In most of the dioceses of England and Wales, we are now into our second month of using the new translation of the Order of Mass.
Most clergy seem to have given up on Eucharistic Prayer I as too difficult to proclaim. Complaints include rhythmical problems, lack of flow, and so on. I have not heard of anyone tackling Eucharistic Prayer IV either. Most priests seem to be using EPs II and III, and thus by a strange coincidence at all the Masses at which I have been present since the beginning of September, in a variety of churches, I have only heard EP III.
In the course of listening to the revised text, I have become increasingly uneasy about one or two phrases in this Eucharistic Prayer.
I want first of all to contrast these lines from the 1970 translation of the 1969 Ordo Missae with the same lines in the Missal of 2010:
From age to age you gather a people to yourself,
so that from east to west
a perfect offering may be made
to the glory of your name.
and you never cease to gather a people to yourself,
so that from the rising of the sun to its setting
a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name.
There is no doubt that 2010 is a more accurate rendition of the Latin text:
et pópulum tibi congregáre non désinis, ut a solis ortu usque ad occásum oblátio munda offerátur nómini tuo.
However, the phrase that has been nagging at me is “from the rising of the sun to its setting”.
I am well aware that many clergy have already been using this for some years in the midst of the 1970 text, on the grounds that it is (a) more poetic, and (b) picks up the psalmic allusion [Psalm 50:1d, and more especially Ps 113:3 “From the rising of the sun to its setting, praised be the name of the Lord!”]. I certainly appreciate both of those reasons, but I am wondering if the translation is in fact a betrayal of the intentions of the composer of EP III (and it is good to remind ourselves that it is a new composition, originating in a newly-composed Prayer by Cipriano Vagaggini).
We know far more today than the psalmist did all those centuries ago. Then, life took place during the waking hours of daylight, literally from sunrise to sunset, and Ps 113 was an encouragement to be constantly praising God from the time that you awoke until the time you went to sleep. It reminds me of those cenobitic monks who used to pray the entire psalter in a single day, every day: non-stop praise of God. (It was easy for them to do: they were the “profession pray-ers” and had little else to do except pray!)
However, I feel quite sure that the original intent of the phrase in EP III was actually “from one end of the earth to the other”; and for me, “from east to west” is a much better way of suggesting that, especially in these days when we have 24 hours of time zones and an International Date Line where east and west actually meet. Yes, I know that some have “abused” the text by saying “from east to west and from north to south”, but they too have been attempting to convey the idea of “always and everywhere”.
I do not think that “from the rising of the sun to its setting” does that in today’s modern civilization. The phrase is “temporally limiting”, and could even in extremis imply that during the hours of darkness the sacrifice is not actually being offered.
The more I have listened to this phrase, the more I have become convinced that in fact it is not an accurate translation of the intent of the original.
My second point is not so much about the text of EP III since it also applies to EPs I and IV, less so to II, but about the memorial acclamations in the Prayers.
It was brought home to me today, listening to people “acclaiming”
Save us, Saviour of the world,
for by your Cross and Resurrection
you have set us free.
followed immediately by the priest saying
Therefore, O Lord, as we celebrate the memorial
of the saving Passion of your Son,….
I was struck more than I have ever been before by the disjuncture between addressing Christ and then switching back to God as a whole and the Father in particular. And it is a real disjuncture, one that perhaps you only notice precisely at the moment of switching back. (It’s less obvious in EP II because the word “Lord” does not occur until several lines on.)
I think I have written previously on this forum about interviewing Gelineau on this topic, since he was the person responsible for the insertion of a memorial acclamation into the Eucharistic Prayer in the course of his time on the Consilium working group after the Council. I mentioned the problem of switching back and forth from Father to Son and back to Father, and asked whether it might not have been possible to have provided acclamations about Christ rather than addressed to Christ. For example,
We proclaim his Death, O Lord,
and profess his Resurrection
until he comes again.
where “Lord” would still be addressed to the Father.
Gelineau’s response was that certainly they could have done that without a problem. When asked why they didn’t, he said that the only reason was that they did not find that form in the tradition. Such acclamations were usually addressed to Christ. Pressed once again to say why he thought that was so, he said that the people always felt “closer” to Christ, and so addressed him. (I forbore to comment on the prayer that begins “Our Father…”) Today, when our relationship with God is more of an intimate one along the lines of an all-merciful “Abba”, Daddy, rather than a fearful relationship with an all-powerful God who is waiting to pounce on sinners, I think there is considerable justification for saying that we have moved on from the Middle Ages. Gelineau himself did mention, in this context, the fact that when you say Kyrie eleison (but not Christe eleison) you’re addressing whoever you like!
So my dilemma is about how to resolve this disjuncture.
My third point concerns this clause:
…and all your saints
on whose constant intercession we rely for help.
and with all the Saints,
on whose constant intercession in your presence
we rely for unfailing help.
Once again, 2010 is a more faithful translation of the Latin:
et ómnibus Sanctis, quorum intercessióne perpétuo apud te confídimus adiuvári.
but pays the price by introducing a possible ambiguity in the vernacular text as it is heard. The ambiguity concerns “in your presence”, apud te, with its resonances of the Book of Revelation and other apocalyptic literature where saints and angels minister unceasingly around the throne of God.
Because the lines “on whose constant intercession in your presence we rely for unfailing help” are a little longer than presiders have been used to, every presider that I have heard so far has introduced a gap, sometimes even a breath, between “intercession” and “in your presence”, thus:
on whose constant intercession
in your presence we rely for unfailing help.
What then happens is that the fleeting impression is given that it is we rather than the saints who are “in your presence” as we rely for unfailing help. Yes, this is not the fault of the text but the way in which it is delivered, but yes also, this could have been avoided by using a (to my mind equally faithful) translation along the lines of
and with all the Saints,
whose constant intercession in your presence
is a source of unfailing help for us.
This points up one of the major problems with the revised translation of the Missal as a whole. It has not been designed in any way for the listener but only for the reader, and more specifically for someone reading to her/himself silently. One recalls the Jerusalem Bible translation, which was never intended for public proclamation but only for private reading at the student’s desk. In the Missal, the problems are infinitely worse, of course. We have already uncovered many in the form of subordinate clauses whose antecedents are completely unclear, even on paper, let alone to the bewildered listener. I suspect that many subtler instances, such as the one just described, remain to reveal themselves over the course of time.