Eucharistic Prayer 1 – The Roman Canon – The English Translation Revisited

by Fr. Alan Griffiths

The current translation of the Canon seems to have kept closer than did its predecessor to the forms, syntax and general rhythm of the ancient text. A possibly unforeseen effect of this is that the long and complex sentences require some effort on the part of the speaker. A point sometimes made is that it is not easy to hear and understand them.

Having heard from colleagues that for reasons such as this they no longer speak this prayer at Mass, I thought it might be an interesting exercise to attempt a version that would both be close to the Latin and allow a less demanding articulation. Feedback thus far suggests to me at least that a future revision of the English Missal may have to address these issues.

What follows is just one attempt. I have worked at it on and off for some years, and although I have not used it at Mass, I have often spoken it out loud with gestures to get the feel of it. I’m sure it’s far from perfect, but at least the sentences are a bit shorter.

I’ve deliberately not taken up a position on ‘chalice’ v. ‘cup’ or ‘for all’ v ‘for many.’ I think that in respect of the issues I outline above, these are a distraction.

I would be interested to get reactions to this, and I have my hard hat handy.


To you, most merciful Father, with reverence we pray through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord. Through him we ask you to accept and bless these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices.

These we offer to you first for your holy Catholic Church. In your goodness grant her peace; guard, unite and govern her throughout the whole world. We offer them in union with your servant N. our pope and N. our bishop, with all who worship you in truth and serve the Catholic and apostolic faith.

Remember, Lord, your servants (especially NN.), and all gathered here, whose faith and devotion are known to you. For them we offer, as they also offer you, this sacrifice of praise for themselves and those dear to them, to obtain the redemption of their souls, to have hope for their health and security. This is their prayer to you, the eternal God, living and faithful.

… We venerate the memory of those whose fellowship we share: especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ our God and Lord, blessed Joseph her husband, the blessed apostles and martyrs Peter and Paul, Andrew, James and John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude: Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian and all your saints. Through their merits and prayers grant us always the defense of your protecting help. (Through Christ our Lord, Amen.)


Nativity of the Lord and Octave

We celebrate the most sacred night (day) when blessed Mary the immaculate Virgin brought forth the Saviour for this world, and we venerate …

Epiphany of the Lord

We celebrate the most sacred day on which your Only-Begotten Son who is eternal with you in your glory, appeared in a human body, truly sharing our flesh, and we venerate …

Easter Vigil and Octave

We celebrate the most sacred night (day) of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh, and we venerate …

Ascension of the Lord

We celebrate the most sacred day on which your Only-Begotten Son, our Lord, placed at the right hand of your glory our frail human nature which he had united to himself, and we venerate …


We celebrate the most sacred day of Pentecost, on which the Holy Spirit appeared to the apostles in tongues of fire, and we venerate …


This, then, Lord, is the offering of our service and that of your whole household. In your kindness accept it, we pray. Order our days in your peace, bid us be freed from eternal condemnation and counted among the flock of those you have chosen. (Through Christ our Lord, Amen).


Easter and Octave

This, then, Lord, is the offering of our service and that of your whole household. In your kindness accept it, we pray. We offer it to you also for those to whom you have graciously given the new birth of water and the Holy Spirit, granting them forgiveness of all their sins. Order our days in your peace, bid us be freed from eternal condemnation and counted among the flock of those you have chosen. (Through Christ our Lord, Amen).


Bless this offering, we pray, O God. Approve it and in every way confirm it. Make it spiritual and acceptable, so that for us it may become the body and blood of your dearly-beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

On the day before he was to suffer, he took bread in his holy and honorable hands, and raising his eyes to heaven to you, O God, his almighty Father, he blessed it with a prayer of thanksgiving, broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take this, all of you and eat of it, for this is my body which will be given up for you.’

Likewise when supper was ended he took this glorious chalice in his holy and honorable hands; again he blessed it with a prayer of thanksgiving and gave the chalice to his disciples, saying, ‘Take this, all of you and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.’

The mystery of faith …

And so, Lord God, we your ministers and your holy people celebrate the memorial of Christ your Son our Lord. We hold in memory his blessed passion, his resurrection from the dead and his glorious ascension into heaven. And from your gifts bestowed on us we offer to your glory and majesty the pure victim, the holy victim, the perfect victim: the holy bread of eternal life and the chalice of everlasting salvation.

In your goodness, look upon these things with a peaceful and kindly regard. Accept them as you graciously accepted the gifts of your righteous servant Abel, the sacrifice of our patriarch Abraham and the offering of your high priest Melchizedek, a holy sacrifice and spotless victim.

With deep reverence we ask you, almighty God: command that these gifts be carried by the hands of your holy angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty. And for all who will receive the most holy body and blood of your Son in this communion at the altar, let them be filled with all the blessings and gifts of heaven. (Through Christ our Lord, Amen.)

Remember also, Lord, your servants (NN) who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith and rest in the sleep of peace. To these, Lord, and to all who rest in Christ, we ask you to give a place of repose and light and peace. (Through Christ our Lord, Amen.)

As for us, your ministers, sinners who hope in your abundant mercy, grant us of your goodness a share in the fellowship of your holy apostles and martyrs: with John the Baptist, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia and all your saints. We beg you, admit us into their company, not considering what we deserve but granting us your forgiveness. Through Christ our Lord,

For through Christ you continue to create all these good thinks, O Lord. You make them holy and fill them with life, you bless them and bestow them on us.

Through Christ and with Christ and in Christ, O God almighty Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory is yours, for ever and ever. Amen.

Fr. Alan Griffiths is a priest of Portsmouth Diocese, UK.






57 responses to “Eucharistic Prayer 1 – The Roman Canon – The English Translation Revisited”

  1. john Robert Francis Avatar
    john Robert Francis

    I have read the text aloud only once. I have several misgivings, but don’t want to comment before trying the text a number of times more.

    Whatever its lacks as an exacting translation of the Latin, I think it is hard to beat the sure rhythms of 1967. An expert in English literature (as well as a gifted Latinist) once said to me that he thought the 1967 text a superb example of 20th century paratactic English. Indeed one of the finest in his considerable experience. He entered religious life in 1945, and was ordained in 1958, and so had a long experience of the Latin text.

    I have never heard EP I used at Mass since the introduction of RM ’11. While EP III was, in my experience, used frequently on Sunday, now it is EP II or one of the variations of the EP for Various Needs.

    (There is a small typo in the text above. It comes six lines from the end [Per quem haec omnia, Domine, ….”]. For “thinks” READ “things”.)

    1. Alan Griffiths Avatar
      Alan Griffiths

      @john Robert Francis – comment #1:

      To John Robert Francis.

      Thanks for the correction.

      I’m not presenting this version as a ‘perfected’ text nor a sublime example of Eng. Lit (!!) but just to see whether some more speakable version could be made which tries to be as faithful to the Latin as possible. I think both aims can be realised, but would not presume to pretend that mine is anything more than a starter, and there are many other people with greater gifts than I have in this field.

      I’m going to keep a record of any serious comments made and may try, in the light of those, to make a further text in future.


  2. john Robert Francis Avatar
    john Robert Francis

    Canon Alan Griffiths:

    Your considerable gifts as a Latinist and as an English stylist are certainly equal to those of the priest I referred to. Both of you are among my great heroes, in a roster that now (alas!) goes back four decades. Forty-one years this October, to be exact.

    I am grateful to you for the fine text that you have been willing (dared!) to present for comment. Many thanks.

  3. Matthew Hazell Avatar

    There’s not really enough space in the comments to make a detailed observation of the whole, and right now I don’t really have the time. However, I will say, Father, that–

    …granting us your forgiveness. Through Christ our Lord. For through Christ you continue to create all these good things, O Lord. You make them holy and fill them with life, you bless them and bestow them on us. Through Christ and with Christ and in Christ

    –is perhaps one of the clunkiest things I have ever read. I’m not quite sure whether you were aiming to emphasise the Second Person of the Trinity, or whether you were going for some rather odd gender-inclusive thing, but I don’t think it works. At all. (It’s not easy to sing, either!)

    I’ll also quickly add that, compared to 2011, your substitutions tend to add syllables and verbal complexity: e.g. “reverence” for “humble”, “condemnation” for “damnation”, “forgiveness” for “pardon”. This clashes somewhat with your attempt to shorten the sentences à la 1973. What’s wrong with semi-colons?

    Honestly, I don’t think your translation is going to do much for those who are negatively disposed to the 2011 translation of the Roman Canon. There are small parts of your translation I like (keeping the T right at the start of the Canon is a good artistic move), but I much prefer 2011. Sorry!

  4. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Jack Feehily

    Canon, does that style of English resonate well in the ears of Brits? I used to pray (rather than say) EPI a number of Sundays each year from the sacramentary, but did it once in the 2011 text only to find I couldn’t really pray it. I’m celebrating my 40th anniversary as a priest today and am grateful for so many blessings. Wish I could count RM3 among them. Admire your effort, though, to consider an improved text. I just don’t think it works well to speak English with Latin syntax. God speed.

    1. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar

      @Jack Feehily – comment #5:
      I love and relate deeply to English with Latin syntax. The BCP is full of it. This is not the problem at all. The problem is that the authors of the new translation were not masters, but obvious amatuers of liturgical English.

      As for Fr Griffiths offering: while commendable, I think that it fails really to come alive in reading or speaking. I do, though, disagree fully with Matthew Hazell’s critique in comment no. 4 above.

  5. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar

    I’m kind of a fan of putting the subject first in the sentence, so I wonder if your first three sentences might go: “Therefore we reverently pray to you, most merciful Father, through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord; we ask you to accept and bless these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices. We offer them to you first for your holy Catholic Church.” Also, I like keeping the “therefore” in the “te igitur,” which I read as linking back to what we have thanked God for in the preface.

    I also wonder about “raising his eyes to heaven to you, O God” because of the two prepositional phrases. Would “raising his eyes heavenward to you, O God” work? I realize that “heavenward” might strike some as archaic, but to me it sounds better thatn”to heaven to you.”

    1. Alan Griffiths Avatar
      Alan Griffiths

      @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #7:

      To Fritz Bauerschmidt.

      Thank you for those comments, I think I would agree and will try and work with them.

      As to other comments,

      I think that any attempt (including mine) to soften the deprecatory tone is going to be perilous. I thought that ‘reverence’ actually gets some of the sense implied by ‘humbly’ and in the case of ‘supplices te rogamus’ the physical gesture – the priest bows at this point – implies ‘deep’ which is what I tried. I am sure that to some it will sound ‘clunky.’ Hey ho, as they say.

      But thanks thus far to all the contributions. I won’t forget them!


    2. Lynn Thomas Avatar
      Lynn Thomas

      @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #7:

      Re: The very first part of your comment. Praise God for a simple declarative sentence!!! Subjecct, verb, object. We can get fancy, sure, but that’s a really good starting point for English.

  6. Sean Keeler Avatar
    Sean Keeler

    I generally like the way you’ve reworked it. Small thing on Joseph — should be “spouse” rather than “husband” based, apparently, on Mary’s continued state of virginity.

  7. Paul Inwood Avatar
    Paul Inwood

    It would be good if John Robert Francis (#1) could post the 1967 text so that all might see and compare.

  8. Jonathan Day Avatar
    Jonathan Day

    There is a helpful comparsion of the Latin, 1973, 1998 and current translations of the Roman Canon here — the fine work of our reader and commenter Jeffrey Pinyan. Thanks Jeffrey!

  9. Joe O'Leary Avatar

    “To you, most merciful Father, with reverence we pray through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord. Through him we ask you to accept and bless these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices.”

    The first sentence here is unprayable. Who says “to you with reverence we pray”? Much better: “We come to you, Father, with praise and thanksgiving”. The ICEL translation we abandoned was perfect and captured the spirit and movement of this beautiful prayer; all subsequent messing around with it is getting nobody anywhere.

  10. Joe O'Leary Avatar

    Thanks, Jonathan, for the link to Jeffrey’s synopsis — very illuminating. I wish we had a style-o-meter or pray-o-meter to assess the total impact of the current trans as opposed to the first one — the fact that priests are shunning the Roman Canon altogether now speaks volumes.

  11. Lee Tuck-Leong Avatar
    Lee Tuck-Leong

    I agree with Joe O’Leary with what he says about the “spirit and movement” of prayer. Let me lay out my assumptions first. For me, the ritual text is one which is spoken, or rather performed by a bodied speaker. What is good ritual text is one which makes the praying body present. “We come to you, Father, with praise and thanksgiving” makes this praying body particularly present because of the ’embodying’ quality of the verb “come”, which is stronger than the phrase “with reverence we pray”. That said, I think this translation, together with the 1998 translation, is far better than the 2008 and 2011 translations. The action verbs appear mostly right at the beginning of the paragraphs: “We offer to you”… “Remember, Lord…” “We venerate…” “Accept this offering (1998)… ” “Bless this offering…” “We celebrate the memory (1973)…” etc. Without getting these verbs lost in distracting clauses and phrases (as in the later translations), a dialogic movement is produced between the praying bodies and God. This style makes the body present — it works.

  12. Fr William R. Young Avatar
    Fr William R. Young

    To my mind the great merit of the 2011 version was its increased accuracy. In fact, it translated the Latin so exactly that you could see the scars left by the mutilations the Latin underwent in the change from Roman Canon to First EP in the new rite. What do I mean? After the long (it should not really be shortened!) list of saints whose names are prayed as it were in passing, we come to a sort of climax at the Hanc igitur. No wonder we need to told by the rubric not to impose hands at this point: it feels the natural thing to do! The construction here of a bogus epiclesis also deprives the Quam oblationem of its signs of the cross, which, pace many reformers, should not have been stripped away. The English of 1973 simply obscured the details of the Latin. Priests need to surrender to the text offered for prayer, not seek to improve it. The texts are there to change us!
    Personally, I now believe that the mistake made in the ’60s was to adapt and translate at the same time. How much bother could have been avoided if accurate translations into English had, ad interim, been allowed at Mass for everything. Then adaptations could be judged as such, and not hidden in the decencies of a smooth talking English.
    Have we reached the limits of the possibility of translation of liturgical texts? English is an important language, so we must keep trying. However, I would prefer that more effort were put into maintaining as much Latin as possible [as Vatican II decreed!] My parishioners nearly all have English as first or subsidiary language, but all have some exposure to Latin, which remains “neutral” in the sense of highest common factor.
    Finally, what we really need,I believe, is updated books (new sanctoral, prefaces, etc.) for the Usus antiquior, the EF. Using 1962 books makes it look as though the desire for authentic, “real” liturgy is tainted with a rejection of Vatican I. The reforms of Vatican II are doomed if they are not grafted into the unbroken tradition of worship. Being Catholic means “both-and” not…

    1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      @Fr William R. Young – comment #15:
      I’m a skeptic on many of these points. Accuracy has no particular theological significance, and remains a dangerous lean toward Gnosticism. Latin will eventually be as irrelevant as Greek was to the Medieval West: a scholarly curiosity. But little more.

      I do think that translation has reached a limit of sorts. The time now may be for the composition of new texts in various vernacular languages, for the sharing and exchange of them among churches. Even with Rome, if they are willing.

      The authentic unbroken tradition of worship is Jesus Christ. Grafting the manufactured pieces of human culture, especially its languages, veers close to idolatry.

      I appreciate Fr Griffith’s effort to seek some middle ground between 2011 and 1973. But maybe the fading of EP 1 from use is a natural development. It seems the theology of it, especially what it celebrates and how it forms believers in Christ, can be said in clear and artistic ways today in many vernacular languages. And perhaps the time to do that is now, before gnostic and idolatrous influences chase more believers into the arms of the evangelicals, or worse, the nones.

      1. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
        Jordan Zarembo

        @Todd Flowerday – comment #16:

        I’m a skeptic on many of these points. Accuracy has no particular theological significance, and remains a dangerous lean toward Gnosticism. Latin will eventually be as irrelevant as Greek was to the Medieval West: a scholarly curiosity. But little more.

        Gnosticism? Liturgical postmodernism is just as totalized as the liturgical ideology of the Tridentine era. A core concept of liturgical postmodernism is the notion that Latin is non-egalitarian. This ideological dogma is merely a subterfuge to enforce a wholesale dismissal of our Catholic liturgical heritage and our sacral language. A depiction of our sacral language as beyond comprehension (and therefore not to be shared with any of the faithful) only dissuades Catholics from the intellectual liberation found in a knowledge of Latin.

        One of liturgical postmodernism’s fears is the possibility that laypersons and especially the clergy will achieve and foster a deeper knowledge of Latin. Should this happen, the faithful will be empowered to drink deeply of our liturgical and theological heritage. Subsequently the faithful will derive their own opinion about liturgical ideologies. Latin, then, is not an obscurant’s hobby but rather one of the greatest liberators of minds. duc in altum — not with nets but now with pieces of chalk!

      2. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        @Jordan Zarembo – comment #21:
        FWIW, I doubt Americans are particularly worried about too many people getting much of an immersion in foreign languages these days, given the dumbing-down-to-testing focus of our public schools.

        I happen to have been raised in a superb middle class (not upper or even upper middle class) public school district outside NYC that pioneered non-elective (i.e., compulsory) early foreign language instruction, by the middle of elementary school – deliberately starting just before that critical curve point for easy acquisition of languages by children. So I had 9 years of Spanish by the time I graduated high school. (Latin was not an option, however, until I got to college; it was only French or Spanish in elementary and middle school; German and Russian were options in high school in the mid-1970s – nowadays, it would probably be Arabic and Chinese). Spanish syntax became more “natural” for me by the time I was in high school. I tried to self-teach myself German in high school, and then took a year of Latin in college; while I can transliterate Greek reasonably, due to all the ancient and church history sidebars I encountered, I never took Greek. Never touched Hebrew, except when I was working with multiple Biblical translations for 3 years in the mid-1990s on a group project for a small intentional Catholic church community guided in part by a Jesuit scripture scholar).

        That was the 1960s. I can’t see many school districts innovating in this way nowadays in this country. Select charters schools, yes, but even then on an elective rather than compulsory basis. (Boston Latin remains a public school exception that proves the rule, of course, but even it dropped compulsory Greek decades ago.)

      3. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        @Jordan Zarembo – comment #21:
        I wouldn’t say that non-LA Catholics are in any way immune from gnostic tendencies. Many conservatives throw around heretical terms and presume it’s always somebody else, especially postmodernists.

        My point is not to say, “It’s you, not me,” but to impress upon others that wrapping oneself in the mantle of orthodoxy does not absolve one from error.

        That said, worshiping in a non-primary language most definitely has the whiff of specialized experience, and an indirect worship of aristocracy. We might consider the situation of Norman-conquered Britain, and the development of an English language that still possesses remnants of two tiers of a society. And one of the great criticisms of LA was the promotion of languages of colonial oppressors.

        I have no problem with people promoting Latin. I just want to be sure we keep worshiping God, we respect people, and we use human-made tools, including the language of a pagan empire, in their right place: in serving God and others.

      4. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar

        @Jordan Zarembo – comment #21:
        Hear, Hear!

    2. Jeff BeBeau Avatar
      Jeff BeBeau

      @Fr William R. Young – comment #15:

      I also think is shows us the scars wrought by centuries of changes and additions.

  13. Bill deHaas Avatar
    Bill deHaas

    Todd – this was just posted and supports your comment:

    – “Followers of a biblical God are constantly expected to overcome the narrow-mindedness that distinguishes many “religious” folk.”
    – “Though it provided great security for its proponents, this narrow-minded, non-change reasoning isn’t biblical. Our sacred authors constantly led their communities into areas few had entered before. That process didn’t cease with the writing of Scripture.”
    – “Shortly before his death, Karl Rahner reflected on Christianity’s four basic changes. The first three had taken place in the church’s initial 150 years; the fourth was the Second Vatican Council’s presupposition that there’s no longer a “sacred language” or a “sacred culture.” Swahili is just as sacred as Latin; Chinese culture as sacred as European. I certainly didn’t learn that in my catechism classes.”

    1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      @Bill deHaas – comment #17:
      Thanks, Bill. It’s a reflection I’d like to take more time to ponder. I think the Church would be enriched if a wider swath of folks contributed to conversations that are now only happening behind closed doors in Rome. The theology of retrenchment needs to be balanced with the genuine needs of the current age. And unless the discussion is widened, people in Rome will have no idea they represent only a sliver of genuine orthodoxy.

  14. Graham Wilson Avatar
    Graham Wilson

    Thanks Alan, but your revised translation is still hamstrung by artificial rules that do not have the good of the worshiping community at their core IMO.

    I really miss the old ICEL EP I. It had style and was prayerful. Those ICEL bods in the 1960s knew a thing or two. But they also had the common sense translation rules of the Consilium.

    If anything, the contemporary fad for imitating Latin word-for-word shows up just how unsuitable the Latinate overlord/cringing-serf imagery and resultant “ecclesiastical Babu” language is for contemporary inculturated worship.

    Chuck Liturgiam Authenticam into the garbage bin and move those “graciously grants” and “chalices” into an appendix, but for heaven’s sake let English and other languages fly I say. Now!

  15. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Jack Feehily

    We come to you, Father, with praise and thanksgiving.
    Offer us the grace this day to worship only you
    and to cease and desist from worshipping Latin.
    Per omnia saecula saculorum.

    1. Linda Reid Avatar
      Linda Reid

      @Jack Feehily – comment #20:
      Amen and amen!!!

    2. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
      Jordan Zarembo

      @Jack Feehily – comment #20:

      We come to you, Father, with praise and thanksgiving.
      Offer us the grace this day to worship only you
      and to cease and desist from worshipping Latin.
      Per omnia saecula saculorum.

      “How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither! Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy. Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem’s fall, how they said, ‘Tear it down! Tear it down! Down to its foundations!’ ” (Ps. 137:4-7 NRSV)

      Those who call for the destruction of the Latin language in the life of the Roman rite in actuality wish to tear the foundations of our faith down to the most bare foundation of dogma and doctrinal allegiance. Indeed, one wonders if the true intention is to replace Mass with one-act plays of moralistic therapeutic deism. Those who have enlisted the “Edomites” of a strident vernacularization to destroy our linguistic heritage have traded the song of the Canon, its ancient folds of knowledge in meter and literary device, for an everlasting but never satisfied desire to cater to the perceived trends of the day.

      Through the song of the Canon the Roman Church has heard the rise and fall of empires, the revolution of cultures and the reform of ecclesiastical spheres, the most heinous of human inhumanity towards fellow human beings, and the most profound examples of selflessness. Those who believe that the Canon, the signature song-narrative of sacrifice and paschal mystery, no longer sings will one day turn back to find its wisdom. Only then a reader of the score shall not be found. Then those who most stridently called for vernacularization will realize that Mass “for the people” was in fact an exile with no return. Listen to the Psalmist unless the time of a most parching intellectual drought arrives.

    3. Patricia Thomas Avatar
      Patricia Thomas


  16. Tom Piatak Avatar
    Tom Piatak

    Jordan Zarembo is right about Latin. It is part of the heritage of all Roman Catholics, which is why Vatican II mandated that the faithful know at least part of the Mass in Latin. I for one delight in a heritage than includes the Veni Creator Spiritus and the Pange Lingua Gloriosi, the great medieval Marian antiphons, Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus and Palestrina’s Stabat Mater, as well as the great settings of the Sanctus, the Agnus Dei, the Gloria, and the Credo that were known and loved by generations of Catholics before me.

  17. Adam Chapman Avatar
    Adam Chapman

    It’s tough to translate a dead language into a living one. I give up. The English Version is just as tough as the Latin!

  18. Mgr Bruce Harbert Avatar
    Mgr Bruce Harbert

    Re “the pure victim, the holy victim, the perfect victim”, Latin ‘hostia’ can be used for animates (humans and animals) and for inanimates. An example of the latter is ‘hostia laudis’, correctly translated ‘sacrifice of praise’ in the 1973 and 2011 versions and by Canon Griffiths. English ‘victim’, by contrast, is always used of animates.
    I incline to interpret the triple use of ‘hostia’ in this section of EP1 as being in apposition to ‘panem sanctum vitae aeternae et calicem salutis perpetuae’, which follows immediately. Since ‘bread’ and ‘cup’ are inanimate, I would suggest ‘a pure sacrifice, a holy sacrifice, a perfect sacrifice’.
    Some would prefer ‘the’ to ‘a’, to indicate that there is only one pure, holy and perfect sacrifice, but I am content with the indefinite article, which is what is used in the first paragraph of EP3 – ‘a pure sacrifice may be offered’.
    Those responsible for the official translation were clearly not entirely comfortable with it, since they failed to capitalise ‘victim’, despite their love of capitalisation in general and their capitalisation of ‘Victim’ elsewhere. ‘Victim’ here can only refer to Christ, upon whom the Congregation for Divine Worship would normally confer a capital letter. Their use of ‘this’ in this passage finds no warrant in the Latin original.

    1. Alan Griffiths Avatar
      Alan Griffiths

      @Mgr Bruce Harbert – comment #28:

      Re. Mgr. Bruce Harbert:

      Thank you for that.I think on the whole I’d be easier with ‘sacrifice’ than’victim’ which has a certain ‘weighting’ in modern English. I was, though, thinking that ‘victim’ offers a stronger apposition to ‘bread’ and ‘cup’ (I note your use of ‘cup’ as opposed to ‘chalice’) as it is ‘animate’ app. to ‘inanimate’ but I am not an expert!


  19. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    And, of course, capitalisation is lost in oral prayer.

    1. Jonathan Day Avatar
      Jonathan Day

      @Karl Liam Saur – comment #29:
      Given that miniscule letters turned up relatively late in the Latin alphabet (around 800 I think — but I welcome correction on this) I have never understood Liturgiam Authenticam §33, “The use of capitalization in the liturgical texts of the Latin editiones typicae as well as in the liturgical translation of the Sacred Scriptures, for honorific or otherwise theologically significant reasons, is to be retained in the vernacular language at least insofar as the structure of a given language permits.”

      I don’t think that Latin capitalisation remained constant from the most ancient texts to 1570 to 1962 to the current Latin missal. For instance, in the canon of the Mass, the 1570 missal has:

      Hoc est enim corpus meum … Hic est enim calix sanguinis mei

      while the 1962 capitalises Corpus, Calix and Sanguinis.

      In any event capitalisation is part of the structure of English. We used to capitalise more words than we do today. The current translation doesn’t use Elizabethan wording (thee, thou etc.); why should it use anachronistic capitalisation?

      Could a proponent of Lit Auth and the new translation please explain this?

      1. Mgr Bruce Harbert Avatar
        Mgr Bruce Harbert

        @Jonathan Day – comment #32:
        The new translation treats Lit Auth in so cavalier a fashion that there can be few who support both.

  20. Mgr Bruce Harbert Avatar
    Mgr Bruce Harbert

    ‘Through their merits and prayers grant us . . . ‘ seems to imply that ‘meritis precibusque’ is ablative. The 1998 translation understood the phrase in the same way: ‘By their merits and prayers grant us’.
    I prefer to follow the 1973 translation, seeing these nouns as datives, so that the clause means ‘grant to (i.e. in response to) their merits and prayers’. 1973 had ‘May their merits and prayers gain us’.
    This is an important point dogmatically, because we ask everything and God grants everything through Christ. That is why our prayers to the Father end ‘Per Christum’. Underlying this regular pattern is the conviction that ‘there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus’ (1 Tim 2:5). The Missale never asks God to grant something through anyone other than Christ. I know of only one exception: the Collect ‘For several founders of churches’, which is drawn from the Parisian Missal of 1738.
    The official translation constantly ignores this well-founded tradition of the Roman euchology. We shall encounter an example on Tuesday in the Collect for Saint Monica, which translates ‘utriusque interventu’ as ‘through the intercession of them both’. A better rendering would be ‘at the intercession of them both’ or ‘in response to the intercession of them both’.
    Protestants have long claimed that Catholics place mediators other than Christ between God and humanity, despite 1 Tim 2:5. The Missale Romanum does not support this charge, but its official English translation does so abundantly.

  21. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Jack Feehily

    Some folks at the Vatican thought that capitalizing certain words makes them more sacred or reverent. Though that is absurd, these folks think of themselves as kind of sacred cows and their view prevailed. It didn’t make any difference to them that vocalizing capitalized words is not comprehensible. Now that explanation is a pure guess. I’m going to sit back now and see who comes up with a more credible one.

    1. Mgr Bruce Harbert Avatar
      Mgr Bruce Harbert

      @Jack Feehily – comment #33:
      And I’m hoping that a discussion of the Roman Canon won’t dwindle into a discussion of capital letters.

  22. Alan Johnson Avatar
    Alan Johnson

    Jack Feehily : Some folks at the Vatican thought that capitalizing certain words makes them more sacred or reverent. Though that is absurd, these folks think of themselves as kind of sacred cows and their view prevailed. It didn’t make any difference to them that vocalizing capitalized words is not comprehensible. Now that explanation is a pure guess. I’m going to sit back now and see who comes up with a more credible one.

    When setting them to music I have inserted an instruction that all should raise their eyebrows at each capital so that there should be a visual signpost of their presence in the text.

  23. Todd Flowerday Avatar

    German retains the capitalization of all nouns. I’m thinking of a paraphrase of Syndrome’s taunt in The Incredibles: When everything is capitalized then nothing will be.

  24. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    While capitalization of sacred words might not be an early practice, the abbreviation of sacred names is a very early Christian practice. One could see capitalization as a continuation of that ancient practice.

    In both cases (capitalization, abbreviation) one could see it as giving the words a sacramental significance, a sign of mystery beyond mere words.

    In the ancient world, to name things was often seen to have power over them, hence the restricted use of such names as a sign of reverence.

  25. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

    They could be capitalizing the words as a way of showing their significance to the one(s) reading the texts. Kind of like how a stole might have images on it that are for the benefit of the one wearing it, despite not being visible to others once the chasuble or dalmatic is placed over it.

    That’s the only remark I’ll make on capitalization, preferring to ponder over the Canon’s text and translations.

  26. Joe O'Leary Avatar

    “Te igitur clementissime pater” trips lightly from the tongue, as only “We come to you Father with praise and thanksgiving” does among the translations quoted.

  27. Ian Coleman Avatar
    Ian Coleman

    It’s an interesting exercise – hard to say how much has actually been gained. Two points, if I may :
    1. Long sentences can and should be articulated, with quite significant ‘gaps’ at times. This is not easy to do, but when it is done well, it adds immeasurably to the weight and depth of what is actually being said. (The very opposite of ‘Twitterese’).
    2. ‘Prayability’ is, perhaps, being over-emphasised in many of the above comments. Saying the Eucharistic Prayer is not the same as expressing a personal prayer; if you are the Presider, it is most definitely NOT your prayer, nor need you make it yours in a personal sense. The goal is intelligibility but also a certain impersonality. Not appreciating these aims has led to much of the negative reception of the revised translation.

    1. Mgr Bruce Harbert Avatar
      Mgr Bruce Harbert

      @Ian Coleman – comment #44:
      A bishop, objecting to some liturgical translation proposals, said to a colleague of mine ‘I would never speak like that in my private prayer’. The colleague replied, ‘And do you wear a chasuble for your private prayer?’.

    2. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
      Karl Liam Saur

      @Ian Coleman – comment #44:
      Actually, I appreciate the impersonality angle. It still doesn’t make the poverty of the particular approach at Latinized syntax any more justifiable. Syntax that conveys sobriety, gravitas and other similar qualities in Latin can result in very different effects (such as prissy and effete) when too ham-fistedly rendered in English.

  28. Jonathan Day Avatar
    Jonathan Day

    I certainly don’t think that liturgical prayer needs to be ‘dumbed down’ or written in a casual style. Nor does it need to resemble personal prayer.

    My issue with the new translation is not that it is impersonal or formal or hieratic but that, in far too many cases, it bears little resemblance to any previous form of English – modern English, Cranmerian English, etc. The result – and I have seen this again and again, most recently from an Irish priest celebrating the English Sunday Mass in Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul – is that presiders stumble and baulk as they pray, trying to figure out which clauses connect with which words, or pausing on bizarre usages.

    To use Mgr Harbert’s analogy of vestments, the priest saying Mass in the new translation may be wearing a chasuble. But he is also wearing a hat topped with a propeller, as well as a necklace of brass bells. The congregation struggles to figure out what is going on. The translation is a stumbling block.

    Lit Auth fudges this in §27, “Even if expressions should be avoided which hinder comprehension because of their excessively unusual or awkward nature” … and then it continues with the claim, “If indeed, in the liturgical texts, words or expressions are sometimes employed which differ somewhat from usual and everyday speech, it is often enough by virtue of this very fact that the texts become truly memorable and capable of expressing heavenly realities.” True, perhaps, with the text in the hands of a gifted translator. Absurd given the botched version foisted on the Church.

  29. Sean Whelan Avatar
    Sean Whelan

    The Sacramentary EP I was pure poetry. It was the absolute work of the Spirit. I had it memorized and loved hearing it on the high holy days and sprinkled here and there on Ordinary Sundays. Now, if I hear it once a year, on Holy Thursday, that is more than enough. Nearly three years into this, and it’s only gotten worse for me. Prayers that were once alive are twisted and complex. The priest used Sundays in OT VIII this weekend. I had to go back and read it myself to understand it. Thankfully he stuck to EP2, as both do 90% of the time.

    Perhaps the Latin version of the pre-V2 liturgy’s Canon had seen empires rise and fall and whatnot. Most people did not have to LISTEN to it, ever. Heck, they needed special bells to tell them when to pay attention. Yet, the Spirit works hard and the content remains, but rendered in such away as it flowed from the tongue and touched the listener. Oh well, we had enough of that, it seems. I guess having the prayer be rarely used any more is much better than a dynamic version. Logical.

    Folks, there’s no need to “fix” the translation. We already had one that worked beautifully for near 40 years.

    1. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
      Jordan Zarembo

      @Sean Whelan – comment #48:

      The Sacramentary EP I was pure poetry. It was the absolute work of the Spirit.

      I respect your view. However, the Sacramentary EP I in many places scarcely resembles the canon missae. The 1967 paraphrase should be considered a eucharistic prayer in its own right. It is not, however, anything more than paraphrased presentation of the theological themes of the Canon. Perhaps the Spirit directed its creation. The Spirit can inspire new eucharistic compositions.

      Yet, the Spirit works hard and the content remains, but rendered in such away as it flowed from the tongue and touched the listener.

      I find it quite interesting that some liturgically progressive Catholics and some liturgically traditionalist Catholics can both be pietists, but in starkly different ways. In my case, cognitive (intellectualized?) reflection on the sacred mysteries is exalted and emotion (or as I would put it, “pathos”) is deprecated. I often think, perhaps wrongly, that some more liturgically progressive Catholics place the emotional and subjective in worship (“touched”) over intellectual(ized) contemplation. Both positions carry risks: subjectivity can lead to sentimentality, while an inappropriate emphasis on the consideration of revealed truth can lead to doctrinal error (i.e. unconditional election and perseverance). Neither way of life is without fault.

      A silent Canon does not impede grace and sanctification. The eucharistic prayer carries more import than just the words. The prayer must be considered in its totality. This is why I am very skeptical that the vernacularization of the anaphora has truly benefited the Church. What benefit is there is hearing the discrete words of the eucharistic prayer?

  30. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar

    Jordan Zarembo : What benefit is there is hearing the discrete words of the eucharistic prayer?

    Jordan, is your heart never moved to greater devotion by hearing some phrase in the eucharistic prayer (even if you’ve heard it a thousand times before)?

    1. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
      Jordan Zarembo

      @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #5

      Yes, I see your point, and it is well taken. I may not benefit as much as others by hearing the words of the eucharistic prayer, but that does not mean that no one ever benefits.

      I do experience heartfelt moments, especially when reflecting on scripture and the propers of the Mass both during and after the liturgy. Eucharistic prayer is often different: I frequently look to the linguistic unity of the prayer for inspiration, and not individual words or phrases necessarily. Each eucharistic prayer has its own internal logic, its own way of unfolding the sacrifice and paschal mystery. I find it difficult to isolate a word or phrase in a particular eucharistic prayer. Doing so would be like removing a puzzle piece, staring at the intricacy of the piece removed, and then wondering why the puzzle doesn’t “work”.

  31. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

    For me and for so much in the Church it really isn’t either/or but both/and. I celebrated our Tuesday EF Low Mass yesterday and as usual I am struck by the contemplative nature of this Mass, especially the Low Mass. The Roman Canon prayed in Latin with all its rubrical gestures and in a low voice is striking in the sense that those present, priest and laity realize this is prayer to God in the “holy of holies.” The gestures speak volumes and quite loudly although the prayer is hushed and in the elegance of the Latin vernacular. One has to understand the reasons for the silence and the gestures in order to enter fully engaged, actually participating, in this prayer prayed in this fashion otherwise to the ill informed and those of little or no faith it becomes “mumbo jumbo” or “hocus pocus.” But for the informed and engaged, actively so, intellectually but also in the gift of faith, it is something sublime, other worldly and mystery in the sense of Mysterion/ Sacramentum.
    But the Eucharistic Prayer spoken or chanted audibly and in the vernacular has its own beauty as long as the priest doesn’t do it in a proclamation tone as though to the assembly before him or preferably behind him. I find the more literal translation of the vernacular Eucharistic prayers sublime compared to what preceded these in the vernacular.

  32. Joe O'Leary Avatar
    Joe O’Leary

    Jordan Zarembo, no, the ICEL 1973 version of the Roman Canon is not a paraphrase but a translation using dynamic equivalence, and the translators issued a whole booklet published by Burns and Oates explaining their translation choices line by line.

    Yes, it is time to get beyond translation and to create our own prayers. The ungainly collects are inspiring some celebrants to replace them with spontaneous prayer of their own composition, something any priest worth his salt should be able to do.

  33. Mary Bell Avatar
    Mary Bell

    I read in my city’s paper an article that mentioned this blog. It said that most Mass attendees approved the changes to the wording in the Mass that was instigated last November. I am not one of these.The new wording sounds like they took my mother’s Missal translation from the 1940s and made this be our new Mass. I cringe each week when I hear and pray the clunky translation. Vatican II proclaimed that Mass should be in the vernacular of the people. This translation is not in the vernacular of Americans.

  34. Andrew Lloyd Joyce Avatar

    Eucharistic Prayer 1 is the most uplifting and inspirational approach to The Mass taking that little longer, but providing the Grace of Depth to the Service, I as a part of The Parish Pastoral Council, I have encouraged our Priest to use this Prayer a Lot More and seeing though it is only used at Christmas and Easter I then just consider it a Blessing, and look forward to the Services where it is used.

  35. COLM O CONNOR Avatar

    Did the ecclesiastical euthorities never hear of the phrase ” if it is not broken, why fix it?” There was nothing complex or doctrinally wrong with the 1974 English and this , 2011 translation is verbose dribble and ecclesiastical sabotage. One should be looking at the celibacy issue ainstead which I’m personally sceptical of it Thank you

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