There is a debate currently raging in the arts world. At issue: the adaptation of the cultural landmark opera “Porgy and Bess.” The opera about life as an African-American on fictitious “Catfish Row” in Charleston, South Carolina was first performed in 1935 with music by George Gershwin, libretto by DuBose Heyward and lyrics by Ira Gershwin. “Porgy and Bess” is considered by many to be America’s greatest opera. But the current director of the revival thinks she can improve the work by adding new scenes, inventing biographical details, and most radically, changing the ending to reflect a more hopeful outcome. The title has also been changed to “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.” These changes have drawn fire from critics who say the monumental work has withstood the test of time and that the changes have distorted the original intent of the authors.
The debates over adaptation are not for theater only. For centuries, the Church has debated how to adapt its liturgy so that it can best speak to the current culture while maintaining its original meaning and purpose. As you can tell by the above example, this is no easy task. In the past several years, the Church has been debating the adaptation of the language of the prayers we pray at Mass. Church officials looked at the original Latin prayers composed in the 8th century and determined that our current prayers did not accurately reflect the intent of the original prayers. Thus, the Church has once again adapted the prayers, this time to more closely reflect those original Latin prayers. We will begin praying with these new prayers on the first Sunday of Advent, around the time that the new adaptation of “Porgy and Bess” opens on Broadway.
O Lord, give wisdom to those charged with adapting the prayers of the liturgy. AMEN