Using Poor Language in the Liturgy

An interesting reflection by Fr. Andrew Hamilton, SJ in Australia, on the new translation and the effects it has and has not had.  View the entire article at Eureka Street.


34 responses to “Using Poor Language in the Liturgy”

  1. Ellen Joyce Avatar
    Ellen Joyce

    This last paragraph moved me, and helped me finally understand the source of my unease over the last year: “This malady is not fatal. But at a time when Christians increasingly experience a gap between faith and their world, a language of liturgy that is disconnected from the ways in which people can speak about things that matter puts unnecessary lead in the Catholic saddlebag.”

    As a well-catechized Catholic who is fluent in liturgical Latin and various archaic forms of English, I can translate the new texts in my head easily enough. But the new language adds another layer of unnecessary burden/baggage to my efforts to make these texts *live* –for my students, for our RCIA candidates, and indeed for my secular friends. How many more burdens do we need?

    1. Fran Rossi Szpylczyn Avatar

      @Ellen Joyce – comment #1:
      So well put Ellen, thank you so much for expressing this as you have.

      And thank you Philip, for posting this in the first place. I get Eureka Street, but don’t always get to read it thoroughly.

  2. Fr. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Fr. Jack Feehily

    Thanks, Ellen. You have expressed sentiments with which I wholeheartedly agree. I find the translation–with a few exceptions–uninspiring and mystifying. All priests are bound to pray what the church truly believes, but in words that may be clearly understood.

  3. Michelle Francl-Donnay Avatar

    As a well-catechized Catholic, with a good background in Latin and a vocabulary size that is a running joke with one of my editors, I have to say that I found the first run through of the (perhaps excessively) lofty language of the new translation distracting at times. “Prevenient…when is the last time I heard prevenient? Oh, wait, it’s time for the Sanctus!”

    I will also report that I rarely go to Mass where the responses are not blurred by the overlay of the old/new translations. Georgetown students win, my parish, not so much.

    After a full year, what I realized that it’s not so much the ponderous language, “lead in the saddlebags,” but that the new language lacks power, its many clauses tangle around my ankles and hold me earthbound. It is theologically fussy and preciously careful. Neither of which I believe God to be. His is the voice that shakes the wilderness of Kadesh and strips the forest bare. God is not a periphrastic pedant.

  4. Jonathan Day Avatar
    Jonathan Day

    Michelle, I wouldn’t describe the language as ‘lofty’ or ‘elevated’ – it is simply incorrect. It is no more ‘educated’ than was Mrs Malaprop crying that Lydia was “as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile”.

    Two related examples come to mind.

    First, I was once told, with firm conviction, that Catholics don’t “attend Mass” but assist at Mass, and that there was a critical theological distinction. It took me awhile to realise that French manuals of spiritual direction must have been translated into English, rendering assister à (to attend) as “to assist at”, and that this mistranslation had now taken on theological significance.

    Second, a quote from Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain, recalling his early hours in the monastery:

    From the Spiritiual Directory I learned that “the Holy Mass, the Divine Office, Prayer and pious reading which form the exercises of the contemplative life occupy the major part of our day.”

    It was a frigid and unsatisfying sentence. The phrase “pious reading” was a gloomy one, and somehow the thought that the contemplative life was something that was divided up into “exercises” was of a sort that would have ordinarily depressed me. But I think I had come to the monastery fully resigned to the prospect of meeting that kind of  language for the rest of my life. In fact, it is a good thing that I was resigned to it, for it is one of the tiresome minor details of all religious life today that one must receive a large proportion of spiritual nourishment dished up in the unseasoned jargon of transliterated French.

    A few lines further on in the Directory there were some cautious words about mystical contemplation which, I was told, was “not required” but which God sometimes “vouchsafed.” That word “vouchsafe”! It almost sounded as if the grace came to you dressed up in a crinoline.

    1. Michelle Francl-Donnay Avatar

      @Jonathan Day – comment #5:
      Merton is far more eloquent than I am, but — yes. The current language might be described as lofty or elevated by some measure, but I would agree it does not seem elevating.

  5. Daniel McKernan Avatar
    Daniel McKernan

    To the contrary, I find the new translation to be a blessing. The new collects are far better in lifting heart and mind, the references to the Scriptures are more clear, and we now pray the same vernacular prayers as (most of) the rest of the Latin Church. There are ecumenical implications with the Eastern Church as well. Instead of being somehow “disconnecting” the new prayers are striking in their vividness, something we also see in the Eastern liturgies and in our own Extraordinary Form. Misplaced criticisms of seemingly archaic language for prayer in our new translation also target the liturgies of the eastern Churches where traditional liturgical language is also prominent.

    Looking over the comments here and at the original site we see once again how it is the theology of the Church revealed in the now clearer translation of the same prayers we’ve always had that some find disquieting. The complaints about syntax seem to be illusory and forced among “thinking” Catholics in today’s “adult” Church anyway. If elevated or archaic language were truly believed to be pastorally deficient we would have seen at some point over these past fifty years significant concerns expressed about the Eastern Catholic liturgical forms as somehow being out-of-place or deficient pastorally. Today’s complaints about the elevated/archaic language in the new translation only arose with some people’s recognition that our post Vatican II Roman liturgy is replete with the same highly traditional expressions that some hoped had been left in the 1950’s. People are shaken to find the same level of transcendent prayer in the Roman Mass as they might find in the Maronite Quorbono . Instead of recognizing how this unites the Church with its positive ecumenical implications they bemoan the loss of something liturgically casual that never was really present outside of the Anglophone countries anyway.

    1. Jonathan Day Avatar
      Jonathan Day

      @Daniel McKernan – comment #7:
      The new translation isn’t bad because it’s either elevated or archaic, it’s bad because it is clumsy and unpoetic. I would be thrilled with archaic language that was half as elegant as Cranmer’s. Elevated language would be wonderful. The new translation is not elevated, just inept.

      I am interested in your comments about English versions of the Maronite Qurbono. The 1993 version I have seen resembles ICEL 1973 and has many of its merits: simplicity, sentences that are English in their structure, directness. And I recently saw a comment on the newest (2012) draft, suggesting that the revisers are trying to make it less verbose. Example from the previous version:

      Truly it is right, just, and fitting, O Creator of all things visible and invisible, to glorify you, bless you, praise you, adore you, and thank you. The heights of heaven and all its powers exalt you: the sun, the moon, and the whole choir of the stars; the earth, the seas, and all that is in them; the heavenly Jerusalem, the Church of the firstborn, those whose names are written in heaven; the angels, archangels, dominions, and thrones; the powers above this world; the heavenly hosts; the cherubim with many eyes and the six-winged seraphim, who veil their faces with two wings, cover their feet with two wings, and, with two wings, fly toward one another. With unceasing voices and never ending divine knowledge they sing the victorious hymns of your great glory, and praise you with a clear voice, shouting, proclaiming, and singing (saying):

      and from the new:

      Truly it is right and just to glorify you, bless you, praise you, adore you, and give you thanks, Maker of all things, visible and invisible. The highest heavens and all its powers praise you; the sun, the moon, and all the stars; the earth, the seas, and all that is in them; the heavenly Jerusalem and the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven; the angels, archangels, and heavenly hosts all sing praising your majestic glory with triumphant hymns, with never ending voices, and with acclamations. They cry out and proclaim:

      Daniel, can you shed any light on this recent revision?

    2. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
      Jordan Zarembo

      @Daniel McKernan – comment #7:

      Daniel: If elevated or archaic language were truly believed to be pastorally deficient we would have seen at some point over these past fifty years significant concerns expressed about the Eastern Catholic liturgical forms as somehow being out-of-place or deficient pastorally.

      The philosophical and theological currents which have resulted in a reformation of the Roman rite do not necessarily apply similarly to “Byzantium” (i.e. the churches which adhere to the Byzantine liturgical forms.) Byzantium experienced the Reformation, Enlightenment, and the various waves of industrialization and political revolution in western Europe quite differently than “Rome” experienced these same changes. Crosscurrents certainly exist, but have taken and will take centuries to disentangle from the “western” experience.

      The Tridentine form and the Byzantine rites in union with Rome continue to experience the same external forces which have shaped liturgical reform in not just Roman Catholicism but liturgical western Christianity in general. Even if change is not macroscopic, microscopic shifts are visible on closer examination. This is why a facile comparison of a current translation of the Qurbono with the current translation of the Roman rite, for example, will yield little more than a comparison of words on a page without the engagement of historical-critical approach. In turn, the pastoral frame of the liturgy relies on a more critical examination of the other frames (philological, theological) which gird pastoral ministry.

      1. Daniel McKernan Avatar
        Daniel McKernan

        @Jordan Zarembo – comment #18:

        I don’t think critics of the new translation can dismiss the fact that their often repeated criticisms of traditional language also target the usages of the English speaking Eastern Churches because Vatican II applies to the whole Church in union with Rome. More pointedly, the Consitution on the Liturgy makes it clear that its principles also apply to the Eastern Churches. SC states:

        “Among these principles and norms there are some which can and should be applied both to the Roman rite and also to all the other rites (e.g. active participation)” (#3).

        Some highly specific “practical norms” are said to apply only to the Roman rite (e.g. the pointed directive to retain Latin) but SC #3 states that even among the practical norms there are some that “affect other rites as well”.

        Additionally, there are many communities of Maronites in the western countries some dating from the 19thc.. Signficant numbers of non Middle Eastern Catholics are communicants in Maronite and other Eastern parishes. We can presume that both groups have long been subject to the unnamed philosophical and theological currents you mention. Lastly, I wonder whether there are Roman rite communities who’ve been subject to these unnamed theological and philosophical currents only long enough to reject them?

      2. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
        Jordan Zarembo

        @Daniel McKernan – comment #20:

        Daniel, revolutions in philosophy, politics, and theology which occur in one part of the world assume diverse and unpredictable ramifications in other parts of the world. Greek and Russian theologians read Aquinas even before the Austin friars of Wittenberg ordered their copy of the Summa. Certainly, late-medieval “eastern” theologians reinterpreted the Angelic Doctor in a manner entirely different than the standardized and codified Thomism of Trent. Similarly, the Protestant reformers interpreted Thomism outside of the manicured Roman perspective. A view of the entire world through Tridentine glasses filters out great spectra of intellectual light. This filtration, though convenient for the simplification of the evolution of belief and liturgy, cannot escape an honest evaluation of trends.

        Similarly, Maronite Christianity first encountered the Roman rite and the attendant intellectual revolutions of “western” Christianity well after the Reformation, the Enlightenment, Protestant rationalism, romanticism, “republic”, and other constructs which had already taken ample root in western Europe. The Roman rite has witnessed these diverse and concurrent revolutions from their genesis. Maronites in many respects have experienced the effects but not necessarily the starting points of these movements. Revolutions in thought and belief are necessarily asychronous.

        Daniel: Lastly, I wonder whether there are Roman rite communities who’ve been subject to these unnamed theological and philosophical currents only long enough to reject them?

        Undoubtedly, post-conciliar schismatic traditionalism epitomizes the rejection of modernity and post-modernity as well as predecessor and contemporary political and social movements. Lefebvrists are perhaps most notorious today for their anti-Semitism. Msgr. Lefebvre also upheld a highly idealized vision of the Ancien Regime, perhaps as an antidote for inevitable twentieth century challenges to Tridentine isolationism. The Bourbons are long gone; France is on its fifth incarnation of republic. Why, then, should anyone expect that a liturgy and liturgical theology forged in the Roman Inquisition and the divine right of kings stand on its own against May 1968?

  6. George Lester Avatar
    George Lester

    So what about me? I actually enjoy the new translation—with all its theological fussiness and difficult construction. Shouldn’t our faith require some effort from us? Don’t we hold too cheaply the things purchased too easily? I like the new translation, and I appreciate it every Sunday, every Holy Day, every daily Mass I attend. Am I just completely wrong?

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      @George Lester – comment #8:
      I don’t know about your being completely wrong – although the comments show that some would say you are. I would say, though, that you’re in a minority.
      Yes, our faith should require effort – but not in trying to understood poorly worded liturgy! The effort should be in serving the poor, being more generous, loving our neighbor, and the like.

      1. Ellen Joyce Avatar
        Ellen Joyce

        @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #13:
        Fr. Anthony, exactly–I am not intellectually challenged by the new language, instead I am distracted by odd turns of phrase and irritated by poor English grammar. The challenge I can embrace is that of living an exemplary life that will make my secular friends think twice before dismissing the tradition I love; putting up linguistic barriers that make intelligent, literate, people scoff is hardly helpful.

  7. Jonathan Day Avatar
    Jonathan Day

    George, I am glad you like the new translation and find it fulfilling.

    I actually prefer the liturgy in Latin, so I attend a Latin Novus Ordo Mass almost every Sunday of the year. It’s fine for the faith to require effort from us. It’s fine for it to be firmly connected to the roots of our tradition.

    The only thing that’s not so fine is to assume that those of us who feel the new translation was a serious mistake are intellectually lazy, frightened by words like “ineffable”, etc. I didn’t see this in your post, George, but it’s a common theme in discussions of the new translation.

  8. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

    No matter the translation style into English, there will be those who like it or dislike it. There are intellectuals in the Church that praise the new translation and others who deride it and each gives their own reasons based upon various valid principles. The same is true of rank and file Catholics although in my own experience with both the older translation and the new one, very few offer an opinion one way or the other. I suspect that for most who attend Mass, they come not to critique style, architecture, music or the liturgy in general, but to worship and find meaning, solace or inspiration and some relief from the problems of life. More power to them! I know that when I attend Mass from the congregation when visiting other churches, that my critical eye and ear gets in the way of the proper worship and prayer I should be giving. I pray that I’m in the minority in doing this as it is not helpful to either prayer or spirituality.
    I personally like the vernacular liturgy, prefer the newer translation though. But with the Latin Mass, the problem of differing tastes and the fierce individualism here is solved in part by the fact that the various publishing houses prior to Vatican II had a great deal of leeway in developing the English translation for their market share. Some used Elizabethan English, others more modern, some more literally others more equivalent. At the Latin Mass, everyone has the same Latin but each person might have a different English translation to their liking.
    While I doubt we’ll every go back to an exclusively Latin Mass, even with the official English Mass, one could bring their own English translation to follow, either the older one or ones that are more archaic and poetic in style. Perhaps that is what we should be encouraging the minority who are ill at ease with the new translation to do.

  9. Daniel McKernan Avatar
    Daniel McKernan

    Jonathan, I don’t see the similarity that you seem to see between the “93 Qurbono and the “73 ICEL translation of the Roman Missal. They seem far apart to me. I cannot offer any signficant comment on the two Maronite translations you provide beyond saying that the latter draft version seems to lose something in its brevity and risks being unpopular for that reason. For example, refering to “heavenly hosts” where the original version references “…the heavenly hosts; the cherubim with many eyes and the six-winged seraphim, who veil their faces with two wings, cover their feet with two wings, and, with two wings, fly toward one another…”. Something beautiful is lost there in a manner that may not be too different than what ICEL did to the English RM translation in “73 (i.e. the prefaces). From this brief excerpt it almost appears of the revisers are applying Comme le prévoit to their work on the Quorbono “libera nos”.

  10. Jordan DeJonge Avatar
    Jordan DeJonge

    Yes, effort for service, of course. But with the liturgy, no effort for the intellect?

  11. Jim McKay Avatar
    Jim McKay

    The translators put in little effort, why would the people in the pew?

    Roman syntax was followed, not English. If we wanted to convert others to Romanitas, that would be great. But we want to convert all to Christ, so the cultural conversion demanded by the current translation is an obstacle. At Jerusalem the apostles established a principle that no greater burden than necessary should be placed on converts. The new translation violates that principle.

  12. Jordan DeJonge Avatar
    Jordan DeJonge

    Father Anthony’s point, however, is quite beside this translation’s pitfalls. At least in the way he worded what sphere of the Christian life effort ( as in struggle) is proper to- not liturgy.

  13. Todd Flowerday Avatar

    “No matter the translation style into English, there will be those who like it or dislike it.”


    Given the level of theological competence and translation skill outside the w/halls of Rome, outside the episcopacy, and in the laity, the biggest disappointment of the English MR3 remains the lack of consultation, especially with artists.

    There are too d***ed many canon lawyers with their fingers in the translation pie. This is the realm of artistry, and ars celebrandi. Not ideology. I place the blame on everyone from Msgr Wadsworth to Cardinals Pell and Arinze. This is their Matthew 20:25 moment, much to their own spiritual detriment.

    Fr McDonald misses the mark as usual. There are a lot of things I disagree with that I can live with. And not only live with, but actively support.

    In the case of MR3, I’m in the position of promoting something that’s artistically and spiritually inferior. Some people like it. Great. Some people like grilled ground beef slapped between two pieces of bread. More power to that, especially if you’re really hungry. If you come to my house for dinner, you’re going to get a bit more. Cheese, veggies, salad, seasonings, marinated meat, etc..

    The institutional face of the Church should be prepared to imitate the generosity and profundity of God. Not just ask the rest of the Church to take their word for it.

    1. Bill deHaas Avatar
      Bill deHaas

      @Todd Flowerday – comment #17:
      Thanks, Todd – not only *irrelevant* but he grossly modifies what he writes elsewhere.

      Would suggest reading Fr. Ruff’s presentation in the Detroit area last month as recorded/summarized by Richard Novak: (then, click on The New Modern Missal – What is the Problem)

      Highlights per Novak’s summary:

      – keep in mind that there were four translations – 1974, 1998, 2008, and 2010

      – Translation as an Issue of Nature and Grace
      1. Grace is ubiquitous.
      2. Grace elevates nature
      3. Grace is not an epiphenomenological “add on.”

      – Issues Raised by the Imposition of the Revised Missal Translation
      1. Ecclesiology: monarchy, centralism, collegiality
      2. Inculturation
      3. Relationship between hierarchy and scholars
      4. Ecumenism

      – “….problems concerning the quality, appropriateness, or desirability of this new missal translation are not just translation issues by themselves — rather these involve power issues: how church leadership (especially in Rome) exercises its authority and how Rome has been increasingly taking back the authority of local bishops and regional bishops’ conferences to regulate aspects of liturgy (given to them by Vatican II’s liturgy constitution)
      – “the “shelving” of the 1998 missal without “due process” along with the subsequent re-engineering of the new missal and its imposition, represent an abuse of authority; a misuse of power — blatantly at variance with the letter and spirit of Vatican II and detrimental to the vitality of the whole body of the church in the spirit of the Gospel. Such actions discredit – or dare I say “nullify”?, the resulting process responsible for the new missal”

  14. Aaron Reynolds Avatar
    Aaron Reynolds

    You know what liturgy has truly beautiful language? Rite One of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. I say this as a Roman Catholic.

  15. Bill deHaas Avatar
    Bill deHaas

    No one here has remarked on the fact that this is just the first translation using LA/RT and Vox Clara – english speaking conferences (and even these rolled out at different times).

    What about the other major language groups? To date, published feedback highlights that the German conferences do not accept the LA approach or, at minimum, have serious reservations; the Italian confrences do not agree and have spoken out loudly while delaying even the first steps towards a translation; the Spanish conferences (already with differences by culture, countries, world regions (think Mexico and Spain)) have not begun the process.
    And this says nothing about those languages that have already expressed LA difficulties – e.g. Japan, Asian countries, etc.

    What about the pending translation of the lectionary and other language groups?

    And rarely see anyone comment about the loss of newly composed prayers, EPs, sacrament rituals, etc. (1998 was a good beginning on that). In fact, think that the German conference pushed back on funeral rituals – some newly composed.

  16. Daniel McKernan Avatar
    Daniel McKernan

    Jordan wrote: “Maronite Christianity first encountered the Roman rite and the attendant intellectual revolutions of “western” Christianity well after the Reformation, the Enlightenment, Protestant rationalism, romanticism, “republic”, and other constructs which had already taken ample root in western Europe.”

    I disagree Jordan. It seems to me that the Maronites had extensive interation with Latin Christendom during the crusades dating from the 11th c.. This suggests that Maronite communion with the Holy See is as historic as that of the Roman Church in Scotland. In fact, Maronite contact and union with the Holy See predates Lithuania’s. Regular contact with the western Christians from the Middle Ages led to considerable development among the Maronites.

  17. Paul Robertson Avatar
    Paul Robertson

    There’s an essay I’m planning to write on this subject, but the briefest overview would be: people who want to be awed by an authoritative, majestic God like the new translation; people who want to engage in a personal, loving, intimate relationship with God-made-man who called God “abba” prefer the ’73 (and/or ’98).

    Personally, I am more awestruck by the intimacy of Immanuel than I am by all of Genesis 1.

  18. Joe O'Leary Avatar
    Joe O’Leary

    “I don’t think critics of the new translation can dismiss the fact that their often repeated criticisms of traditional language also target the usages of the English speaking Eastern Churches because Vatican II applies to the whole Church in union with Rome.”

    A red herring, for many of us here at least. I just love the language of the Authorized Version and Anglican Hymns and the Latin Mass and I am also a professor of English literature who just loves good, beautiful, noble English such as that of Milton, Addison, Johnson, Burke, Austen, Newman. It is this background that enables me to detect that the language of the new translation is pseudo-traditional and lacking in any style.

  19. Joe O'Leary Avatar
    Joe O’Leary

    As to the English speaking Eastern Churches, I would be shocked if their English were as squalid as that with which the English speaking Latin church is now saddled.

  20. Simon Ho Avatar
    Simon Ho

    Ellen Joyce : @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #13: Fr. Anthony, exactly–I am not intellectually challenged by the new language, instead I am distracted by odd turns of phrase and irritated by poor English grammar.

    I certainly agree that there are unusual turns of phrases here and there. Some of these unusual turns result from the ambiguity of the Latin text; and these ambiguities lead me to wonder and meditate more deeply on the faith and the mystery that have been handed on to us. In a sense, I find my participation at Mass enriched, rather than distracted, as a result of my dwelling on some of these unusual phrases. There is no need to fix attention on every liturgical action (neither in the Eastern or Roman traditions), so you don’t have to feel guilty about losing attention due to amazement and pondering of a certain phrase.

  21. fr dirk van dissel Avatar
    fr dirk van dissel

    I would be most grateful if you would allow me to put this long, and I suspect in part, contentious, piece, on Pray Tell
    It would not be proper for an Anglican to comment on the manner in which the 2010 translation of the Roman Missal was promulgated, but as one who has for more that 40 years worked on and off on making useable versions of Latin liturgical texts, I may perhaps be permitted to make the following observations.

    It is generally agreed that the 1973 ICEL translations of the collects had little to commend them. Canon JW Poole, a former precentor of Coventry Cathedral, (who in the 1970s and 1980s gave me invaluable instruction in practical liturgy) and one who could write decent liturgical texts, called them banausic. That is a kind description: there are others more damning. Sooner or later these texts would have needed to be replaced by versions which better reflected their Latin originals and did it in more elegant English.

    The 1997/98 ICEL translation, the fruit of 17 years hard work was in every way an improvement. It was however vitiated by the embracing of so called “gender inclusive language” – a fatuous concept, if ever there was one, and a defect from which the New RSV, New Jerusalem Bible and the Revised English Bible unfortunately also suffer. I suspect that it was this obsession with the feminist agenda that probably drew down on this translation the wrath of the Congregation of Divine Worship (CDW), and prevented it from appreciating its considerable literary merit.

    I privately wonder whether those, among them Fr Gerald O’Collins SJ (at whose feet I sat in the Melbourne United Faculty of Theology in the early 1970s), see his open letter to English – speaking bishops, Tablet 7 Mar 2015, , who have expressed such adverse criticism of the 2010 version and such a strong preference for the 1998 translation are motivated by a commitment to the feminist agenda rather than a desire for dignified and elegant English in the liturgy.

    Part 2 to follow.

  22. fr dirk van dissel Avatar
    fr dirk van dissel

    Part 2

    The argument that the language of worship should be that of ordinary, everyday speech, underlies the criticism that many including Fr O’Collins have made of the 2010 translation. In 1974 and more recently in 2012 Professor David Frost, himself the writer of effective English liturgical texts and the chairman of the panel that produced The Liturgical Psalter (1977) included in the revised Prayer Books of several Anglican provinces, gave a theological rationale for this view. (see his The Language of Series 3 (Grove Booklet No 12, (Grove Books, Bramcote, Notts, 1973) “Liturgical Language from Cranmer to Series 3” in RCD Jasper, The Eucharist Today, (SPCK, London 1974) pp 142f, and “The Influence of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer on the Orthodox: Opening a Can of Worms”, in The Book of Common Prayer from the Outside: An Ecumenical Symposium to Celebrate the 350th Anniversary of the 1662 Prayer Book, Sarum College, Salisbury, 15-16 Nov 2012).

    However, this is not the only tenable view. Many, pace Fr O’Collins, would agree with Liturgiam authenticam that “a sacral style” clearly different from every day speech is an aid, rather than a hindrance to worship. That surely is the reason for the affection in which the Book of Common Prayer, the Authorisied Version (King James Bible) and traditional hymns continue to be held by many worshippers.

    I consider that there is at least a case for a “sacral style” in worship. That particular style is exemplified in the English Prayer Book tradition beginning with 1549 BCP and continued in the various revisions up to the Indian BCP 1960 and the English Series 2 Services 1966, and adopted by William Bright, Eric Milner-White and many others.

    Part 3 to follow

  23. fr dirk van dissel Avatar
    fr dirk van dissel

    Part 3

    The 2010 ICEL translation is not a success. A friend of mine, a professor of English at our oldest university, and a convert from Anglo-Catholicism (High Church Anglicanism) says it was done by translators with “lead ears”, and I think he is right. It is not that I object to words like “consubstantial” which seems to have aroused a lot of adverse criticism in this country, although I think BCP “of one substance” is better – (Anglicans are familiar with “consubstantial” because it occurs in the doxologies to many well known hymns)

    It is also the disregard for rhythm, balance, and patterning, and the awkwardness of much of the phrasing that strikes me as obvious defects . Many of the prayers are just cribs conveying what the latin says, but not real English. Fr O’Collins criticisms therefore need to be taken seriously.He is correct in pointing out that the new translation is “too often unclear and sometimes verges on the unintelligible. The 2010 translation regularly sounds like Latin texts transposed into English words rather than genuine English. Mgr Ronald Knox, like many others before and after him, wanted translations that read like a first-rate native thing. Who could say that of the present Missal.”

    By the way, Canon Poole made the same criticisms of the translations in The English Missal, familiar to, and well loved by generations of High Church Anglicans, which he considered were often no more than “cribs”.

    Part 4 to follow

  24. fr dirk van dissel Avatar
    fr dirk van dissel

    Part 4

    The “dynamic equivalence” principal adopted in the ICEL 1973 which lay behind the translations of the collects did not work. On many occasions a fairly literal translation will work, but on other occasions “dynamic equivalence” is the only way that the meaning of the latin can be conveyed. Sometimes, it has to be a mixture of both in the same liturgical text. Archbishop Cranmer and Monsignor Ronald Knox, are probably the only ones who were able to turn latin texts into useable English versions. (see Knox, On Englishing The Bible,(Burns Oates, 1949)). Sometimes Cranmer’s texts are very literal (BCP Purification of BV Mary, Annunciation of BV Mary (this is the Post Com in Rom M.) and St Michael) and work. Others are much freer paraphrases (BCP Sun before Advent, 4 Advent).and work. There are occasions where an extended paraphrase is needed to bring out the meaning of a dense latin text. I give one example:
    What is one really to make of this line: semper in nobis paschale perfice sacramentum in the collect of Saturday IV in Eastertide in the 1st edn of the Missal, transferred to Sunday V in Eastertide in the 3rd edn. ICEL 1973 does not attempt to translate it, and its version is so vague it could be a translation of any prayer, Divine Office has “Keep the Mystery of Easter alive in us always”, ICEL 1998 “keep alive within us the paschal mysteries”, and ICEL 2010 “constantly accomplish the Paschal Mysteries within us”. Honestly,how can wayfaring Christians pray this prayer? If we are to have prayers like this in our liturgy, then we need a very free paraphrase to unpack the meaning and enable the people to make sense of it
    My version of the collect reads as follows, but I am ready to be informed that I have not interpreted the Latin correctly.

    Final Part 5 to follow

  25. fr dirk van dissel Avatar
    fr dirk van dissel

    Final Part 5

    I have translated this as “unite us day by day more closely to the crucified and risen Christ Almighty and everlasting God, who didst deign to give us new birth in Holy Baptism: Unite us day by day more closely our crucified and risen Lord, that by thy protecting help we may bear fruit that abides and be brought at last to the joys of eternal life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    New Rom M. p 323 Sat 4 of Easter (Sac Bergomense) Trans HR: 5 April 1982 & D van D & RLS: 2004

    One wonders whether a text so dense and needing so much unpacking, should really have a place in a worship book intended for God’s holy people. Unfortunately it is not the only example.

    I wish to make one final point. It is regrettable that as a result of the new translation of the Gloria, Sanctus etc the largest English speaking communion in the World now uses different versions from the other liturgical churches – Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian. I was never a great fan of the ICET texts, but they were eventually adopted by all English speaking liturgical Churches and incorporated into their revised service books. That was a very positive thing. They were “Prayers we have in common”. All that has now come to an end.

    I have gone on for far too long. I hope the above comments may help to start an important conversation on the language of our worship.

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