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Towards A People's Liturgy: The Importance of Language, by Mark Twinham Elvins

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 Contents - Oct 2006AD2000 October 2006 - Buy a copy now
Editorial: The way ahead for the education of Catholics - Michael Gilchrist
Generation Y: New survey confirms low belief and practice levels of young Catholics - Michael Gilchrist
News: The Church Around The World
Spanish bishops attack false theologies - AD2000 Report
Benedict XVI interviewed by German journalists
Educating young Catholics: a bold initiative in Wagga Wagga - Michael Gilchrist
University: Campion College: a pioneer in Australian higher education - Stephen McInerny
Modernism's 'second wave' continues to impact on the Church - Fr Martin Durham
Letters: Missal translation - Philip Holberton
Letters: Counter Reformation - Alan Barron
Letters: Early baptism - Frances McEniery
Letters: Pessimistic view - Francis Vrijmoed
Letters: Church teaching on baptism - C.V. Phillips
Letters: Accuracy needed - Tony Sheehan
Letters: Intelligent Design - Michael Griffiths
Letters: Evolution hoax - Fr G.H. Duggan SM
Letters: Abortion and health insurance discounts - Robert Bom
Letters: Homosexuality - Daphne Preston
Books: ARMS OF LOVE by Carmen Marcoux - Jacinta Cummins (reviewer)
Books: Towards A People's Liturgy: The Importance of Language, by Mark Twinham Elvins - Michael E. Daniel (reviewer)
Book Launch: Lost! Australian Catholics Today, by Michael Gilchrist
Books: Order AD2000 books from
Reflection: Philosophy and theology: avoiding the pitfall of human pride - Fr John O'Neill

The Importance of Language

by Mark Twinham Elvins
(Leominster, Gracewing, 116pp, first published 1994, $19.95. Available from AD Books)

According to the author of Towards a People's Liturgy, "Since the introduction of the vernacular Mass ... Mass attendance has decreased dramatically. It is certain that the Mass has not lost its power. Perhaps this has been a serious loss of faith. Yes, but might not that loss of faith be caused by the vulgarization of the Mass with senseless experimentation and a vernacular that is at best commonplace?"

Among the enduring legacies of the 16th century were the "King James" translation of the Bible into English and The Book of Common Prayer. Both these texts not only profoundly influenced the development of the English language, but remain examples of dignified English composition that direct the worshipper to God who is transcendent.

These texts, many of which in The Book of Common Prayer are translations of Latin liturgical texts, stand in contrast to those which Latin rite Catholics use in their worship.

Pedestrian style

In this short monograph Elvins discusses the process by which liturgical texts were translated into the vernacular in the years following the Second Vatican Council. Acknowledging the difficulties of translating into any language, what effectively emerged was a pedestrian style of English that appealed to the lowest common denominator.

Ironically, many who advocated the use of the vernacular prior to the Council were some of the staunchest critics of the translations and were some of the foundational members of the Association for English Worship (AEW), formed in 1975.

Critics of the texts argued that at best they were loose translations of the Latin, at worst poor translations that downplayed the transcendental/metaphysical nuances of the original Latin. Elvins argues that their input into revisions of the translations cannot be underestimated, particularly when a comparison is made between the AEW's proposals and the 1987 ICEL re-drafts.

With extensive revision of the texts, particularly with the work of Vox Clara, it is hoped that the latest revisions will constitute a substantial improvement on the current texts, particularly given the very serious thesis that the translations that have been in use since the late 1960s have contributed to a loss of faith.

Michael E. Daniel teaches at a Melbourne independent secondary school.

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Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 19 No 9 (October 2006), p. 18

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