O Lord, who are the author of ever-living life…

From Adam Wood, who blogs at Music for Sunday:

O Lord, who are the author of ever-living life, and the source of all wonder and mystery, bless, recognize, and approve these words, these clauses, these holy and undefiled enunciations, we humbly pray, both dependent and independent, which we offer you first of all on behalf of your Church, that by the anticipation of their conclusions, long forestalled by the mysterious work of your servants who, holding to the truth, handed them to us, and by the sincere searching for their venerable antecedents, we, though pitiable in our ignorance and darkened by the stain of sin, may come circuitously to the understanding of that enlightening grace by which you make your miraculous salvation known to all who speak, hear, and rightly understand the sacredness of these, your most holy and auspicious words.


  1. Almost finished, but not quite: “most holy and auspicious words. Who live and reign for ever and ever.”

  2. Maybe change “first of all” to “firstly”

    Could you throw in a “spirit of compunction” somewhere?

    1. No, no, no. Drop the -ly. “First” is both adverbial and adjectival, but dropping the redundant “of all” is good advice, worthy of Strunk and White.

      Better would be, keeping words together that belong together: “…we first offer you…”

      Fun; nevertheless, point well-taken. Hyperbole has its uses, but how many subordinate clauses can Everyman be expected to digest? Is two too many? One? Three? None?

      1. If there’s anything one can call this translation, it’s a wholesale rejection of Strunk & White. Real English style, however elementary, no longer applies.

      2. I have no problem with rejecting Strunk & White for liturgical translation. Strunk & White is great for journalism, and for combating the evils of academic discourse, and even for crafting many (but not all) species of lyrics, but it’s not so great for translating prosody and poetry (I will defer to Stephen Sondheim on how best to distinguish these from lyrics), in which task S&W will often result in banality.

  3. …we, though pitiable in our ignorance and darkened by the stain of sin, may be filled with a spirit of compuction as we come circuitously to the understanding of that enlightening grace by which you make your miraculous salvation known to all who speak, hear, and rightly understand the sacredness of these, your most holy and auspicious words.

    1. There should be a semi-colon after “speak” because you’re beginning a new independent clause (in the imperative). (Yes, I’m being supercilious.)

      But I have to admit, since I’m from another orbit, I can’t sometimes tell when you’re being ironic. For instance, are you making fun of, “darkened by the stain of sin”? I can’t tell. I know that I’m darkened by the stain of sin and see through a glass darkly. But I can’t tell if you are making fun of that phraseology or making fun of that idea in general. Or maybe you’re serious. I’m guessing it is an inside joke, but I can’t tell for sure.

  4. Adam: “O Lord, who are the author of ever-living life, and the source of all wonder and mystery, bless, recognize, and approve these words, these clauses, these holy and undefiled enunciations […]” (my ellipsis)

    Adam, I respect that your mock prayer is meant to highlight the wordiness of the new translation. It’s quite true the English translations of the 2002 Missale Romanum propers are often unintentionally comical.

    However, the new English translation of the Roman Canon faithfully renders the duplicate and triplicate invocations of this ancient anaphora. This is quite evident, for instance, in the new rendering of the invocation of the oblations in the te igitur and the invocations of holy sacrifice in the unde et memores. Adjectival and nominal multiplication is an important literary and rhetorical device found not only in the Canon but also across Latin literary genres (c.f. Cicero, de Legibus 1.22). Semantic multiplication in the Canon not only underscores the significant of liturgical action but also links together the anaphora’s petitions. While this literary style might sound pedantic in English translation, its beauty, utility, and historical-cultural significance for the Latin language is quite striking.

    For this reason I lament that the Roman Canon was ever translated into English, as its literary and logical beauty is lost in either an idiomatic paraphrase (1967) or very literal interpretation (2010). If only Pope Paul VI forbade the translation of the Canon and instead offered only the newer eucharistic prayers for translation, perhaps an unintentional mockery of what is truly a literary masterpiece would not have become prominent.

    1. Jordan

      A Eucharistic prayer that is part of the Ordo Missae, and thus likely to be re-heard with some frequency by congregants, is a different matter from a collect only heard annually or even less frequently, the failure of Liturgicam Authenticam to recognize this reality notwithstanding…..

      1. re: Karl Liam Saur on May 15, 2012 – 7:06 pm

        This is quite true, Karl. A eucharistic prayer will be heard more often and remembered more often than many propers. Still, the wordiness of the Roman Canon and perhaps certain other more ancient Latin prayers is perhaps the very reason for a prayer’s historical endurance as well as theological significance.

        I sincerely regret the condescending tone of my earlier post [May 15, 2012 – 7:10 pm]. Still I mourn the loss of an appreciation for Latin literary style in the Roman tradition. Perhaps the benefits of vernacularization greatly outweigh this loss of literary awareness.

      2. Jordan

        I don’t think you need to apologize; regular readers here, at least, should know your unique perspective and the background behind it. We might not all share it, but it’s definitely free of polemic and partisan bias. It is a valid perspective, but one that, as you note, it not widely shared. One of the things that happen as we age is we realize how narrowly our own perspectives may be shared. I believe that this is meant to teach us greater compassion in the end.

    2. Are we here to preserve an understanding of the beauties of Latin, or to preach the Good News? Maybe a Roman Catholic Church should be Latin oriented, in which case it’s time to consider how a Roman Catholic Church would remain n communion with an American Catholic Church or an Irish Catholic Church or a Native American Catholic Church, and they in communion with each other.
      For many, Latin is beautiful. But what about the beauty of using sage instead of incense, of replacing linen with a white buffalo skin as I’ve read of one parish doing?
      I am a gardener, and my favorite flower is the rose. But my garden is enriched and my appreciation of roses enhanced by all the other plants I maintain.

      “We are not on earth to guard a museum, but to cultivate a flowering garden of life.”

      1. Your garden imagery is beautiful, Brigid. Too bad you weren’t included in the prayer writing for the new translation.

  5. Might I also add that some might not be so keen to mock the Canon if more were willing to immerse themselves in the study of liturgical Latin style. The most ancient Latin prayers of western Christianity cannot be understood alone through the necessarily biased lenses of vernacular language interpretation. Still, many Catholics today insist that an understanding of Latin is not desirable or relevant for modern Roman Catholic worship. Quite the contrary! An earnest and joyful intellectual immersion in liturgical Latin of is the only protection against the intentional or unintentional ridicule of sublime prayer.

    1. Whilst I can see where you’re coming from with this remark, I find myself disagreeing quite strongly with the fundamental assumptions upon which it is based.

      A grounding in Latin would, no doubt, help us to appreciate the beauty of the Roman Canon in its original form. I challenge the assertion that this appreciation is required for Roman Catholic worship.

      Are we called to worship the risen Christ and to emulate his works: getting amongst the poor and the dirty, meeting people where they are and speaking a language they understand? Are the words of a long-dead language the only way we can form sublime prayer? Must we study that dead language for years in order to worship properly?

      Christ himself had stern words to say to the religious leaders of the time who placed heavy burdens on the faithful and lifted nary a finger to help.

      Vernacular worship is the only option that makes sense and, to my mind, is the only option that Christ left us when he told us to take his word to all the nations and to the ends of the Earth. The 2010 translation may use words that exist in the English dictionary, but it fails to meet the definition of “vernacular” from that selfsame dictionary.

      I think that this parody is rather brilliant and highlights many of the problems we see with the 2010 translation, most notably the fact that literary techniques that work beautifully in Latin are, put simply, foreign to languages that aren’t Latin.

    1. O Lord, you are the author of life. In your mercy, accept the faltering words of your people, for we are darkened by our sin and, can offer you only a shadow of your glory.

      How’s that?

      1. Paul, I find your abbreviated version quite beautiful, expressing very aptly how feeble I often find my own efforts at prayer.

        All praise, then, to the Spirit, who groans within on our behalf when we do not know how to pray!

        I hope that you help your community compose your weekly Prayers of the Faithful — sorry, Universal Prayer!

  6. I know this wasn’t meant as a Preface, but I wonder if we could throw in an “as they acclaim” at the end, just to trip me up as I’m preparing to play the Holy…

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