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Final Examination Firmly-Rooted Inculturation

Introduction to Liturgy Reverend Dennis McManus

Paul M. Nguyen Congregationis Oblatorum Mariae Virginis May 15, 2013

Nguyen 2 Question 5 The liturgy of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church was itself a product of inculturation, receiving into the instituted worship of God language, symbols, rhetorical forms, and even the calendar of the culture that the Gospel encountered as the work of evangelization spread westward from its origins in the Holy Land. Today, this evangelical work continues, and the Church adds to her number those who are being saved. And these are saved with the advent of those who preach to them by their lives, by their sermons, and by their witness in the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. The ability to express the faith doctrinally in the language of the local community cascades into the expression of the faith liturgically. This has even further significance for the New Evangelization, by which those who express at least an alignment with the Church may be drawn in once again through a recently-restored richness in the English language liturgies in the Roman Rite. We endeavor to show that the translation of the liturgical books of the Roman Rite into such local languages is not only an appropriate inculturation of the liturgy, but it is the principal example thereof. The primary documents we shall consider are the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium (1963, hereafter SC), and the fourth post-conciliar instruction on its implementation, Varietates Legitimae (1994, hereafter VL), which concerns the process of inculturation in the liturgy. In order to demonstrate our thesis, we will move from an understanding of what constitutes the Roman Rite liturgy, inculturation, and translation (in general and in the case of liturgical texts) to an understanding of the fitting place of translation as the principal example of appropriate inculturation of this liturgy.

Nguyen 3 The Roman Rite liturgy developed within the original framework of Jewish ritual. Particularly for the celebration of the Eucharist, early Christians incorporated elements from the Passover meal and joined to them Jesuss words at the Last Supper, as He had done and instructed them to do. They included a proclamation and reflection on the Word of God, according to the synagogue tradition, maintaining the underlying unfolding of the economy of salvation in their history. Presumably, this was done mostly in Hebrew and Aramaic, using images familiar to the local community and elements of their cultural heritage to express and explicate the Gospel message. As the Apostle Paul traveled north and west from Jerusalem, however, he encountered peoples whose cultural values and professions would have rendered irrelevant those original Gospel images and rituals. He required a process of inculturation by which he took what he had internalized of the Gospel messageits coreand used elements of these new cultures in the same way that Jesus is recorded to have expressed the Good News to His first audience, speaking, for example, of the shepherd and his sheep, or of the vine and its branches, to those familiar with those trades, that they might more fully understand (cf. VL 4). While preaching necessitated aspects of inculturation, the celebration of the liturgy likewise required it. In Roman Rite prayers that survive to the present day, we can find both Jewish and Roman roots. The appeal to the history of salvation resonates strongly of our Jewish heritage, and the predominant focus on the relationship between God the Father and God the Son betrays the Roman social matrix. The Roman culture, in general, was also very open to receiving the best of the cultures it met, incorporating these elements into itself and permitting those who brought them to live alongside them and maintain their own traditions, insofar as they were compatible with Roman society. And so it is with inculturation in the Church: she maintained the core of the

Nguyen 4 Gospel and grafted to it cultural values and traditions that were in harmony with it, clarifying and elevating questionable aspects and discouraging troublesome ones (cf. SC 37; VL 4, 16). In addition to the images and content, Paul undoubtedly had to accommodate the languages of these peoples who did not speak Hebrew or Aramaic. Jews and Jewish Christians living in the diaspora increasingly spoke Greek primarily, especially as Pauls ministry extended to the Aegean peninsula. A Roman citizen and fluent in Greek, Paul must have translated the Gospel message from its original language into theirs, in order that they might be brought to the faith. Indeed, he wrote his letters in Greek, and his recipient churches gathered them together and distributed them as a growing collection of apostolic wisdom. Translation, simply, is the work of expressing a text in a language different from the original. Though the Greek Septuagint certainly existed by that time, providing a stable reference text for the inspired word of God to the prophets and concerning the moral and ritual law and documenting the history of Israel, the words of Jesus and the teaching of the apostles were not yet recorded in a form that survives to this day, and certainly not in Greek. The early church certainly undertook the work of translation and it is clear that translation into Roman culture and the Latin language has given a distinctive shape and character to the Roman Rite, withstanding its reception into so many Western cultures. While in this investigation we began from the principle concepts of the Roman rite liturgy, inculturation, and translation, we now turn to the translation of the liturgical books of the Roman Rite. As the history of the evangelization of the world shows, and as the Church affirmed at the Second Vatican Council, appropriate inculturation must take the Gospel at its substantial core, and thence adapt the liturgy, which is deeply rooted in the sacred text of scripture ( VL 23) and which is essentially the celebration of the paschal mystery of Christ, the glorification of God the Father

Nguyen 5 and the sanctification of mankind by the power of the Holy Spirit ( VL 24). With this substantial core as the steadfast point of reference, and preserving the existing Roman character of the liturgical texts, they may be translated into the language of the peoples whom the mission of the Church meets, in order that she may reach the soul, mold it in the Christian spirit, and allow [it] to share more deeply in the prayer of the Church ( VL 28). In this instruction, the Congregation expresses in many ways that experts competent both in the liturgical tradition of the Roman rite and in appreciation of local cultural values are indispensable for an authentic inculturation to occur (VL 30). The Church also stresses that accurate translation of the liturgical texts will avoid more substantial changes that risk fragmenting the unity of the Rite, and in this way, merits the work of translation the principal place among examples of inculturation of the liturgy ( VL 33, 36). It further alerts translators to the didactic utility that a faithful translation offers: when the texts used for prayer accurately express the mysteries involved, they may be used fruitfully to form the faithful deeply in liturgy and a reverence for the sacred rites, whose language has a dignity proportionate to the grandeur and holiness of the mysteries celebrated ( VL 39). Thus, the translation of the text of the liturgy is chief among the examples of inculturation, prior to more radical adaptations (such as new compositions) that may be deemed necessary due to the disparity of languages or the extremity of the pastoral circumstances in a particular region (cf. SC 40; VL 6369). The Roman Church holds fast to her own heritage, which includes deep Jewish roots, and, as at her own foundation, when she encounters new peoples and cultures, she embraces those aspects harmonious with herself and discourages those contrariwise incompatible. This draws her closer to them and they to her, and together they rise up to God. The translation of the liturgical books of the Roman Rite maintains the unity of the Rite, the focus on the saving

Nguyen 6 mysteries of Christs life, death, and resurrection, and the equal participation in worship of the worldwide Roman Catholic community. It is remarkable that the Roman Rite has been translated into so many languages for use around the world, yet it remains substantially the same. The expression of the same faith and based on the same text may be heard in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Croatian, German, and a variety of other languages, each taking customary expressions from their own religious language (cf. VL 53) and from their faithful translations of the scriptures to form a total vocabulary that is both theirs and Roman. This is simply not the case in the other Rites of the Church, which maintain their peculiar soul language and engage virtually no inculturation (though in diaspora, they may celebrate in the vernacular). Today, when WikiPedia articles are haphazardly translated into every language including Simple English and Esperanto, with no standard of unity between them, save the title, the Church strongly asserts herself, her substantial identity and essence, and demands of the peoples she encounters the proportionate response to her Gospel of salvation, expressed and celebrated in her sacred rites, which they will learn to express with their full depth in their own tongue, lending body and life to that legitimate variety in the one Roman Rite.

Nguyen 7 Question 10 I thoroughly enjoyed this class. I came in with the background of an attentive altar server at a busy parish and my two years of seminary life in my religious community. This familiarity with the motions and words, smells and bells only prepared me somewhat for what was to come. Something that has always drawn me in, whenever it comes up, is unity. Whether it is the deep unity of the Trinity, or standing in solidarity with the brethren afflicted like the Psalmist at that moment of the Liturgy of the Hours, or a prayer of intercession raised by this community on behalf of another, unity draws me in. The images of Pope John Paul II and the solidarity of the Polish people touch me deeply every time. I expected Introduction to Liturgy to be interesting, but also to feel very familiar. Perhaps we would read some sage reflection by the fathers or some saint I had heard about many times. Perhaps I would learn some quaint trivia from the history of development of the liturgy. And indeed, these elements were present. But the most important thing that I learned in this class was our exploration of the Jewish and Roman substance of our Rite. I knew about elements of the Jewish tradition that survive in our liturgy. I knew that Christianity built itself onto the Jewish lineage from whence it sprang and which prepared the world to receive it, including its liturgical forms. I once heard a Catholic convert from Judaism speak about how the consistency of the Catholic Mass with his own upbringing led him to a full understanding of how Christianity fulfills what is foretold in the Jewish tradition. And I knew that Latin is the typical language of the Roman Rite and enjoyed studying and using Latin; having a certain interest and passion for language and communication, I followed closely the revisions of the Mass texts in English as an avid pew-warmer. But what was new and eyeopening was the exploration of the Roman cultural dimensions rooted so deeply in our cultic

Nguyen 8 tradition and expressed so pervasively in the texts of our liturgies. I particularly enjoyed tracing the FatherSon motif through several prayers. Over the past few years, I have had a desire to understand better our Eastern brethren, who come from cultures with different family and social values, different ways of living, and whose cultures saw the rise of Islam and Buddhism, among other comprehensive doctrines, in addition to encountering and embracing the Christian faith. Yet I approached my desire for ecumenical reconciliation without a full understanding of my own identity in the Roman Rite. In any business transaction, the parties would meet and introduce themselves, but analogously, in this case, I would not have been able to give even my full name, much less my occupation. Having taken this Introduction to Liturgy course, I am far more aware of what I have yet to learn and what I must first understand about our own Roman identity before approaching others. In studying inculturation for the essay above, I found it remarkable that despite all of the local rites that are celebrated by various cultures around the world, the Roman Rite is the one transplanted throughout the mission territories and carried across oceans in every direction. The critical question raised in class about how an Americangrowing up in his American culture, speaking American English (though it is a Germanic language that borrows heavily from French and coincides with Russian and incorporates both Latin- and Greek-based words), and celebrating American holidayscan go to church every week and worship in the Roman Rite is fascinating. The Church teaches, and this class made clear, that every culture, no matter how primitive, has a soul language, a way of addressing God or speaking about the divine or transcendent. But when the societys language concerning the transcendent consists of diluted once-Catholic phrases (what a coincidence, good luck, I'm a spiritual person, and Grandma got her wings), it becomes a serious and urgent challenge to help the children who grow up with only this context

Nguyen 9 to understand and appreciate the heritage of their Rite of worship. As the Church Documents repeatedly point out, rich liturgical formation is necessary, and this should include, beyond the texts themselves and sacramental theology, instruction in what the underlying Roman culture was, from whence comes our Rite. Now I know that when I pray and worship the Triune Christian God, I do so as an American Vietnamese-Swedish-Italian-Portuguese seminarian with the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, but I do so as a Roman!