28 November 2011

A Prayer We Don't Say During Advent

You'll be glad to know, I'm sure, that I made it to Pontefract in one piece yesterday, and back too, and that at no point did I suddenly fall over or veer into a hedge. I did sleep ten hours straight once I got back last night, but I think that's just my body saying it's not sick anymore, but it is pretty well drained. The wedding was lovely, anyhow. There are a handful of photos on Facebook. I didn't dance. No, not even to the Macarena, despite having been taught the dance a long time ago by two Mexicans in a supposedly Irish bar in Krakow.

(I say 'supposedly' as there was no indication that it was an Irish bar, and had there been any I'd have avoided it. It was some months later that I discovered it was supposedly such. This could explain the barmaid's blatantly suppressed grin as I haltingly tried to order in Polish, fumbling with the consonants in a rude Dublin accent.)

Game On
Mass was special yesterday, perhaps moreso than usual. There are Masses that stick in my mind, for whatever reason. A million people in the Phoenix Park... my first Holy Communion...  my sister's wedding...  carrying the coffin and reading at my cousin's funeral...  an accidental first Latin Mass... a wedding where the groom's mother, a Methodist minister, said the homily... a Mass where the homily was simplified and translated into Spanish as an impromptu response to our being joined by a tour group of Spanish schoolchildren...  a Mass lit by candles and little more, without even a homily, one Lenten night...  my first Easter Vigil... a makeshift altar in a hut in the Lake District... a friend's baptism and confirmation... praying in the conviction that the remains of St Paul were but metres away... communion by intinction at a Greek Catholic Mass said according to the Byzantine rite in Aleppo... being drawn by the rhythms of prayer to a moonlit Mass among the desert ruins of Palmyra... the beatification of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman in Birmingham... a Mass in memory of Newman a month later in Manchester's oratory-in-formation... being asked to bring up the gifts at an Easter Vigil further north than I've ever been... a priestly friend's homily at the funeral of his own mother... standing beside one of my dearest friends in Westminster Cathedral as for the first time we clumsily said, together, 'And with your spirit'...  having my breath taken away by the sheer theological profundity and force of the most animated crucifix I've ever seen...

Yesterday, for the first time, I heard the Mass properly translated into English.

I've heard it properly translated several times in the past. I've heard it in Czech when I visited Prague the first time. I've heard it in Italian in Siena and Florence and Rome. I've heard it in Greek in Athens, and in German in Frankfurt, and in Spanish in the Syrian desert. And I've heard it in Irish. But I've never heard it translated properly into English, in such a way that the Latin text was rendered properly, in such a way that the original Scriptures could be heard. 

For whatever reason, when the Mass was translated into the vernacular languages back in the early 1970s, the English-speaking countries decided to play a game of their own choosing, breaking from their brethren of other tongues by translating the Mass not with any sense of literal fidelity to the sacred texts themselves, but following a vaguely dynamic equivalence. Sometimes this worked, but sometimes, it really didn't. This really hit me a while back when I was jarred by reading the Gloria in Westminster Cathedral a couple of months back. It wasn't just that the words were different -- some of the phrases were wholly unfamiliar, and the prayer seemed jumbled up.
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you,
we bless you,
we adore you,
we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory,
Lord God, heavenly King,
O God, almighty Father.
Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son,
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.
you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.
For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen
This wasn't the prayer as I knew it. I'd always known it as a simpler affair, several lines shorter:
Glory to God in the highest
and peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,
Almighty God and Father,
we worship you,
we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us;
You are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
But then I looked at the Latin, and saw that the new translation was a far more accurate translation of the prayer that the whole Church prays. And I did some digging, and found that the new translation was very similar to the classic Anglican rendering of the prayer, and as it was translated in Catholic missals -- to accompany the Latin text -- until the 1970s. And, what's more, I found that the Irish translation of the prayer even up to this day -- which I would have stumbled through once or twice in my childhood and teens  -- is likewise a faithful translation of the Latin:
Glóir do Dhia sna harda
Agus ar talamh síocháin do lucht a pháirte.
Molaimid thú.
Móraimid thú.
Adhraimid thú.
Tugaimid glóir duit.
Gabhaimid buíochas leat as ucht do mhórghlóire.
A Thiarna Dia, a Rí na bhflaitheas,
A Dhia, a Athair uilechumhachtaigh,
A Thiarna, a Aon-Mhic, a Íosa Críost.
A Thiarna Dia, a Uain Dé, Mac an Athar.
Tusa, a thógann peacaí an domhain, déan trócaire orainn.
Tusa a thógann peacaí an domhain, glac lenár nguí.
Tusa atá i do shuí ar dheis an Athar, déan trócaire orainn.
Oir is tú amháin is naofa. Is tú amháin is Tiarna.
Is tú amháin is ró-ard, a Íosa Críost,
mar aon leis an Spiorad Naomh i nglóir Dé an tAthair. Ámén.
I don't know what was going on in Ireland that we should have wound up with two translations of the Mass in play simultaneously, embodying two radically different philosophies of translation. The Irish translation was not merely faithful to the tradition of the Church, it was translated in such a way that any visitor could fumble through the prayer even without knowing the language, as long as he or she knew the Mass in his or her own tongue; it expressed and aided the diachronic and geographic unity of the Church. But the English translation? Hardly a translation at all, it was a paraphrase, and one which ditched whole clauses for no reason that I can fathom.

And other English-speaking Christians followed us in this? What were they thinking?

We didn't say the Gloria yesterday, of course. It's Advent, and the Gloria is at its heart a Christmas hymn. Advent's about waiting, and doing so hopefully. It's not about rushing to Christmas, but about waiting for it in a spirit of hope and joy. For Christians there's a sense in which it is always Christmas every day, in that we never forget the Incarnation, but at Advent we remember the time when mankind waited in hope for the coming of Our Lord, and so we hold back until Christmas until we join the angels in proclaiming, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.'


Lynda said...

Re the two different translations - into English and Irish - of the 1960s Mass: one can only presume that the "liberal" dissenters hadn't the Irish language, so that it was faithfully (!) translated from the Latin Rite. Buiochas le Dia as ucht sin!

Anonymous said...

Not only that, Gargoyle, but the versions in use up to 1975 used lots of (gasp) "thees" and "thous" e.g. We praise thee, we bless thee, we adore thee, we glorify thee... for thou alone art the Holy One...

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, thy glory fills all heaven and earth...

Good God, how did we little people manage to put up with so many haaaaarrrd and old-fashioned words?? Well, our liberal mentors soon took care of that and put us on the right track.

Ummm... except that we were actually on the wrong track. Ah never mind, shure what's 35+ years of turgid mind-numbing banality in the great scheme of things?

Yeah, o.k. Except that it's 35+ years that I'll never erase from my mind!

Much as I like the new translations I still think we should just have stuck with the 1966 versions. But that's just me. Maybe it's just because they were battered into us... sorry, I mean, because we devotedly and devoutly learned them off by heart... at the hands of the nuns. Back when they were still real nuns.

Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with this post, the last displayed on my device, but your "Contact Me" button doesn't work, at least on my device, so ... : Do you realise, TG, that there is something wrong with your blog, such that certain posts don't appear for up to 7, 10 or even 12 days after they are dated, and seem to have been written? I know other people couldn't access posts by you mentioned in other blogs, for many days.

The Thirsty Gargoyle said...

I'm told the 'contact me' thing works fine, at least with email programmes that aren't web-based. It seems to play well with Outlook, just trying it myself. If you want to send a mail, though, you could try doing a mouseover and seeing what turns up. It's a straightforward address.

On the other points, thank you, but I'm afraid the problem's with me, not the blog!

The posts that turn up late are posts that I drafted at the time, but never finished as I was too busy with work -- or more recently, ill -- so that they wound up sitting there in draft form for ages. It's far from ideal, and part of me thinks I ought to date them according to final rather than originally intended publication date, but often -- as with the Nugent and Craig posts -- the context matters enormously.

I think there'd only have been one post that was mentioned on other blogs but proved inaccessible, that being the Embassy one; would that be right? Basically, I posted it and within half an hour took it down, as a friend had recommended I do so with a view to hawking for publication in one form or another. Unfortunately, that came to nothing, so after a few days it went back up.

I'm sorry this is so haphazard. It's just that I'm swamped with work and have been ill, and I've a couple of other things on too, such that finding time for something that doesn't even help pay the bills is proving really problematic.

I'm doing my best, though.

Lynda said...

Thank you for your v comprehensive explanation regarding delay on posts appearing. I do think documents shd be dated as per date of submission/publication. Regarding the "Contact me!" button, it doesn't work from my phone (perhaps all phones?) which is why I'm writing this as a comment on a post rather than in an email! And please, look after your health - you need probably not go into such great detail (though always relevant and informative) in your posts. God bless you and your very effective work.

Anonymous said...

TG, Did you get my response to your above comment?

The Thirsty Gargoyle said...

Er, assuming you're Lynda, yes, it seems I did. It went into spam, though, for some reason. Luckily, I get little of that - touch wood - so was able to retrieve it.