Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dr Hall, the Tablet and the new translation

I see this week`s letter page in the Tablet carries a letter from one of our priests. It reads:

I propose a competition to find the worst translation of a prayer in the New Missal over the Christmas period. The 23 December Prayer Over the Gifts might take some beating: “May this oblation, by which divine worship in its fullness has been inaugurated for us, be our perfect reconciliation with you, O Lord, that we may celebrate with minds made pure the Nativity of our Redeemer.”
There is no doubt that this is not the language of the barbecue so despised by Cardinal Pell for our liturgy, but then I wonder whatlanguage it is at all. Herewith the proposed translation of the 1998 Missal. “Lord God, let the sacrifice you have given as the full expression of the Church’s worship establish us firmly in your peace, that we may celebrate with untroubled hearts the coming birth of our Saviour.” No “barbie language” this, just simple and elegant English!

(The Rev. Dr) Sean E. Hall Washington, Tyne and Wear

I read this and smiled. I smiled even more when I read the offertory prayer yesterday:

May your people`s oblation, O Lord,
find favour with you, we pray,
that it may restore them to holiness
and obtain what they devoutly entreat.

Not too bad I suppose and not eligible for Fr Hall`s competition as it is outside Christmas time, but I`m struggling with the frequent use of `oblation`. It`s not as easy a word to pronounce as `offering`. I got distracted by this and had so lost the train of thought by the end of the prayer as I wondered what the subject of `obtain` was. I also smile at `therefore` at the minute as one priest said to me his impresssion of the new translation is that everything is `therefore`. I have heard priests say that this at times somewhat stilted English is maybe meant to make people think that we may as well just have Mass in Latin but this tends to come from those not in favour of Latin. Anyway I`m not really interetsed in the Ordinary Form in Latin: I believe it was conceived as a vernacular liturgy and hearing for example Eucharistic Prayer 4 in Latin is just very distracting.

I`ve not studied the 1998 proposed translation at all but am still very glad we have got rid of the old ICEL translation which irritated me much more than this new one ever has.

While on the subject of the Catholic press, I picked up the diocesan paper at the weekend and as usual went first to the inside back page to see if there was maybe a black and white photo of an Extraordinary Form Mass, such as the November cathedral Mass, stuck among the adverts. Finding there wasn`t I started at the beginning to see what this month`s news was and to find out what fresh triumphs of this golden age of Catholic life had occurred in the last month only to be cheered to see that not only were there two small colour pictures of the cathedral Mass with an article but also the midnight Mass here had merited a mention. In all (The Rev. Dr) Michael P. Brown got a few mentions this month. Thanks to the Northern Cross for mentioning EF activities in the diocese and our LMS rep David O`Neill who writes these reports. It`s an uphill struggle to get Summorum Pontificum seen as a regular part of diocesan life but all publicity helps.


Leo Darroch said...

In contrast to Rev. Dr Sean Hall's competition to find the worst prayer in the New Missal, perhaps I could propose a competition to find the worst translation in the Missal that has just been replaced. Anyone who replies, "All of it" will win the prize.
In support of my position I call upon Bishop Peter J. Elliot, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, who gave an address to the Catholic Womens' League National Conference, Melbourne, July 31 2010. His address covered many points and many pages but these extracts about the Collects will suffice to challenge Dr Hall's dismissal of the revised translation. His address was entitled: 'Hear the difference: new Missal translation will be like rediscovering buried treasure.'

"People been grumbling about shoddy translations from the past and seeking something better.

"The time has come to change because what we are using is not only often inaccurate as a translation, ……the translation the bishops hastily approved [in the 1960s] was distorted because it was based on a flawed principle of translation…….so what we ended up with was a paraphrase rather than a translation. …But paraphrasing is not good enough for sacred texts composed in Latin and Greek over many centuries for use in Divine Liturgy. A paraphrase can fail to give us, not only what the Latin original means, which is bordering on telling lies, but paraphrase often eliminates poetic beauty in the original, particularly scriptural language that runs through the prayers of the Roman Rite of Mass.

"I will take some Sunday collects as an example of a ‘not good enough’ translation……..the collects surely rank among the worst instances of liturgical translation……...Each collect was reduced to something like this: “God! You are good. So do this for us,” followed by a slightly inaccurate version of the Trinitarian ending.

"Questions of doctrinal content also emerge here: and this is a serious matter because it raises the ethical question of telling lies and distorting Catholic truth. When we examine the specific content of the ICEL collects we currently use we find a more serious result of ruthless paraphrase and précis - the virtual elimination of a key Christian word, ‘grace’……. This serious falsification may be observed in the current translations of seven Sunday collects in so-called ‘Ordinary Time’ that contain ‘gratia’. Of these seven collects, not one has translated gratia as ‘grace’! Gratia is usually rendered as ‘love’, or ‘gifts of love’ (Sunday XXVI). Taking the word ‘grace’ out of the key seasonal prayers is a symptom of the deeper doctrinal weakness that is evident in not a few of the current ICEL texts. As others have noted, this is a kind of Pelagianism, the heresy that we save ourselves by our own efforts, not through the grace of God. What we do is what matters, not so much what God does. This led to the mentality that ‘we make the liturgy’ so liturgy is no longer primarily a gift to us from God through the Church; rather, something we fabricate, our work, what we ‘create’.

"In the collect for the Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the mystical representation of the Son of Mary as a holy mountain has also vanished, even if it is central to Carmelite spirituality. Why? These examples of the destructive effects of the old ICEL following ‘dynamic equivalence’ reveal a vernacular version of the text of the Roman liturgy that in some places tells lies, so that, at these points and many others, it is no longer the Roman liturgy.

"The new ICEL translation seeks to reclaim the truth of the mystery. But that was not the prevailing mentality of the era of the sixties.

Bishop Elliot has said it all, and I prefer his approach of honestly addressing the deficiencies of the older translations, than the intervention of Dr Hall who is trying to undermine the new translation before anyone has hardly had time to open the Missal.

1569 Rising said...

Of course - I must have missed something. Obviously the state of the Catholic Church in England & Wales is not in freeefall, and the figures of Mass attendance over the past 10 years in the Northern Catholic Calendar must be incorrect.

This is the only conclusion I can reach, if the most pressing and urgent issue exercising the mind of one of our Diocese's "brightest and best" is how many "oblations" can be squeezed into the Missal.

Frankly, and this might not be popular: to the overwhelming majority of the declining (disastrously) number of Mass goers all this petty, carping, pathetic criticism is completely and absolutely irrelevant. Put bluntly, we dont give a damn!

Fr Gary Dickson said...

I find the use of the word 'oblation' edifying and more useful than 'offering'; the word 'oblation' signifying destruction of the Victim which 'offering' does not, it seems to me a more suitable word to express the kenosis of Christ and His Sacrifice on the Cross which is central to the Mass.
I did encounter some struggle with the Orations and indeed, the Canons, in that the phrasing does not allow for the pedestrian manner I think I had fallen into over the years. I have discovered that reading them as their punctuation indicates gives a far better result than I had anticipated.
Leo's quote from trained liturgist Bishop Elliot is well worth reading again. It is refreshing to see a Bishop and liturgist admit that the previous translations tended towards 'lies and to distortions of the Faith'. Add to this the removal of the words 'grace' and certain designations of the Most Holy Virgin which Bishop Eliot notes in his full article (for example, translating the superlative ‘beatissima’ -Most Blessed- simply as ‘blessed’) and we can see the removal in the previous translation of much that is essentially Catholic.

Ttony said...

Father, would you rather that we just let people think that "offering" simply covered everything that "oblation" means? It's a bit like the problems Fr Z reports some Americans seem to have with "ineffable": the solution is to educate, not to dumb down.

Fr Michael Brown said...

I suppose `oblation` does have a different meaning to `offerin`g although they both derive from the same word obferre. I just find `oblation` rather tricky to say,