Two Lenten prefaces raise questions about the judgment of the translator/editor and her/his/their competence.

1. The Lenten Preface 2 reads:

‘.. For you have given your children a sacred time for the renewing and purifying of their hearts, that, freed from all disordered affections, they may so deal with the things of this passing world …’

‘Sacred’ presumably attempts to render the Latin praecipuum. But that’s a paraphrase and does not fit the context. The point about Lent is that it is special, a time set apart, and ‘sacred’ is too weak to convey that.

The Latin salubriter (salutary, for salvation or health or well-being) is not rendered in our English version, so far as I can see.

The expression ‘disordered affections’ (Latin is inordinatis affectibus) has a clinical ring to it, and is too redolent of the language used by the Holy See’s departments and some officials when referring to gay people. Whatever the intention of those who use such language, it is often heard as offensive. The judgment of the translator/editor is questionable here.

To translate as ‘inordinate affections’ would remove the dubious reference but still remain somewhat impenetrable. I’m not sure how much ‘inordinate’ might be construed as ‘excessive.’ To my ear (and I am not the OED!) it seems often to be used with that sense.

Also, isn’t ‘deal with’ (Latin is incumberent) too colloquial here? Wouldn’t ‘use’ or ‘make use of’ or even ‘attend to’ be better?

What about this as an alternative?

… because you have established for the well-being of your children
a special time to renew and purify their heart,
so that, freed in mind from wrongful desires,
they may so attend to the business of this passing world,
as to hold more strongly to the things that abide eternally.


2. The Preface for the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord reads:

‘.. For the Virgin Mary heard with faith that the Christ was to be born …’

The Latin has: a caelesti nuntio Virgo fidenter audivit

So what’s happened to the ‘heavenly messenger’ (caelesti nuntio) in our English version? Here the competence of the translator/editor is clearly wanting. It should be:

‘.. For from the heavenly Messenger the Virgin Mary heard with faith
that the Christ was to be born among men and for their sake
by the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit.’

Or, with greater liberty:

‘For the Virgin Mary listened with faith
to the word of the heavenly Messenger,
that the Christ was to be born among men and for their sake,
by the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit.’

It would be interesting to know what others make of these texts and how they might be improved.

Fr. Alan Griffiths is a priest of of Portsmouth Diocese, UK.

Send to Kindle