What Does The Prayer Really Say? 23rd Sunday Of Ordinary Time
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2003
I made comments about the ungrammatical ICEL rendering of “all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father.” This incited various notes from readers, including that from Fr. PN via e-mail: “In reference to your recent column (August 21) you criticize the translation ‘all honor and glory is yours.’ The Latin has ‘est’ and my Tridentine Maryknoll Missal translates it ‘all honor and glory is given to you.’ Do we need to revisit this?”
Interesting question, Fr. PN. Let’s do just that. You prompted me also to look at old hand missals. In the St. Andrew Bible Missal (1960): “Through him and with him and in him is given to you, Father almighty together with the Holy Spirit all honor all glory.” In the St. Joseph Daily Missal (1959): “Through Him, and with Him, and in Him, is to You, God the Father Almighty, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory.” In the Saint Andrew Daily Missal (1959): “By Him and with Him and in Him are ever given to You, God the Father Almighty, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory.” So, as they say auctores scinduntur, though there is a preference, it seems, for the singular “all honor and glory is yours.” In Latin it is not unusual to find singular verbs in a sentence with more than one subject, but it is less common in English. That is how we account for the est in the end of the Roman Canon: est tibi Deo Patri omnipotenti…omnis honor, et gloria. We can think of examples, however. Consider the night watchman’s cry of “All is well!” Clearly it is possible that some translators simply stuck to the singular est without making a change to the plural in English. I also consulted experts in English usage on this one. They suggested that perhaps such weight is being given to “all” that “honor and glory” are felt as one combined concept. It also could be that the “is” goes primarily with “honor,” leaving “glory” as an add on, or after word. That might be the reason, actually, if you examine the punctuation of the Latin original: est…omnis honor, et gloria….
Do you see, folks, how tricky this all is? I have always been uncomfortable with the singular because I feel a real difference between honor (something we give to God) and gloria (a divine characteristic God wishes to give to us). On the other hand, perhaps we are extending to God all our expressions of honor and we are glorifying Him in the sense of honoring and praising Him. Thus, honor and glory may be conceptually similar enough to be pulled easily into the gravitational orbit of that singular “is.” So, throwing up my hands in puzzlement, I retract my previous claim about ICEL’s ungrammatical choice (in this case) and will leave the matter open to various flexible approaches. After all, in the Congregation for Divine Worship’s (CDW) 2001 document which lays down norms for translations of liturgical texts, Liturgiam authenticam (LA), we read: “57. b) In the translation of terms contained in the original text, the same person, number, and gender is to be maintained insofar as possible.”
Prepare to be delighted and charmed. Dr. SR, MD, writes: “We had not heard of The Wanderer until about three years ago when (my wife) found a copy lying in a waiting room at the (hospital where I work), undoubtedly left there by some friendly soul hoping somebody like my wife would pick it up! She brought it home, and we read it cover-to-cover. I was immediately impressed by WDTPRS, and I knew that this was something that I just HAD to read every week. So I have been a Wanderer subscriber ever since. Your thoughtful Latin translations and associated commentary really do bring out the deeper meaning of the prayers. Moreover, you provide wonderful discussions on church Latin, which tends to be missing in my classical Latin background. What a great weekly Latin review you provide!” What a great story. Do you see what subscribing and sharing the wealth can do?
But wait, folks, there’s more! SR continues, “The Latin review in WDTPRS is especially useful in our home, where we use Latin daily.” (Emphasis mine.) “(My wife) and I wanted (our daughter)…to be a bilingual child….We were classics majors as undergraduates, and we have a great appreciation for Latin literature and ancient history. We also particularly love the beauty of Latin prayers and hymns, and we wanted to share this love with our child. (Our daughter) hears her mother speak Latin to her all day at home, and when I come home in the evening, we speak mostly English, with traditional Latin prayers and songs before bed. We also read (my wife’s) Latin children’s books to her as much as possible. This has worked out remarkably well. From what we can tell by comparing (my daughter’s) progress in Latin to that of similar American children in English (as well as to native speakers of more inflected languages like Russian and German), her Latin seems to be at least on the level of where an average three-and-a-half-year-old Roman child’s should have been. And we’re happy with her English as well! As something of a ‘native speaker’ of Latin, (our daughter) might miss some of the pedagogical benefit of Latin’s ability to shape her thinking patterns, but we will be able to use Greek for that!”
Well, dear WDTPRS readers, I had better get busy and finish this series of articles: I don’t think my dwindling ego could bear being supplanted by a 10-year-old Latin speaker. SR continues, “Interestingly, (my wife) has found another mother in the (area) who speaks Latin to her children, and they get together from time to time, resulting in quite an interesting scene. The problem for me is that this means that I have to try to actually speak Latin on an adult level with the other mother, which is quite difficult! In any case, our experience suggests that Latin is not as much of a ‘dead language’ as one might think. The amazing thing is that my three-year-old is better at Latin than I am, which is a fact that is becoming increasingly difficult to hide from her!”
Latin (2002 Missale Romanum):
Da fidelibus tuis, Domine,
quos et verbi tui et caelestis sacramenti pabulo
nutris et vivificas,
ita dilecti Filii tui tantis muneribus proficere,
ut eius vitae semper consortes effici mereamur.
This was not in earlier editions of the Missale Romanum, but it had an influential predecessor in the Missale Parisiense of 1738. Once you sort out the et…et…et… situation and grasp the ita…ut construction with the subjunctive, this prayer presents no special difficulties, though getting it as one sentence into English is a task. Most of the ICEL prayers take the easy route and succumb to splitting prayers into more than one sentence. I think it is far better to be faithful to the text and maintain the one sentence format, even though doing so results in sentences that are more complicated than people ordinarily use. I also do not think that our prayers should be reduced to the simplistic language of everyday life. In our old friend LA we are given guidance: “57. That notable feature of the Roman Rite, namely its straightforward, concise, and compact manner of expression, is to be maintained insofar as possible in the translation. Furthermore, the same manner of rendering a given expression is to be maintained throughout the translation, insofar as feasible.” Also, in LA we read: “57. a) The connection between various expressions, manifested by subordinate and relative clauses, the ordering of words, and various forms of parallelism, is to be maintained as completely as possible in a manner appropriate to the vernacular language.”
In that mighty bulwark against the temptation simply to be satisfied with “getting the gist,” the Lewis & Short Dictionary, we see that proficio means “to go on, advance, make progress; to profit, derive advantage; to perform, effect, accomplish, obtain, etc.,” and thus also “to grow, increase” and “to be useful, serviceable, advantageous, etc., to effect, accomplish; to help, tend, contribute, conduce.”
Grant, O Lord, to your faithful,
whom you feed with the food both of your word and also of the heavenly sacrament,
and whom you enliven,
to make progress by means of these great gifts of your beloved Son in such a way
that we merit to be made always the sharers of His life.
Please compare the following, which you will more than likely hear in church on Sunday. Out of fairness, keep in mind that a new translation is in preparation and that LA is applying corrective principles based on our past experience with a view to future translations.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
may the eucharist you have given us
influence our thoughts and actions.
May your Spirit guide and direct us in your way.
The first thing that I would observe (about the content of the Latin version) is that, while very often in our Post communion prayers we listen to the priest refer to the effect of the Sacrifice, today we hear the priest emphasize the meal dimension of Mass.
Holy Mass is both the Sacrifice of the Cross renewed, and the Supper, a meal foreshadowing the heavenly banquet to come. It is Calvary being renewed inseparably within the context of the renewal of the Last Supper Christ celebrated with His Apostles as His Passion began. Holy Mass is simultaneously both Supper and Sacrifice.
Perhaps in the last two decades and more, we have all experienced descriptions of Holy Mass which emphasize the meal dimension of the liturgical action to the point that the sacrificial dimension of Mass is so completely obscured that it is virtually obliterated. This eclipsing of the sacrificial aspect by the more warm and comforting meal facet results nearly always in a choice of a liturgical style that, to put it mildly, departs from the traditional Roman style. I think it is not unusual in the least to find in the meal point of view a greater measure of fellowship and celebration, commonality, and even informality (particularly in a culture becoming ever more informal). While the meal characteristic might be described as more “horizontal,” the sacrificial element is decidedly more “vertical.” The very thought of “sacrifice” might lead most people to be introspective rather than outgoing, quiet and reserved rather than boisterous, solemn rather than informal. Therefore, the style of service at the altar, the content of homilies, the choice of music, the quality of vestments and so forth, will be very much influenced by the gravitational pull exerted by one “force” in the Mass or the other, meal or sacrifice, horizontality or verticality, introspection or outward expressiveness.
Yet, the Holy Mass of Catholics must be allowed to reveal both dimensions, meal and sacrifice, in a dynamic unity. What I mean by dynamic here is that from day to day, week to week, season to season, Holy Mother Church may highlight one more than the other according to the time and feast. Also, within a Mass we might be more sensible of now one, now the other as being the primary focus of a prayer, an action, and even a silence and rest. All of us are challenged to maintain a balance of vision and perception during Mass. When the meal dimension is being brought to the fore, we must always strive to view the meal through the lens of sacrifice, and vice versa. This is particularly the challenge of the priest, sometimes banally described by some who emphasize the horizontal, as the “waiter” at the “meal.” He must be both “servant” in the sense of “ministry” (from Latin ministro which among various things means “to serve out or hand out food”) as well as the priest/victim, simultaneously offering sacrifice and being sacrificed on the altar, which is simultaneously a “table.”
This week’s prayer calls us to be mindful of how God effects His gracious work in us through the banquet He lays before us at Mass. He nourishes us on Himself, present both in the sacred Words of Holy Writ and also in the Sacrament of His Most Precious Body and Blood. Without in any way forgetting the fact that all of this was made possible by the Sacrifice of Calvary, we can also at times simply rest upon the Lord, amidst the nourishing morsels He grants us, much in the way that the Apostle John did upon the breast of Jesus on the night of His betrayal.