Liturgiam Authenticam 50

Four principles that involve a theological vocabulary:

50. Since the liturgical books of the Roman Rite contain many fundamental words of the theological and spiritual tradition of the Roman Church, every effort must be made to preserve this system of vocabulary rather than substituting other words that are alien to the liturgical and catechetical usage of the people of God in a given cultural and ecclesial context. For this reason, the following principles in particular are to be observed:

  • a) In translating words of greater theological significance, an appropriate degree of coordination should be sought between the liturgical text and the authoritative vernacular translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, provided that such a translation exists or is being prepared, whether in the language in question or in a very closely related language;
  • b) Whenever it would be inappropriate to use the same vocabulary or the same expression in the liturgical text as in the Catechism, the translator should be solicitous to render fully the doctrinal and theological meaning of the terms and of the text itself;
  • c) One should maintain the vocabulary that has gradually developed in a given vernacular language to distinguish the individual liturgical ministers, vessels, furnishings, and vesture from similar persons or things pertaining to everyday life and usage; words that lack such a sacral character are not to be used instead;
  • d) In translating important words, due constancy is to be observed throughout the various parts of the Liturgy, with due regard for n. 53 below.

I agree with much of this. My hope is that the Catechism transmits the authoritative theological vocabulary of the source documents. But as long as it does, this seems to be a sound approach. The only caution in my mind is the recognition that authentic liturgical language is elevated artistically from the theological. Expressions shouldn’t be “uncoordinated,” but in the liturgy, they should reflect the bias toward singing, or at minimum, a lyrical text.

50c does strike me as a bit fussy. The sacraments use everyday, ordinary material: water, bread, wine, oil, human hands. The power of the incarnation is more profound because God chooses to work in ways familiar to people. What cannot be communicated in a ritual book as easily is the care taken with such objects. For example, the issue of referring to cups or chalices: the point is that such “dishes”will never be used for ordinary drink, and that the way we handle such items speaks of the reverence we have for their contents. Even when empty, we treat them with honor and dignity.

Such considerations are beyond the scope of the current document. But they are part of our Catholic tradition–a communication as important as the vernacular words that accompany the liturgical rites.

More thoughts on any of this?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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