The Collect for the Mass of Pentecost Day

by Alan Griffiths

The Collect for Pentecost provides a good example of the difficulties that beset translators working within the constraints of Liturgiam Authenticam (LA).

The Latin text is

Deus, qui sacramento festivitatis hodiernae
universam Ecclesiam tuam
in omni gente et natione sanctificas,
in totam mundi latitudinem Spiritus Sancti dona defunde,
et, quod ipsa evangelicae praedicationis exordia
operata est divina dignatio,
nunc quoque per credentium corda perfunde.
Per Dominum.

The complicated construction of the second half of the text et quod ipsa … makes difficult reading in English. The text as we have it is:

O God, who by the mystery of today’s great feast
sanctify your whole Church in every people and nation,
pour out, we pray, the gifts of the Holy Spirit
across the face of the earth
and, with the divine grace that was at work
when the Gospel was first proclaimed,
fill now once more the hearts of believers.
Through …

Small details first. The English supplies ‘great’ in line 1 and ‘we pray’ in line 3 which are not in the Latin. It would be interesting to know the thinking behind such additions.

LA 57 says that the manner of Latin expression be rendered in the English, without making any attempt to justify this view. In the Pentecost Collect, though, there has been some paraphrasing. Quod is fused with divina dignatio and becomes concretised as ‘grace.’ Is this an attempt to ease the complexity of the syntax? It is certainly not blameworthy.

However, the resulting construction of the second half beginning at and, with … while elegant in the Latin, still sounds clumsy in English and takes some effort to proclaim effectively. The gap between with the divine grace and fill now makes effective speaking difficult, though not impossible.

Complicated constructions such as this were traditionally addressed (cf. Book of Common Prayer Collect for the Annunciation cf. Collect for Advent 4 in the new translation) by the ‘as … so’ device. The Latin uses this device too, but more rarely, and not in the case of the Pentecost Collect. But why not try it here? It would give this lovely prayer a more satisfactory English ‘flow’ (cf.LA 58).

A revised version of this collect might read something like this.

O God, who by the mystery of this day’s feast
are sanctifying your universal Church
in every people and nation,
pour out the gifts of the Holy Spirit
across the face of the earth
and as your divine grace was at work
in the first preaching of the Gospel,
so now let it work once again
in the hearts of those who believe.
Through our Lord.

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


  1. I have often wondered why our translators didn’t appear to look to the BCP as a model of clear and vivid translation, which in its day was bang up to date.
    I still don’t like the very strange “O God, who …..” construction.

    1. @Alan Johnson – comment #1:
      Speaking of strange, what about the prayer after communion: ‘that this spiritual food may gain her abundance of eternal redemption’?

      Shouldn’t it be “abunch of eternal redemption?”

  2. Other translations, for reference:


    God our Father,
    let the Spirit you sent on your Church
    to begin the teaching of the gospel
    continue to work in the world
    through the hearts of all who believe.


    Lord God,
    through the mystery of this holy feast
    you sanctify your Church in every nation and people.
    Pour out the gifts of your Spirit
    across the face of the earth,
    and in your merciful kindness
    touch the hearts of all believers
    as you touched those who first heard
    the preaching of the gospel.

  3. I would have preserved the link between defunde and perfunde, pour out and fill, which is in none of the translations. Stripped of some clauses, the prayer asks:
    Pour out the gifts of the Holy Spirit and fill our hearts.

    Based on that core, I’d go with something like
    God, who by the mystery of today’s festival
    sanctify your whole Church in every people and nation,
    pour the gifts of the Holy Spirit
    throughout the whole world
    and, with those divine gifts that were at work
    when the Gospel was first proclaimed,
    fill the hearts of all believers.
    Through …

      1. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #39:
        ‘Pour down’ and ‘pour through’ would probably be a little more accurate.

        The ‘perfunde’ of the Missal replaces the ‘diffunde’ of the manuscripts, though I can’t think why. ‘Defunde’ and ‘diffunde’ chime together rather well, I’d say. A translation of the manuscripts might read ‘diffuse through the hearts of the faithful’.

  4. re: Alan Johnson on [May 16, 2013 – 8:14 am]: In the specific context of Pentecost/Whitsunday, recourse to the Prayer Book for inspiration is not possible for the ordinary form. Both BCP 1552 and 1662 contain English interpretations of the Latin prayer found in the Tridentine recension.


    MR 1962:

    Deus, qui hodierna die corda fide-
    lium Sancti Spiritus illustratione
    docuisti: da nobis in eodem Spiritu
    recta sapere; et de eius semper conso-
    latione gaudere. Per Dominum.

    “God, today you have instructed the hearts of the faithful by the illumination of the Holy Spirit: grant us to understand correctly in this same Spirit; and always to rejoice over his consolation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord …”

    I am not entirely sure why this rather simple Pentecost collect from the EF was scrapped for the OF and replaced with a rather complex (daresay convoluted) collect. Is the OF collect derived from a sacramentary older than the sacramentaries available to the Tridentine redactors in the late 16th century? Cranmer’s translation of an identical Latin prayer suggests that this Whitsunday collect was also standard for the Sarum and other English rites. I find it very strange that the composers of the reformed Missale Romanum desired to break with a solemnity proper which appears to be older than even the Tridentine era.

    1. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #4:
      According to Patrick Regan OSB (Advent to Pentecost, pg 299) the Collect for Mass during the day at Pentecost comes from the Old Gelasian (GeV638). Makes no comment as to availability to the redactors of the post-Trent 1570 Roman Missal, but other studies I have seen seem to indicate they didn’t have access to a particularly wide range of older texts.

      1. @Brendan Kelleher svd – comment #12:

        Thank you Fr. Kelleher for the reference to the supporting sacramentary.

        Few would deny that the 1570 missal is a milestone sacramentary in the history of the Roman Church, even if this missal and its subsequent revisions are not widely celebrated today. However, a small minority of Catholics insist that the Tridentine “family” of liturgical books are exempt from the level of scrutiny PTB and contemporary liturgical scholars apply to modern liturgical books and their translations. No liturgical tradition is exempt from historical and linguistic analysis. This statement includes the Tridentine recensions, even if for some Catholics this peri-modern liturgy had arrived via a theophany and not from the pens of counter-reformation periti.

        While I still maintain that the Tridentine collect for Pentecost would have been more suitable because of its simplicity, I recognize that sacramentary ressourcement has greatly benefited the diversity of liturgical prayer in the Roman rite. Traditionalists not infrequently claim that less than a fifth of the prayers in the 1969 and later missals are Tridentine. So what? Often the more difficult reading is more fruitful, as translators often claim. Even so, a more systematic study of the 1570 tradition might reveal the suitability of some of its propers for future typical editions of the MR.

  5. Honestly, what is the point of the posts like this? The translation is what it is. Wishing for something better doesn’t offer much pastoral guidance or support.

    But if whining under the guise of academic analysis helps you get through the night…

    1. @Leo Bloom – comment #5:
      Two thoughts:

      Some of us are very interested in translation from Latin, so posts like this are interesting and fun for these wonks and geeks.

      The present translation is not permanent – it will be revised eventually. We’re now in the period of discussing every aspect of translation to contribute toward the next revision. There were many critiques of 1974, and these all played a role in the revision (even if most of the opinions of most of the people were ignored this last time).


      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #6:
        Why are the pleasing (albeit rare) facets of the third edition so rarely discussed? The tone always seems negative and accusatory, not “interesting and fun.”

        It seems unlikely that the fruits of these discussion will wend their way to those parties that actually wield influence.

      2. @Leo Bloom – comment #9:
        Dear Leo,

        Fr. Griffiths has generously submitted his careful (critical, negative) comments on the new Missal. If anyone wishes to submit a post on the pleasing aspects of this translation, I would welcome such a submission.


    2. @Leo Bloom – comment #5:
      The point is to continue the process begun in 1963: a better liturgy. Now, if people supportive of MR3 wish to bow out of the conversation and let the rest of us plan for MR4, that would be their choice. Not mine.

      If I were to offer pastoral guidance, I would recommend the 1998 version. Failing that, these clunky new prayers can indeed be rendered decently with good preparation.

      1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #7:
        History didn’t begin in 1963. Has not all of Christendom been working toward a better liturgy? Surely we did not wallow in complete ignorance until the Second Vatican Council.

        To be clear, I think the new translation is utter rubbish but its the script I’m given and it won’t change for a generation. I’d rather figure out how to make it work and not dissect it for all its faults. Leave that for those who grow up with this translation and don’t have such a complicated relationship with it. “Your ways are not our ways” and all…

      2. @Leo Bloom – comment #10:
        From 1570 to 1963, institutional Catholicism was most definitely not working to better liturgy. Rome was most decidedly in a mode of preservationism.

        “Our post-scholastic age is uncomfortable with this – for us, everything must be clearly defined.”

        This is more a characteristic of much (but not all) of institutional Catholicism. But I don’t see this characteristic at work in most (but not all) theologians, and certainly not among all liturgists and artists. This is the sort of criticism I would level at the CDWDS and ICEL: the indulgence for “everything to be defined,” as an identifier of so-called orthodoxy.

    3. @Leo Bloom – comment #5:
      Re. Mr. Bloom’s comment.

      The ‘point of posts like this’ is simple. I think that at some point in the future this English translation will be revised. It presents speakers with some problems of enunciating text. It is often guilty of sloppy editing. Maybe I am alone in this view, but somehow I don’t think so. Even within ICEL there may be some dissatisfaction with the finished product.

      My interest is in trying to understand what such a revision might have to consider, what its guiding principles might be, and, indeed, what a finished product might look like.

      I am a priest living in a large parish in southern England. I teach liturgical studies in seminary and help out here and there with liturgical formation in my diocese. I probably get to hear a representative collection of priests using the new translation.

      Also, I get comments from colleagues about the content of the new English translation, like: the collects are so laboured, or: they are difficult to speak. I have been asked: ‘can’t we use the collects in the Divine Office instead?’ (the English D.O. is not the ICEL text but our own) and so on.

      I think that after over a year of using the new translation, the continuation of such comment is significant.

      My interest as far as this blog is concerned is in looking at the more obvious examples of syntactical complexity, or even the errors in the translation (not infrequent) and wondering, out loud, as it were, what a revision process might do. I claim neither authority nor perfection, simply interest and a care for the quality of our liturgical speech.

      That such an activity is not pointless is borne out by the very helpful comments others make on this blog about my submissions. I am keeping a record of these in the hope ( … springs eternal!!) that they might, some day, be of some use to some one.

      You never know. The least that can be said is that I am a harmless eccentric keeping my brain from decay and that ‘Pray Tell’ is charitable enough to host me

      Alan Griffiths.

      1. @Alan Griffiths – comment #41:
        Another ‘point of posts’ like this lies in the fact that the official printed text of the Mass is used by so many merely as a guide, a basis for improvisation. Nearly everybody changes the text, not just naughty priests but bishops, archbishops and many cardinals. Some of the changes are good, others are dreadful.
        Here we have a forum for discussing the printed text and modifications that might be made to it. Thus, we can develop a sense of what is good and what bad, and so contribute to raising the standard of liturgical performance.
        Whether the good modifications that are proposed will eventually find their way into the printed text is another matter.

      2. @Mgr Bruce Harbert – comment #43:
        Indeed. And another ‘point’ of these posts is that they bring together multiple texts and a wide range of perspectives on the liturgy itself — which, as many theologians remind us, is a primary textual source for the Church, almost as important as that of scripture.

        I remain convinced that there would be a lot of value in a Mass translation wiki, as we discussed on PTB in 2010 and earlier this year.

  6. I know I am a broken record on some of these themes.

    “O God, who …” followed by a verb in the singular, second person present indicative continues to sound bizarre to me. Yes, I know it is “grammatically correct”. But it fails almost every other test of good writing: rhythm, euphony and clarity to name a few.

    I also share Fr Griffiths’s concern about “the manner of Latin expression”. In this prayer, “the manner of Latin expression” puts the verb last. So why not emulate the Latin and Master Yoda, and write:

    O God, who by the mystery of this day’s feast, your universal Church in every people and nation sanctify…

    The 1998 – thank you, Matthew, for providing these other translations – helps alleviate the problem of “flow” by breaking the prayer into two sentences. Casting the first part of the prayer as a separate sentence allows the subordinate clause to be translated as “you sanctify…”, a perfectly valid way to render the Latin.

    Oh, but turning one sentence into two betrays “the manner of Latin expression”. Wait! What about that marvellous device, the semicolon? A.W. Hodgman, in “Latin Equivalents of Punctuation Marks”, The Classical Journal, Vol. 19, No. 7 (April 1924), pp. 403-417, says that “Latin sentence structure has very clear equivalents for some of our punctuation marks, but not for all of them; and it has has its own methods for expressing certain things for which we have developed other typographical aids.”

    Indeed. If the authors of Lit Auth had read Hodgman’s essay and the translation committee had consulted Fr Griffiths, we could have a translation like the following:

    O God, by the mystery of this day’s feast
    you are sanctifying your universal Church
    in every people and nation;
    pour out the gifts of the Holy Spirit
    across the face of the earth
    and as your divine grace was at work
    in the first preaching of the Gospel,
    so now let it work once again
    in the hearts of those who believe…

    Much easier to read, proclaim and understand.

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #8:

      “O God, who …” followed by a verb in the singular, second person present indicative continues to sound bizarre to me. Yes, I know it is “grammatically correct”. But it fails almost every other test of good writing: rhythm, euphony and clarity to name a few.


      While agreeing with you whioleheartedly, It’s not just about rhythm, euphony and clarity, it’s the fact that the translators refuse to accept that our language has moved on. While it may be theoretically correct to say “O God, who have…”, in practice this is not a construction that we use anymore in standard spoken English. We say “O God, who has…”, and treat the verb as being in the 3rd person singular as if it were narrative about God, rather than directly addressing God. The same is true in other verbal tenses, though it comes across most clearly in the past perfect.

      This debate first started in the 1980s when the new edition of the UK Rite of Marriage was being drafted (in the end it never saw the light of day). Fr Christopher Walsh, who was in charge of this project, simply could not accept that the English language had changed. The current generation of ICEL translators are behaving in a similar ostrich-like fashion, I’m afraid. Their insistence on an archaic form that is no longer in current usage merely serves to compound the impression of clunky awkwardness in the revised texts.

      That marriage translation was also the first manifestation of a related battleground. The previous (1970s) generation of ICEL translators had taken the view that the Latin “you who” construction did not come across well in contemporary English. It was in fact often rudely referred to as the “Yoo-hoo” construction. Their chosen solution at that time was to avoid the problem altogether by using a direct verb instead of a relative clause, thus “O God, you…” This brought them much criticism by those wbo felt they were making us tell God what he had done or was doing, something that of course he already knew, and campaigned for a return to the relative clause. The Rite of Marriage was the first testing ground of such a return.

      The whole question of whether we now have an excess of relative clauses, to the point where comprehensibility is severely compromised, is something that needs to be discussed as a matter of urgency. After all, what is the point of praying a prayer if the listener cannot understand what on earth it is saying? (NB: The listener, not the person who has the advantage of reading the text on the printed page.)

      Pace Leo Bloom, if we do not undertake this and continue to throw large lumps of indigestible and sometimes even meaningless verbiage at our people, they are going to vote with their feet. Indeed, a proportion of them have already done so [note the use here of a singular (collective) noun with a plural verb, another commonly-used construction in today’s speech, even though still theoretically incorrect]. I see little merit in saying “We’re stuck with it, let’s just get on with it”. In a different realm, this attitude would have meant, for example, that the downfall of Communism in large parts of the East would never have come about.

      1. @Paul Inwood – comment #14:
        Why blame ICEL? Liturgiam authenticam 57a says:

        “a) 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 in a manner appropriate to the vernacular language.”

        And while you are asking whether the use of relative clauses in the official translation is appropriate, remember what the CDWDS said about the 1998 translation:

        “The Structure of the Collects: Relative clauses often disappear in the proposed text (especially the initial Deus, qui . . ., so important in the Latin Collects), so that a single oration is divided into two or more sentences. This loss is detrimental not only to the unity of the structure, but to the manner of conveying the proper sense of the posture before God of the Christian people, or of the individual Christian. The relative clause acknowledges God’s greatness, while the independent clause strongly conveys the impression that one is explaining something about God to God. Yet it is precisely the acknowledgement of the mirabilia Dei that lies at the heart of all Judaeo-Christian euchology. The quality of supplication is also adversely affected so that many of the texts now appear to say to God rather abruptly: “You did a; now do b.” The manner in which language expresses relationship to God cannot be regarded merely as a matter of style.”

        I think this makes it clear that there has been a good deal of pressure from the CDWDS on this point.

      2. @Mgr Bruce Harbert – comment #22:
        Pressure which should have been resisted. CDWDS, while making a reasonable theological point, is forcing us from the mildly unsatisfactory into a stilted archaism.

      3. @Mgr Bruce Harbert – comment #27:

        Resisted by people of integrity, be they bishops, former executive secretaries of ICEL or whoever. The CDWDS strictures are quite clearly nonsense. If people had not rolled over and gone along with the indefensible we would not be where we are now. The point about overruling by incompetent people comes to a halt when more competent people in responsible positions just say No.

        “Our post-scholastic age is uncomfortable with this – for us, everything must be clearly defined. So in the official version of the Missal we have a collection of texts from the first Christian millennium translated with the mentality of the second. ”

        That names the problem in a nutshell. The man who wrote Liturgiam Authenticam, including para 57a, did not have a clue about any of this. Those working for ICEL did. They were in a position to resist, and they should have done so. To that extent, ICEL is to blame. Of course we cannot hold ICEL totally responsible for what happened between 2008 and 2010, but for everything which took place up until then, yes, heads hung in shame would not be inappropriate. Even the earliest drafts were miserable, based as they were on LA. However, I think what angers people now more than anything else is that the 2010 text does not in fact conform to LA, and is not accurate. Not only was it not respectful of the work which went into 2008, but it was not respectful of anything, not even its own eccentric pronouncements.

        [CDWDS] “The quality of supplication is also adversely affected so that many of the texts now appear to say to God rather abruptly: “You did a; now do b.” The manner in which language expresses relationship to God cannot be regarded merely as a matter of style.”

        The person who wrote this evidently never learnt in class that tu quinunc fac is precisely the form not just of the Collect but of the Eucharistic Prayer and indeed of all supplicatory prayer in liturgy. I and many others have commented before about the sheer ignorance of those working for CDWDS. Enough said.

      4. @Paul Inwood – comment #31:
        “Enough said.”

        Other Catholics may have more to add. But I will say that some of the MR3 has a serious lack of artistic imagination. And while some organizational bits are an improvement over the MR1 sacramentary, there are still serious clunkers, like the handling of the Sprinkling Rite.

        We also know that the German bishops have pushed back against the CDWDS in some of their translations handed to them. And even sent the OCF back for “more work.”

        What we could have had was a more sparkling translation that inspired in the assembly the deeper connections between Scripture, liturgy, and life–a tighter web of faith. What we have instead is a small minority crowing in triumph about vocabulary, and another minority deeply critical of both Liturgiam Authenticam as well as the abject failure to apply even that flawed document properly. And a majority not terribly inspired to engage beyond music and Scripture.

        The MR3 failures: mainly lost opportunities. But if you think the Church is humming along peachily, having nearly evangelized the whole world, having exploited all available horizons, then perhaps we can overlook the flaws in loyalty. I don’t think we’re beyond the evangelical age, however, We need an MR4 that really inspires, rather than augments the blockades to unity.

  7. re: Jonathan Day [May 16, 2013 – 12:39 pm]: Thank you for the citation of the A.W. Hodgman article. I’ll be sure to jstor it. (verbed noun!)

    I agree with Fr. Griffiths’ decision to translate the contrast etnunc quoque with “and as” […] “so now” […] (my ellipses). Fr. Griffiths’ translation has clarified a contrast which is arguably poor form in the Latin.

    Jonathan’s mention of semantic punctuation reminds me of the many uses of Latin and Greek particles as markers. The et in this collect could function in a way similar to a leading καὶ or postpositive γὰρ in a New Testament verse. In this case, et would signify little more than the beginning of a new phrase or even as a place-marker after a page turn.

    I’m unconvinced that et functions in this way in this collect. Rather, I propose that the Latin contrast is etquoque (“and” … “and also”) in its basic form. The temporal article nunc is not intrinsic to the basic comparison. This particle merely precedes quoque and provides a degree of sharper focus. Even so, one might easily argue that the nunc is superfluous from a theological standpoint (are the promises of the collect time-aspect dependent?) I would argue that nunc obscures the parallelism necessary to understand the message of the collect. The Pentecost collect amply illustrates the need for fewer strictures in translation policy.

  8. The “[just] as … (so) …” device might also be used as an alternative to the archaic awkwardness of second-person verbs in relative clauses, without reverting to the 1973 strategy of replacing these clauses with independent sentences, informing God of what God knows full well.

    O God, as, by the mystery of this day’s feast,
    you are sanctifying your universal Church in every people and nation,
    pour out the gifts of the Holy Spirit …

  9. @Paul Inwood – comment #14:
    Thanks for some very thoughtful comments Paul!

    The more general point you helpfully raise concerns the use of “correct” English in ordinary conversation. You unlock the front door, and you hear someone say, “Who’s there?” Do you respond with “It’s I” or “It’s me”? Do you strive scrupulously to avoid splitting infinitives? Are you careful about when to use which and when that?

    (Here I can’t resist quoting Julian Barnes: “My own particular weakness is a refusal to learn the difference between which and that. I know there’s some rule, to do with individuality versus category or something, but I have my own rule, which goes like this (or should it be “that goes like this”? – don’t ask me): if you’ve already got a that doing business in the vicinity, use which instead. I don’t think I ever converted the [New Yorker] style police to this working principle.”)

    Mildly “elevated” speech can be pleasant. A revered professor – a former Dominican, I think – adverted to some things and prescinded from others. It didn’t sound out of the ordinary coming from him. And he used which correctly, and would never begin a sentence with a conjunction. At some point, though, strictly correct stops being “elevated” and becomes the verbal equivalent of the fancy duds of a previous papacy.

    Should we pray in language that sounds affected – language that we have moved on from? [ending a sentence with a proposition!]

    I would rather pray either in Latin or in contemporary English: neither ‘dumbed down’ nor ‘tarted up’.

  10. I wonder if it’s occurred to anyone who maintains an interest in the efficacy of these collects that declamation of the given text does affect its reception and intelligibility. I’m particularly interested by noticing the absence of certain punctuations from the given MR3 passage in the proposed “better” translation. Over at the MS Forum we were happily nuancing the differences between dotted punctums, the pressus markings, etc. But in reality how we execute such distinctions does detract or enhance comprehension, if not the inherent aesthetic to both text and chant.
    The upshot of all of this remains that Leo Bloom’s concern that perpetuating didactic forensics on MR3 portions will remain academic until there’s an MR4 is, actually, a reality none can escape unless you happen to be a “celebrant.” And I wouldn’t want to speculate on what percentage of English speaking celebrants prepare for these orations with what we call rehearsal. Everything can stand refinement in practice. But I don’t want to raise the hackles of clerics here by comparing what attentive musicians do in that realm versus those who preside.

  11. All of this ” , we pray, ” business drives me up a wall. It adds nothing but confusion. Is there anyone who defends this frequent insertion?

    1. @Scott Pluff – comment #19:

      The Latin word for “we pray” is quaesumus. As Fr. Griffiths notes, “we pray” has been inserted into the new translation without the presence of quaesumus in the Latin. Certainly, this verb shouldn’t be inserted into a translation if it is not present in the typical Latin text.

      I intend to prove in my PhD dissertation that quaesumus (from quaeso, “I question, ask”) contains different shades of meaning in both Roman pagan ritual and early Christian liturgy. These shades of meaning are not only stratified in layers but also change in significance over time. “we pray” does not capture all of these nuances. Perhaps there is no way to translate quaesumus into an idiom easily understood by Catholics today. In that case, the verb can often be omitted from a translation without losing the message.

      I agree with you Scott that “we pray” has been overused in the new translation. I certainly do not think that quaesumus should be translated in all the Latin collects where it appears. However, at times an inclusion of quaesumus might prove apt at times for thematic reasons. A more selective use of quaesumus and imperatives (commands) should be a priority for the revision of the current translation. My diss., should it ever be published, will serve wonderfully as a no-side-effects cure for insomnia.

    2. @Scott Pluff – comment #19:
      The “we pray” translating quaesumus appears particularly awkward when closely following “let us pray” translating oremus. Competent translators would have insisted on the point. Competent presiders tacitly correct.

      1. @Mgr Bruce Harbert – comment #28:
        combining with #27

        The serious point I’m making is that all of us who continue to celebrate the Eucharist following the imposition of the new translation have choices and judgment-calls to make. We can’t undo what has been done, but we still need to think about how far our material co-operation in the harm done should extend. It’s not quite enough for us to say, ‘we did our best–but “they” forced the issue … .’ To the extent we can mitigate the problems with the new translation without causing scandal or disruption, we should do so (a point which, of course, applied with the 1973 version as well).

  12. Philip Endean SJ : …without reverting to the 1973 strategy of replacing these clauses with independent sentences, informing God of what God knows full well.

    I take your point, but in the Mass are we not constantly telling God what God knows full well? – for example:

    Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you:
fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.


    Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts.
 Heaven and earth are full of your glory.


    You are indeed holy, O Lord, the fount of all holiness.

  13. The text at the beginning of this thread omits the word ‘inter’. Lines 5-7 should read:

    et, quod inter ipsa evangelicae praedicationis exordia
    operata est divina dignatio,
    nunc quoque per credentium corda perfunde.

    None of the versions so far offered really translates these lines. Here is another attempt:

    and now fill the hearts of believers also
    which that which divine condescension effected
    among the very beginnings of the preaching of the Gospel.

    What on earth does this mean? What did divine condescension effect? Perhaps the medieval scribes were puzzled, for several manuscripts omit these lines.

    The problem here is the allusive character of the texts. Scholasticism pursued precision in theological discourse, while patristic writers were happier with allusion. This is not merely a characteristic of technical discussions, but of popular preaching, as Augustine’s sermons constantly exemplify. And a love of allusion, of oblique expression, is displayed everywhere in the early sacramentaries.

    Our post-scholastic age is uncomfortable with this – for us, everything must be clearly defined. So in the official version of the Missal we have a collection of texts from the first Christian millennium translated with the mentality of the second. (A principal instrument of this change was the addition of ‘this’ and ‘these’ where the Latin has no equivalent, as in the Post-Communion for Pentecost, ‘this spiritual food’.)

    Men like De Lubac and Congar wanted the Church to be renewed by a return to sources. Perhaps they underestimated the strength of scholasticism, and overestimated the extent to which such a renewal would be possible.

    But as we leave Mass at Pentecost, we might wish to ask ourselves ‘what exactly did divine condescension effect among the very beginnings of the preaching of the Gospel?’ It’s not a bad question.

    1. @Mgr Bruce Harbert – comment #25:

      Mgr Harbert: What on earth does this mean? What did divine condescension effect? Perhaps the medieval scribes were puzzled, for several manuscripts omit these lines.

      dignatio here need not necessarily imply “condesension”. Perhaps medieval scribes were puzzled because their semantic range excluded knowledge of the great breadth and depth of Latin genres. Today, our Latin (and Greek!) semantic ranges are quite large compared to any one monastery or, for that matter, both the Reformation fathers and their episcopal counterparts convened in Trento.

      I’m eager to illustrate an alternate interpretation of dignatio by way of a rather unorthodox course. This project would examine various meanings of indignatio, the ostensible inverse of dignatio, through the lenses of a koine parallels such as ἀγανακτέω (c.f. 2 Cor. 7:11, also found even in the Corpus juris civilis of Justinian). A clarification of the inverse might also clarify the positive image. I do not have the time or space to examine these relationships here. Even so, I am frustrated that study of the translation of postconciliar missals often remains within strict semantic boundaries influenced by early sacramentaries. Indeed, the linguistic net for the English interpretation of typical texts must be cast much farther than the small circumference as yet covered. No word of Latin or Greek should remain uncovered. This includes both the Vulgate and recensions of the koine New Testament, as well as the shady characters of Plautus as well as risque Attic theater. An insistence that vernacular interpretation remain close to late or medieval archetypes, or that Catholic liturgical translation studies not consider innovative linguistic processes, relegates vernacular worship and typical texts to a view of the world from inside a camera obscura.

  14. Jonathan Day: “Much easier to read, proclaim and understand.”

    Sorry for being a broken record but is the celebrant proclaiming the Collect to/at his rapt audience, or is he praying the prayer to God, as he just asked the congregation to do at it’s start? I think that it is less the translations that is the issue here, than the attitude and way the prayers of the entire Mass are being prayed or should I say proclaimed.

    1. @John Kohanski – comment #34:
      John, let me share my view of what the celebrant is not doing. He is not having a private encounter between himself, God and the server. He is not reciting prayers to God that the congregation has no need to understand. My guess is that the whole idea of “private masses” is relatively modern, perhaps even postdating the 16th century. It isn’t something worth reviving, whatever the traditionalists say.

      In my perspective the celebrant is praying to God with the assembly; he is also addressing the assembly, praying to God in the assembly, the body of Christ.

      And please, spare us the sniff about “proclaim” vs “pray”. “Proclaim” is a perfectly good translation of proclamamus or clamamus (see, e.g., in the Eucharistic prefaces).

      1. @Jonathan Day – comment #35:
        Jonathan–I never said or meant to imply that the celebrant is having a private encounter or conversation with God and that the congregation has no need to understand. And I have no desire for private Masses. But thank you for acknowledging that he is indeed praying the prayer. He addressed the congregation with “Oremus” and asked them to pray with him, but now in the Collect he’s addressing God, not the people. Ending the Preface with “Singing, crying out, and proclaiming the triumphant hymn” leading into the Sanctus is much different than what he bids the people do as he prays the Collect.

      2. @John Kohanski – comment #36:


        I think you may have forgotten that the role of the priest in the Collect is leading the people in prayer, not excluding them. In other words, he is leading the people in a prayer addressed to God, but he is not offering the prayer himself regardless of whether they are on board or not. The whole point of priestly ministry is not to do his own thing but to lead the people in doing their thing. The sooner we get this clear in our minds, the better.

      3. @John Kohanski – comment #36:
        In Listen to the Word (2009), Daniel McCarthy OSB distinguishes four ‘performative stages’ of an opening prayer:

        1. Invitation to pray: Oremus, “Let us pray”,

        2. Silent prayer of the community,

        3. The opening prayer or collect given by the presider, which the rest of the assembly makes their own in the hearing,

        4. And the ratification of the assembly’s “Amen”.

        It is clear enough that (1), “let us pray”, is addressed to the assembly.

        And, as you say, John, (3) is addressed to God. I agree with the first part of your sentence but not the last. The collect is also addressed to the assembly, so that, as McCarthy says, they can make the celebrant’s prayer their own.

        By the way, I agree with McCarthy’s choice of “presider” rather than “celebrant”; there is nothing wrong with “celebrant”, but it can imply that the only one celebrating the Mass is the priest. And that is simply not the Church’s understanding, if it ever was.

        I once went to a service at a Baptist church, where the leaflet we were given said

        The Rev Dr E.G. Sample
        The Rev X.Y. Named

        A member later explained to me that this meant that the congregation – every one of us – were “ministers” in the service.

        And – without ignoring the distinctive role of the ordained priest – it seems to me that every Mass with a congregation is ‘concelebrated’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.