As I give talks on the new translation of the Roman Missal which we will begin using this Advent, people are often interested to know just how much difference there really is between the current translation and the new translation. In some cases, there’s not much difference. However, I think “Blessing of Ashes” prayer on Ash Wednesday gives us a pretty good example of why a new translation was needed. Below are the current translation and then the new translation. Note that both prayers are supposedly “translating” the exact same Latin text.
Dear friends in Christ,
let us ask our Father
to bless these ashes
which we will use
as the mark of our repentance.
Dear brethren (brothers and sisters), let us humbly ask God our Father
that he be pleased to bless with the abundance of his grace
these ashes, which we will put on our heads in penitence.
O God, who are moved by acts of humility
and respond with forgiveness to works of penance,
lend your merciful ear to our prayers
and in your kindness pour out the grace of your blessing
on your servants who are marked with these ashes,
that, as they follow the Lenten observances,
they may be worthy to come with minds made pure
to celebrant the Paschal Mystery of your Son.
This is just one example of how what we have been praying has in many cases not been a “translation” at all, but rather a redaction or even a new creation. With the new translation, English speaking Catholics will once again be able to know that the prayers we are praying are in fact the same ones being used around the world rather than our own special editing. Much more will come in the upcoming months.