20/10/2012 14:49

Explaining the New English and Pisin Missal

By Most Rev. Henk te Maarssen SVD
Emeritus Bishop of Kundiawa           

In the Catholic Reporter of October 2012 Fr. Harry Gahare asked for an explanation of the changes in the new version of the Mass in English and Pisin. Many other people probably have questions as well. For that reason LCI Goroka distributes a 8 page booklet explaining the reasons for these changes and answering the main questions that people have.

The new English Missal was introduced in most countries on the First Sunday of Advent last year (27 November 2011). In Papua New Guinea introduction of the new English Missal was delayed, since we decided to order our Missals from India (where they are much cheaper than the Australian edition) and these Missals only arrived in June this year. This revised edition of the English Missal comes almost 40 years after its first edition in 1974. It is normal practice that translations of the Bible and the Missal are revised every 30 or 40 years, because our language changes all the time.

Forty years ago the English translation was done very quickly, and so there were some shortcomings. For that reason a revision was needed. The new translation follows 3 major principles.

First of all, it is a translation. Therefore it has to translate correctly what is written in the Latin text. The first English Missal was a rather free translation. But now the Church insists on an accurate word for word translation. As a result there are many changes, even in the people’s answers. In our Pisin translation of the Missal we translated much more accurately and as a result there are only a few changes needed in the new Pisin Missal.

Secondly, our liturgy is rooted in Scripture.  A greeting like: ‘The Lord be with you’ is based on the book of Judges 6, 12; Ruth 2,4, and others. And the people’s answer ‘And with your spirit’ is based on St. Paul’s greeting in four of his letters (2 Tim 4,22, Gal 6,18, Phil 4,25 and Filemon 25). The English Missal had dropped ‘spirit’ and in Pisin we followed the English. But other languages didn’t. They kept the expression: ‘And with your spirit.’ The reason is, because this greeting occurs in all Christian rites from the beginning, not just in the Roman rite, but in the Greek, Syrian and Coptic (Egyptian) rites as well.

We have to keep our liturgical tradition alive. And that is the third principle of the new revised translation. There are big changes in the Glory to God in the highest. When the vernacular was introduced in 1974 the English translation of the Gloria was simplified. It was thought that the Latin was repetitious. In Pisin we followed the English. Now the Gloria is translated more accurately and the first part is completely different and parishes will have to practice the new text: “We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory.” In the second part “you take away the sins of the world” is repeated twice. In line with the stricter rules of translation there are also a number of changes in the Nicene Creed. ‘We believe’ becomes ‘I believe’ as a correct translation of the Latin ‘Credo’. After the 2nd Vatican Council there was a strong emphasis on community – ‘We are the Church – Yumi Sios,’ and so we said, ‘we believe.’ But every believer is to make his or her own personal profession of faith, within the community. Therefore the liturgy has always said ‘Credo – I believe.’

In an effort to give an exact translation of the Latin some difficult words were used, like ‘consubstantial with the Father’ for ‘one in being with the Father.’ Only scholars can fully explain the difference between these two expressions. For most people ‘consubstantial’ is very difficult word, but it translates the Latin more accurately: having the same substance.

There is a notable change in the words of Consecration. In the words over the chalice the priest says, ‘the blood…..which will be poured out for you and for many.’ It used to be, ‘for all.’  Here too the new Missal follows the Biblical way of speaking. During the Last Supper Jesus himself said, ‘this is my blood….poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ (Mt 26,28). And in Mk 14,24 he says, ‘This is my blood which is poured out for many.’ This refers to Is 53,12 who says about the Suffering Servant ‘he gave his life and bore the sins of many.’ This ‘many’ is a Hebrew way of speaking and means ‘big multitude,’ so in fact it means ‘all. ’ This Biblical way of speaking is different from the way we use English now, but as believers it is important that we keep a feeling for these biblical ways of speech.

There are some more changes, but the three principles I gave in the beginning: accurate translation, Biblical way of speaking and liturgical tradition will help you to understand their significance.

For the priest there are many more changes, some minor, just a single word, others more substantial, like a whole phrase. So the priests will have to look at these prayers before Mass to avoid stumbling over some expressions.  

Finally, the new Pisin Missal also arrived on 20 October. They will be sent to the parishes in November. Most parishes will be able to start using the new Missal on the First Sunday of Advent, 2 December. (CBC Communications 20121020 – giorgiolicini@yahoo.com