Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bishop Elliott on the new (and old) translations of the Novus Ordo

There is a terrific essay by Bishop Peter Elliot on the Adoremus website called "Liturgical Translation: a Question of Truth", that is well worth reading.

I note only one point where he speaks of the way in which the modernist ideology of the 60's and 70's tried to tear down the "iconastasis" of mystery from the liturgy in order to reveal the mass in full "comprehensibility".
It would have been possible to translate the Mass into our vernacular while retaining much of that gracious sense of linguistic mystery, as may already be seen in the unfolding work of the Vox Clara Committee and of the newly reconfigured ICEL, which seeks to reclaim the truth of the mystery. But that was not the prevailing mentality in the 1960s. The reasons for this attitude may be discerned by beginning with the obvious didacticism of the translations.

The didacticism of the current ICEL texts embodies a stage in history when communication was the key to everything — the era of Marshall McLuhan and the “global village”, when mankind reached for the stars and we could hear men talking from the moon. Clarity, comprehensibility, access to data and information, and the triumph of the Enlightenment were also marked by the jostling of ideologies, each claiming to carry the light and future whether of “modern man”, “secular man”, or “socialist man”, to use the language of the pre-feminist vocabulary of those times.
I simply reflected, perhaps a little profanely, that a woman's body is always that little more alluring when "hidden" in beautiful clothing than when completely stripped down to pure nakedness. And when I do enjoy the complete nakedness of woman (yes, singular, ie. my wife) I do that in a "mysterious" hiddenness from the eyes of the world also!

In a similar way, the language of the eucharistic liturgy acts as "beautiful clothing" that reveals the true mystery of the Eucharistic reality which it enfolds.


At Thursday, November 22, 2007 2:29:00 pm , Anonymous Tony Bartel said...

"when I do enjoy the complete nakedness of woman"

Too much information. Way too much information. Let's keep this on a need to know basis shall we! :-)

At Thursday, November 22, 2007 3:24:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

It is not just the translations, it is the Latin originals themselves which reflect "the prevailing mentality in the 1960s", "a stage in history when communication was the key to everything".

When this woman takes off her clothes, one finds she is not one's wife at all.

At Thursday, November 22, 2007 3:44:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

You know, David, as I was reading the post I felt you were going to regret the use of that particular metaphor.

At Thursday, November 22, 2007 6:43:00 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

c'mon. lighten up, guys.

At Thursday, November 22, 2007 10:52:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

What on earth do you know of the latin originals of the Novus Ordo mass, Terry? I have just spent some time with them recently myself, and I can't (for the life of me) find fault with them. I know that there are odd folks out there who have difficulty with the NO per se for various reasons, but the quality of the latin isn't one of them.

And how on earth can you say that the Latin originals "reflect the prevailing mentality of the 1960's"? Nothing in Latin has expressed "the prevailing mentality" of the age for well over 1500 years!!!

The fact is that the Latin compositions of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite are extraordinarily beautiful, in the most past straight from ancient sources rather than new compositions, deeply imbibed with Scripture and faithful to the Catholic tradition.

Sometimes (no, often) you go to far, Terry.

At Friday, November 23, 2007 1:29:00 am , Blogger Past Elder said...

What on earth do I know of the Latin originals for the novus ordo? Geez, I dunno -- maybe it's from studying them at some length in one of my attempts to prove myself wrong, thinking then as you do now that Scripture and Tradition clearly witness to the existence of something such as the RCC says it is, in chucking the RCC as an impostor since Vatican II.

How on earth can I say the Latin originals reflect the mentality of the 1960s? Well, this is a combox. You can find an extended treatment of this subject in the Ottaviani Intervention, and you can find a link to the document on my blog. I did not know it existed at the time and would not have read it if I did, thinking then as you do now that one must "think with the Church".

I would sooner participate in a "guitar mass" with a nun as "presiding minister" than one of the vicious mockeries of the Catholic Mass such as you promote at St Brigid's, and to pariticpate in the "Extraordinary Form" of the Roman Rite under the Motu, which requires acceptance of the novus ordo as valid and the ordinary form of a rite which it actually rejects, is nothing less than watching a murderer dress up in his victim's clothes.

Going too far? Putting it mildly.

At Friday, November 23, 2007 3:51:00 am , Anonymous William Tighe said...

Past Elder does have a point: the manner in which the Latin originals of some of the Collects, Secrets and Postcommunio prayers were altered for the 1969 NO is somewhat shocking. This was briefly described in a pamphlet in my possession, *The Language of Public Worship* by A. R. Walmsley (Faith Press, 1979; ISBN: 0-7164-0036-7), who gave some examples, but mostly confined himself to distortions of the Latin originals in the ICEL English translation; but it was expanded upon in much more detail in another pamphlet, *An Open Letter to the Bishop of Shrewsbury, President of the Liturgy Commission of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, On Englishing The Liturgy* by John McHugh (Senior Lecturer in Theology in the University of Durham); privately printed 1983. Fr. McHugh instances, for example, the alteration of the ending of the collect for the Third Sunday after Pentecost in the 1570 Missal/17th Sunday in the 1970 Missal from "sic transeamus per bona temporalia ut non amittimus aeterna" to "sic bonis transeuntibus nunc utamur ut iam possimus inhaerere mansuris" or that of the Postcommunion for the second Sunday of Advent from "doceas nos terrenas despicere et amare caelestia" to "doceas nos terrena sapienter perpendere, et caelestibus inhaerere." There is a current scholar of the Roman Rite whose name I forget (Lauren Previtas?) whose articles and recent book on these prayers have documented and deplored these alterations at some length.

At Friday, November 23, 2007 4:24:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Okay, I can see that there have been changes here, but are they negative changes?

The change to the Postcommunion prayer for 2nd Sunday of Advent is understandable. Depending on what you mean by "terrena", there is a certain light in which "despising earthly things" while "loving heavenly things" could be seen as supporting a sort of dualism. After all, God did not abhore the virgin's womb. Is it perhaps not a more Catholic attitude toward "earthly things" that we "consider them wisely" while "clinging to heavenly things"? Especially relating as it does to the Eucharist, it is surely saying that through the instrumentality of the outward forms of bread and wine (which are good in themselves and not to be despised) we are lead to cling to the inward heavenly reality (which is the true treasure)?

I can see the same idea at work in the change to the Collect for the 17th Sunday. I agree that the change is a little more clumsy than the original (which I know well from the old English translation in the Lutheran Hymnal) but there is no justification for concluding, as Past Elder does, from changes such as these that the Church has been "an impostor since Vatican II".

At Friday, November 23, 2007 6:34:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

"Changes such as these", while typical, are small potatoes. The same sort of thing has been set forth in considerable detail re the NO Mass itself.

At Saturday, November 24, 2007 12:05:00 pm , Anonymous William Tighe said...

Well, there I would disagree with Past Elder. I think that there are a lot of ineptitudes in the Novus Ordo -- all three of the new Eucharistic Prayers in it are (IMHO) what the Elizabethans would have called "inkhorn stuff" (rather laborious and dull compilations), and than the ones authorized subsequently (the two EPs for children, the two for "reconciliation" and the dreadful "Swiss EP" of 1975 and other, less formally authorized ones). EP II was meant to be a translation of the prayer in Hippolytus' "Apostolic Tradition" changed only by the insertion of the Sanctus, but at the last moment the "pre-Sanctus" portion, which was meant to be invariable, was made variable, and so part of the original was effectively lost. (But, then, I think that the significance of H's prayer is much overrated, and that even if it is authentic, instead of a later revision [the manuscript source is Fifth Century], it is as likely to be H's own composition as reflective of the than current practice of the Roman Church.) EP III is, so far as I have been able to determine, an entire novelty, although loosely based on Gallican and Mozarabic prayers. EP IV was meant to be a straight translation of the Egyptian Anaphora of St. Basil (which is rather shorter than the Byzantine one), but Cardinal Vagaggini, a member of the commission that put together the NO, raised such a stink against it, on the twin bases that "the Easterners" would be "offended" by Rome appropriating one of their prayers and that "the faithful" would be "confused" by an Epiklesis coming after the Words of Institution, that at the last moment it was chopped and changed into its present shape. I think that all three of them pretty much stink, and the situation is made worse by the fact that rather than one or another of these four EPs being assigned for particular seasons or days, they can be chosen ad libitum by the celebrant.

If you are near a university library (or a Jesuit library), you mkight find it interesting to read "The New Eucharistic Prayers: Some Comments" by Geoffrey G. Willis, *The Heythrop Journal,* January 1971, Vol. XII, No. I, pp. 5-28 (which I really should have included in that package I sent you). Willis (1914-1982) was a scholarly Anglo-Catholic clergyman of the Church of England who made his life's study St. Augustine of Hippo, on the one hand, and the early history of the Roman Rite, on the other; and the whole gist of his (rather critical) article may be summed up in the phrase "In Tiberim defluxit Orontes."

To be con't'd

At Saturday, November 24, 2007 12:16:00 pm , Anonymous William Tighe said...


(I meant to write, as a conclusion to my second sentence above, "... and then the ones authorized subsequently [...] are simply too dreadful for words, the liturgical equivalent of finding a room devoted to "finger painting" in the Louvre.)

Here is the last paragraph of the Willis article:

"Prex Eucharistica I makes one or two useful amendments in the Canon, but does nothing serious to change its shape or significance. It still expresses the same doctrine as it had done since the days of St. Gregory or even we may say, of the sixth century, a little before his time. The three new canons, however, modify this doctrine and combine with what is left of it disparate elements from non-roman sources, both Western and Oriental. We thus see in them a different connexion with the Preface; a largely Roman Institution Narrative which is evidently still conceived of as effecting the consecration, but which is now combined with a divided epiclesis on the Alexandrian model, asking for the Holy Spirit to be sent upon the offerings to consecrate them, and upon the communicants to unite them and to make them worthy receivers of the Body and blood of Christ. Of course this theory may be justifiable, but it is not Roman.

To be cont'd

At Saturday, November 24, 2007 12:24:00 pm , Anonymous William Tighe said...


In all respects the new Canons present an aspect very different from the classical Roman pattern, which is a prayer containing two distinct offerings. It begins by offering god the bread and wine, and asking him that they may be made unto us the Body and Blood of Christ: it then consecrates the gifts by re-enacting the Lord's Supper, in view of the celebrant imitating the acts and words of Christ at the Supper and finally, after consecrating the gifts it offers them to the Father as the Body and Blood of Christ, and asks him to command the Son to carry this offering to the heavenly altar. This clear structure and this eucharistic doctrine has been replaced in the new canons by a hybrid form, derived in each case form more than one source. Thes enovel doctrines are importations into the Roman Rite, but it seems that many have welcomed them, perhaps on the peinciple, so popular in the twentieth century, of taking omne ignotum pro magnifico."


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