Liturgical Translations Explained

16 Responses

  1. David says:

    I’m surprised Bishop Risi can’t see how goofy the English is in the new translation. The difference in intelligibility, clarity and proclaimability between the 1973 translation and the new is so clear.
    1973: – clear, effective, and good formal English

    Look with favour on your Churchs offering,
    and see the Victim whose death has reconciled us to yourself.
    Grant that we who are nourished by his body and blood,
    may be filled with his Holy Spirit,
    and become one body, one spirit in Christ.

    2009 – dull, ineffective and poor English

    Look, we pray, upon the oblation of your Church and,
    recognising the Victim by whose death
    you willed to reconcile us to yourself,
    grant that we,
    who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son
    and filled with his Holy Spirit,
    may become one body, one spirit in Christ.

    The new translation self-evidently worse than the old – even I can see that.

  2. Christian says:

    Thank you, Bishop, for your explanation. Sadly, I am not persuaded. The new translation is an immense obstacle to the full, conscious and active participation in the work of God by God’s people–at least those of us outside monasteries, chanceries, dicasteries and academies. Such wasted efforts and resources when the world is so deeply in need of the gospel!

  3. Martin Keenan says:

    The new translation is more precise and will require a more conscious and deliberate effort by the priest in speaking it. These are good developments.

    It is not sufficient merely to compare the old and the new translations as David does. The question is the fidelity of the respective translations to the original. If the translation is not exact with nothing omitted, glossed over, or paraphrased, how can worship be “full” (a key issue in the passage from the teaching of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council alluded to by Christian)?

    Turning to the actual text from EP3 discussed by Bishop Risi and contested by David:-

    [1] There is a difference between “seeing” and the more personal “recognising”;

    [2] The fact that the sacrifice of Calvary was willed by the Father as the means of effecting man’s reconciliation with Him is omitted from the earlier translation; and

    [3] Christ’s Sonship is also omitted from the old translation.

    These are not insignificant losses.

    [4] The earlier translation is also defective in as much as the first sentence appears to be merely tautologous:- “look (with favour)” and ” see”.

    Humility, patience and docility – these provide the key to full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy.

  4. David says:

    With just a little effort we can have a less turgid English, while retaining the essential theological elements. It may not correspond exactly to the Latin syntax, but that’s a daft way to translate anyway.

    Be pleased to look on your Church’s offering
    and recognise the Victim by whose death
    you desired us reconciled to yourself.
    Grant that we, who are nourished by
    your Son’s body and blood
    may be filled with his Holy Spirit
    and become one body, one spirit in Christ.

  5. David says:

    Of course, we could free the English syntax to become more lyrical, while keeping the Eucharistic theology intact.

    Be pleased to look on your Church’s offering.
    Be pleased to recognise the Victim
    by whose death you desired us reconciled to yourself.
    Nourished by your Son’s body and blood,
    may we be filled with his Holy Spirit,
    may we become one body, one spirit in Christ.

  6. David says:

    This is from the 1998 ICEL translation, approved by all the English speaking conferences of bishops, but rejected by the CWD. It’s in a “higher register” compared to the 1973 translation, but is still in good English prose.

    Look with favour on your Church’s offering
    and see the Victim by whose sacrifice
    you were pleased to reconcile us to yourself.
    Grant that we who are nourished by the body and blood of your Son may be filled with his Holy Spirit
    and become one body, one spirit in Christ.

  7. Martin Keenan says:

    I am not quite sure what the point of David’s exercise is (or, indeed, whether he is just tweaking the English or making a new translation of his own from the Latin), but there is no doubt that:-

    [1] the “1973” ICEL translation of the Roman Missal is indefensible for a variety of reasons which have been expounded elsewhere in these pages;

    [2] there is nothing un-English about complex sentences (as if the presence or absence of subordinate clauses was somehow definitive of English or Latin);

    [3] that the “2008” translation is not perfect (speaking for myself I do not think “immolatio” is – in the passage under discussion – adequately rendered by “death”, or that “reficimur” is satisfactorily rendered by “nourished”); and

    [4] that all the English-speaking episcopal conferences have approved the “2008” version.

    In this context it is useless harking back to the 1973 version as if “clarity” were the supreme value (David may have conceded this point by admitting that Eucharistic theology is in issue here), or to try to play off the “1998” version against the “2008” version as if the former were more truly the reflection of the wishes of English-speaking bishops (the facts are otherwise – episcopal scrutiny of the “2008” version was far more rigorous than that which was applied to the “1998” version).

    I hope those phantom areas of dispute can be finally laid to rest in order to enable a more constructive dialogue to take place.

    Passing on to David’s version at 7, it offends in several respects as a matter of English style: the repetition of “be pleased” at the start and of “may we be” at the end is an elementary lapse of good taste, I should say; and the ellipse (“by whose death you desired us [to be] reconciled etc) has more the appearance of a typo than of a lyrical flight. I make these criticisms not for the sake of carping, but to demonstrate the obvious fact that different views can legitimately be taken about what is or is not good English.

    David’s version at 7 also offends as a matter of translation of the original, for “desired” does not capture “voluisti” and carries unfortunate overtones of pleasure into the economy of salvation. God’s “will” (“fiat voluntas tua”, Mt.6:10; “non mea voluntas sed tua fiat” Lk.22:42) is the inescapable fact which the “1973” version obscured (by omission) just as did David’s version (“desired”) and the “1998” version (“pleased”) by a faulty translation.

    Whatever the exercise is, it is more fraught than David makes allowance for.

  8. Martin Keenan says:

    Apologies for the redundant “thats” in my list at [3] and [4].

    More seriously, the chopping up of a single movement of thought into two or more sentences (as in this passage from EP3)is simply not acceptable, and has ther additional disadvantage of placing too heavy an emphasis upon the activity of God’s organ of vision – as if God needs to be told to do anything, and as if there were any “looking” in a literal and anthropomorphic sense.

    This is a most substantial flaw in all the versions except the “2008”.

    The truth is that the paratactic versions (“1973”, “1998” and David’s) distort the prayer by presenting it as two independent and unrelated thoughts. Since there is no syntactical link between the two thoughts, what distinguishes the “may we” and the “may we become” from degenerating into mere pious aspirations? Where is God’s work in this?

    Here is the Victim sacrificed in accordance with God’s will for our salvation: how can there be any disruption, any halt, any separation (syntactical, mental, emotional or otherwise), between that reality and our partaking of the Body and Blood of the Paschal Lamb? Of course, there cannot be – they are inextricable.

  9. David says:

    I think Martin missed the point I was making. Translating word for word, sentence for sentence, comma for comma from the Latin is an absurd way to translate and results in an ugly translated text. The whole world knows that, the bishops in the 1960s and 1970s knew that (even the ones who devised the Latin missal). The bishops who devised and approved our present translation were the generation who attended the Council.

  10. Martin Keenan says:

    Let’s stay focussed here. No one recommends a word-for-word, comma-for-comma translation. That misrepresents what “integral” translation is.

    Incidentally, the revised Missale Romanum promulgated in 1970 was the fruit of work by international scholars and was not the product of bishops as such.

    Nor is it true that the people who “devised . . . our present translation” (assuming David means by that the “1973” version) were bishops. Professionals at ICEL took on the project, and consultation with the bishops in the English-speaking conferences was minimal. Approval of the translations by episcopal conferences between 1969 and 1973 was little more than rubber-stamping.

    It still appears that David considers the “1973” version to be a model of its kind (that is part of the point he has been making, along with his view that the “2008” version is “ugly”: if he has been making further or other points I have not noticed any).

    By contrast, the points I have been making are:

    that the “1973” version is indefensible from every viewpoint (just ask yourself what is the difference between “unseen” and “invisible” in the Nicene Creed, for example – it is just one of hundreds of examples of bad translations in the “1973” version, not to mention the inexplicable omissions);

    that the beauty or ugliness of the “2008” version are in the eyes of the beholder (as to which David and I adopt different positions and will, it seems clear, never agree); and

    that the translation of liturgical texts is a very different exercise from translating secular texts (because of the doctrinal issues).

    David (at posts 2, and 6-8) wanted to make the point that there was a better way to translate the portion of EP3 discussed by Bishop Risi. I don’t deny that the “2008” version is not perfect, but it is full and faithful to the original.

    The various translations David has offered or commended suffer from serious defects both of English style and of fidelity to doctrine. I cannot see that this objection of mine has been answered yet.

    Nor has David stated (as I think he ought) whether his own translation is a mere tweaking of English texts, or is a translation from the Latin original.

    The question is most definitely NOT whether the “1973” version sounds better than the “2008” version (even to David), but whether the “2008” version is more faithful than the “1973” version (or the “1998” version) to the Latin original – which is the 1970 master text of the Missale Romanum as mandated by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council and approved by Pope Paul VI.

  11. David AND Martin…please: get a life!

  12. Joe says:

    Bishop Roche apparently does not know the difference between ‘prescribe’ and ‘proscribe’. Why am I not surprised?

    The new translations are not just a joke. They are a scandal. The purpose behind them is to promote the Vatican’s “new interpretation” of Vatican II.

  13. Nokhanya says:

    I strongly support the new translation of the Mass. We need to stop arguing about the grammatical, historical and political context of the text. Rather, ket us focus on the essence and the significant of the closest words that Jesus speaks to us in the Church.

  14. Gray says:

    Nokhanya – can you tell me why you “strongly support” the new translation?

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