Stop me before I....

Okay, one more post on this topic and then Ill stoppromise! In the comments on my original post, Joe Scianadoir helpfully posted the most recent ICEL translations of the three prayers in questions. So Ive modified my chart so you can compare them to the 1997 versions and the original Latin.

 

Date

Latin

Cranmer/Duffy

ICEL (1997)

ICEL (2008)

11th Sun in OT

Deus in te sperantium fortitude, invocationibus nostris adesto propitius, et, quia sine te nihil potest mortalis infirmatis, gratiae tua praesta semper auxilium, ut, in exsequendis mandates tuis, et voluntate tibi in actione placemus O God, the strength of all them who put their trust in thee, mercifully accept our prayers; and because though the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without thee, grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping of thy commandments we may please thee, both in will and deed. O God, the strength of all who hope in you, accept our earnest prayer. And since without you we are weak and certain to fail, grant us always the help of your grace, that in following your commands we may please you in desire and deed. O God, the strength of those who hope in you, graciously hear our pleas, and since without you mortal frailty can do nothing, grant us always the help of your grace, that in following your commands we may please you in purpose and action.

12th Sun in OT

Sancti nomini tui, Domine, timorem partiter at amorem fac nos habere perpetuum quia numquam tua gubernatione destituis, quo in soliditate tuae dilectionis instituis. Grant us, Lord, not only a constant fear of your Holy Name, but also a constant love of it, for you leave no one without your guidance whom you have firmly established in your love. Lord God, teach us to hold your holy name both in awe and in lasting affection, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you establish in your steadfast love. Grant us, O Lord, fear and love of your holy name always and in equal measure, for you never cease to guide those you fix firm in love of you.

30th Sun in OT

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, da nobis fidei, spei et caritatis augmentum,et, ut mereamur assequi quod promittis, fac nos amare quod praecipis. Almighty and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope and charity; and, that we may obtain that which thou dost promise, make us to love that which thou dost command. God of holiness, increase within us your gifts of faith, hope and love, and enable us to cherish whatever you command, that we may come to possess all that you promise. Almighty, everlasting God, increase our faith hope and charity, and make us love what you command, so that we may be fit to attain what you promise.

 

I wanted to offer a couple of thoughts here. Let me admit up front that this is the worst sort of Monday Morning Quarterbacking. Translation is very hard work indeed and it is simply impossible to come up with a translation with which no one can argue. Many of us here, though, enjoy language and the struggle to find le mot juste. The views below are my own and certainly enjoy no magisterial authority.


With respect to the 11th Sunday in OT, I think the 2008 prayer starts out better, as graciously hear our pleas captures the tone of supplication in the original a bit better than accept our earnest prayer which seems a bit too direct. Whether to favor mortal frailty can do nothing over we are weak and certain to fail comes down to how important it is to translate more literally. I like the conclusion of the 1997 prayer better because desire and deed ends the prayer on a strong note of alliteration, which has been a feature of English poetry as far back as Caedmons Hymn. Purpose and action falls a bit flat.

 

With regard to the second prayer (12th Sun OT), I think that, once again, the 2008 prayer starts out a bit better. Fear and Love, in addition to being more literal translations of the Latin originals, are good, solid Anglo-Saxon words that also have strong warrant in the history of English biblical translations. I dont think awe and lasting affection get the job done. I dont, however, particularly like the phrase fix firm in love of you that closes the prayer. Ill admit a fondness for the 1997 closing, partly because steadfast love is the term the RSV Bible generally uses to translate the Hebrew term hesed and I like the allusion. However, Im not sure there is a warrant for the adjective in the original Latin (Joe? Kathy? Bob?).

 

With respect to the prayer from the 30th Sunday, once again the 2008 prayer begins more strongly. How the 1997 translators ended up with God of holiness from Omnipotens sempiterne Deus is a bit of a mystery to me. I also think that make us love what you command better conveys the forcefulness of fac nos amare quod praecipis than enable us to cherish whatever you command, but Ill let the DotCom Latinists correct me on that if they like. I prefer Cranmers ending which, ironically, is more literal than either of the two ICEL versions in the sense of preserving the word and sentence order of the original. I happen to think that make us love what you command is a stronger way to end the prayer than the alternative, but this is certainly an issue on which reasonable people can disagree.

 

On the whole, Id say that the 2008 versions of these three prayers are a bit better than the 1997 versions, but not markedly so. I suspect that others could find examples where the newer versions are a bit worse. On the whole, I expect the impact to be a wash. All of which raises the question of whether the sturm und drang of the last decade has truly been worth it.

Also by this author
Visitation Views

Please email comments to letters@commonwealmagazine.org and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Must Reads

Politics
Religion
Culture
Books
Collections
Collections