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Liturgy Expert Says New Translation More Closely Aligned to Scripture

Bishop Serratelli was One of Five Speakers at the Liturgy Conference Sponsored by Steubenville Diocese, Franciscan University

Posted:  2011-11-04  

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Bishop Arthur Serratelli on the New Translation

Full Conference Video Set

 Videos of all conference talks are available at our YouTube channel.

STEUBENVILLE, OH—Describing the New Roman Missal as the most important liturgical change in over 40 years, Bishop Arthur Serratelli addressed an attentive audience in Franciscan University of Steubenville's Christ the King Chapel.

"Now, the Church and the United States and the rest of the other English-speaking countries are preparing for perhaps the most significant change in the liturgy since the introduction of the New Order of the Mass back in 1970," Bishop Serratelli said.

Bishop Serratelli's talk, "The New Roman Missal: A Moment in the Church's Liturgical Renewal," was the first of five talks at the "Supper of the Lamb: Mass as Heaven on Earth Conference" at Franciscan University of Steubenville. The Paterson, New Jersey, bishop discussed the implementation of the New Roman Missal during the October 15th day-long conference. Subsequent speakers discussed topics such as the architectural, sacrificial, and musical elements of the Mass.

Bishop Serratelli helped to translate Pope John Paul II's third edition of the Roman Missal from its original Latin to the English vernacular, alongside bishops and linguistic scholars from 11 English-speaking nations. As chairman of the Committee on Divine Worship for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Serratelli discussed the impact and the characteristics of the New Roman Missal.

He explained that though people may have grown accustomed to the texts used during the Mass and may hesitate to change, the very nature of life is change.

"The liturgy is people," said Bishop Serratelli. "The liturgy is life. And so the language of the liturgy can change as people change."

Bishop Serratelli explained how the method of translation has shifted in recent years. Previously, translators focused on making the texts accessible to those who would listen to them. For the most part, the Latin texts were not translated literally.

However, through the current mode of translation, much closer attention is paid to the rich vocabulary of the Latin liturgy. It shows a greater respect for the scriptural and patristic (relating to the early Christian theologians) allusions in the Latin text. This translation is more literal, but unearths both spiritual and biblical richness, Bishop Serratelli explained.

"This new emphasis has saved us and has added a needed balance, so that the liturgical language does not become impoverished as we're constantly trying to adapt it to modern circumstances," Bishop Serratelli said.

Catholics around the world aided in the long and careful process of creating the New Translation of the Roman Missal.

"The introduction of a liturgical book is of immense importance for the Church," Bishop Serratelli said. "It deserves all the attention it was given. It is not left to the competence or preference of the few to express the faith of the whole Church."

The prayers of the new texts are not casual, but honor God in a noble language, worthy of him.

"The goal of the arrangement is to provide prayers that are focused, that are unadorned, and that are thoughtful without being over-burdened," Bishop Serratelli said. "In one continuous thought, our heart pours itself out to God, without interruption, directly and simply begging God's help."

Bishop Serratelli highlighted many characteristics of the New Roman Missal. He said that the prayers are more biblical, putting the exact words of Scriptures on the lips of those praying.

"By using the exact words, nothing is lost in the meaning, but a sense of poetry is gained, and we are using the very words of Scripture itself," he explained.

Because the text will be used in many different English-speaking countries, it was important that the preferences of one country were not reflected more prominently than those of another in the text. The text does not bear any cultural stamp, Bishop Serratelli explained.

Though the New Missal is a product of many years of growth and understanding, Bishop Serratelli said that it will not be perfect.

"Perfection will come when the liturgy on earth gives way to the liturgy of heaven, where all the saints speak with one voice in praise of God," Bishop Serratelli said.

The conclusion of Bishop Serratelli's talk was greeted by a standing ovation from the audience.

Four more talks were given at the liturgy conference. Dr. John Bergsma, associate professor of theology at Franciscan University, gave a talk titled "The Mass as Marriage Supper: Square Brides and Sheepish Grooms in Scripture." Dr. Denis McNamara, architectural historian and liturgical design consultant, presented "New Heaven and New Earth: Church Architecture as Sacramental Participation in the Heavenly Banquet." Adam Bartlett, sacred music director and editor of the Sacred Music Project, gave a talk titled "Perspectives on Liturgical Music." Dr. Scott Hahn, Franciscan University theology professor and founder of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, presented "Paschal Sacrifice: A Heavenly Banquet for Earthly Beggars."

The conference was co-sponsored by the Diocese of Steubenville and Franciscan University of Steubenville, with assistance from the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology.

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