Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Why a New Translation?

I am writing a series of articles in the parish bulletin on the New Translation. I offer these for a wider audience for review, comment, criticism etc. Here is the one I wrote for the July 24th edition of the bulletin.

          As I hope everybody now knows, from First Sunday of Advent (November 27) a new translation will be used in the English Mass. I want to start introducing some of the changes to you. The "typical edition" of the Mass is in Latin. The Mass is written and celebrated in the Latin language. It may, of course, be celebrated in the vernacular, in which case it must be faithfully translated. So why is a new English translation needed? There is a long answer and a short answer. The short answer is that the current English translation is unsatisfactory. In fact, in many respects, it is not a translation but an interpretation. There are even important parts of the Latin that have simply been omitted. Here are two examples of some of the unfortunate re-interpretations of the original Latin in the institution narrative of Eucharistic Prayer I at the heart of the Mass, with key differences/omissions highlighted:

Original Latin at the consecration of the bread:
Qui, prídie quam paterétur, accépit panem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas, et elevatis óculis in cælum ad te Deum Patrem suum omnipoténtem, tibi grátias agens benedíxit, fregit, dedítque discípulis suis, dicens:...

Translation currently in use:
The day before he suffered
he took bread in his sacred hands and looking up to heaven,
to you, his almighty Father,
he gave you thanks and praise.
He broke the bread,
gave it to his disciples, and said:...

New (corrected) translation:
On the day before he was to suffer
he took bread in his holy and venerable hands,
and with eyes raised to heaven
to you, O God, his almighty Father,
giving you thanks he said the blessing,
broke the bread
and gave it to his disciples, saying:...

Original Latin at the consecration of the wine:
Símili modo, postquam cenátum est, accípiens et hunc præclárum cálicem in sanctas ac venerábiles manus suas, item tibi grátias agens benedíxit, dedítque discípulis suis, dicens:…

Translation currently in use:
When supper was ended,
he took the cup.
Again he gave you thanks and praise,
gave the cup to his disciples, and said:...

New (corrected) translation:
In a similar way, when supper was ended,
he took this precious chalice
in his holy and venerable hands,
and once more giving you thanks, he said the blessing
and gave the chalice to his disciples, saying:...

          It is important to have a correct translation since, according to an old adage, the law of prayer is the law of faith. In other words, what we express in our prayers expresses our faith. If the official prayer of the Church is deficient, this causes an erosion of our faith. A great fruit of the new translation of the Mass will be a deepening in faith and a greater sense of the sacred. It will also be a more elegant English. Doesn’t “with eyes raised to heaven” sound so much more uplifting than “looking up to heaven”?

          I hope to discuss some of the other changes, particularly in the people’s parts of the Mass, in future “Desktop” offerings. May you have a blessed week. Fr John.

1 comment:

  1. Probably the best explanation for the translation that I've come across. Very concise and lucid. Thank you!


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