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(Continued from page 11.) But the Icel pioneers did nothing short of breaking the stranglehold of the pseudo- Cranmerian and mawkish language that before Vatican II had characterised Catholic hand Missals. And in the late 1960s and early 1970s, their work had become an inspiration to other Churches as they, too, revised their liturgical books. Pope Paul VI issued the first Roman Missal of the post-Vatican II era in April 1969 and when he used it for the first time at the begin- ning of Advent, he said: “From now on the vernacular, not Latin, will be the principal language of the Mass.” The Icel bishops approved the English “Order of Mass” around the same time, received Vatican approval and forged ahead translating other prayers. Finally, in 1972 the Icel episcopal confer- ences voted in favour of the entire English sacramentary and sent it to the Vatican for approval, which swiftly came months later in 1973. Its texts had been translated from the Latin according to the principle of “dynamic equivalence”, which had been endorsed by the 1969 Vatican document, Comme le Prévoit. This universally accepted principle of trans- lation aimed to convey the overall sense and meaning of the Latin text in idiomatic English. But it became apparent over time that there were insufficiencies in the 1973 Sacramentary. One of the chief criticisms of the soon-to- be-replaced volume is that its collects are anaemic. The late Fr (later Canon) Harold Winstone of the Archdiocese of Westminster was the driving force behind them. He was a brilliant Latinist and had taught classics at Allen Hall. Fluent in French and German, he was a liturgical trailblazer on the English scene. When he set up the first liturgy institute in England (the St Thomas More Pastoral Centre), he chose the then run-down area of north Finchley in London. He believed that a vernacular liturgy would be too word- orientated, and so the language should be as spare as possible. Many people believe he went too far, but his purpose was eminently pastoral. Another criticism was that the Eucharistic

Prayers were not translated literally enough from the Latin. But they are prayers and their defenders would argue that these texts, as well as the Prefaces, Solemn Blessings and Prayers for Holy Week, are all magnificent examples of twentieth-century paratactic English and intended for proclamation. And though they are straightforward, they are hardly, in the words of one critical cardinal, “the language of a barbecue”.

Cognisant of the need to improve the litur- gical books, the bishops of Icel in 1981 announced plans for a full revision of the texts. The work began a year later. Some, like McManus and Harold Winstone, were sceptical. “So they are revising the Missal. No doubtthey will make it all stodgy,” Winstone is reported to have said. He was spared seeing his prophecy fulfilled, having died on Easter Sunday in 1987. McManus was not so fortunate.

■Part two of Robert Mickens’ account of the road to the new English translation of the Missal will appear next week.

12 | THE TABLET | 18 June 2011

‘A caricature of the text’

Alan Griffiths explains how some of the changes made to the text after it was approved by the bishops violate the Vatican’s own guidelines

It seems generally accepted that in creating their approved text of the English translation of the Missal, the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, aided by Vox Clara, made substantial alterations to Icel’s new trans- lation, which was completed in 2008. As many as 10,000 changes have been alleged. It seems that both the quality of these changes and the processes involved have generated some disquiet. An instance of this may be found in the

Approved Text of the Prefaces for Eastertide. These texts have a distinctive opening and con- cluding paragraph, which is the same in every Paschaltide Preface. So these words will be repeated daily during the season of Easter to Pentecost. The Latin of the opening paragraph reads:

Vere dignum et iustum est, aequum et salutare, Te quidem, Domine, omni tempore confiteri, sed in hoc potissimum gloriosius praedicare, cum Pascha nostrum immolatus est Christus.

A more or less literal translation would read:

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation

to praise you O Lord, certainly in every season, but to proclaim you yet more gloriously in this one above all,

when Christ our Passover has been sacrificed. The approved translation reads:

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, at all times to acclaim you, O Lord, but in this time above all to laud you yet more gloriously,

when Christ our Passover has been sacrificed. The two verbs confiteriand praedicareare trans-

lated as “acclaim” and “laud”. Icel seems originally to have proposed “praise” and “proclaim”. It seems hard to see why the editors of the approved translation should have chosen the terms they did. “Acclaim” seems a little unjust towards confiteri which has the sense of enumerating God’s won- ders rather than simply acclamation. Surely, the original “praise” conveys this better? As for “laud”, it is difficult to understand this choice of a term so distant from even formal modern speech. The guidelines contained in the Congregation of Divine Worship’s instruction Liturgiam Authenticam, claim that in some cases archaic language may be the right way of expressing theological terms. However, there is no such justification here. The choice is particularly strange since, else-

where in the Missal, the Latin of the Common Preface II and the Preface I of the Blessed Virgin Mary has the expression: per quem maiestatem tuam laudant Angeli … This is translated as

“through whom the Angels praise your majesty”. So why “laud” in this case? Moreover, laudare is the Latin origin of “laud”,

not praedicare. There seems to be an inconsistency here, which an editorial process should have sorted out. There is also the risk that “laud” will be misheard (“lord”?). Have the editors thought about this? As for the concluding paragraph, here the Latin


Quapropter, profusis paschalibus gaudiis, totus in orbe terrarum mundus exsultat. Sed et supernae virtutes atque angelicae potestates,

hymnum gloriae tuae concinunt, sine fine dicentes: Sanctus ...

A more or less literal translation would read:

Therefore, with overflowing paschal joys the whole world, the globe of earth, exults. The heavenly virtues also and the angelic powers

together chant the hymn of your glory, saying without end: Holy ...

The approved translation reads:

Therefore, overcome with paschal joy, every land, every people exults in your praise, and even the heavenly powers, with the angelic hosts,

sing together the unending hymn of your glory, as they acclaim: Holy ...

For example, “overcome”. The Latin profusis paschalibus gaudiis refers to the abundant out- pouring of joy at the Lord’s Passover. Within that joy, the whole world is joyful. It seems that Icel’s version of the first line had the words “Therefore, overflowing with paschal joy …” which would just about do. However, the Approved Text has changed “overflowing” to “overcome with paschal joy” and thus altered the sense. The approved translation now refers not to paschal joy “over- flowing” but to the world as being “overcome”. The active is changed to the passive voice and the language of objective joy becomes psycholo - gised, something that translators were warned against doing. A better correction would be “therefore, with overflowing paschal joy …” Furthermore, “overcome” usually refers either to a defeat or to a state of prostration or fainting. It could be argued that this translation makes a caricature of the text. It is hardly the faithful translation insisted on in Liturgiam Authenticam. It must therefore call into question the compe- tence of the Vatican editorial process.

■Canon Alan Griffiths is a priest of Portsmouth Diocese.

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