Fr. Z on today’s collect

I see over at WDTPRS that Fr. Zuhlsdorf finally has an opinion on something – namely, the newly-translated collect for Holy Innocents:

Deus, cuius hodierna die praeconium
Innocentes Martyres non loquendo,
sed moriendo confessi sunt:
da, quaesumus, ut fidem tuam,
quam lingua nostra loquitur
etiam moribus vita fateatur.

Can you spell “bowdlerize”?

LITERAL VERSION:
O God, whose public heralding the Innocent Martyrs
professed this very day not by speaking but by dying;
grant, we implore, that (our) life might confess Your Faith,
which we speak with our tongue,
also by (our) morals.

NEW CORRECTED VERSION:
O God, whom the Holy Innocents confessed
and proclaimed on this day,
not by speaking but by dying,
grant, we pray,
that the faith in you which we confess with our lips
may also speak through our manner of life
.

Did the translator not get that fateor is deponent? The subject is vita, no? Accusative fidem is the object, not the subject.

What a mess.

A bit of back story: the “bowlderize” line is a swipe at the revisions made to Latin missal prayers after Vatican II. Someone who has written on that topic is Lauren Pristas – I believe in The Thomist, maybe also in Antiphon.

And here (Fr. Z. doesn’t give this) is the translation produced by ICEL and the bishops, and then approved by the bishops for submission to Rome:

O God, whom on this day the Innocent Martyrs proclaimed and confessed
not by speaking but by dying,
grant, we pray,
that we may profess your faith
not only with our lips but also with our lives.
Through our Lord . . .

awr

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44 comments

  1. 1998 (because someone will eventually):

    On this day, Lord God,
    the Holy Innocents proclaimed your glory not with words but by their death.
    Give us the grace to proclaim our faith
    not only with our lips but also with our lives.

  2. Consider yesterday’s orations, 27 December: Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist. How are the Vox Clara versions an improvement upon the 2008 ICEL texts?

    Collect:
    Deus, qui per beátum apóstolum Ioánnem
    Verbi tui nobis arcána reserásti,
    praesta, quaesumus,
    ut, quod ille nostris áuribus excellénter infúdit,
    intellegéntiae competéntis eruditióne capiámus.

    2008
    O God, who through the blessed Apostle John
    have unlocked for us the secrets of your Word,
    grant, we pray,
    that what he has so magnificently given us to hear
    we may receive with well-informed understanding.

    Vox Clara
    O God, who through the blessed Apostle John
    have unlocked for us the secrets of your Word,
    grant, we pray,
    that we may grasp with proper understanding
    what he has so marvelously brought to our ears.

    Prayer After Communion:
    Praesta, quaesumus, omnípotens Deus,
    ut Verbum caro factum,
    quod beátus Ioánnes apóstolus praedicávit,
    per hoc mystérium quod celebrávimus
    hábitet semper in nobis.
    Qui vivit.

    2008
    Grant, we pray, almighty God,
    that, through this mystery which we have celebrated,
    the Word made flesh
    proclaimed by the blessed Apostle John
    may dwell in us always.
    Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

    Grant, we pray, almighty God,
    that the Word made flesh,
    proclaimed by the blessed Apostle John,
    may, through this mystery which we have celebrated,
    ever dwell among us.
    Through Christ our Lord.

    Why “dwell AMONG us”? And why that ever recurring splitting of verb forms with long subordinate clauses: may / through this mystery we have celebrated / ever dwell among us? As bad as Preface VIII of Sundays in Ordinary Time: might, / to the praise of your manifold wisdom, / be manifest as the Church. And then the conclusion is just erroneously rendered as a Per Dominum, when the Latin has Qui vivit.

    Does anyone else detect “the hand of the master”? To coin a phrase: Indeed! INDEED!

    CDW was right on the ball with this confirmatio!

  3. There’s one place where the Vox Clara version seems better: “proper understanding” is better than “well-informed understanding”, which sounds technical, bureaucratic, or academic, and not at all a style of words used for prayer.

    But none of those texts are nearly as uplifting as the prayer that Christian quoted.

  4. “Someone who has written on that topic is Lauren Pristas – I believe in The Thomist, maybe also in Antiphon.” And also in Usus Antiquior (vol. 1, no. 2). Her book is forthcoming, and will be extremely interesting.

  5. I may be missing something, but it seems to me that intellegentiae competentis eruditione capiamus in the collect for St John Evangelist is one of those overloaded Latin phrases, literally something like ‘we may grasp [it] through the teaching of a suitable intelligence.’ You wouldn’t want to translate this entirely literally, and neither the 2008 nor the Vox Clara versions do.

    The 1973 changes the structure but does a better job of conveying the sense of the prayer:

    God our Father, you have revealed the mysteries of your Word through Saint John the apostle. By prayer and reflection may we come to understand the wisdom he taught.

    Interesting that neither the Vox Clara nor the 2008 ICEL translators gave a literal rendering of nostris auribus excellenter infudit, ‘wonderfully poured into our ears’.

  6. On the prayer for Holy Innocents: the serious problem here isn’t that confiteor and fateor are deponent but what English verbs to use for them. Once again, the spirit of Liturgiam Authenticam seems to have led the translators to choose false friends, English words that look like the Latin but mean something different.

    ‘Confess’ in English may once have meant ‘proclaim’, but nowadays it means ‘admit’, and it has strong connotations of admitting guilt. Even ‘I confess you are right’ – besides sounding like something that Scarlett O’Hara would say – suggests that the speaker is admitting to having been in error beforehand.

    ‘Profess’ is marginally better, but it connotes instruction, something only a ‘professor’ does.

    ‘Proclaim’ would be a better translation, in my view, and it connects nicely with the speaking notions in ‘lingua nostra’ and ‘loquitur’. There is no need to repeat the verb – one ‘proclaim’ will cover ‘loquitur’ and ‘fateatur’.

    Ecce mirabile visu, lo and behold, the 1998 gets it right. No mess here!

  7. The 1998 Holy Innocents collect is more clear, even though ICEL collapsed the Latin verb parallelism loquitur … fateatur. This is very regrettable given that the collects often exhibit these wonderful grammatical emphases. Still, the 1998 result is balanced, perhaps because it realizes that a strict ut clause with two verbs revolving around one object is quite difficult to convey in English.

    Previously in the thread Quæsumus – We’re Still Asking, Fr. Ruff noted that the 1973 ICEL translations shifted the intercessory verb quaesumus to the conclusion of the prayer. The 1998 concludes similarly with “We ask (quaesumus) this through our Lord Jesus Christ …”. The Latin Holy Innocents collect offers another challenge — two intercessory verbs stand side by side.

    The 1998 Holy Innocents collect sufficiently solves the problem of translating the “intercessory” verbs da and quaesumus while balancing comprehension.

    […] “Give us (da) the grace to proclaim our faith not only with our lips but also with our lives. We ask this …” (quaesumus)

    1998’s separation of da and quaesumus clearly frames orations according to English grammar. Perhaps the new orations would be more comprehensible (and more easily translatable) if the the current translators preserved the ICEL methodology for intercessory verbs.

  8. When I came home from daily mass today, Holy Innocents, I wanted to look again at the collects from the mass that I had just led. I searched the internet for them and found nothing. Are they available (online) for study w/out bringing the full missal home?

  9. Jonathan Day :
    sounding like something that Scarlett O’Hara would say

    Jonathan, perhaps this is why the ‘reform of the reform’ people, starting with the Pope, are looking more and more like an overdone Scarlet O’Hara every time they dress up for liturgy. Why I do declare one can insert a large hoop into the hem of a lace alb . . .

  10. What gets buried in all the discussion of how best to translate this word or that word is that this is a prayer that someone, somewhere wrote. The first question is to ask the person) who approved the prayer what they think it says. The second question to ask is whether the rest of us think the prayer is indeed appropriate. It’s opening an entire new can of worms, but I would suggest that some of the prayers actually interfere with rather than enhance worship.

  11. …vita fateatur. Nice cretic-trochee ending! A clausula Cicero would like.

    I also like the word-play between moriendo and moribus. Not sure that there is any way to capture it in the translation.

    1998 …proclaim OUR faith?????

    Depending on how old this prayer is, there may be something else going on. In several ancient Indo-European languages, a simple verb form may substitute for a compound one if the compound version is found just before. In other words, it may be the case that here fateatur=confiteatur. In any case, it shouldn’t be used as a synonym of loquor, as the 1998 version seems to suggest be translating them together simply as “proclaim”.

    I can’t see how the subject of loquitur is not lingua. I think I’d like to keep the translation of lingua as tongue rather than lips, as it brings to mind Philippians 2 “omnis lingua confiteatur.” Which I don’t think is ever rendered as “lips”.

  12. John, if you want to distinguish loquitur from confiteatur/fateatur in the translation then how would you render the latter?

    ‘Acknowledge’? Definitely better than ‘confess’, but it sounds weak and passive in English. ‘Acknowledging’ something or someone doesn’t connote much energy or enthusiasm.

    I suspect that ‘lips’ crept into the translation because someone was thinking of Cranmer’s prayer and its alliteration between ‘lips’ and ‘lives’:

    And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful; and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days.

  13. Re the comments on the Collect for Holy Innocents’ Day, above. I also experienced this Collect as messy, I think more so than the original ICEL proposal. Playing around with it, I got this, probably not much better but still it felt easier to speak:

    O God, whose praises
    the Holy Innocents proclaimed this day
    not by speaking but by dying,
    grant, we pray,
    that as our tongues give voice to your faith,
    so that same faith may speak
    in the conduct of our lives.
    Through our Lord.

    Alan Griffiths.

  14. I was thinking of this collect last night and getting very angry. For me, all the versions come across as “blah, blah, blah, Holy Innocents, blah, blah, blah”. I started to think of the Holy Innocents, and of their families. I started to think of all the Holy Innocents over the centuries who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, who found themselves in the path of war. I remembered the photos of the young Ali Abbas, who lost his arms and his family to a US guided missile during the invasion of Iraq. And isn’t Christ Himself the ultimate Holy Innocent, the good man handed over to the Romans in an act of realpolitik. Discussions as to whether or not the Holy Innocents are martyrs are a convenient distraction from the anguish of their families and our own guilt. The current collect is the Church’s version of “collateral damage”. No mother would ever write those words!

    The collect I would like to hear would go something like this:

    “Today we remember the Holy Innocents and all children who have suffered from our greed and hate. We pray for those who mourn them, beg forgiveness for our part in their pain, and ask for the strength to protect the weakest among us. “

  15. Brigid is making an important point.

    Typically our collects for saints seem to say

    God, you give us a great example by the life of St/Ss N.
    Grant that we in imitating him/her/them may blah-di-blah….

    or (for martyrs)

    God, St/Ss N shed his/her/their blood for your sake.
    May we also live lives of heroic virtue, etc.

    It all becomes very platitudinous very quickly. Brigid, in her example, is suggesting that we find ways of rooting in our daily lives these prayers and these holy predecessors of ours, instead of indulging in endless and tedious repetitions of pious sentiments from another age. If the Church does not grab this notion pretty quickly, my fear is that adherents may well continue to diminish in number.

  16. I agree with Brigit’s sentiments on this issue. Actually it seems that there is a history in the Church of being ambivalent about how to commemorate this event:

    The liturgical colour of the Roman Church is purple, not red, because these children were martyred at a time when they could not attain the beatific vision. But of compassion, as it were, towards the weeping mothers of Bethlehem, the Church omits at Mass both the Gloria and Alleluia; this custom, however, was unknown in the Churches of France and Germany. On the octave day, and also when the feast falls on a Sunday, the Roman Liturgy, prescribes the red colour, the Gloria, and the Alleluia. In England the feast was called “Childermas”. From the Catholic Encyclopedia http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07419a.htm

    My pre-Vatican II missal also notes that was observed as a day of abstinence in earlier ages.

    The literary structure of this story in the Gospel indicates that it was meant to point forward to Christ’s death.

    1. It is also interesting that the Gospel of the Holy Innocents is used in the Byzantine Tradition as the Gospel for the day after Christmas, celebrated as the Synaxis of the Virgin Mary, somewhat like we now celebrate New Year’s Day. Remember that in some places the day after Christmas like the day after Easter & Pentecost is also observed as a holiday.

      I was partly struck this past Monday when the local Orthodox pastor reminded us in his homily that this was the Herod who rebuilt the Temple which was regarded as one of the wonders of the world in its day. In other words, even and perhaps especially with regard to religion, the ways of the rich and powerful of this world are not the ways of God.

      So perhaps we need to find a way to bring back into the Christmas story this dark side.

  17. The irony of the entire liturgical occasion is that most likely there were no holy innocents, given the non-historicity of most of the Matthean infancy narrative. It’s a great story with a deliberate theological impulse – but to be arguing about whether they attained the beatific vision or went to Limbo is, frankly, infantile.

    1. How many children would have lived in Bethlehem then? Who would have recorded the death of 20 children? Regardless of the authenticity of this account, haven’t innocent children suffered through the ages at the hands of brutal governments? What of the Innocents of Coventry, the Innocents of Dresden? Who are the Innocents today? What about the Innocents aborted before birth or abandoned to the streets? What have the rest of us done or left undone that could change the fate of these children today? Our collects turn this moment of confrontation with the wages of sin into a platitude.

      1. Brigid:

        In your attempt to de-platitudinize the feast of the Holy Innocents, you are stripping it of its core meaning. The Holy Innocents aren’t synecdochic for all innocents who have unjustly suffered. Setting aside Mary’s gleeful Bultmannian demythologization, the Holy Innocents have a concrete place in salvation history. We’re not meant to put on sackcloth and ashes because we cause innocents to suffer. We’re meant to celebrate the martyrdom of the Holy Innocents and to wonder at the transcendent majesty of God and at the mysterious unfolding of His plan for our salvation. The prayer is appropriate for what the feast celebrates: the Holy Innocents, who could not speak, still bore witness to Jesus’ true identity. So we, who can speak, pray that we may be given the grace to bear witness to Christ with our lives, too, and not only with our words (see Mt 7:21)).

        Quoting St. Quodvultdeus’ sermon from the Office for the day: “He [God] is using you [Herod], all unaware of it, to work out his own purposes freeing souls from captivity to the devil. . . . The children die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to himself. See the kind of kingdom that is his, coming as he did in order to be this kind of king. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the savior already working salvation. But you, Herod, do not know this and are disturbed and furious. While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying him homage, and do not know it. How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.”

      2. We’re not meant to put on sackcloth and ashes because we cause innocents to suffer.

        We’re not?
        I would have thought that everyone would agree on this at least. When we honor martyrs, we make an implicit pledge that we are on their side and will not kill more of them.

        You remind me of the preacher in Serial Mom, who proudly supports capital punishment because the Crucifixion was a perfect time for Jesus to condemn it, yet he did not say anything. He who has ears, let hin listen and understand.

  18. In both Scripture and Liturgical Tradition, there are often multiple viewpoints.

    As I pointed out in my comment, purple vs. red vestments, and whether or not to sing the Gloria, the Alleluia , and fasting are all evidence that many people have agreed with Brigid that the death of these children was a tragedy. That we ought to emphasize this dimension especially in a world with numerous horrors for children (child soldiers, landmines, child labor, child prostitutes, etc) is not only legitimate but in my opinion admirable. I say change the liturgical texts!

    As for Scripture, while I agree that the infancy narratives have a different relationship to history than the narratives of the public ministry (e.g. the use of hymns and visions in the narrative), I would not dismiss an historical basis as does Mary. Certainly this narrative has Herod in character.

    However the “reflections on the Old Testament parallels” nature of these infancy narratives speaks in favor of Brigid’s broader interpretation. Obviously the escape of Jesus from Herod parallels Moses escape from the Pharaoh’s death sentence for Hebrew boys. Even further back it parallels the escape of Hagar’s son when Abraham and Sarah send them out into the desert. In that case God heard the “cry of the child” and sent an angel to the rescue. So God has a preferential love for the children as much as for the poor. In both cases, God is very different from human rulers who are very willing to get rid of children and the poor.

    The problem is that our current celebration of Christmas completely ignores child soldiers, landmines, child labor, child prostitutes, child physical abuse, child sexual abuse, etc. Our world needs a preferential love for children at least as much as it needs a preferential love for the poor. Of course we all believe in God’s ultimate love and justice; the question is whether or not we are going to be loving and just here and now. Our approach to Christmas needs to change.

    1. Jack:

      I don’t think the historical use of purple rather than red for Holy Innocents reflects ambivalence over either the nature of martyrdom in general or the meaning or import of the martyrdom of the Holy Innocents in particular. The quote you gave reflects the real reason:

      . . . because these children were martyred at a time when they could not attain the beatific vision

      The melancholy or sorrow, reflected by the use of purple, points to sorrow that they were martyred at a time when they could not attain the beatific vision, not to sorrow that they were martyred full stop. Again, the omission in some places of the Gloria and the Alleluia were meant to demonstrate compassion for the mothers of the Holy Innocents, because their children were unable to attain the beatific vision at the time they were killed (unlike all the other martyrs), not simply because their children were martyrs.

      The problem is that our current celebration of Christmas completely ignores child soldiers, landmines, child labor, child prostitutes, child physical abuse, child sexual abuse, etc.

      I find this hard to respond to, because it’s hard to believe that you could actually so badly misunderstand what Christmas is all about.

  19. Mary is perfectly correct — we must get beyond naive fundamentalism in dealing with the infancy narratives. They are beautiful and full of profound theology, but their historical content seems to be nil.

      1. Not if Mark 6.3 means what it says. Mary’s virginity is a theological not a biological motif. Mark doesn’t mention it. At the time when the authors of Matthew and Luke were writing, there was an expectation that the Messiah would be born of a virgin, due to a mistranslation and misreading of Isaiah 7.14. Just as an expectation was abroad that the messiah would be born in Bethlehem. based on a misinterpretation of Micah 5.2.
        What does it matter where Jesus was born as long as he was born! What does it matter whether his mother was a biological virgin as long as she was his mother!

      2. The most that can be said for a possible historical background for the Virgin Birth story is in Raymond Brown, The Birth of the Messiah. But he does not advert to the significant parallel in Philo, who derives from Genesis 18 the idea that Sarah conceived Isaac without Abraham’s help.

    1. My general feeling is: why couldn’t the authors and editors of the gospels have gotten the message across about Jesus without, plainly speaking, making up stories (or relaying made-up stories) about him?

      And how much of the gospels can we discount historically based on the principle of “what does it matter whether X, as long as Y”?

      What does it matter whether Jesus restored sight to the man born blind with dirt and spittle, as long as the man’s sight was restored?

      What does it matter whether Jesus restored sight to the man born blind, as long as he restored sight to some blind man?

      What does it matter whether Jesus restored sight to a blind man, as long as he comforted him in his distress?

      What does it matter whether Jesus actually interacted with a blind man, as long as the concept of blindness and sight is conveyed in a literary manner?

      And so, slowly and subtly (or swiftly and suddenly) a miracle becomes a “miracle story” and soon thereafter just a “story”.

      What is the proper interpretation of Micah 5:2?

      1. We have all had that feeling. But wishing that there were historical appearances of angels does not make them historical. Perhaps when Luke wrote his angel scenes he did not intend them to be taken literally.

      2. You have your “perhaps” and I have mine.

        I am reminded of G.K. Chesterton’s remark comparing himself to “materialists”. The gist was: the creed of the materialists forbade them to believe in the possibility of miracles, while his permitted him to believe in the possibility of miracles. This made him freer (more “liberal”, as he said) than the materialists, because he could consider a natural and a supernatural explanation for something, while they could only consider a natural explanation.

        I believe that angelic beings exist. I also believe that they have manifest themselves to humans. I believe that the angel Gabriel was manifested to Mary (and perhaps it was the same angel who spoke to Joseph in a dream). I believe that these were historical events. I can accept the spiritual message of the scriptural account as well as its historicity.

  20. I think it is safe to say that St. Quodvultdeus was never a mother.

    Once again, what have we lost by excluding half the human race from the priesthood?

  21. A liberal friend reported to me that after “Father” had debunked all the history in the infancy narratives, he failed to tell the congregation what the Gospel was about. She was not pleased.

    In general I prefer literary approaches to historical approaches to scripture because literary approaches are far more accessible and useful to the average adult. This is even though social approaches to scripture, which have in some ways taken the place of historical approaches, have been a hobby of mine since the 1980s. I am not so sure that knowing a great deal about past cultures helps that much in comparison to close attention to the literary structures. That includes not only the literary structure of the reading but also of the Gospel, and its setting in terms of both the OT and NT.

    In both the Old and New Testament there is a great deal about children, in fact enough to construct a theology/spirituality of the children every bit as rich and powerful as the theology/spirituality of the poor. Not to situate the scripture and the liturgy of this feast within that larger vision is to greatly distort and impoverish this story and its memorial.

    1. “We” weren’t the ones who killed them.

      As a US taxpayer, what small responsibility do I have when children are killed or maimed as “collateral damage”? What is my share of guilt when I wear clothing sewn in a foreign place by children, or eat fruit picked by children? What do the rare minerals in my cell phone have to do with the on-going war in Congo?

      Perhaps the greatest comfort this feast offers is the promise that in God’s kingdom, these things will be no more. The world is getting kinder, but we can’t stop here.

      1. You (and I) have a lot of responsibility for our country’s reckless and unjust wars of adventure.

        Once again, though, not all innocent victims of murder are martyrs. And Holy Innocents isn’t about the tragedy of innocent children being killed. It’s about innocent children being killed as witnesses to the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ; in other words, it’s about the martyrdom of the Holy Innocents.

  22. Jim McKay:

    We’re not? I would have thought that everyone would agree on this at least. When we honor martyrs, we make an implicit pledge that we are on their side and will not kill more of them.

    This doesn’t even make sense. “We” weren’t the ones who killed them.
    Not all innocent murdered people are martyrs. Martyrs are martyrs because of their faith, which we share, which is why we honor them. Honoring them is an explicit pledge that we’re on their side.

    Martyrdom is the ultimate act of witness to faith in Jesus Christ. So no, we aren’t meant to mourn the martyrs. We celebrate that they had the heroic faith necessary to submit themselves even unto death for the Lord, and in celebrating them, we pray that our faith may be so great. It would, of course, always be better if people didn’t have to die for their faith. It would always be better if innocent people weren’t murdered. But the fact of the matter is that people are killed because of their faith and innocent people are murdered. We honor and celebrate the former, and we mourn for the latter.

    1. Doug, I’m afraid you’ve got the moral calculation wrong. If we don’t identify with Herod, we have no idea of what the kind of conversion is being called for by the feast of the Holy Innocents. We are intended to know the terrible example of selfishness gone toxic and murderous if we are to avoid it.

      Simply asserting that the Holy Innocents had heroic faith is both to underrate the martyrs who DID have heroic faith and to foolishly miss the moral challenge of the infancy narrative. In the same way, we cannot understand the crucifixion if we do not understand the betrayal by Judas or realize that we too crucify Christ by our sins.

      The Holy Innocents were innocent victims. They did not have heroic faith. Are you saying they chose death?

  23. The historicity of the Infancy Narratives is of a different order from the historicity of the rest of the Gospels. Their genius is theological and is in their immortalised stories.

  24. Again today I hear a sermon in which the story of the magi is taken as straight history. I think Catholics will never become adults as long as they cling to this fundamentalism even when all the materials for overcoming it are near at hand.

  25. The Gospels encourage meditation on the mysteries of the life of Jesus, and the infancy narratives are a theological meditation on his birth — on the Incarnation — they are not history — the figure of Gabriel for example is a development of a character who appears in the book of Daniel (where he seems to be a man rather than an archangel).

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