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Friday, 13 April 2007

New ICEL - first reactions

Only this morning at Mass, while I was speaking the words of the Roman Canon in the current English translation, I was feeling sad that the people were deprived of the richness of the prayer. I know it by heart in Latin: it is a burden to be constantly aware of the poverty of the English rendering. Seeing the new translation is therefore a great joy to me and I look forward eagerly to introducing it in the parish. I presume that we will not be kept longer than the first Sunday of Advent.

In some places, it is worse than just poverty of translation: whole phrases are missed out. For example, the words "sanctum sacrificium, immaculatam hostiam" at the end of the the "Supra quae" are currently missing. Here are the texts for comparison:
Latin text
Supra quae propitio ac sereno vultu respicere digneris; et accepta habere, sicuti accepta habere dignatus es munera pueri tui justi Abel, et sacrificium patriarchae nostri Abrahae, et quod tibi obtulit summus sacerdos tuus Melchisedech, sanctum sacrificium, immaculatam hostiam.

Old ICEL
Look with favor on these offerings and accept them as once you accepted the gifts of your servant Abel, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the bread and wine offered by your priest Melchizedek.

New ICEL
Be pleased to look upon them, with a serene and kindly gaze, and to accept them as you were pleased to accept the gifts of your just servant Abel, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the offering of your high priest Melchizedek, a holy sacrifice, a spotless victim.
The new text of this prayer brings to mind another important point. Some people made fun of the text because you might think of "serene and kindly gays" (snigger snigger). Actually, I don't think it will occur to the average Catholic to think about homosexuals at this point - only those who are particularly preoccupied with the matter. A similar lame argument was made in the seventies against translating the "Beati qui ad cenam agni vocati sunt" as "Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the lamb." People would think of lamb suppers, you see, hahaha. The new ICEL has shown how it ought to have been translated if that was really the problem (it wasn't): "Blessed are those called to the banquet of the Lamb."

There is one example of poverty in the old ICEL which I have quoted before. I always found it a useful illustration when anyone tried to say that the translation wasn't really that bad. Here are the texts for comparison:
Latin text
accipens et hunc praeclarum calicem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas

Old ICEL
he took the cup

New ICEL
he took this precious chalice into his holy and venerable hands,
Doubtless there will be quibbles about some of the details. For example, I am not convinced that "Orate fratres ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium..." has to be translated "Pray, brothers and sisters, that the sacrifice which is mine and yours ..." rather than "Pray... that my sacrifice and yours..." Nevertheless it can be so translated without any question of inaccuracy or of theological fault. Fr McGuckian's excellent book "The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass" demonstrates that the question of exactly how the Mass is a sacrifice was controversial at the Council of Trent and has remained so ever since.
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