Friday 10 April 2015

Some history behind the 1998 Missal: ICEL's work in the early 1980s

One of the numerous reasons ICEL's 1998 translation of the Roman Missal was denied recognitio by the Holy See was the proliferation of original texts. (See this copy of Cardinal Medina Estévez's letter from March 2002 for more information on that.)

However, ICEL had been working on original texts for some considerable time before (this article on Adoremus gives a lot more background detail for those of you interested). Indeed, as early as the 1973 translation, there were alternative opening prayers provided alongside those that were translated from the Latin. The relation of these original compositions to the Latin texts were described in the foreword to the Sacramentary as follows: "The alternative opening prayers are not direct or faithful translations of the corresponding Latin text. They follow its theme or are inspired by it, but they are generally more concrete and expansive." Comme le prévoit n. 43 was cited as justification for their inclusion. ICEL continued to be enthusiastic about original English compositions, and we read in its 1980-81 report to the member and associate member bishops' conferences that:

In 1981 ICEL commissioned authors to compose a set of original presidential prayers. After reviewing these prayers in June, the Advisory Committee chose a number of authors to continue the project by composing alternative opening prayers loosely related to the readings of the day for Sundays and solemnities. In addition the Advisory Committee requested the composition of twenty alternative prayers over the gifts and prayers after communion which would be divided up among the liturgical seasons and take their themes from the seasons. This project will be reviewed by the Advisory Committee in November 1982. At that time a proposal will be made to print sets of newly-composed prayers for trial use in a consultation beginning with the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (11 September 1983) and continuing through Pentecost (10th June 1984). (Report of the Episcopal Board to the Member and Associate Member Conferences, 1980-81 [ICEL: 24 June 1982], pp. 7-8)
I have been fortunate enough to come across the book of these prayers in the wild, as well as some other historical curiosities - click on the links to download PDF transcriptions!
  • Presidential Prayers for Experimental Use at Mass (ICEL: July 1983). This is the document referred to in the above quote from the 1980-81 report. In the event, the experiment ran from the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time up to the Feast of the Holy Family in 1983 (11 Sept - 30 Dec). Those of you who have access to the 1998 translation may notice that some of the original compositions in this booklet were edited slightly and included in the 1998 Missal (e.g. 1983, 4th Sun of Advent, text A = 1998, 4th Sun of Advent, alternative opening prayer for Year A);
  • Eucharistic Prayer of Saint Basil: Text for Consultation (ICEL: August 1985). Continuing the work of ICEL's Eucharistic Prayer subcommittee, this is not just a translation of the anaphora of St. Basil, but is a substantial "accommodation" of it, as a comparison with the actual text of the anaphora in use by, e.g., the Greek Orthodox, will demonstrate.
    (As a side note, the Consilium did give serious consideration to including the anaphora of St. Basil alongside the other new Eucharistic Prayers, but when it came to the vote a small majority of the members, backed by Paul VI, prevented this from happening - cf. A. Bugnini, The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975 [Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1990], pp. 458-462. Was ICEL attempting to stealthily introduce something its own members thought should have prevailed in the post-conciliar liturgical reforms...?)
I have a few other ICEL snippets to transcribe, so for those who are particularly interested in that sort of thing, look out for those soon!

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