A Tale of Two Prefaces: I and II Advent

Editor’s note: As part of a series, Xavier Rindfleisch continues to examine the problems in the 2010 Received Text of the new English missal. The Received Text is the final text which the Congregation for Divine Worship approved and presented to Pope Benedict XVI, based on the advice of Vox Clara, and which Cardinal George has approved for use in the US beginning Advent 2011. Fortunately, this final text is undergoing further revision in Rome, but we did not yet know whether or not these revisions will be adequate to address the massive problems in it. Our readers are certainly interested in the question of why the Congregation for Divine Worship with its advisors, the Vox Clara Commission, and Cardinal George ever approved such an unsatisfactory text – even if it’s not necessarily the text which will eventually appear in our new missal.   – awr

A Tale of Two Prefaces: I and II Advent by Xavier Rindfleisch

60 comments

  1. Thank you for this posting. If these examples are, in general, an accurate representation of the two texts, 2008 wins hands down, not only for accuracy but also for felicity of expression.

    I love dignified, ‘elevated’ English as much as, if not more than, anyone, but “He it is”??? Ridiculous. Why drop the plural “praises”? Et alia.

    Having followed all this 2008/2010 stuff less closely than many of you, what’s exactly going on? Are the 2010 changes trying to please everybody, really pleasing nobody? Is it an attempt to get the Trautmans on board? What is the motive? At whose behest come the changes? Does anyone know?

    1. what’s exactly going on? Are the 2010 changes trying to please everybody, really pleasing nobody? Is it an attempt to get the Trautmans on board? What is the motive? At whose behest come the changes? Does anyone know?

      Well, seeing as you asked, Cardinals George Pell and Francis George are the two highest ranking members of Vox Clara. Archbishop Alfred Hughes and Monsignor James Moroney have been the big defenders. Jeremy Driscoll OSB is one of the advisors and he’s been giving talks all over the place on it. Ex-abbot of Quarr Cuthbert Johnson OSB is in a similar position (and now they’ve been joined by their Benedictine confrere and strongly rumored co-author of Liturgiam Authenticam, Cassian Folsom OSB – as equally welcome in his home monastery as the two forementioned monks).

      Let’s ask them!

      Whom did they appoint to redo the Latin translations? Who was the English style advisor? They probably had at least SOMETHING to do with it or maybe worked on it themselves.

      Then let’s ask who in CDW approved it. Father Anthony Ward speaks a kind of English. So does Archbishop DiNoia. Were they so afraid of Cardianls Pell and George as to not point out incorrect verb forms and screwed up adverbs? Or could it be that the oft-repeated story is true, that Archbishop DiNoia doesn’t really care too much about all this: he’s just waiting for the job of Prefect at CDF to come vacant . . . oh dear, more questions than there are answers!

  2. The beginning of the prefaces are just awful. “Who..this, Whom…that” And a preface body that is one sentence (Advent II). God help us.

  3. Did I miss it, or did XR in his apt commentary on the Advent II preface fail to point out also that 2010 literally butchers it? By cutting–like as with a butcher’s knife–one sentence into two (Liturgiam authenticam au contraire).

  4. Okay, I’m a convert. This needs to get fixed. “He it is who grants our anticipating with joy the mystery of his birth” ? Seriously?

  5. It’s just bizarre beyond belief. In seemingly trying to simplify the elevated language of 2008 – less common words in long constructs but the correct order – 2010 uses more common words in shorter constructs, but the incorrect word order actually makes it more difficult to understand!

  6. Following up on Christopher Douglas’s “What is the motive?” how about a multiple choice question in the style of Father Z (whom I assume is not XR). Is the 2010 version the result of:

    (a) Sheer incompetence in an utterly unsuccessful attempt to please everyone.
    (b) Sheer incompetence in a genuine though to actually improve the translation.
    (c) Sabotage with the goal of delaying implementation of any new translation indefinitely.
    (d) Sabotage with the goal of rendering the Novus Ordo untenable in English.
    (e) Sabotage with the goal of ensuring the demise of the Novus Ordo.
    (f) Brilliant strategy to make the 2008 version look too good to resist.
    (g) An awful joke to see if someone will take it seriously.

    Conspiracy theories aside, is (a) the only plausible possibility?

  7. CHE I think you are exactly right. Sheer incompetence but how does that happen so high up with such smart experts and even get officially approved. Somebody should get fired over this.

    You mentioned Fr Z. I don’t think he knows yet how bad 2010 is. Goes against everything he’s always stood for at WDTPRS but today he said “Some people are whining that Rome is making changes to the translation submitted by the conferences of bishops.” When he sees how bad it is bet he starts whining too.

  8. I’m afraid that for me, the 2010 version of Advent II preface is more understandable than the 2008 version. The 2010 version is terrible, but the 2008 version, for me, is almost incomprehensible. At first, second, and third readings, it’s a string of words one after the other, with no discernible subject-verb structure that would help me parse it.

    At Mass, given that I am sometimes distracted and don’t listen to every word, I fear that I’m not going to understand anything!

    What could help?

    If the person proclaiming stressed each important word: “Christ” in the preceding sentence, then “whom”, “whom”, “whose”, “who”, “he”, all stressed in the same way so that we can understand that they all refer to Christ.

    Also, in Jaffa I once attended a Mass with the words of the hymns projected on a screen. I think that that could be very useful here, especially for those extremely complicated prayers that we only hear once. Projecting the text on a screen would enable us to read it as the priest is proclaiming it so that we can try to understand what he is saying. In addition, maybe some props could make it easier: for example, some grammatical help, say, underlining every word that refers to Christ. If this could be done, at least for a period, then maybe we could get used to this style.

    Also, is it possible for the priest to just repeat the same prayer several times during Mass? Repetition would definitely help us figure out what he’s trying to say.

  9. How about this?
    “His future coming was proclaimed by all the prophets. The Virgin mother bore him in her womb with love beyond all telling. John the Baptist was his herald and made him known when at last he came.

    In his love Christ filled us with joy as we prepare to celebrate his birth, so that when he comes he may find us watching in prayer, our hearts filled with wonder and praise.’

    And so, with all the choirs of angels in heaven we proclaim your glory and join in their unending hymn of praise:”

    Elegant, flowing, of good English. Understandable.

    1. I have always loved this preface particularly so, and will miss it terribly. I also will miss the current EP IV.

  10. Yes, the Advent preface is one of the nicest in our current liturgy. Thanks to Mr Rindfleisch for granting me anticipating with trepidation the implementing of the new translation.

  11. I find the conspiracy theories and exaggerated speculation regarding Cardinal Pell (who most likely passed up the position in Rome for health reasons [not life-threatening; and what is more important –Abp. of Sydney or Prefect of a Roman dicastery?]; Abp. DiNoia’s promotion to CDF (after Card. Levada [75 in June next year] finishes — there just won’t be an American successor); Benedictines who are not welcome any longer at their abbeys of profession –Father Cassian Folsom, and, even more, Father Jeremy Driscoll, who spends a good part of each year at Mount Angel, Oregon, as a respected member of the community. Let’s not get carried away.

    Who made the changes in the 2008 text? Hard to say. Very likely, the advisors to Vox Clara (all of whom had a role in the preparation of Liturgiam authenticam with its principal author, Father Anthony Ward, SM). All of these would have at best scant regard for The 1969 Instruction on The Translation of Liturgical Texts, the correct English title. Comme le prevoit is the French version. The document was issued in six languages. Each language version is considered authentic.

    As to the Advent prefaces I and II, I believe that 2010 is horrendous; 2008, somewhat less so. With Claire Mathieu, I find the body of Advent I, but also II, impossibly long, overwritten sentences. This simply is at odds with the state of the LITERATE language in the first years of the second millenium. It’s churchspeak from the past.

  12. cont.

    It is not pastoral in its intent, but intent rather on a rigid adherence to a set of rules devised at a desk. The people will tune out after the first line.

    Let’s look at these prefaces in 1973 (a different hand than that involved in the very spare collects):

    Advent I:

    When he humbled himself to come among us as a man,
    he fulfilled the plan you formed long ago
    and opened for us the way to salvation.

    Now, we watch for the day,
    hoping that the salvation promised us will be ours
    when Christ our Lord will come again in his glory.

    And 1998:

    When first he came among us
    in the lowliness of human flesh,
    he fulfilled the plan you formed long ago
    and opened for us the way to salvation.
    Now, hoping that the salvation promised us will be ours,
    we watch for the day
    when Christ will come again in majesty and glory.

  13. cont.

    Advent II (1973):

    His future coming was proclaimed by all the prophets.
    The virgin mother bore him in her womb with love beyond all telling.
    John the Baptist was his herald
    and made him known when at last he came.

    Advent II (1998):

    He is the one foretold by all the prophets,
    whom the Virgin awaited with love beyond all telling,
    the one whose coming John the Baptist heralded,
    and whose presence he proclaimed.
    This same Lord invites us to prepare with joy
    for the mystery of his birth,
    so that when he comes
    he may find us watchful in prayer.
    our hearts filled with wonder and praise.

    After long experience of public liturgical proclamation and teaching such proclamation to others, I am saddened to find the 2008 texts, not all but many, uncaring of, if not ignorant of, the native genius of the English language, especially its rhythms and cadences. In the vernacular experience, opened at Vatican II, surely English, one of the glories of God’s creation, has its own claims, indeed high claims. It deserves better than to be treated, at times almost churlishly, as a stepchild with regard to the Latin. If one language in the conversation that is the art of translation is given so exalted a status that the other is reduced to a pesky obstacle to be grudgingly put up with, then the Fathers very pastoral opening to the vernacular, during and immediately after the great Council, is doomed to end up in continuing frustration. Nos cum prole pia benedicat Virgo Maria.

  14. “The native genius of the English language” has succumbed to bureaucrats bereft of literacy. But the Latin language is being mauled too; what is this about John the Baptist “singing”? Presumably the verb has a wider connotation in Latin.

  15. Let’s face it, “He it is” is exactly the sort of horrible English that will drive virtually every priest in THIS country – the US – to do his own editing. And really, who wants to teeter on the edge of that abyss?

    If I see one more implementation workshop agenda with part of the presentation headed “obedience as a virtue” – when I know the obedience being referenced is adherence to the new text to include all the “He-it-isms” (huh, how’s that for a word) – I just may scream. Not something I’m generally prone to doing. I wonder if enough of us screamed simultaneously, would the Bishops hear? Sadly, I suspect not.

  16. C Henry wrote:
    Did I miss it, or did XR in his apt commentary on the Advent II preface fail to point out also that 2010 literally butchers it? By cutting–like as with a butcher’s knife–one sentence into two (Liturgiam authenticam au contraire).

    XR shows the Latin preface as 2 sentences. The 2008 glues them into one sprawling sentence of 55 words. The 2010 renders it into 2 sentences, just like the Latin – far from butchering, it undoes an illicit (per LA) conjoining.

    I think the 2010 translation is dreadful. But the 2008 is only marginally better.

    The discussion illustrates the idiocy of LA insisting on mimicing the Latin structure. Latin grammar makes sentences reasonably clear without full stops. English needs shorter, more demarcated sentences. There’s a brief historical essay here.

    I have found 2 reasons to praise the 2008. First. you could use it to teach people the Novus Ordo Mass in Latin, rather as you can use an interlinear word-for-word to teach Ovid or Livy. I’m not sure this is the best way to learn Latin, but it’s at least partly effective. Second, rigid adherence to the Latin structure means that you can explain infelicities in English by saying that you are following the rules of LA. Sorry guv, the Vatican made me do it…

    The 2010 text takes away both of these small advantages.

  17. Jonathan, you’re right on this. It was me who missed it.

    I think your first reason to “praise the 2008” is a good one. This is a good way for ordinary folks to learn just the bit of Latin that’s needed for at least some appreciation of (and gain from) the Mass in Latin.

    Actually, this example illustrates for me the fact that 2008 does a good job of adhering generally but not slavishly to Liturgiam authenticam, making the occasional exception where appropriate. Whereas 2010 gets it all backward–slavish adherence when an exception might well be made, and vice versa.

  18. Pace Sean on November 3, 2010 – 12:22 pm I find the return to “Who” a welcome change.
    That said, to return to some of the meat.
    In the Preface of Advent I, Qui, primo adventu
    in humilitate carnis assumptæ,
    dispositionis antiquæ munus implevit,
    nobisque salutis perpetuae tramitem reseravit:

    highlights several problems in translation.
    The first is assumptæ. For Catholics, the commonest awareness of this verb is assumpta est Maria the Assumption, the taking up of Mary into heaven, a direct reflection on the Vulgate’s use of the same verb for Jesus’ own Ascension. But XR in his commentary hints at a greater problem when he notes: ” ‘assume’ more commonly has the sense of pretending”. In British English not just “assume [human/our/man’s] flesh” but also “take on [human/our/man’s] flesh]” can carry an underlying hint of Doceticism It is really very difficult to do justice in English to in humilitate carnis assumptæ and to remove a hint that He Docetically clothed Himself in our flesh. Perhaps Who, at His first coming in lowliness, receiving our flesh, fulfilled . . . or even Who, at His first coming in lowliness,born of our flesh, fulfilled . . . though that probably strays too far from the original.

    [continued below]

  19. [continued]
    dispositionis antiquæ munus implevit has led the translators in all cases to introduce “God” or “You” [ie.God] not found in the Latin. But the useful Lewis & Short reminds us that dispositio can mean testamentary disposition. So why not fulfilled the promise of the old testament or fulfilled the promise of the covenant of old?

    One could go on, but wrestling with a couple of clauses in one preface helps one to appreciate the enormity and difficulty of the task facing any translator charged with finding an acceptble sacral English to meet the need of all the speakers of the myriad species and sub-species of English around the world.
    One could go on, but to what end? Someone has to make a final decision, and the faithful to accept it. What can only hope and pray that any corrections to 2008 will emerge as improvements, and not as some of the 2010 so far revealed, retrograde steps.

    Regards,
    John Henley

    1. Indeed, “Take on” has other problems, as it can mean “go up against” in and adversarial sense.

      There are problems with the 2008 version which justify the review that it got, provided that our end goal is as excellent a translation as possible and not an opportunity for bishops’ conferences to exercise their prerogatives. Am I the only one unphased by the dangling preposition in, “…to hope for.” I also find the translation “all the oractles of the prophets” a better translation of cunctorum praeconia prophetarum” than “all the Prophets’ oracles”, at least for a translation intended for oral delivery. I vehemently disagree with XR’s comments re: tribuit nos praevenire. The 2010 translation is more literal. Nos is not the direct object of tribuit; rather it is the subject accusative of praevenire. In Latin, the infinitive form fulfills the nominative and accusative gerund functions except in those instances when the accustative is the object of a preposition, in which case the form we call “the gerund” is used. In good English, we express the word that stands in the subject relation to the gerund with a possessive noun, pronoun, or adjective. XR seems not to understand fully the functions of the Latin infinitive. One could attack the 2010 translation at this point on artisitc gounds but not on faithfulness grounds. Although “praevenire” and “to anticipate” are called “infinitives”, the latter is not the literal translation of the former here.

    2. Joyful in 2008 is a very dull tranalstion of exsultantes; the 2010 wording is preferable.

      It is clear that 2010 has introduced poorer translations. Both versions have mistakes. However not to recognize (or: not recognizing) the improvements in the 2010 version seems unfair or at least uncharitable. I have to admit that it would have served XR’s purpose to cite specific provisions of L.A. that were violated. Most of us think of rigidity in its wording, but we forget that 57a “The connection between various expressions, manifested by subordinate and relative clauses, the ordering of words, and various forms of parallelism, is to be maintained as completely as possible” is followed immediately by “in a manner appropriate to the vernacular language.” A good argument that translating every relative pronoun in Latin with one in English is “not appropriate.” This realization is nothing new, cf Bennett’s Latin Grammar 251.6: http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/bennett.html#sect251. XR’s comments confuse function with form.

      Finally, I have mixed feelings about the change of praises to praise in Advent II. I’m a little sleep-deprived, and it could be just me. For some reason “in his praises” strikes me as equivalent to “in the praises that he gives” rather than “in the praises that we give to him”, the latter being the implication that the Latin is conveying. “In his praise” seems to me to be able to go either way, and thus perhaps arguably preferable.

      Translating is hard.

  20. “This is a good way for ordinary folks to learn just the bit of Latin that’s needed for at least some appreciation of (and gain from) the Mass in Latin.”

    Great.

    SC 7 touts the value of the Eucharist as worship of God and the sanctification of believers. Nearly half a century later we’ve reduced the Mass to a lesson in a dead language. The timidity here: nice.

    1. Todd, perhaps you are unaware that the “dead language” you mention can afford a deeper participation in Eucharistic worship—for those whose interest in it is spiritual rather than merely textual–because the Latin texts of the Roman Missal embody richer scriptural and patristic meanings and allusions than are yet revealed in any available English translation, whether 1973, 1998, or 2008-2010. This is why I commonly both study the Latin prayers in advance of participation at a vernacular Mass, and then often follow the vernacular prayers at the Mass itself in Latin—because this enhances my sense of own conscious participation. In particular, I try to do this with each of the three proper orations and with the prefaces among which I anticipate the celebrant may choose for the Mass (e.g., the six weekday prefaces for a ferial Mass).

      1. I’m aware this is all a good secondary source for religious reflection. A parallel might be preparing with the actual Word of God in the original Hebrew and Greek. But few Christians are prepared for that kind of scholarship.

        While study is important, I’m personally leery of using the intellect overly much in the spiritual life. Aside from discerning the will of God, the secondary concern is self-examination–not just the conscience, but also one’s gifts and the nudges God gives through the liturgy.

        While I appreciate languages, I worry that a focus on Latin becomes a fetish, or at worst, an actual avoidance for engaging God through the Scriptures and core texts of the liturgy. It’s a fact that English has a far wider vocabulary than Latin, not to mention a familiar grammar and structure we native speakers are used to as our first language. We should be able to produce a richer expression in English. That we don’t strikes me as a sort of ecclesiastical colonialism.

        The question I ask myself (despite my own facility in languages) is why I would want to place an additional obstacle for my everyday encounters with the liturgy? But I am in substantial agreement with you that a richer connection between the Bible and liturgy is needed. And also that this connection can be facilitated in a refined (but not archaic) rendering of the vernacular. That’s why I believe the Latin Missal text itself may be seriously flawed. Why else would so many people try to make it up on their own?

  21. I’m not sure that this forum is the place to argue about details. But I’m struck by how rich the Latin is (too rich for oral proclamation?), and how there are important features of it that no English version gets. The effect of comparing the different versions increases my respect for 1973–though I suspect these two prefaces in that version are untypically good.

    1. Dear Philip and all –
      hmm, I think this is a great forum to look at details of Latin and English! I’m confident that at least a few of our readers will want to listen in on the things we translation nerds talk about.
      awr

      1. thanks–and sorry to be slow in answering (I’ve been out all UK evening). I’ve been thinking quite a lot about this since XR’s splendid post. My concern was really that the interlocking complexity of the points that have to be made needs something more accommodating than a 2000 character reply box. But maybe I’ll have my own post on the subject in a day or two.

  22. Todd, I think there is value in Latin as a link to the broader tradition of the Church, and as for use in a multi-lingual congregation. For me, at least, Latin unlocks a great deal of music. And there is some beautiful Latin language in texts like the Roman Canon.

    To be clear, I don’t think that word-for-word translation is the best way to learn Latin. One of the first things you have to teach, in basic Latin, is to translate the sense rather than the words. You need to teach schoolchildren to stop rendering Caesar like this:

    Which for cause the Helvetii also the remaining Gauls in valor surpass, because almost in daily battles with the Germans they contend, when either from their own territory them they keep off, or themselves in their territory war they wage.

    (That was the Gallic War, early in book I)

    Liturgiam Authenticam bizzarely commands us to translate in this manner. So the 2008 text is a useful “crib”, but that’s all — a sort of bridge to the Latin. Far better, of course, to learn the language itself, perhaps through Fr Foster’s method, and then to stick with a translation like the current one, as well as the Latin.

    The 2010 isn’t even a useful “crib”.

  23. Everything here depends on the purpose of the translation. When I am doing quasi-legal Jesuit texts, I’m often very literal indeed–because it’s important not to import ideas that aren’t in the original. When I am translating for a spirituality journal, I’m much more concerned with general intelligibility, and not above doing some editorial work in the process of translation that the original editors should have done, so that the translation actually improves the original (and sometimes original editors and authors acknowledge this). Where there’s not much consensus is just what characterizes a good liturgical text: does just every nuance of content matter, or should the focus be more on the overall poetic thrust?

    1. It’s imoportant to remind ourselves that these prayers are not poetry but are rhetorical prose. Therefore, I don’t think that our aim should be to compromise the content by imposing a modern “poetic” expectation. As SC says, part of the goal of translation is that “the faith of those taking part is nourished and their minds are raised to God, so that they may offer Him their rational service and more abundantly receive His grace.” Two key words here are “minds” and “rational”. Wouldn’t a deemphasis of the content have an adverse effect on these considerations? “Poetic” and “passionate”, two principles championed by Mr. deHaas below, are in fact two principles that we should avoid. Rhetoric is important only to the extent that it highlights and reinforces the content.

  24. Agree, Fr. Endean. Again, there is much wisdom found in SC and the principles articulated and then what evolved by various conferences of bishops. The structure of liturgy is universal but how it is translated, proclaimed, and lived has much to do with culture, rites, languages, etc.

    Would suggest that one of the key principles is that liturgy must be proclaimable, poetic, passionate, etc. and not some version of literal or formal translation of the “original latin”….sorry, IMO, Original Latin is an oxymoron.

      1. “Not every sentence in the Mass is a quote from an older text in another language.”

        True, but all of the most important ones are. The ones that are not are human compositions but not part of the inspired word of God.

      2. +JMJ+

        But Todd, that doesn’t address Bill’s comment.

        And although the human compositions are not “part of the inspired word of God”, they still have value. And before you press further, yes, I think contemporary compositions can have value too.

      3. I didn’t intend to address Bill’s comment. I was addressing yours.

        I wouldn’t use “oxymoron” to describe the use of Latin. As I said above, there’s a danger in making a fetish of Latin and neglecting Biblical languages. And neglecting the core purpose of liturgy. Does the use of Latin align with the conciliar principles laid down in SC 1?

      4. +JMJ+

        Yes, Todd, I think using Latin is in accord with SC 1. It’s not exclusive, as if using Latin alone fulfills all SC 1 seeks to do, but its use is in accord with it. Introduction of the vernacular is also in accord with SC 1.

        I don’t quite understand your concern about Latin leading to a neglect of Biblical languages. For scholars, they will look to the Biblical languages. For non-scholars, what would move them to look into the Biblical languages? Isn’t that analogous to diving into the Latin of the orations to learn the history and deeper meanings behind them?

        These 1500-character boxes are probably inadequate, but I’d like to get a better idea of what you mean.

      5. Jeffrey, my simple concern is with utilizing Latin as a quasi-Gnostic expression that will deaden the spiritual life of the people. If we want to go deeper into the liturgy, we have the Scriptures. And if we’re concerned about deeper meanings, there are commentaries and homilies. And if we’re concerned about original languages, maybe we should be paying more attention to Greek and Hebrew.

        My sense is that all the texts of the liturgy point to Christ. (Or should.) And some, like presidential prayers, are secondary in that they allude to the liturgy and the Scriptures. I would place these prayers below the antiphons and about on a par with Scripture-based hymnody.

        What does the GIRM say about them? I would compare sections 54 and 55 for perspective.

      6. My concern is with might be aptly called a magical understanding of Latin’s role as a liturgical language, which I do see at work in the perspectives of some these days. It is a concern that, unless All The Latin And Nothing But The Latin has nearly 100% correspondence in the vernacular translation, then we can’t be sure we are getting the 100% Deposit of Faith and even, in some more extreme views, an undiluted Sacramental dimension to the liturgy. It’s a deeply addled mindset, and prone to bleating.

        Latin’s wonderful. For many reasons.

        But not that wonderful. It can coexist with the vernacular, and the vernacular in its own right.

        (And of course it has a mate on the other end of this Mobius strip spectrum, which is the addled fear of Latin in liturgy. I’ve been through those groves, so I am struck by the mirror-like inversion on the other side.)

      7. I would not argue either that Latin has some mystical capability for the liturgy that English lacks, or that Latin has a fuller capability for liturgical expression than English. Neither is so, in my opinion. In particular, I believe English has the capability of richer and more eloquent expression than Latin.

        Their difference in the present discussion is that Latin is our origin and English is our goal. As Pope Benedict has emphasized, the liturgy is received rather than constructed afresh, and it rests on both scripture and tradition. Latin is not an original language for scripture, but it is the original language for much of our tradition in the West. In particular, much of our liturgy has developed in Latin, over the centuries under the influence of the Holy Spirit. If we ignore Latin as our source for the liturgy, we deny the role of the Holy Spirit, and we lose the full content of tradition. This is why Benedict has emphasized that the Latin liturgy is an authentic source of tradition independent of scripture.

        The problem is how to translate the Latin into English in such a way as to preserve the full content of the faith and tradition received. The 1974 translation failed to do this, though not necessarily not because the theory of dynamic equivalence was fatally flawed. Rather, I think its execution was flawed, with the result that the 1974 English translation failed to transmit the received liturgy in a rich and complete way.

      8. (continued)
        As an antidote, LA mandated what I would call fairly slavishly literal translation. This is surely only the second step. Historically, once the pendulum has swung too far in one direction, the correction typically swings too far in the other. In case, we may well go from a smooth but thinner 1974 to a rough but fuller 2010.

        But once the full content of the received Latin liturgy has been faithfully transmitted, an authentic and accurate English translation may then serve as a new baseline reference for the next iteration—a subsequent translation that preserves our liturgical tradition in its fullness, but also expresses it with all the beauty and eloquence of which the English language is capable.

        Some of us may not be still here to see the end of this revolution in the liturgy. But perhaps we, like Madame Defarge in A Tale of Two Cities, we can say that we were here at its beginning.

  25. The genius of the translator lies in conveying the illusion that what is read and heard was actually created in the ‘target language’. It is abundantly clear that neither 2008 nor 2010 do this, nor does the bizarre LA wish them to do so.

    I wonder what world CHE, who attends Mass with a Latin primer in his hand, thinks most of the faithful in our churches inhabit. Liturgy is about worship, not about construing a text, for God’s sake.

    And Philip’s point about improving the original is very well made. What 1973 did was save us from an adverse reaction to the spiritual and cultural world of the originals, thus enabling us to pray rather than cringe.

      1. There was wide consultation with the English-speaking Church during the eight years of preparing the 1973/74 Missal, and an even wider consultation in the fifteen years of preparing the 1998 text. That some seminarians were among those invited to send sample translations or, more likely, to comment on draft texts, including seminarians majoring in classics, is not surprising. I have known a number of seminarians who had an excellent knowledge of Latin after four years of secondary school study and then a further four years at university level. A knowledge better than that of a number of priests.

        If the sample translations or comments on the draft texts sent back to ICEL were found to be worthwhile in taking the process forward, the respondents were invited to continue their involvement. Those whose comments, after attentive review, were found to be unhelpful were politely thanked.

        All sample translations or comments received were carefully studied in ICEL at several levels by the veteran scholars officially appointed by the bishops to prepare the 1973/74 text. These scholars, not those consulted, were the ultimate deciders in judging what material was ready for the consideration and vote of the bishops.

        That seminarians did the work is untrue, “urban legend,” as Paul Inwood has said. It suits the narrative of those who for forty years have delighted in giving the impression that the pioneering work was done on the back of an envelope.

  26. CHE says “the Latin texts of the Roman Missal embody richer scriptural and patristic meanings and allusions than are yet revealed in any available English translation” and Fr Endean says, “But I’m struck by how rich the Latin is (too rich for oral proclamation?), and how there are important features of it that no English version gets.”

    I use a Bible study program that includes the Greek text, several linked Greek dictionaries, a Greek morphological search engine that allows one to locate all the occurrences of words across the Bible, the Vulgate text, and dozens of English texts.

    I have come to a similar conclusion that no English text is going to translate a Greek text in a way that it gives all the resonances of that text even in that particular book, let alone in all the Bible. Fortunately in this digital age I am not stuck with one translation.

    Without a sophisticated program, bible study people in my parish seem to have come to similar conclusions. They understand that translations have their advantages and disadvantages. No one seems obsessed with correctness; most are interested in what each translation can add to a fuller understanding of a text.

    So why not provide people with a study book with the Latin text, the present translation, the 1998 and the new texts plus some scholarly commentary for the Sundays and principal feasts similar to what we have been having.

    An advanced study DVD could include the full texts of the missals, dictionary, etc.

    1. So why not provide people with a study book with the Latin text, the present translation, the 1998 and the new texts plus some scholarly commentary for the Sundays and principal feasts similar to what we have been having.

      An advanced study DVD could include the full texts of the missals, dictionary, etc.

      Because, as I indicated above, that is not where 99.99999999999999999 (etc) % of massgoers are. They’ve come to Mass to engage in an act of communal prayer and worship, not in an academic exercise (which would necessarily have to include conflicting scholarly views, thus adding even more to the confusion).

      Let’s get real about what going to church is for.

    2. Well, there’s a way to deal with the priest shortage. Just close down all the parishes and have Mass at the nearest university campus for the 3 people who care.

    3. Less than 25% of Catholics go to Mass every week. Another 50% or so go to Mass intermittantly, from every other week to four times a year. (Another 25% almost never go and I’m not sure they should be counted).

      http://cara.georgetown.edu/CARAServices/requestedchurchstats.html

      What is your suggestion regarding the majority of Catholics, those who show up for Mass every other week or less? I don’t think they’re going to use any study book, however well done.

      1. Little Rock Bible study (Liturgical Press) has an excellent model of religious formation. Its four elements consist of: 1) daily personal study of scripture, 2) weekly small group discussions of scripture, and 3) a weekly large group event. The model presumes 4) prayer across these three events.

        I like it because it is a balanced model of developing personal skills (the daily study), social relationships (the small group) and community culture (the large group event). All three contexts include prayer.

        While most Catholics (and other Christians) do not come to Church on a weekly basis, most say God is very important in their lives, and most pray daily. IMO, the beginning of all catechesis and evangelization should be with this assumption.

        According to research done for the recent Synod, the Bible is highly valued by all Christians more so than other church institutions. Using the Bible or the Liturgy (which is heavily biblical) is a good place to give people a better prayer life and attract them into Weekend worship and congregational small groups.

        Research indicates the adantages of weekly church attendance in terms of personal happiness, better health, and contributing more time, talent and treasure not only to religious institutions but also to civic society.

        Recent research (American Grace) indicates all the benefits of weekly church come from RELIGIOUS Networks not just attendance. “Praying together is better than bowling together or praying alone.”

  27. In fact, I would welcome liturgies composed from scratch — not translations of pre-existent texts. The dreadful truth is that for the vast majority of Catholics the Eucharist has become meaningless, and one reason for this is that the texts do not speak from where the people are, but seem at a tangent not only with their real life experience, but also with their spontaneous habits of prayer. The entire restorationist project had been premised on the idea that what is old is always good, and needs only to be gently repristinated. But the old can be toxic. Dead theological language kills faith, no matter how vibrant its role in past epochs.

    1. “the texts do not speak from where the people are”

      Perhaps they speak to the people from heaven?

      “but also with their spontaneous habits of prayer”

      Perhaps they do not attend the heavenly liturgy for spontaneous prayer?

    2. I agree that some of th original texts should be modified as increasingly sophisticated understandings of unchanging truths arise. The Good Friday petitions would be a good example of this. Did you have anything else in mind? I guess your lack of examples is what is most troubling to me.

      There is the adddage lex orandi, lex credendi which argues for the correspondence of prayer and belief, and one informs the other. The problem with the current translations isn’t simply that they don’t convey the Latin. The issue is that the content and beauty contained in the Latin prayers deseves to be translated The Latin is worth translating well, not because it is in Latin but becasue it is inspired. The content is challenging and formative, not reactive and coddling. Let’s also not forget that the liturgy is foremost about the Church’s giving God its best praise and worship and not to reflect “spontaneous habits of prayer.”

    3. Good examples are the pastoral Eucharistic Prayers for Masses with Children and (especially) good, the Eucharistic Prayer for VNO. Actually, any of the “new” EPs are signs that we can pray well with fresh texts, along side bringing the “old” (EP I and II). Imagine if we kept up with the Councils call for more EPs and had more along the line of the Reconciliation prayer

      g>

      In fact, I would welcome liturgies composed from scratch — not translations of pre-existent texts. The dreadful truth is that for the vast majority of Catholics the Eucharist has become meaningless, and one reason for this is that the texts do not speak from where the people are, but seem at a tangent not only with their real life experience, but also with their spontaneous habits of prayer. The entire restorationist project had been premised on the idea that what is old is always good, and needs only to be gently repristinated. But the old can be toxic. Dead theological language kills faith, no matter how vibrant its role in past epochs.

      </blockquote

  28. I have been to Mass with people who spend the entire time praying the rosary; with those scribble notes about the errors the priest or servers make; with a friend who consistently mutters the priest’s part under his breath.

    There are children who follow with rapt attention and others who are clearly bored. I have shared a pew with people who wept from the start of the Mass to the dismissal, and with business-types who typed on their Blackberries throughout the liturgy.

    What are they doing at Mass? I don’t know. There are many times when I’m not sure what I am doing there. But we come back — or as Jerry says: Gotta sing, gotta pray. Christ feeds his own in a mysterious way.

    Cervantes put it well: I never thrust my nose into other men’s porridge. It is no bread and butter of mine; every man for himself, and God for us all.

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