Since the new translations of the Mass are “official” today, I thought I might spend a little time explaining why the Church thought a fresh rendering was worth all the initial awkwardness.
There is a passage in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice where one of the characters, Caroline Bingley, objects to formal dances because she finds them “irrational.” While at a Ball she remarks to her brother,
“I should like Balls infinitely better if they were carried on in a different manner … It would surely be much more rational if conversation instead of dancing made the order of the day.”
[Her brother]: “Much more rational, I dare say, but it would not be near so much like a Ball.”
Caroline Bingley was, for once, at a loss for words.
The point of her brother’s answer, of course, is that it is rather irrational to limit ourselves strictly to our rational aspect. If we did, there would be no variety in human activities—no dancing, sports, poetry and feasting—just rows of people intently solving Sudoku puzzles. Caroline Bingley is correct that conversation would be more communicative, that is, better at getting across information; but she fails to note that the purpose of dances is to be expressive, to embody festivity, solemnity, courtesy. This is the true value of a Ball. Drawing a parallel to our present situation, we could say that the new Roman Missal attempts to strike a better balance between the values of communication and expressiveness–to make the Mass just a little more like a Ball. Read the rest of this entry »