. Liturgy. With Heavenly Songs.”

Cause of the Earthquake

Listen: sorry. I was perusing the Evangeliary for the Sunday to come, and I came upon the following “English:”

For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.

Um, what? He will repay all according to his conduct? Uh, whose conduct? Will Christ the Almighty judge repay me according to His conduct, instead of my conduct?

The Revised Standard Version reads as follows (this is Matthew 16:27 we are talking about here, by the way):

For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.

Rage appertaining to the discovery of the grammatical error in our liturgical book–obviously the result of incompetent gender-neutralizing, unidiomatic translatorial argle bargle–caused the earthquake. Please accept my apologies.

English at the Altar (Roman Missal VI)

Two points:

1. We recently discussed the Eucharistic Prayer. But of course the Roman Rite involves more.

The Rite involves all the sacred ceremonies and prayers used in church. The Missal directs the prayers and actions for the Mass.

2. I write to you, dear reader, because the third edition of the Roman Missal has been translated from Latin into English, and we will soon begin to use it (November 27).

The third edition of the Missal since Vatican Council II. As we know, the Council Fathers…

…ordered a thorough revision of the ceremonies of our Rite, in favor of simplicity.

…ordered that translations of the Missal be made into other languages, and that such translations be used not just for private spiritual reading, but indeed by the priest at the altar.

Forgive me, but I must point out: The idea, “We used to have Mass in Latin, and now we have it in English,” arises from an overly simplified version of history.

At one time, priests in Rome prayed at the altar in Greek, and people spoke Latin in the streets. Many centuries of Mass-saying passed in which the languages spoken in the streets did not have words for many of the ideas expressed in the celebration of a Mass.

And many good Catholics, even today, do not know how to speak English. Blessed Pope John Paul II was not exactly a whiz-kid with English. When I had the privilege of meeting him, along with a group of 14 other seminarians, he said to us, “Praised be the Lord Jesus Christ!” At least, that is what I thought he said. Some of the other guys thought he said, “Pray your rosaries!”

God may or may not speak Latin to His closest friends. But the language of the Roman Catholic Church, the language of our books, of our common heritage, the sacred repository of our ideas—which sometimes can be expressed in other languages and sometimes can’t—Latin.

For a very long time, Latin served to unify the Western world. Now the lingua franca of the world-wide web is English.

We Anglophones do indeed have an excellent language—acquisitive, devilishly subtle, frankly imperial. Our language has the ambition to comprehend our actions both outside and inside church. We, the English-speaking people of the Church of Christ, believe that we can approach the altar and speak our street language as we undertake to give God His due.

A cheeky aspiration. History bears witness to the unusualness of our lingual pride. The annals of religion abound with examples of nations and peoples who did not attempt to give God His due in their own street language; they used sacred languages from long-dead ancestors instead. The Lord Jesus Himself, when He was on earth, often prayed in a ‘dead’ sacred language.

But look: Our cheeky aspiration to speak at the altar with the language we learned at our mothers’ knees—we can pull it off. We English-speakers can distinguish ourselves as a people “extremely religious in every way,” as St. Paul called the Athenians (Acts 17:22). We can, and we will, do it.

But let us not naively expect it to be easy. Our aspiration to pray the Mass in English presents us with a tall mountain to climb. The translation we have known for a generation did not bring us to the summit. It brought us to the base-camp. A steep ascent rises in front of us. The rigors of the climb will be well-rewarded, once we reach the next plateau.

If indeed, in the liturgical texts, words or expressions are sometimes employed which differ somewhat from usual and everyday speech, it is often enough by virtue of this very fact that the texts become truly memorable and capable of expressing heavenly realities. (Liturgiam authenticam 27)

On first looking into Kleist’s gospels

Apparently, reading Chapman’s translation of Homer can cause euphoria.

Opening up an unfamiliar translation of the New Testament a week before Pentecost can have this effect:

Somewhat extensive have my studies been
of Koine distilled into English turns.
Heard many plaints a-rattling in a din:
Too hard to catch the tenor of His words.
The worst: a hamhand jumble of the prayer
our Lord spoke heavenward His final speech–
the noblest sounds ever to rend the air–
Perhaps beyond the translator’s short reach.
In supplication, the Christ expressed all:
His place, His Father, and His chosen ones.
But can these words be music on our soil?
Until today I’d never heard it done.
Now it all is real, the Messiah’s dream.
English was made for Kleist’s John 17.