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The Trenchant Father Taft

The Jesuit Robert Taft is a renowned liturgist and a fervent advocate of the conciliar and post-conciliar reforms. In the course of a recent interview published in U.S.Catholic he offers some trenchant remarks on a number of counts. Here is a sample:

Liturgy is the expression of where we're supposed to be, not something that we drag down to where we're at. Liturgy is the ideal to which we must rise. Liturgy is the model of a life given for others rather than life lived for ourselves. The bread we break is the sign of a body broken for us, and the chalice we drink is the blood poured out for us. They are symbols of a life lived and given for others.When we celebrate that reality in the liturgy, whether in Eucharist or Reconciliation or Matrimony, we're saying: This is what we, with the grace of God, pledge that we're trying to be. If it's not, then we shouldn't be there; we're wasting our time.How do you respond to the complaint that people don't get anything out of the liturgy?What you get out of the liturgy is the privilege of glorifying almighty God. If you think it's about you, stay at home. It's not about you. It is for you, but it's not about you.One of the great problems today, especially among some of the younger generations, is that they think that salvation history is their own autobiography. They think they're the center of the universe. In John 3, when John the Baptist is asked whether Jesus is the Messiah, John says quite clearly that Jesus is the important one: "He must increase, I must decrease."He must increase, I must decrease. Everybody needs to hear that. It's not about me, it's not about you. It's about something infinitely more important than us.

The rest is here.

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Thank you, Father Imbelli.Why this comes to mind I can't imagine: I think Father Taft should be asked by The New York Times to write an op-ed piece on the liturgical reforms of Vatican II.In the same vein, I highly recommend an article by John Baldovin, S.J., professor of liturgy at Boston College/ Weston Jesuit School of Theology, that appeared in the 3 October issue of The Tablet under the title "Changing rite, unchanging truth." I tried to find a way to provide a link, but wound up in frustration. Maybe someone more computer savvy than I can do the necessary.

I think of the saying, "as confused as a Jesuit on Holy Week..."How do you respond to the complaint that people dont get anything out of the liturgy?""What you get out of the liturgy is the privilege of glorifying almighty God. If you think its about you, stay at home. Its not about you. It is for you, but its not about you."Fr Taft may not be doing himself justice in this dismissive response. Parents are distressed that the liturgy simply bores their children. This is a major pastoral problem.Liturgy should be engaging. It should be nourishing. Flat, dead liturgies, with unpracticed readings, vacuous sermons, ghastly music, and no vibrant lay participation are the number one problem of the Catholic Church today. Those of us who frequent Anglican churches can see for ourselves the gulf that separates dry and dead liturgies from vibrant ones. The former leave one feeling depressed, the latter charge one up spiritually.

A pity, the Baldovin article is for subscribers only and cannot be published elsewhere without breach of copyright: http://www.thetablet.co.uk/search.php?q=baldovin&type=all

John Page,If you have the time/possibility of transcribing a few representative sentences from the Baldovin article that would be appreciated.Joseph O'Leary,In the interview Taft places considerable stress on the crucial importance of the homily; so I doubt he is advocating "unpracticed readings, vacuous sermons, and ghastly music" -- especially in Holy Week!

I'm having trouble reconciling some of Father Taft's points with others. Is the liturgy about us or about God? He says both, which I believe as well. He also denies both. One point I find very interesting: Because the Church was reacting to the Reformation by protecting the liturgy, the organic development of the liturgy did not occur for several centuries, and so when it did occur, it was more intense than might be expected. I've heard this argument regarding theological development as well.

I was smiling slightly when Bob Imbelli called Taft a "liturgist." He once said in my company: "Don't call me a liturgist - a liturgist tells somebody when to start playing the guitars. I am a historian." {I might add: a mighty historian].

Thanks, Larry: I accept the "fraternal correction."Blessed Advent

Kathy,I think the point about "organic development" is an interesting one, and it has gotten me thinking. Some people speak as if there had been "organic development" of the liturgy up until 1962, after which we got liturgy-by-committee. But I think the picture is far more complicated than that. If the term "organic development" means anything (and I'm not convinced it does) it would seem to mean the unplanned, gradual changes that occur in liturgy. But this had not been the case at least since the mid-sixteenth century. Rather, the liturgy was like a fly in amber. One way to think about the post-Vatican II period is not (pace Alcuin Reid) as the end of organic development, but rather its re-initiation after a four-century hiatus. Whatever one thinks about things like female altar-servers, communion in the hand and under both species as a regular practice, the virtual abandonment of Latin, the rise of folk-style music, changes is styles of vesture and architecture, etc. these were by some measures "organic," in the sense that they were largely unplanned and were instituted by local pastors (and sometimes by lay people). Of course, shattering the amber brought its own problems. As the pent-up energies of organic development so long inhibited were unleashed, we got a lot of rapid and aberrant growth (to keep with the "organic" metaphor, something like cancer). Thing were lost that ought to be restored; new things were instituted that ought to be abandoned. I hope that soon the pace of liturgical change might slow to a less dizzying speed. But the idea that the problem with liturgy in the post-conciliar period is that "organic development" was abandoned in favor of "human-designed, planned liturgy" is a specious one.

It's unfortunate that the re-institution of "organic change" occurred at approximately the same time that social institutions of all kinds were undergoing explosive and radical change. I am convinced that one of the reasons why the reaction to changes in liturgy have been so intense and sometimes irrational (depending on the change) is because so much else was also changing in people's lives. But one thing is also clear, which the quote above at least alludes to: the notion of the collective has been seriously undermined over the last 40 years. I am always puzzled when a minister rolls his eyes that organ music is passe because people are listening to different kinds of music outside of church -- well, that was pretty much the case 1000 years ago too (or whenever pipe organs were first created), maybe even more so. And unlike us, many people created their own music -- they didn't go to church to re-enact the everyday, they went their to get a fleeting look at the eternal. The notion that your relationship with God should be "personal" fits right in with the notion that the liturgy should reflect your personal aesthetic preferences. And I think this is just as true for those who hearken back to pre-VII forms as it is for those who insist that those reforms were meritorious and should be retained. I like more formal services but I have never understood that to mean I had a better attitude towards God.

The Eucharist is the celebration of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus with his people who proclaim such until he comes again. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. This is a very intimate setting where God's people celebrate together in faith, hope and charity. This is not rocket science. We do need to reassure that this is done with dignity in a loving atmosphere. We can do without the pontification and making sacred words that are people's favorites rather than necessary for the celebration. Both conservatives and liberals have made a mess of such a great event. If we could bring in the beginning, middle and end of this salvation event the words of Paul: "Owe nothing to anyone but to love one another", we might approach what the Eucharist is all about. The body in Christ.

"Whatever one thinks about things like female altar-servers, communion in the hand and under both species as a regular practice, the virtual abandonment of Latin, the rise of folk-style music, changes is styles of vesture and architecture, etc. these were by some measures organic, in the sense that they were largely unplanned and were instituted by local pastors (and sometimes by lay people). "I agree with this. Also, it has been my observation that many of these items that developed organically did so via cross-pollination with other denominations (another laudable instance of the "spirit" of Vatican II). Surely that is true for music and architecture, perhaps for preaching, and arguably for practices that continue to creep in like holding hands during the Our Father (and then raising up our linked hands for the doxology).

In the latest issue of WORSHIP magazine (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN), Dominican Friar Paul Philibert has a wonderful article entitled, "Reclaiming an Apostolic Church," which focus on the ecclesiology underlying the Documents of Vatican II. The background he describes so well in his article--and with which I am sure Fr. Taft is well acquainted, since they have both taught at Notre Dame--provides some clarification to the present discussion. I don't know how to link the article to this blog, but it is worth the effort it would take to read it!

I am glad someone mentioned raisning hands and arms during certain portions of Mass.I have for awhile wondered about the raising of hands during various responses during Mass.I have never been comfortable doing this. My wife has commented on how I do not raise my hands during these responses, and my only answer is that if I feel foolish doing it, that in fact it must not be for me. I don't have a problem with others raising their hands; I just don't emote in that manner.What are your thoughts? Should someone force actions like this? In other words, if I feel awkward raising my hands and arms, should I just fake it and do it anyway, so as to go along with the crowd?Thanks.

Hi, Ken, I sympathize with you. It seems like a simple thing, but actually it touches on all sorts of aspects of culture and worship.FWIW - There are several underlying principles that come into play here. One (a very important one) is unity - we should be unified in our gestures and postures, because that represents our unity as God's people. That is especially important during the Communion Rite, istm. Thus, I would say that, if virtually everyone in your congregation raises hands, it would be good for you to do so, too, despite your discomfort, because in doing so you would be manifesting that you are one with the rest of God's people gathered there today.FWIW - there is no consensus in our assembly: some families hold hands and some don't. Some individuals assume the "orans" position - arms stretched outward and palms facing up - and some don't. Some do nothing beyond standing and reciting the prayer. If your assembly is like ours, I would say, just do what you're most comfortable with.But here's something that may complicate things. There is a well-known principle that participants in liturgy should do all of, but only, those things that pertain to them. That comes into play for me as a deacon. The priest assumes the "orans" position (i.e. arms held out and palms facing upward) during the Our Father. But should the deacon do the same? What about the other people gathered for prayer, and other ministers like altar servers? I asked the question of an official with the clergy office at the USCCB, and the answer came back that deacons should *not* assume the orans position - because it is a gesture that is proper to the presider. Thus, one minister at the altar should be assuming orans, the the other ones should not. What about people in the assembly? I would go back to the principle of unity I mentioned earlier.

Jim,I have the same issue. Prior to my ordination I assumed a (modest and non-distracting) orans posture during the Our Father (unless someone grabbed my hand). It helped my devotion during Mass and did not seem to disturb those around me. Since ordination to the diaconate I have continued to do this when worshiping in the pew (say at daily Mass in our University chapel), but not when serving at the altar, since it seems to me this might be confusing to people, who often have enough trouble figuring out that I am not a priest concelebrant.I suppose the distinction between in-the-pew and at-the-altar is a somewhat artificial one, since I am both a deacon and a member of the assembly in either case. But, practically speaking, it is a solution that makes sense to me.

I too think that Fr. Taft's reply to the common objection was too rapid: "What you get out of the liturgy is the privilege of glorifying almighty God. If you think its about you, stay at home. Its not about you. It is for you, but its not about you. I agree with Fr. O'Leary that careless liturgies are often the cause of the alienation especially of the young. But that is only one side of the issue. The other has to do with what people bring to the liturgy. At the beginning of his homilies on the sixth chapter of St. John's Gospel, St. Augustine said that "this bread requires the hunger of the heart." In other words, if one does not bring a heart and mind that are open to and desirous of the light and truth and strength that Christ is both as Word and as Sacrament, one cannot "get anything out of Mass." This means, as a minimum, that one believes that there is something to be gotten out of Mass and understands that it is gotten by and through participating in the great movement of thanksgiving to God for his blessings to us in Christ. Fr. Taft calls this the "privilege of glorifying almighty God," and it is indeed a privilege that is granted us gratuitously in the gift of faith, the gift that consists in having been given to know that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. I think it is a criterion of "good liturgy" in every respect (rite, prayers, homily, music, etc.) that it invite people into precisely this celebration and that, if necessary, it evoke the hunger without which the Bread of life is not sweet.

In "The Spirit of the Liturgy" Joseph Ratzinger wrote:"The real 'action' in the liturgy in which we are all supposed to participate is the action of God himself. This is what is new and distinctive about the Christian liturgy: God himself acts and does what is essential. He inaugurates the new creation, makes himself accessible to us, so that, through the things of the earth, through our gifts, we can communicate with him in a personal way.""The sacrifice of the Logos is accepted already and forever. But we must still pray for it to become our sacrifice, that we ourselves may be transformed, conformed to the Logos, and so be made the true body of Christ. That is the issue, and that is what we have to pray for."All in the liturgy (music, prayers, preaching, silence) should serve this end.

Thanks Jim; I agree that we should strive for unity and that one reflection of unity is uniformity in our positions, postures and actions during Mass.However it routinely seems that unity is in short supply. As I have said before, in our parish, we laity are apparently so dis-unified that we do not even agree on whether to stand, sit, or kneel during distribution of Holy Communion. In our parish; most take Communion on the tongue; probably 30 percent prefer in-hand. Few understand that after Communion, we should stay standing or kneeling for a moment until the tabernacle has been closed. Some genuflect before receiving the host, some bow, some make no special gestures; some Mexican folks in our parish kneel on the floor before the priest to recieve Communion. Some genuflect when enter or leaving the pew or crossing in front of the tabernacle, others bow; others do nothing. Some pause for a moment after Mass, a few say the Saint Michael prayer out load together; most simply immediately begin to race for the door. Most folks are out in the parking lot before the choirs usual loud electric guitar and drum song is finished. At least (in our parish) we all know what the collection basket is and where the holy water is! :-)Certainly not everyone in the parish raises their hands and arms (the orans position); probably half and half. While I am very comfortable when the priest uses the orans position, when the congregation does it, in my mind that smacks of the Protestant Holy Rollers or other Evangelical sects. I guess I am just not that extroverted.In any case, I think this is where the local priest should help us laity; he should say something by way of explanation. He should explain the posture and then decide whether or not he wants all of to use it.

Attending mass is something like (I would like to emphasize "something like") going to an amateur theatrical performance in which all those present have some part to play and some few do solo roles. Singing sometimes is part of the performance and on Sundays there is more or less organized singing with an organ or piano or even a guitar. Many of the performers are distinctly unprofessional, there seem to have been no rehearsals, there is not much evidence of a competent director at work. Some times the chief actor is very good. Some times he is dreadful to the point of absurdity. Sometimes I think the homilist could use my help, but I suspect that those who do most would be least aware of it. Why do I go to a performance like this? Because I wish to participate in the Eucharist with my fellow Christians, that is something that is not undone by all of the above. Those who are bored and decide to do something else have missed the point. But perhaps they were badly educated. Perhaps they were not listening. I suspect that I have often not listened to what I did not want to hear.

As a "lousy celebrant" I empathize with Ken's discomfort on raised hands. It may be natural to raise hands at a charismatic meeting (if such things any longer happen) but if it is only a half-baked gesture it should be stopped.I think all this talk of people being disturbed by "change" is a misdiagnosis. It is not change that people worry about but the lack of a meaningful liturgy. If we celebrated creative, inculturate, biblical liturgies that really conveyed the sense of participating in the Paschal Mystery, who would complain? Bring on whatever changes are needed to ensure this! But changes back to Latin or to ridiculous literalistic translations are not the way to ensure this.

Father Imbelli,Did the Latin in the Tridentine Mass have art? In other words, was it beautiful literature or poetry to one who understands Latin? And in the current new translations, has there been an attempt to produce beautiful English?

Dear Unagidon,Others can perhaps answer more competently than I; but I'll make a try.I think the prayers (collects, prayers over the gifts and after communion) of the Latin Mass prior to Vatican II had a beauty of balance and concision that can't be easily reproduced in English translation.The further question that I am even less competent to answer concerns how the Latin prayers of the current Latin missal compare to the former. I am under the impression that changes were made and various prayers combined. But I need the help of others here to comment on whether the changes impacted the aesthetic effect. John Page?The current ICEL translations I think are almost universally seen to be unfortunate -- not merely for their pedestrian English, but for their often truncated version of the current Latin.The unhappily "lost" translation that ICEL did ten (?) or so years ago from what I gather was in every way superior, and I count it one of the sorrows of the post-conciliar period that it was not approved at least ad experimentum.I am not familiar enough with the proposed new translation (which is awaiting the Holy See's recognitio) to say anything useful that hasn't already been said more than once on more than one thread. Don't know if that even begins to address your question/concern.

I can understand trying to make accurate translations. I can even understand that there will be some controversy about this, because I have read that there are some who think that the current English language Mass has mistranslations in it. What I can't understand is why something as important as this is not also explicitly being treated for its aesthetic qualities. We have many prayers that we use that I think survived over the centuries in part because they are beautiful English. We have the example of the English Book of Common Prayer, which also has many beautiful passages. We certainly distinguish between good sermons and bad sermons on the basis of the quality of their English. We don't talk about liturgical music in solely terms of the fidelity of the translations it contains (for example, when a Psalm is transformed into rhyme or a song is translated from another language). But have we fallen so far that we can't consider the art of the word an important factor any more? I'm not talking about the zingers that people pull out of the new translation. I'm talking about an accurate translation that is then worked over by some of the beautiful writers of English that we have in our Church. I hate to say this, but much of the current discussion reminds me of back in the day when I worked for a company that would have to translate reports back and forth from English to Japanese. Elegance was never a consideration then and the arguments were all technical. But those were things about commodity trading. And we're talking about the Mass here.

Unagidon,And the people cried: "Amen, Amen!"Sadly similar sentiments/questions were raised when the first translations appeared: after a literal translation, why not entrust the final expression to the poets.Will the new provision for Anglicans entering into full communion with Rome, bringing some of their prayer tradition with them, pollinate in some distant future our present usage? The audacity of Advent hope.

"I think all this talk of people being disturbed by change is a misdiagnosis. It is not change that people worry about but the lack of a meaningful liturgy. If we celebrated creative, inculturate, biblical liturgies that really conveyed the sense of participating in the Paschal Mystery, who would complain? "Hi, Fr. O'Leary, I agree with you about meaningful liturgy. At the same time, liturgy is ritual, and that may be where concern about change becomes pertinent. Liturgical change, if not handled right, disturbs the ritual. I believe most people understand that in their bones, and that intuition largely accounts for their discomfort toward liturgical change.Perhaps those two principles - meaning and ritual - exist in tension. Raising hands during the Our Father probably is meaningful to those doing it. But it also changes the ritual in some way. How to reconcile those dimensions, istm, is probably more art than science (or naked authority).In retrospect, the Council fathers may have been wise to stipulate that liturgical changes be organic - that they grow naturally out of what came before. I would suggest, in that light, that the role of church authority should be to prudently regulate those organic developments.

"I too think that Fr. Tafts reply to the common objection was too rapid ... I agree with Fr. OLeary that careless liturgies are often the cause of the alienation especially of the young. But that is only one side of the issue. The other has to do with what people bring to the liturgy. ... St. Augustine said that this bread requires the hunger of the heart. In other words, if one does not bring a heart and mind that are open to and desirous of the light and truth and strength that Christ is both as Word and as Sacrament, one cannot get anything out of Mass. This means, as a minimum, that one believes that there is something to be gotten out of Mass and understands that it is gotten by and through participating in the great movement of thanksgiving to God for his blessings to us in Christ. "Fr. Komonchak, thank you for that comment. The "hunger of the heart" that St. Augustine refers to is very important. (I think Bruce Springsteen was wrong - not everyone has a hungry heart, or at least not everyone realizes that their heart hungers for more).Speaking as a parent whose children wonder, virtually every week, 'Why should I go to mass (and give up all of the other things I could be doing with my time) - what do I get out of it?', it's a real challenge to help them understand that the Bread of Life can feed them in ways that nothing else can. And I sense that we parents don't have nearly as much help and support form the larger culture in this endeavor as my own parents, or their parents, had. Somehow, the link between catechesis and worship has been weakened - perhaps even severed.

Those better versed in these matters can correct me if Im wrong, but didnt St. Jerome regard aesthetics of importance when he created his Latin translation of the Bible, i.e., the Vulgate? He worked from the Septuagint, the most common Greek translation of the original Hebrew Old Testament, and from the Greek New Testament, as he translated Scripture into Latin with a poetic flavor. Scripture has been translated numerous times since then into many languages, and it seems to me that each translation likely loses something of the source document or documents, and perhaps gains something in return. I think the same would hold true for non-Scriptural translations. As a result, the notion of accurate translation seems something of a misnomer. While the translator should try to be as precise as possible, I think that he or she should also be very conscious of the aesthetic quality of the translation.

Aesthetic decisions are about 20 years down the road, I would think, because the current debate still concerns accessibility. Still, we can dream, can't we?

If the new translation lets the poetry and imagery of the Bible that is embedded in our liturgical texts shine through, then istm it will have made an important aesthetic contribution.For example, for these familiar words, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you ...", the new translation gives us, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof ..." Surely the latter is a stronger poetic image, and better evokes the New Testament episode (I had spoken the current text for many years without seeing the Gospel allusion).To take another example: I have always liked the poetry of the 3rd Eucharistic Prayer in the current translation:"From age to age you gather a people to yourselfso that from east to west a perfect offering may be madeto the glory of your name."Here is how that passage is rendered in the new translation:"... you never cease to gather a people to yourself,so that from the rising of the sun to its settinga pure sacrifice may be offered to your name."There is a pleasing parallel cadence in the current translation: "from age to age ... from east to west ..." that is lost, and aesthetically speaking, that is too bad. Still, "From the rising of the sun to its setting" is a more striking image than "from east to west", and it has the added advantage of pointing more clearly to Psalm 113, "From the rising of the sun to its setting, let the name of the Lord be praised."

William CollierNot quite accurate. The Septuagint was the basis for earliest translation of the OT into English, this version is called the Vetus Latina. There was also a translation of the NT from the original Greek into Latin (if any of the Gospels had Aramaic originals, they have been lost). Jerome was supposed to correct the Latin versions of the Gospels--there being many variants. He did so. Whether he did the same for the entire NT is unclear. it does seem that someone did. His major contribution however was a complete new translation of the Hebrew OT for the original language, not from the Septuagint, which is different in many places form the Hebrew text. Jerome said it was necessary to go back to the Hebraica veritas, the Hebraic truth. Augustine disagreed but surely Jerome was right. Jerome had the advantage for having studied Hebrew. As to style and elegance, Jerome put accuracy first and did not want to turn the original texts into the elegant Latin of which he was really a master but which would nave been unsuited and really untrue to the style of the originals.

Joseph FX,An Augustinian "retractatio" seems in order: "The Septuagint was the basis for earliest translation of the OT into English, this version is called the Vetus Latina." Happy feast day.

UnagidonI had already learned a considerable amount of Latin by the 1950s and I had a missal with the Latin texts which I used. There is no plain answer to your question. The parts of the mass that were composed freely are written in stylistically ambitious Latin and could be said to achieve elegance. Much of this tends to be lost in translation, unless the translator is very adept, and even then the result may unsuitable for liturgical purposes. The parts of the mass that are from Scripture or have scriptural elements present a different problem. Should the liturgy made English above all aim to capture Paul as he wrote, or Paul as he appears in the Latin of the Novus Ordo, I could multiply examples , but you can seen the difficulty. The Nicene (so-called) creed is a translation from a Greek text and, arguably, not always a quite accurate one. Fidelity to the Greek or to the Latin? Liturgiam authenticam--for all its Greek title!--favors the Latin.

Dear Joseph,I don't know if even a good translator can capture a style. I have heard that it can be done, but I have also heard that some good translators do accurate literal translations and then impose their own good style upon that. Since I am not a translator or a liturgist myself, I don't have an educated opinion. But I would think or hope that beauty would be an explicit consideration in the new translations. I know that we live in a consumer society and that invariably some people will say "define beauty" with the idea that it is only in the eye of the beholder. But I wish that the translators at least were looking more seriously at the idea of liturgy as art (just as we used to look at music as art, and in fact, the art and architecture of churches as art). And as long as I am fantasizing here, part of this could include setting and inculcating a standard for art.

Fr. ImbelliErravi! As Jack McCoy would say, "Res ipsa loquitur".

UnagidonA. Pope's Homer is surely art--Alexander is my favorite Pope--but as the classical scholar Richard Bentley is supposed to have said, "you must not call it Homer". There is an Italian saying, is there not, something like "traduttore traditore" which means--I hope I have it right--that the translator is never true to what she/he translates. The saying is brilliant not so much for what it says as for the fact that self-referentially it illustrates what it says, for a word for word rendering--such as Liturgiam authenticam commends--say, "translator traitor", is quite flat and scarcely intelligible.

I don't translate liturgical prose, but I do translate hymns, and I take it as part of that duty to translate the rhetorical tone of the original. Adoro te devote is simple and sober. Adorna, Sion, thalamum is a bit wild with its use of the vocative and paradox.Hopkins' Adoro te is too Hopkins for my taste, and not Thomas enough.

Kathy,thanks for the comment. Your procedure seems to me "common sense." I mean that as a compliment, since I am Cartesian at least to the extent that I agree with his dictum: common sense is what is most widespread and least used.

Hopkins Adoro te is too Hopkins for my taste, and not Thomas enough.I can't imagine how something could be too Hopkins (OK, I can imagine it. But I still like his Adoro te: "Truth himself speaks truly, or there's nothing true." It doesn't get any better than that!).

Hymns are an extreme case, because of the constraints of the form, but still I think that they raise translation questions that have a wider relevance.This is a very difficult verse to translate, and one in which Hopkins fails the Thomas test at least twice, I think.Thomas:Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur,Sed auditu solo tuto creditur.Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius;Nil hoc verbo verittis verius.Hopkins:Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do;Truth himself speaks truly or there's nothing true.To my ears, the "trusty" in line 2, the rhetorical question in line 2, and the contraction in line 4 are too colloquial for the subject matter. They err in diction. They err in a pleasing way: they are more emphatic than Thomas, who is firm but quiet. At least that is how I hear this verse in Latin.Secondly, the delicate question here is at the heart of Thomas: we believe in the One who speaks the truth, the First Truth Revealing. Faith depends entirely upon "the word of truth"--not only the fact of the truth but its revelation in the Incarnate Word. Hopkins omits the word "word."The overall sense is there but some things are overstated, some things are understated, and a central meme is omitted.

On second thought, line 4 may well capture a certain playfulness in the original.

Thanks, Joseph, for your clarifications about Jerome's efforts. The pre-Reformation biblical translation storyline is more complicated than I thought it was. One of the most fascinating things about this blog, to me at least, is how much one can learn about a wide variety of topics from contributors and posters with diverse and interesting skills and backgrounds.

Jim Pauwels, "from the rising of the sun to its setting" is a quotation from Malachi.It is a reference to space (everywhere in the world) not time (from dawn to dusk).

I think the benefit of using an image like the one in Malachi is its richness. Although the primary meaning is definitely "every place," the idea of perpetual praise is resonant throughout the Scriptures and needn't be excised here.

I am coming to this thread late, but I want to say an emphatic "Amen" to Father Taft's strong defense of the reform of the liturgy and of the process which produced it. Taft pulls no punches, and for someone of his vast learning and scholarly eminence the view he offers bears considerable weight. Trenchent, indeed, are his observations. No one has mentioned the sidebar. I found it quite interesting that US Catholic included this bit--about taking communion from the sacrifice on the altar, rather than routinely distributing communion from the tabernacle--one of those agenda items of popes and reformers for centuries that is routinely brushed aside in most parishes because of the way in which pragmatism is married to the idea that nothing but the Real Presence matters in the slightest. Fr. Taft shows that a proper sense of respect for the liturgical action is the appropriate attitude, and takes nothing away from the appreciation for the sacrament but rather enhances it.

Finally, did anyone else notice Bryan Cones's response to the Wolfe article (discussed at length on another thread), linked on the sidebar? The responses to Cones's essay and to this interview with Taft seem to me to attest to the truth of something Archbishop Rembert Weakland wrote in 1997 reflecting on the aftermath of Pope John Paul II's decision to offer the Tridentine Mass indult. He wrote that despite the Pope's good intentions, and the grateful response from those who attend such liturgies, the effect on the liturgical renewal of the church as a whole was to set us all back. "Just at the moment when the situation was beginning to settle down and the deeper and more spiritual aspects of the renewal were becoming possible, a whole new battle began, one in which the renewal itself was called into question or where everyone seemed free to project his or her personal views on how the renewal of the council should have taken place."Reading the comments after these stories, reading the other threads here at dotCommonweal, it seems to me that we are increasing riven by the very problem Weakland describes. When everyone feels free to project his or her views on how the renewal should have taken place, some forty years after the fact, the situation becomes (and remains) dysfunctional. It's an odd thing to say at dotCommonweal perhaps, which is dedicated to everyone having their own views expressed and argued about all the time, but I do think the calling into question of the liturgica reform that followed the Council, and the renewal of the liturgy as a whole -- something that from the first has proceded from authoritative sources, and with every legitimacy, has contributed to the polarization of the Catholic community and is not doing anybody any good.

It took me this long to find the time to read the interview -- thank you for bringing it to our attention, Fr. Imbelli. This part struck me as particularly timely for dotComm (and perhaps it's what motivated John Page to imagine Fr. Taft appearing in the NYT):

Unfortunately, partly as a result of the schism of the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his followers, there has been an attempt on the part of a group of what I call "neo-cons" to portray the reforms of Vatican II as something that was foisted upon the church by a small minority of professionals contrary to the will of many people in the church. This is what we know in the vernacular as slander.The reforms of the council were carried out under Pope Paul VI in a spirit of complete collegiality. ...So the notion that the liturgical reform was somehow forced on an unknowing church by some group of "liturgists," as if that were a dirty word, is a lie, and that needs to be said.

Thanks, Mollie, for highlighting that passage. Another great quote!Those on this thread who are interested in (or better, concerned by) the new translation of the Roman Missal should be sure not to miss this piece in America:http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=12045

"Jim Pauwels, from the rising of the sun to its setting is a quotation from Malachi."It is also Psalm 113:3. Perhaps a more likely reference for a prayer of thanksgiving than the vituperative Malachi passage? "It is a reference to space (everywhere in the world) not time (from dawn to dusk)."Yes - it seems clear that the new translators prefer it to "from east to west", not "from age to age". Sorry if that was not clear from my comment to which you responded (12/3, 12:49 pm).

"Its an odd thing to say at dotCommonweal perhaps, which is dedicated to everyone having their own views expressed and argued about all the time, but I do think the calling into question of the liturgica reform that followed the Council, and the renewal of the liturgy as a whole something that from the first has proceded from authoritative sources, and with every legitimacy, has contributed to the polarization of the Catholic community and is not doing anybody any good."While I agree at least in part with this view, if I may say so, it is difficult, Rita, to square with your endorsement of Fr. Ryan's call to resistance in the America article you referenced in a later comment.If we do support the liturgical reform following the council, then we must acknowledge that the new translation is part and parcel of that on-going reform. It followed the prescribed subsidiaristic process - the same process that gave us the texts we use now. Contrary to Fr. Ryan's claim, there was a good deal of consultation with liturgical experts when the bishops were reviewing the texts. It is (or soon will be) the prayer text of the church, created and promulgated by the church. And it is intented is to replace a text that everyone agrees can and should be improved.I've known for some time that the "weak link" in the chain of responsibilities running from initial creation of the texts through the episcopal conferences and Rome to the people in the pews is at the parish leadership level. If parish leadership can't find it in their hearts to "sell" this text honestly and enthusiastically, then the process will fail. Fr. Ryan worries - probably needlessly, in my personal opinion - about what will happen when the texts are introduced. I would encourage him to worry much, much more about the other side of that coin - what happens if the church tells us to begin using the new texts but we don't? Perhaps it would feel exciting to be part of a resistance movement, but there is no getting around that it would also be a pastoral and ecclesial disaster of the first magnitude. Why should we wish that on the church?Our jobs - and certainly Fr. Ryan's job as rector of a cathedral - is to support the implementation of the new translation - to do our best - our *best* - to make sure it is a success. It is very hard for me to see what good can come from pastors and priests resisting its implementation (and I say this knowing very well that precisely this will happen in many places). I've been critical in the past of America publishing these articles that tear down the translations - they published a piece a year or two ago by Bishop Trautman that was in somewhat the same vein. Perhaps it is courageous journalism, but I really do think it hurts the church. At the very least, such pieces should be counterbalanced by pieces that support and promote the will of the church - something that one would suppose is America's mission.

Jim said "If we do support the liturgical reform following the council, then we must acknowledge that the new translation is part and parcel of that on-going reform."I cannot quite agree with you, Jim, although I know that you have good will and wish for what is best for the Church. The way we arrived at this translation was radically different from the previous ones and involved a heavy-handed intervention from Rome in a process which should have been subsidiaristic but was not. Namely, an already approved translation was scrapped. Now, the new translation has not yet been implemented. It has only been approved. So? The last one was scrapped. Why not this one? You see, the problem I allude to has already been set up, and it was set up by the Vatican not by US Catholics who resist reform. I agree that this dynamic is a regrettable. But it is not resolved by pretending that the current translation is "part and parcel of that on-going reform." In fact it is a U-turn from that reform.Also, I think I would agree that once the translation is implemented and lived with for forty years there is no turning back. But it hasn't even been put in print. There's a time for questioning and a time for pulling together.

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