From the recent First Things, the following is an excerpt from article on the new English translation of the Roman Missal (Third Edition) as compared to the old English translation of the Mass, dating back to 1967.
Here is the Collect for the First Sunday of Advent:
Da, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus,
hanc tuis fidelibus voluntatem,
ut, Christo tuo venienti iustis operibus occurrentes,
eius dexterae sociati, regnum mereamur possidere caeleste.
The first thing one notices about the Latin prayers is how rich they are in scriptural resonance. A whole scene from the Gospels may be intimated in the literal meaning of an otherwise figurative word. The word here is occurrentes. Its root suggests running, and its prefix, against or up to. The idea is that we are running forth to meet Christ as he comes along the way—waiting for the long-awaited, the anointed of God. We are meant to consider not only the nativity of the Christ child but the Lord’s coming again in glory, recalling his parable of the wise and the foolish virgins: “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom” (Matt. 25:1).
The lamps of the wise virgins were filled with oil. We pray then that our lamps too will be filled, with iustis operibus, works of justice, or deeds of righteousness. That is the hinge of the poem, because if we answer the grace of God with obedient zeal, we will have those lamps filled and we will run to meet him. Then we will be numbered among the friends of the bridegroom, bound in love with him and with one another, at his right hand, eius dexterae. So the prayer ends by recalling another parable describing the second coming of Christ, not as bridegroom but as judge. For the sheep shall be set on his right, and the goats on his left, according as they did or did not meet him among the least of their fellows: “Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’” (Matt. 25:34).
Here is the prayer in the first version, with some English overtones:
increase our strength of will for doing good
that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming
and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven.
Let us notice what is gone. First, there are no verbs of request. The Latin phrase da, quaesumus, with its thoughtful pauses before the name of God, is eliminated. If people never use words like beg, implore, and even pray, they may in time forget how to beg, implore, and even pray. (Emphasis mine)
The works of justice too are gone, replaced by the vague phrase doing good. But words like justice and righteousness call forth all kinds of precise scriptural memories, including those that convict us of sin. Consider the powerful opening of the book of Wisdom: “Love righteousness, you rulers of the earth, think of the Lord with uprightness, and seek him with sincerity of heart.” We seek justice, as we seek God; in ourselves we possess neither. Instead it seems in the first translation that we already possess a strength of will for doing good, and we ask merely that it be increased.
Perhaps that is why the image of running is also gone, and why the echoes of the two parables are smothered. For if we remember that five of the virgins went prepared to meet the bridegroom, we may also remember that the other five were scurrying about looking for oil. And if we remember that the sheep were placed at the right hand of the Lord, we may remember that the goats were placed at the left. Those who are rewarded with love for love are the faithful, and we notice that those words too are missing.
Beyond the muffled meanings, there’s something else missing, hard to describe. Imagine a world of gray: gray skies, gray dress, gray language, gray thoughts, gray feelings, gray prayers. How to describe red and green and gold to someone whose life is enveloped in gray? The language of this collect rather spreads the gray. It avoids imagery and cadence, the soul of poetry. It is, at best, entirely conceptual. We do not see or hear or touch anything.
Here now is the English of the new translation:
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ
with righteous deeds at his coming,
so that, gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.
Behold that muscular line, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ. He is coming our way, and we are running forth to meet him. We can see the scene. We can feel the strength of the verbs run and meet, and the tenderness of the possessive adjective, your. For it is the Christ of the Father whom we await, the anointed one of Israel. If we meet him with our lamps filled with righteous deeds, then, in a nice play on words that completes the run of alliteration, we will be gathered at his right hand. Then and only then will we be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom, the one that Jesus says has been prepared for the faithful from of old.
From “Restoring The Words” by Anthony Esolen, First Things, Nov 2011
(Roman Catholic Church) A book containing all the prayers and responses necessary for celebrating the Mass throughout the year.
[Middle English messel, from Old French, from Medieval Latin missale, from neuter of missalis, "of the Mass", from Late Latin missa, "Mass"]
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