Bishop Elliott on the new (and old) translations of the Novus Ordo

There is a terrific essay by Bishop Peter Elliot on the Adoremus website called “Liturgical Translation: a Question of Truth”, that is well worth reading.

I note only one point where he speaks of the way in which the modernist ideology of the 60’s and 70’s tried to tear down the “iconastasis” of mystery from the liturgy in order to reveal the mass in full “comprehensibility”.

It would have been possible to translate the Mass into our vernacular while retaining much of that gracious sense of linguistic mystery, as may already be seen in the unfolding work of the Vox Clara Committee and of the newly reconfigured ICEL, which seeks to reclaim the truth of the mystery. But that was not the prevailing mentality in the 1960s. The reasons for this attitude may be discerned by beginning with the obvious didacticism of the translations.

The didacticism of the current ICEL texts embodies a stage in history when communication was the key to everything — the era of Marshall McLuhan and the “global village”, when mankind reached for the stars and we could hear men talking from the moon. Clarity, comprehensibility, access to data and information, and the triumph of the Enlightenment were also marked by the jostling of ideologies, each claiming to carry the light and future whether of “modern man”, “secular man”, or “socialist man”, to use the language of the pre-feminist vocabulary of those times.

I simply reflected, perhaps a little profanely, that a woman’s body is always that little more alluring when “hidden” in beautiful clothing than when completely stripped down to pure nakedness. And when I do enjoy the complete nakedness of woman (yes, singular, ie. my wife) I do that in a “mysterious” hiddenness from the eyes of the world also!

In a similar way, the language of the eucharistic liturgy acts as “beautiful clothing” that reveals the true mystery of the Eucharistic reality which it enfolds.

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