Ab missalis novi

January 21, 2011

This post may be of interest to Catholic readers, and probably not to others.

I don’t know how many English-speaking Catholics are aware that a new translation of the Missal has been completed, and is going to be introduced into parishes beginning, I believe, in Advent 2011. The new translation will replace the one first issued after Vatican II, and it aims to provide a more faithful translation of the Latin original. The changes will affect much of what we hear and pray at Mass.

Excerpts from the new Missal have been leaking out here and there over the past few months. I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen so far. The new translation are not only more accurate, but they mount a splendid assault on the drab prose that dominates the translations currently in use. The tone of the new prayers that I have seen is more elevated, and elevating, than we have been accustomed to, and the sheer proliferation of dependent clauses, making a triumphant return from exile, is surely an occasion for rejoicing.

At The Chant Café they have been making a few tête-à-tête comparisons, much to the advantage of the new translation. You can find such comparisons here, here, and here, for instance. This one is especially interesting.

The reason for this post, today, is simply to note that the entire new Missal has finally been posted online. I myself haven’t had time to look through it in much detail, but maybe someone else can do so, and report back. In any case, those with an interest in these matters can take a good, long look.


A note on the title of this post: I am not at all sure that my Latin is sound. I cannot find missale in a Latin dictionary, but based on its form I surmise that it is a third declension noun. According to this etymology, its gender is neuter.  I have then put it, and its adjective, into the genitive case. Should I have used ablative case? I am happy to be corrected on any or all of these points.

9 Responses to “Ab missalis novi”

  1. Dean Says:

    I think your analysis of missale is perfectly sound, but you don’t want either in the genitive. A(b) governs the ablative case pretty much exclusively (I believe).

    So “Ab missale novo”.

    You didn’t ask this, but “Ab” may not be what you want either. If you’re looking for “Concerning the new missal” it would be “De missale novo”. “From the new missal” would be more idiomatically rendered “Ex missale novo”.

    Aren’t you glad you asked?

  2. For what it’s worth, I think the preposition “ab” should take the ablative case.

    BTW I have been following the new translations at The Chant Cafe with some interest – it looks like this will be a vast improvement. It strikes me that the tone and register of this new translation will make the worst examples of 1960s hymnody (e.g., “Here I am, Lord”, “Gather us in”, etc.) seem totally incongruous and out-of-place, which will be a victory for organists everywhere.

  3. cburrell Says:

    Yes, I am very glad that I asked. Thank you, Dean. ‘Ex missale novo’ is what I wanted to say. I should have thought of the parallel with ‘Ex Maria Virgine’.

    I would now like to change the title of the post, but that would be cheating, wouldn’t it?

    Osbert, it would be a victory indeed, and not just for organists!

    The transition will be an important time. I have no doubt that the major liturgical publishing houses will push some dreadful musical settings of the new texts, now that the old ones are going to be obsolete. On the other hand, there are some good new settings (about which more, perhaps, in a few days). How can we get the good ones in from the start?

  4. I can’t speak to the situation in the average Catholic parish, but I would imagine that in most congregations there will be a certain amount of discomfort and resentment about the new translation that would be exacerbated by introducing a lot of new music at the same time. Certainly in any parish where I’ve served, if we tried introduce an entire new musical setting of the Mass Ordinary at the same time as a new prayer book, we would be facing a full-scale congregational revolt. My own sense is that the wise Catholic music director would be introducing a new setting this year (perhaps after Easter), giving the congregation time to learn the new setting while at the same time preparing the way for the rest of the new translation.

    In another environment it might be necessary to retain an older, musically dubious setting that people feel comfortable singing, and gradually phase it out over a period of years. The logistics of the transition will vary from parish to parish, but substantial improvements can be made almost anywhere as long as both the priest and organist are on board.

    A selling point, perhaps, is that many of the best materials are now free (either open-source or public domain), and so a change in musical materials could potentially save your average parish a bundle on missalettes, CCLI licenses, hymnal supplements or whatever.

  5. cburrell Says:

    I agree that it is likely to vary from parish to parish. I like your idea about making the transition slowly, in stages. One does want to avoid abruptness in such matters, especially when not everyone is enthusiastic about the changes. Strange as it seems, not everyone thinks dependent clauses are unadulterated goods.

    The fact that things are free can be a problem too, though, because it means that they are generally excluded from the hymn books published by the major houses, and most parishes would, I think, prefer to have a single hymnal that contains everything, rather than a hymnal plus leaflets plus photocopies plus…

  6. I think the logical step would be for a parish to self-publish a collection of supplementary material for its services. Most parishes have favourite hymns that are not in the pew hymnal, an unpublished Mass setting by a previous music director, or something of the sort. It would be relatively easy to collect this material, along with other public-domain music of good quality, and put it between two covers; if there are no copyright permissions to deal with, the only expense is printing, which at the cheapest end of the spectrum would mean a clear plastic cover and a spiral binding, done at Kinko’s for about $2.00 a copy. Something like this could be a stopgap during the transition period, or could be a longterm supplement for a published hymnal.

    I’ve been tossing around the idea of a project like this for years, by way of supplementing the pew hymnal at my parish (the American “Hymnal 1940”). There is nothing basically wrong with the book, but after seventy-one years it is badly in need of supplementation. One of these years I may actually go ahead and do it. . .

  7. Jacob Says:

    I know almost nothing about this whole discussion, since I am a non-Catholic (formerly Evangelical) on the verge of joining Catholicism. From my very brief reading, however, it sounds like a translation more faithful to the Latin will be a positive move for the church on the whole; approaching drastic change with care also (as mentioned in some of the comments) sounds like a good idea.

    99% of my experience with the Catholic Church has been in Mexico, where I currently live. Does anyone know if any of this is relevant for Spanish masses in Mexico?

  8. cburrell Says:

    First of all, congratulations on your upcoming reception into the Catholic Church. I assume that you will be received at Easter? I was myself raised as an evangelical Protestant, and ‘swam the Tiber’ eight years ago. I will try to remember to pray for you this year during Lent and Easter.

    To my knowledge, the process of issuing a new translation is specific to the English-language liturgy. There is no general initiative from the Vatican to renovate all of the vernacular liturgies. That doesn’t mean that the Spanish liturgy is not also being repaired, but I have not heard that it is.

    • Jacob Says:

      Thank you! I actually hadn’t spoken to the priest about the exact timing, but this morning we talked. Since I’m travelling to Mexico City in March, then to Canada in April for a few months, the conventional reception at Easter would be complicated. The priest said they could arrange to complete the catechism classes and the sacraments before I leave.

      The parish offers ongoing catechism classes since on a regular basis, it has a large number of adults wishing to complete the sacraments. (These are mostly people in their early 20’s who were baptized, but were never confirmed or given first communion. Since they want to get married, they now need to complete the other sacraments, if I understood correctly; the community is very [Mexican] working class, which places high importance on marriage in the Catholic Church. So, this tends to be the primary motivation.)

      I appreciate your prayers during Lent and Easter; it will be the first time for me to celebrate these as a Catholic.

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