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A Striking Contrast

Three additional thoughts in what is already a rich, although very depressing, discussion about the new English translation of the Roman missal.First, I have read, very carefully, the many examples quoted in MWO'Reilly's post below, of prayers from the new translation. I have declaimed them in my mind, extending the pauses as necessary and emphasizing words to make the meaning clear and even give some power and beauty to overall Latinate construction.I think it can be done. I think Bob Imbelli will be able to do it. So will any other presider with a very good voice, unusual reading and speaking talent, and perhaps a Shakespearean sense of rhythm. And how many of these are there in most of our parishes for most of our Masses? I am old enough to remember the way most priests handled the Latin of yore. It was atrocious.Second, I have read the Anthony Esolen's article about the new translation at the First Things website, which someone who likes the translation recommended in an earlier thread on this topic. Esolen's article is based on a simple premise: If the first post-Vatican II translation was bad, the new one must be good. But decades ago there was a very broad consensus that the first translation was seriously wanting. The bishops and ICEL were hard at work on a new translation that captured much of what the first one had lost and was motivated by at least many of the concerns Esolen reflects. The effort was suddenly ripped out of their hands. Any fair comparison has to compare examples of their effort to those of the new translation.Finally, what is very striking about Esolens article is the contrast between his own genuinely English prose and the Latinized English of the prayers. His prose: short sentences, varied rhythms, colorful and vernacular vocabulary. His explanations of the prayers are forcefull and accessible. The prayers themselves are at best ok; they certainly need those explanations. I am not proposing Esolens prose as a model for the Mass. But the contrast is telling.

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For what it's worth, from a guilty bystander, I follow all of this at a bit of a remove, as my views are like those of others here (the Two Peters, Nixon and Steinfels, especially) -- some of the new phrasings seem silly, some better, some wrong ("for many" as opposed to "for all"), and the process was an imposition, poorly done, and unjust, but so it goes these days. It's all probably not that big a deal for most of us in the end. What strikes me is how much the language of the Mass has become about aesthetics, and a certain kind of Western European aesthetics. Benedict XVI has often lamented the changes since Vatican II, and the idea that the Council promoted the idea that everything is open to change. And yet he is a champion of the "reform of the reform," which is an agenda of constant change. Similarly, he (and others) lament the idea of the mass as a performance, and the celebrant as the main performer. Yet the intense focus on a certain Latinized style of language, delivered in the English-speaking world with the proper Chestertonian orotundity, seems to me to highlight the priest as the main actor whose performance makes or breaks the mass. These arguments, like those of the preference for Latin and a Baroque-era Mass as being the sine qua non of a genuine holy Mass, also strike me as culturally-conditioned, and rather self-indulgent, for us: basically, we like the music and rhythms and language of a certain era of Western civilization, and so that must be equivalent to sacredness? How does that work? In Africa and Asia, where the faith is booming, all this Latinate language and exaltation of High Anglo Latinate speech means nothing, or is just more silly cultural imperialism. Yet the faith survives, and thrives. I know that the Bible was written (and spoken, presumably) in an Aramiac of the people and "street" Greek, and that the Mass was originally translated so that people could understand it. Functionality seemed to be the main goal for centuries, for communicating the faith and sacred mysteries.And I love mysteries, and the sacred, and would tend to a more Western style of traditional celebration myself. As religions progress through time they understandably become ritualized (routinized) and the mysteries and celebrants become stylized, and I'm okay with that. But when does such ritualization of aesthetics become the object of devotion, rather than pointing us toward the genuine object of devotion? Is this focus on a very narrow cultural expression of language a reaction to the secularization of the world, or a perceived secularization? At this 400th anniversary year of the King James Version of the bible, that translation has received all sorts of hosannas, from unlikely defenders such as Christopher Hitchens, because of what he and others perceive as it's beauty and cultural richness. But it was also the language of the "common man" back then, and is decidedly not today, and is in fact unreadable and in error in many places. So is it the best way to pass along the faith? I would agree that language has become rather impoverished, but is making everyone sound like Belloc the way to go? Is the Mass (for example) the best vehicle for trying to change the culture -- and a certain slice of Western culture at that -- back to a higher form or rhetoric and literacy? Or is it about worship? I sometimes wonder if we are turning into a form of Eastern Orthodoxy, where we will have different rites (Anglican, Latin, Literal Equivalence) that will be followed by various national or cultural groupings, each insisting their own language and style is integral to their celebration of the Mass. Again, to channel John Allen and his (useful) refrain about the globalized church, how much of this is just a lot of arguing about the primacy of various forms of Western culture when the rest of the church as SO moved on? I always recall that one of the other problematic aspects of Benedict's Regensburg speech -- which got lost in the Muslim furor -- was the way he seemed to give a kind of divine and permanent sanction to the early influence of Greek thought on Christian faith, though Catholics in the rest of the world, especially Asia, don't see the faith through that cultural lens. The arguments over language strike me as expressing the same kind of cultural solipsism, or coming perilously close to it, and they seem to be arguments over who performs Palestrina best, and making the outcome of that argument determinant to what is a good and holy Mass. Anyway, random thoughts, of a Wednesday morning, from a non-expert in liturgy, in every way.

SB Nice fallacious argumentation.

Here's the broader phenomenon I don't get. As I've said before on this website, there's a popular stereotype of "conservatives" as more simple-minded and "progressives" as coming from a better-educated population. But within the Church, this stereotype is completely reversed. It's the "conservatives" who are in favor of good music, translating accurately or even (heaven forbid!) actually learning Latin, etc., while many "progressives" seem to be outraged if the music and liturgy don't reflect the cheesiest and most hokey developments of the 1970s.

Peter - very clever :-).To further test the hypothesis, I just spent several minutes reading the Eucharistic Prayers aloud in the new translation. The texts are available (with side-by-side comparisons to the soon-to-be-retired texts, although that is not relevant to this exercise) here: http://old.usccb.org/romanmissal/samples-priest-prayer1.shtmlI did it in two parts: I first read through the texts silently. Then I proclaimed them.I experienced the sort of thing that happens when you try to read through Hamlet, and then attend a performance of Hamlet: it is easier to listen to than to read silently. There is a notable limitation in reading aloud that doesn't come into play when reading: the need to pause for breath every few words. That limitation is actually a significant aid to understanding. The pauses for breath, at commas, semi-colons and colons, serve to break up the complicated grammatical constructs into digestible bites.Also: as a practical matter, I expect that many priests will more or less settle for Eucharistic Prayer II and Eucharistic Prayer III, as they do now, because of their relative brevity and simplicity. I'd suggest to the skeptical that, if they are willing to face the embarrassment of being caught in the act :-), they take a few moments to read the new EP II and EP III aloud. Do it the way that I presume we'd all like to have liturgical texts proclaimed: don't rush through it, try to proclaim it so that the words are understood and the meaning is clear. My conclusion is: there are very few or no difficulties. (I will say that, there is one phrase, "kind admittance", in EP III that both reads and sounds a bit awkward).

SB And as for my style of writing, I follow the example of Plotinus and translate it into English. Since we all know Plotinus is a master, it makes what I write good!

SBYour argument, once again, shows you don't know anything about translation. You are begging the question. "Conservatives are about translating accurately." No. They are about translating through a certain methodology, perhaps, but that doesn't mean accurate. This is the confusion which most "conservatives" seem to have. They confuse their preferred method as "more accurate." In some places, it is, in other places, it is not. Indeed, the "more accurate" that many conservatives suggest is really "code replacement" as I described above, which is not translation in the fullest sense of the word, and this is the problem many of us have with the new translation of the Western liturgy in English. It doesn't do a full translation, but rather, attempts all kinds of Latinizations into English, which doesn't work too well when put that way.

David,One of the more interesting books I've read which dealt with the question of translation was "Pentecost in Asia." The book is not about translation but more the Asian Christian phenomena which included the issue of liturgy and translation. It showed the real problem which is going on today. The local, primary speakers, of the various languages are seen as suspect. Translations are looked at and examined by people who are not native speakers. They are finding their works are being translated from their original language back into Latin, criticized based upon the Latin retranslation, and then told to conform to a different translation by some official who barely knows the language in question. While there are more people who know a form of English as a second language, and they know it better than Asian languages, I do wonder if this is a part of the problem we have now. How much of the translation was re-translated into Latin, criticized based upon that retranslation, and a forced translation to be more "Latin oriented" was thus suggested instead? Also, how many of the officials are able to understand the diversity in locality as to the meaning of English itself? But I still think that the English is trying too much to be made to parallel the Latin when what works in Latin does not work in English is a big part of the problem.

David G.,Most thoughtful reflections, thank you.I personally wouldn't want to distinguish too completely between aesthetics from worship, for two reasons. First, God is beautiful--is Beauty. I don't think we can aim too high in matters of art, architecture, and taste, if what we want in worship is some reflection of God. Jesus was attractive. Maybe not in physical form--the prophecies of Isaiah suggest not, and the Gospels are silent on the subject--but he was a magnet for the people in speech and in person. One way our worship can function is as a parable of Jesus' own attractiveness.Secondly, if faith and reason are not antithetical, and if reason helps faith, then the Church should provide liberal education whenever possible. It's a very old custom to provide this with worship.None of this necessitates a period piece. Heaven knows there are some on the right who are seeking a nostalgic, mid 20th century revival of a nostalgic, early 20th century revival of a nostalgic, mid 19th century era. That's not art and taste, and it's almost entirely imaginary.I would ask, though, what are the values that underlie the Church art of our own times, and whether these are rooted in the Gospel, primarily.

I understand Peter's objections, at least, to arise as much out of choices of grammar and internal structure, and as a rather prolix writer myself, I intuitively understand where he is coming from. I am not a latinist by any means, but I suspect that some of the original "latinate" complexity did not seem nearly as complex to Latin speakers because Latin has cases and other grammatical features that remove doubt about such issues as "which they are you talking about in this clause." English has no such features -- no feminine or masculine indicators, vastly simplified subjunctive verb tenses and no "cases" as German does and even spoken Latin did. My mother in law was a Latin teacher and my mother, a product of 16 years of Catholic schools, is also no mean latinist, and one fo the things about Latin that those who work with it love is the ability to completely rearrange words in a sentence and still retain the same meaning. Try doing that in English -- it's almost impossible. Word choice is like consciously moving your muscles and limbs -- whereas grammar and structure are more like a rigid skeleton. So when you try to retain an "original" style of Latin structure in English (or French or Spanish or many other languages) there is a serious risk of losing meaning even when you use the closest word substitutes. What is the purpose of using a literary style that is closer to that of the original Latin if it breaks down the meaning in English?

Kathy, yes, I agree Beauty is very important, but not to be entirely relativist, but it is in the eye of the beholder. I think JP2 knew that quite well. (For another thread, B16 mentioned during the recent Benin trip that he prefers the word "inter-culturation" to "enculturation," the word that has been used for a few decades now. Not sure what that means, in the abstract and in practical terms. Seems like another linguistic puzzle.) Henry, yes, Tom Fox's book is excellent, and the issues he raised haven't gone away. I'm also struck that with all this intense focus on the English translations, the translation into other languages, such as Japanese, appear to have been virtually dismissed. I seem to recall that the Vatican officials who signed off on the Japanese texts didn't even know Japanese! If language is so vital, why is it vital in one language and not another?

Excellent comments, David; thanks.Mr. Steinfels - sorry for any confusion. Agree totally with your comments about the average presider and the challenges of this new translation in terms of proclaimability.My reference to Mannion and his project ..... thougth I had read elsewhere in your comments/writings that the reformed liturgy did not exactly develop the way many may have thought (unintended consequences). Too often, the typical Sunday US mass moved to a four hymn sandwich; chant was lost; blending key traditions (good, historical and valued Gregorian chants, processions, etc.) were lost - this happened because of poor education, preparation, and implementation (it was not intentional). So, we would up with a mixed bag - there was good organic development but we lost key ritual moments - chant, silence, etc.

DavidI fear the English translation is important if for no other reason it is the language which will be used the most as a "second language" in today's world and so will be where everyone looks as to see how to translate texts into their own language. And yes, having translations done and then to await approval from those who don't know the language is quite disturbing.

Another thought: Stepping back, it seems that the liturgical world is divided in two (well, isn't that always the easiest way to view it!): on one hand you have the whole emergent, megachurch phenomenon with no sense of tradition or liturgy or solemnity, and all ghastly (my aesthetic judgment) contemporary music and pop rock adaptations, and on the other hand the archeological impulse to discover and recover the "genuine" old ways -- which of course leads not to the old way but to something wholly new, an amalgam that is presented as the way it was, but can't be, of course.

David Gibson, you should read if you have not the book (now winer of the National Book Award for nonfiction) "The Swerve." In a different context, and going back 600 years or more, it talks about the movement that recovered old Latin texts and how the originators -- e.g., Petrarch -- were motivated by the desire to fashion a new literature that was worthy of the ancients without being a slavish copy, but that over time, their intellectual disciples became consumed with recreating what had been lost without really embodying any artistic impulses to create something of their own. Hence, they argued a lot about whether one rediscovered copy was more genuine than another, based on the incidence or alleged incidence of mistakes of Latin punctuation and grammar. And clearly, their own impulses along these lines arose at least in part out of their dissatisfaction with contemporary life and their perceived inability to bring about change. Across generations and cultures these impulses are amazingly ubiquitous.

David,I wonder if we could remember the past in a way that isn't archaeological. It's the time for thanksgiving skits and pilgrim hats. We can't be them, but we can play them.But with the Church, we are them. Same folks, different time. How did they pray? Why? When we don't, why not? (I'm not thinking as much about language as gestures.)

Very late to this and hapy Thanksgiving, if such be possible in the dysfunctional world of Church, politics, etc.I think Peter, Bill and David have much good to say on the translation issue, bu ti agree with Bernard that the real problem is(and will more and more be) about roles.IMO this is still more of our distinctive Church more like the old Catholic Church of Trent and trying to look les like those putative congegationalists that arose post VII.Attractive to traditionalists -another thing to be put up with at best by Church/Eucharist loving progressives hanging in....

David Gibson, many thanks. You have revived my drooping spirits.At times, it seems to me, that promoters of the new Missal are in danger of making it an object of worship in and of itself.Someone who has had a very close and official role in promoting the Missal of 2011 has recently said that the text will need to be done over fairly soon, perhaps in as short a time as ten years.Those around then can have these discussions all over again, complete with learned articles on the many defects of this Sunday's new Missal.Meanwhile, the French, the German, and the Italian bishops continue to drag their feet with regard to their own Vatican-mandated (Liturgiam authenticam) Missal revisions.The Italian bishops, when polled at their plenary meeting in Assisi in late 2010 on the translation of "pro multis," voted 97% in favor of retaining "per tutti" ("for all"). And, you know, I think they will get it.

"They are about translating through a certain methodology, perhaps, but that doesnt mean accurate."Henry, you still don't seem to be able to answer even a single one of Esolen's points about how the new translation is indeed more accurate. Try to be specific, rather than just ranting. For example, should "sancte Pater" be translated as "Father" or as "holy Father"? Why should anyone pay attention to you if you think that "holy Father" isn't, in fact, more accurate?

Barbara, many thanks for that reference. I'll check it out -- it sounds true, and indeed may be! I read reviews of Greenblatt's book, not all laudatory, but who knows.

"But I still think that the English is trying too much to be made to parallel the Latin when what works in Latin does not work in English is a big part of the problem."Henry, given that you write ungrammatical sentences like this so regularly, I'd be rather more concerned if you liked the new translation.

In my earlier comment, I failed to make myself clear. I apologize.Since then, David Gibson has said a number of things that I agree with and has said them in sufficient detail. If it is not superfluous, given David's comments, let me briefly propose a few "theses." 1. There is no such thing as a "sacred" language, Latin, Greek, Urdu, or whatever. To claim that the present Latin text, or any other text, ought to be the "ur-text" that ought to be translated as literally as possible by liturgical texts in other languages make no linguistic sense. Perhaps there are practical considerations that would warrant taking the Latin text as the norm, but that case has to be made, not just taken for granted.2. I know that the liturgical texts, whatever their language, have to be doctrinally sound. But there is no reason to think that only literal translations (whatever that means) from the Latin can satisfy that requirement. Think of the liturgical texts of other, non-Latin Catholic rites.3. It is also true that the liturgical texts, whatever their language, ought to be felicitous and worthy of the subject matter. Again, there is no reason to think that this requirement can be met only by taking the Latin text as the rigid norm.Once one seeks that there is no doctrinal basis for making Latin the "ur-text" then only practical arguments for giving it any sort of preeminence can succeed. If there are such arguments, let's entertain them. But also entertain practical arguments to weigh against them.

Bernard -- your argument is missing the point, I think. If the proposal was to create a separate English Rite within the Catholic Church, that would be worth considering. But for now, we're talking about the Roman Catholic Church using the Roman Rite. That means, by definition, the Roman Missal. The Roman Missal is in Latin. So if we're going to use the Roman Missal in America without using the original Latin, then we have to have a translation. That is not because Latin is the only holy language or because God hates other languages, but because the Roman Missal is in Latin and we're translating it to English before using it. So the question is, how should the translation be done? Should everything be dumbed down on the assumption that long sentences are just too hard for us American-Idol-watchers to comprehend? Should words be left out ("sancte Pater" becoming just "Father") on the theory that being sort of close is good enough?

Studebaker,There are overall questions, which do matter in translation, that can indeed trump your presumption that each and every word in the Latin must appear in the English by means of a cognate English word. The decision to render every "sancte" as "holy," as well as every other Latin adjective with an English cognate, can and does result in prolix English. You don't seem to have grasped the point that adjectives must be used sparingly in English if they are to matter. Dear, sweet, lovable Studebaker, you have taken the acidic, one-sided, intemperate comments of the fine yet biased and traditionalist-leaning Dante scholar altogether too trustingly and devoutly, and yet, I firmly though sorrowingly aver, you have meant well by so doing.See what I mean?Peter is right. Esolen's broadside against the earlier translation does not make the 2010 sow's ear into a silk purse.

If you don't like the Roman Missal because it's too wordy, then fine: have at revising it. But don't pretend that it's an act of "translation" to leave out words and concepts on that basis. Call it the Reader's Digest adaptation of the Roman Missal -- just the stuff that we thought was important enough to leave in.

"Esolens broadside against the earlier translation does not make the 2010 sows ear into a silk purse."Like Peter, you're also acting as if Esolen just assumed as a premise that the new translation is an improvement, when the truth is that Esolen wrote several hundred words explaining and defending the new translation's version of several specific prayers. If you disagree with him on the specific points he makes there, perhaps you could explain exactly where he goes wrong (you'd be the first person in this thread to make such an attempt).

Bernard, you raise a point which was key to the arguments for and against Latin at the Council. Is Latin sacred? Those opposed to the vernacular based their opposition in part on this claim, but more often on the role of Latin in maintaining unity and doctrinal orthodoxy.The question of how to maintain unity is the underlying neuralgic issue of the translation discussion. At least that's how it looks from where I sit. The Council's decision to opt for "substantial unity" of the Roman Rite, rather than formal unity, is the very point that the current movement is attempting to overturn.Substantial unity requires us to go to the root or substance of what unifies the Roman liturgical tradtion. Formal unity or uniformity stresses the accidentals, and assumes that by maintaining outward forms identically we achieve unity.Having affirmed the principle of "substantial unity" was the end of the Council's discussion, but the beginning of another and much bigger one. Prudence would suggest retaining respect for the outward forms yet avoiding the error of identifying them with the substance of the Roman Rite absolutely. I don't know that the balance has always been maintained well in the post-conciliar church. Yet, that's the difficult, but right path, istm. I think we should have fought out the differences in perspective on liturgical texts on precisely that level. However, it has been the case that some people either can't or won't trust the discernment needed to get to the heart of the matter. They have insisted, instead, on the other, more brittle alternative. For them, the unity of the Roman Rite is maintained by the closest possible conformity in texts and rubrics. This point of view is set out in Liturgiam Authenticam. It has ushered in a whole new era of literalism with respect to our liturgical rites.

Studebaker, did you even read my comment?You're obviously not taking in anything.

The Nicene Creed in its original form was Greek, not Latin. Why must the inaccuracies and infelicities of the Latin translation be preserved in the English version with the result that we are effronted with such howlers as "born of the Father"? Surely not because we celebrate in the Latin rite.

Further, does anyone know whether we are supposed to accent "And WITH your spirit" or "And with YOUR spirit"? And why?

Thanks very much, Rita, for your instructive comments.My not deeply informed inclination would be to make the initial presumption, subject of course to refutation in particular cases, that any reasonably mature linguistic community of faith can fashion liturgical texts that satisfy doctrinal concerns. I would also be inclined to face up to an ongoing need to think critically about any liturgical text. If the church as a whole is always in need of reform,then so are its liturgical texts.

"You dont seem to have grasped the point that adjectives must be used sparingly in English if they are to matter. "Rita--Not sure I follow you. What is it about English that necessitates adjectives be used sparingly to be meaningful? How is English different from Latin, or any other language, in that regard?

Rita -- of course I read your comment, which is precisely why I pointed out that you seem more concerned with revising the Roman Missal than translating it. For example, you say: "You dont seem to have grasped the point that adjectives must be used sparingly in English if they are to matter."That's a stylistic point, one that is not peculiar to English. It's as true in Latin as in English. So if you think the Latin has too many adjectives, what you're really saying it that you think the Roman Missal should be revised and adapted, rather than merely translated. Which is fine, but you haven't given people who prefer an actual translation a reason to agree.

Mark, I am just an amateur at this, but every language lends itself to different poetic forms. In English the two things that stand out are alliteration and internal rhyme, ideally spread out over an 8 syllable sentence: "Give us this day our daily bread." Not: Give us our bread today. Latin and Italian, on the other hand, lend themselves to long flowing, polysyllabic expressions. You can hear this very distinctly in songs. The language that will be used as a text is not simply shaped by a tune but shapes it in turn. Hence, for a poem to be effective in English it must not just make the right word choices, it somehow has to try to incorporate literary devices that heighten the power and effect of English: an example -- "I come not to praise Caesar but to bury him." Or: "When sorrows come they come not single spies but in battalions." Or: "Margaret are you grieving over golden grove unleaving."There is no perfect translation but when you are translating into English any choice that allows the use of typically English poetic device is almost always the better one, and that usually means shorter words that allow rhythm and rhyme to develop between and among words.

I look in vain for a use of "accuracy" more specific than "good by my tastes". Accurate in what respect? An act of translation is done for a purpose. The purpose determines those properties of the original that one emphasizes and tries to convey most precisely in creating the product for speakers of another language. These properties may be declarations treated as facts, emotions, rhythms, textual structure, history, and other aspects. The primary intended uses of the product - orating, singing, philosophical study, information transmittal, historical inquiry, inducing reaction, etc. - impose different demands on the translating, leading to a different final product. A word-for-word translation tends to be senseless for most purposes because, between two languages, the vocabulary options, comprehensible order of words and phrases, syntax, punctuation, idioms, rhetorical conventions, and implicit understandings differ (even when they are spoken side-by-side in the same town). Phrase-by-phrase tends to be little better, leading easily to the likes of Peter Steinfel's superb creation above. Experiencing Mass in smelly piers and grand medieval Gothic cathedrals as well as ordinary neighborhood churches for purposes of prayer, I found the Mass the same. The accidental circumstances differed. Being fluent in Latin and English some of the time was similarly a secondary matter. What is the primary purpose to be served by this new translation in use? Various objects of worship seem to be envisioned in some of this discussion.

Bernard, thanks for that point about a particular language being sacred. Latin is certainly venerable, but I don't know how it can be considered sacred in the way that Hebrew/Aramaic is for Judaism and Arabic is for Islam, given that Latin was a relatively late arrival on the scene, and Tridentine Latin much later -- dare I say modern"...Again, as some of you have noted, this all seems to make an idol out of the wrong things, and a very idiosyncratic idolatry it is.

About the merits of contemporary English and its relatively simple structures as against the more complex structures of medieval Latin:On the one hand it has been claimed that Latin's more complex grammar allows for the expression of more complex thoughts than does the simpler grammar of ordinary English. For some people, anyway, this seems to imply that Latin is too complex for us poorly educated anglophones. In other words, complex Latin was fine for the likes of Erasmus, but not for us. On the other hand, it has also been pointed out that the Latin of the old Mass was the ordinary Latin of the ordinary people, that is, the Latin of medieval peasants. This implies that ordinary contemporary anglophones are incapable of the complex sort of thinking that the ordinary medieval peasants were capable of. I call this patronizing in the extreme, and to make this assumption would condemn the words of the new Mass to the level of TV soap and truck commercials. If I"m not mistaken this is one of Studebaker's main points.In fact contemporary English is an extraordinarily expressive language, which has no doubt helped to make it the new the lingua franca. It is becoming dominant not only in the literature of science but in non-scientific areas as well. Further, one need only say the word "Shakespeare" to be reminded of its poetic and dramatic potential.I say that probably the greatest mistake the translators have made was not to call in the poets in the first place. They would have dispatched these nasty little semantic problems (e.g., all v. the multitude, the many/etc) in a trice. Would that Seamus Heaney had been part of the process from the beginning!

Adjectives must be used sparingly in the English language.That time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. In me thou see'st the twilight of such day As after sunset fadeth in the west, Which by and by black night doth take away, Death's second self, that seals up all in rest. ***And for all this, nature is never spent;There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;And though the last lights off the black West wentOh, morning, at the brown brink eastward springs--Because the Holy Ghost over the bentWorld broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.***so much dependsupona red wheelbarrowglazed with rainwaterbeside the whitechickens.***Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. ***

Sir,You have read one tendentious, and indeed libelous, article, and have thereby constituted yourself an expert in the ART of translation. It may surprise you to know that the coming Missal is hardly in every instance a literal translation. What you are looking for is an interlinear translation, somewhat on the order of the old hand-Missals that some of us knew before 1965.I've said it once, but I'll say it again. Translation is a conversation between two languages. In that exchange the particular genius of each language has an equal claim. For the process to succeed those equal claims must be honored, not simply tolerated. Your approach makes a nonsense of the Council Fathers' vernacular decision. It is doomed from the start. Better Latin than an English that is so mannered and recondite that it is a subset of the language, a kind of arcane patois, that bears little resemblance to the state of the contemporary LITERATE language.It's not at all as easy as you think. But perhaps the end of the vernacular in the liturgy is what you are really looking for.

My thanks to everyone who has contributed to this thread, including those like David and Bernard and other s who took us in new directions and including, too, those I disagree with.My thanks to Studebaker, for example, whose reference to Esolen on another thread led me to read, think about, and disagree with that article. My thanks to Kathy for championing Beauty in worship. As the son of a liturgical artist who devoted his life, at considerable sacrifice and with mixed success, to struggling on behalf of Beauty against the shoddy standards he found prevalent in the commercial religious goods trade, I am not going to disagree with her. But Studebaker keeps insisting on the shortcomings -- to him "inaccuracies" -- of the first translation. Is it inaccurate to translate "sancte Pater" as "Father" rather than "holy Father"? Yes and no. In my view and the view, I believe, of most others working in the 1990s on an improved translation, the first one suffered from an understanding of contemporary English that found what Bill deHaas notes is Latin's adjectival abundance to be a barrier to the meaning and to prayer. So, without checking, I believe that many such terms stripped down in the first translation were rather gracefully restored by the bishops and ICEL before their work was so rudely interrupted. I am happy to have the sancte-holy restored where it should be. But does this mean that "sancte" must always and everywhere be replaced by "holy," regardless of the overall impression or effectiveness in liturgical prayer? That is to reduce translation, as Henry Karlson says, to coding and decoding. It is even possible that for reasons of rhythm and proclamation it might be better, at points, to ADD a word, as in "most holy Father" and at other points to drop one. One of my standby silent prayers, memorized as an altarboy is "Laus tibi, Christe." I frequently repeat it to myself, alternating the Latin with "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ," from the current liturgy. (I have no idea whether the coming translation will alter that or not -- someone tell me.) Is this translation "inaccurate" because it felicitously adds words to what would be a literal but totally abrupt "Praise to you Christ." Even the Sunday "Stedman" missal given to me at Christmas 1954 adds two words ("Praise be to Thee, O Christ" to render the rhythm satisfactory in English. Kathy's invocation of Beauty is similarly off the point. I can agree with everything she says, although I suspect that translating Plato into English has not been without controversy, but without it leading to any overall judgment about this particular translation facing us in several days. Perhaps she is simply saying that the first and current translation falls short in Beauty. In which case, I can agree with that as well. But once again that was simply not the choice before us, and she can hardly advance evidence that Beauty was either the governing principle or the predominant characteristic of the new translation. A "masterpiece"? Bill de Haas is correct that I have argued that the liturgical renewal did not achieve what was hoped for. My only extended reflection on this is found in a chapter of A People Adrift. I make it clear that I am writing from outside the guild of liturgists. In fact, one of the things that bothered me was that liturgical experts have given far too little attention to assessing and analyzing what actually occurs at Sunday or daily worship in parishes compared to the attention devoted to history and texts. (In this respect, liberals and conservatives are largely on the same page, and even much of our discussion here, however thoughtful, falls into the same category.) I took my cue from those liturgists who were dedicated to renewal but also willing to overcome defensiveness and admit that some things had not gone well.The most important thing that must be done to revitalize (or even maintain) the Catholic church in the U.S. is making the Sunday Eucharist a powerful experience of communal worship. That is a matter of spoken language, body language, music, hospitality, preaching, participation, catechesis, and the beliefs we bring with us. It is a matter of formation and leadership, ordained and lay. All those points have been amply discussed on this blog. I see little sign that on a church-wide level anything significant will be done, though I have the greatest admiration for those who keep trying. I tend now to worry about little things. Two of our family's longtime guests will be missing this year from the Thanksgiving table, and those two had the very best voices. So I worry now about how well we will sing "Now Thank We All Our God" before praying and bringing on the turkey. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

"Henry, given that you write ungrammatical sentences like this so regularly, Id be rather more concerned if you liked the new translation."SB, once again, fallacious arguments and insults is all you have? Got it. So I bet you believe no priest should talk about sexual sins, right?

PeterThank you for keeping my central point intact -- that what we are seeing are people who confuse translation as coding and decoding. That is the problem I have with many of the arguments. SB might say I am a poor writer, which is fine, but that has nothing to do with my points, which shows why his comments are fallacious.

Barbara--Thanks, that hardly sounds amateurish. It's interesting that Esolen also places emphasis on rhythm and consistency of theme, especially with respect to words that evoke scripture.I'm hoping that the new translation will age like fine wine, fine leather, fine music. I remember thinking the first time I heard "All Along the Watchtower" I never needed to hear it again. I remember when I thought white zinfandel was as good as wine could get. Look how wrong you can be. On the other hand, if I never hear "American Pie" again, I won't feel cheated. And then there are other simple songs I like as much on the hundredth hearing as I did on the first ("Be My Baby", "I Got You Babe"). Who can tell where this will lead?

No, Henry, it is not at all fallacious for me to point out that no one can be expected just to take your word for it that the new translation is poorly written, when you show no signs of being able to detect poor writing. (If you were to make an actual argument that had any details about a specific prayer, then that argument would stand or fall on its own merits.) John Page -- if you were part of the group that was mis-translating "And also with you," or the Suscipiat, then I must respectfully say that it's not surprising that the Vatican didn't leave the translation in your hands.

I am not a swift writer. So I see that between beginning to write my last comment and submitting it, a lot of other people have chimed in. Some of you have made my points better than I have. Thank you Rita, Barbara, Jack, and John. A lot more could be said about differences between Latin and English, pursuing the points made by Barbara, Kathy, and Ann, and about the range of English, from Milton to John Henry Newman to Ernest Hemingway. I don't think Kathy's examples really support her case. But does anyone who reads several languages really deny that they have inherent differences and that translation involves, as John Page says, a "conversation" between them? That seems to me obvious. Then one can move on to the further question of whether a particular translation has been an attentive conversation partner. And Ann, I am sure you know that the last thing the Vatican would want to do is bring in the poets.

Peter,One might wonder whether your mind is already made up, about this translation, the Vatican, and my points ;)I'm surprised that you don't know whether "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ" is changed or not. Have you studied this translation quite carefully, before becoming "depressed" about it?Bare ruined choirs...

Ann,With all respect, I can tell you (and from some experience) that no poet would put up with all the hoops and hurdles that Rome has set up for preparing the vernacular texts. From the base translation to the Roman recognitio there are at least seven steps of review, revision, and vote. According to the present directives, throughout the process bishops must have the principal voice. (That is, until the "final" text gets to the Congregation for Divine Worship and that anomalous body called Vox Clara. I am hopeless at the "smile" sign.)Any non-bishop that is given a "stable and continuing" role in the process by the bishops must now receive a Roman nihil obstat. I tend to doubt that Seamus Heaney would submit himself to that.

SBSo I guess you won't listen to priests talking about marriage...

Look at the Suscipiat. Latin text: Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus tuis, ad laudem et gloriam nominis sui, ad utilitatem quoque nostram, totiusque Ecclesiae suae sanctaeWhat the supposedly good 1998 translation said (according to Andy's link above): May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your handsfor the praise and glory of Gods name,for our good, and the good of all the Church.What the new translation says: May the Lord accept the sacrificeat your handsfor the praise and glory of his name, for our goodand the good of all his holy Church.Why the new translation is so much better:1) The new translation does not unaccountably omit the word "holy" ("sanctae"). I cannot conceive a good reason for that omission. "Holy" is not too wordy. It does not violate the (supposed) proscription on using too many adjectives in English. It is not a Latin idiom whose literal translation would be meaningless. It is not a word that has been overused throughout the prayer. It is not an awkward phrasing. It was just left out, for no good reason at all. 2) Note that the Latin refers to "His" name ("sui") and "His" holy Church ("suae"). Unlike the 1998 translation, the new translation does not so studiously avoid saying "His" by the awkwardness of saying "for the praise and glory of God's [should be His] name." This is not a mere translation here; it is an ideological move not to use a masculine pronoun for God. Whatever you think of using the occasional masculine pronoun for God, that decision is manifestly not one that translators qua translators are qualified to make.

Studebaker does us all a favor by showing the way. The problem is not the new translation. Rather it is the fulsome style of the original. Cut the rhetorical fat from from the original and a lean text with no word wasted will yield a lean translation. Why speak of God's holy church when there is no other?

Studebaker's points are generally well taken, and his example of how the Suscipiat was translated in 1998 is quite telling.

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