Wednesday, June 14, 2006

"Stand" and Deliver

As the Bishops' Committee for the Liturgy prepares to sit for Day Two of its plenary session, a few notes.

First off, for a bit of background from the last USCCB meeting, Adoremus posted a transcript of the bishops' discussion at their November confab in Washington which some of you might find useful.

Second, I've been asked about the revised rendering of the "Orate, Fratres," or the invocation before the prayer over the gifts. The proposed text reads:

Pray, brothers and sisters,
that the sacrifice which is mine and yours
may be acceptable to God,
the almighty Father.

To which the people respond:

May the Lord accept the sacrifice from your hands
for the praise and glory of his name,
for our good
and the good of all his holy Church.

With that out of the way, two little things -- then again, with texts of this nature, the devil's in the details. Amendments were due from the bishops two weeks ago, so this is just, well, whatever it is.

First off, at the outset of the Mass, the text of the general absolution -- which, in the Latin, reads "Misereatur nostri omnipotens Deus et, dimissis peccatis nostris, perducat nos ad vitam eternam" -- is rendered in the proposed text with the words "May almighty God have mercy on us and lead us, with our sins forgiven, into eternal life."

After the word-order and structure of the sentence, "eternal life" seems a bit abrupt. "Life everlasting," however, would maintain the Latin word order and maintains the literal nature of ICEL's mandate, not to mention resonates as more poetic and proclaimable. The term's privileged place in the English-language liturgy is considerable and, to boot, it makes the Great Beyond sound a bit nicer.

Second, there is the question of those things which have been deemed a bit, um... something that the powers that be have felt the need to tinker with. Here we have the example of those places in the Eucharistic Prayers where the Latin text would properly translate as "stand."

For example, in EPII -- and I hope none of you are guilty of this, my dear priests -- there is the line currently rendered "We thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you." That "stand" is a literal of the Latin "astare." Some have seen fit to change this on their own authority to "to be in your presence and serve you," and a prior draft supposedly had this at the instigation of a Very Influential Person.

Contrary to popular belief, I get very anal-retentive about the arbitrary changing of texts by celebrants, and this text in particular. Just like the ultra-traditionalists who repeatedly substitute "chalice" for "cup" at the Consecration, which is simply uncalled for, not to mention (for lack of a better word) brazen.

Well, in the Roman Canon, there is the line "et omnium circumstantium" -- which you now hear as "Remember all of us gathered here before you," etc.

In the new rendering, the line reads "and all gathered here." In its explanatory footnote, ICEL affirms that the literal translation is, "Literally, 'all who stand around.'" No less a Catholic work than Knott's English (read: Anglican) Missal, as well as the approved Book of Divine Worship for the Anglican Use within this church, are both of greater accord with the original text.

Why not that of the Roman rite, you ask?

ICEL explains, "The Commission [i.e. itself] has avoided using 'stand' so as not to seem to be determining the posture of the congregation."

Hmm. So, by the Commission's own admission, it has "avoided" the literal translation. If, however, in its goodness, Liturgiam authenticam says that "It should be borne in mind that a literal translation of terms which may initially sound odd in a vernacular language may for this very reason provoke inquisitiveness in the hearer and provide an occasion for catechesis" (43), would knowing that, at the time the Roman Canon was written, the people actually did stand for the Eucharistic Prayer, be too much catechesis for our people to bear?

I mean, the whole crux of this exercise is to sound the death knell of dynamic equivalency and unreservedly restore the vernacular liturgy the splendor and precision of the literal, no matter how much confusion it causes, right?

You'll have to forgive me. I'm just a layman who likes his texts pure and not interpreted, or for that matter, manipulated, by traduttori who, I pray, aren't traditori.