I have been recently engaged in a project for Liturgy Training Publications: recording all of the presidential chants as given for the new English translation [RM2011] of the third post-Vatican II edition of the Missale Romanum [hereafter MR2008]. I have derived great benefit from chanting these texts aloud, discovering where the solemn and simple tones seem to adorn the English texts naturally and where they offer some challenges. I have been especially surprised by some of the translations of the solemn blessings, a topic I don’t believe has been addressed by the readers of Pray Tell. I offer the following comments with genuine perplexity, hoping that other readers may be able to enlighten me about some of the choices that were made.
My examples appear in the solemn blessing for Advent celebrations. In MR2008 the first paragraph reads: “Omnipotens et misericors Deus, cuius Unigeniti adventum / et praeteritum creditis, et futurum exspectatis, / eiusdem adventus vos illustratione sanctificet / et sua benedictione locupletet.” My slavishly literal translation would read: “May the almighty and merciful God, the initial coming of whose Only-begotten you believe [in] and the future [coming] you await, sanctify you by the enlightenment of his coming and enrich you by his blessing.” The translation in RM2011 is: “May the almighty and merciful God, / by whose grace you have placed your faith / in the First Coming of his Only Begotten Son / and yearn for his coming again / sanctify you by the radiance of Christ’s Advent / and enrich you with his blessing.” I appreciate the use of the term “Advent” to connect this blessing with the season, although I hope the faithful realize that two different words are being used in the English translation to translate one in Latin. I can even understand why the translators might supply “Son” to the term “Only-begotten” and supply “Christ” when the Latin text has the possessive pronoun “his.” But I do not see any word or phrase that corresponds to “by whose grace” in the English translation. There should certainly be a comma after “yearn for his coming again.” The choice to capitalize “First Coming” and “Christ’s Advent,” even thought the underlying Latin keeps these phrases in lower case, might suggest that “coming again” might need special orthographic treatment. In other words, this paragraph as it stands does not seem to follow with precision the prescriptions of Liturgiam Authenticam.
The second paragraph reads: “In praesentis vitae stadio reddat vos in fide stabiles, / spe gaudentes, et in caritate efficaces.” In my opinion RM2011 translates this quite elegantly as: “As you run the race of this present life, / may he make you firm in faith, / joyful in hope and active in charity.” (I confess to taking delight in the alliteration of “run the race”, clichéd though it might be, and “firm in faith.”)
The translation of the third paragraph continues the pattern apparent in the translation of the first paragraph. In MR2008 it reads: “Ut, qui de adventu Redemptoris nostri / secundum carnem devota mente laetamini, / in secundo, cum in maiestate sua venerit, / praemiis aeternae vitae ditemini.” My slavishly literal translation would read: “So that, you who rejoice with devoted mind at the coming of our Redeemer according to the flesh, may be lavished with the rewards of eternal life in the second, when he comes in his majesty.” The translation in RM2011 is: “So that, rejoicing now with devotion / at the Redeemer’s coming in the flesh, / you may be endowed with the rich reward of eternal life / when he comes again in majesty.” I can appreciate the translators’ decisions to omit any reference to devotion of “mind” since “mens” can have such a wide range of meaning, but was somewhat surprised to see no mention that the Redeemer is “ours” (nostri). I can also appreciate the translators’ decision to render “praemiis” as the singular “reward” although it is plural in the Latin, as well as adding the adjective “rich” to reward, possibly to intensify the meaning of “ditemini.” I do think there is something lost when the Latin’s Second Coming (“in secundo”) is rendered simply as “comes again,” though “in majesty” identifies this coming as the Parousia.
But the real confusion for me is that paragraphs two and three form a single thought, yet are split into two presidential texts calling for congregational “Amens.” Paragraph three is an “ut-clause,” specifying the consequences of living “firm in faith, joyful in hope and active in charity” in paragraph two. However, this single thought has been interrupted by an “Amen” before the “ut clause” begins, leading to an apparently redundant “Amen” at the conclusion of paragraph three. Now I know that there are liturgical settings (e.g., the Mozarabic “Lord’s Prayer” with Amens inserted after each clause) where multiple Amens appear as congregational interventions during the course of a text, but this seems different. It seems especially awkward to have the congregation assent to a clause beginning “So that,…” as though it were a complete sentence in English. I look forward to my colleagues at Pray Tell both correcting my Latin translations and explaining what appears to be an odd placement of the congregational Amen.