An excellent answer to that important question is given by Fr. Douglas Martis and Christopher Carstens in Mystical Body, Mystical Voice: Encountering Christ in the Words of the Mass (published by the Liturgical Institute at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake and Liturgy Training Publications), which is excerpted in the November 2011 edition of Adoremus Bulletin:
Words are sacramental, which means they contain and convey the reality they speak.
Homo sapiens is a talking animal, communicating with the senses, by word of mouth, pen and paper, telephone, electronic message, magazine, radio, television, and image. So voluminous is this communication, we often speak of “information overload”. We also acknowledge with a common expression this inflation of language — “talk is cheap”, and as a result we often “pay lip service” to it. Liturgical language, on the other hand, is never “cheap”, by no means wasted, and in no way empty. As sacramental signs, the words of the Mass in some way cause, contain, and convey their meaning: ultimately, these signs must point us to the reality, which is Christ Himself. By virtue of the sacramental connection between sacramental words and their supernatural reality, when the Church speaks her Mystical Voice, she says what she believes and means what she says.
What does she mean? Better yet, whom does she mean? She means Christ, her Spouse, the eternal Son of God, and our Redeemer. In the Word made flesh, Jesus undoes our own disobedience (literally, our “not listening”) to the voice of God by His own perfect obedience, thus allowing men and women to enter into the eternal dialogue of love within the Trinity. When the Church speaks, she joins her Mystical Voice with that of Christ her Head, speaking with Him His “yes” to the Father’s design. The sacramental words of the Mass, cultivated from divine and human sources, are the words of the Lord and His Church in this dialogue of Trinitarian love. The words of the Church speak this divinized language; when words become individualized or idiosyncratic, they speak a language that is not her own, thus symbolizing a different reality.
The precision of the Church’s sacramental language, consequently, expresses the reality of Christ the Logos and fosters a supernatural — and Logical — response from us. When the Church determines the words of the Mass, it is not a matter of mere semantics, for her sacramental words must correspond to the Word they signify. To use obscure, novel, or imprecise language causes, in the end, an obscure, novel, or imprecise reality. As there are rules governing any language, the “grammar” that defines the Church’s mystical language is determined by Church doctrine and history. Catholic belief and Catholic language are closely related. Words mean things; and in the Church’s liturgy, they mean Christ.
That serves as a good preface to three essays that I came upon this week, each of them remarking on specific prayers that have benefited from the new translation of the Roman Missal:
• "New translation will deepen, enrich our prayer together" (Catholic New World, Dec. 18, 2011), by Fr. Robert Barron, which looks at three prayers. "What marks these new texts?" asks Fr. Barron. "They are, I would argue, more courtly, more theologically rich and more Scripturally poetic than the previous prayers — and this is all to the good."
• "One prayer, but it says so much" (The Catholic Register, Dec. 13, 2011), by Fr. Raymond J. de Souza. "First, the new translation has forced us to go back to basics, and nothing is more basic and fundamental than the “source and summit” of the Catholic faith", writes Fr. de Souza. "The new translation has meant that the entire Church in Canada has engaged in a sustained catechesis on the Mass."
• "Revealing overlooked Roman Missal changes" (Our Sunday Visitor, Dec. 11, 2011), by Barry Hudock. "In all the hoopla leading up to the implementation of the new edition of the Roman Missal in the United States, most of the attention has focused on the new principles used to translate its contents from the original Latin to English. Though questions about 'dynamic equivalence' or 'formal equivalence' are important and interesting, other changes — arguably more important ones — have barely been mentioned", writes Hudock. "Here’s one: There’s a eucharistic prayer in the new Missal that simply wasn’t in the old Sacramentary. Here’s another: Three eucharistic prayers that were in the old books are now absent from the new one."