Anglican Archbp. Rowan Williams on the tone of language in the King James Bible

Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams was interviewed on Vatican Radio.

He made comments about the language of the King James Bible, which has an important anniversary this year.  You can hear the interview here.  Listen from about the last minute or so.

Rowan Williams on the King James Bible Anniversary: “The third thing is that the language of the Authorised Version…it feels serious, it comes from an age when there was a register of solemnity in English which we don’t really have now and while we don’t want religion to sound quaint or old fashioned, none the less I think we do need moments in our liturgical practise and our reading of the bible when we’re reminded that what were trying to talk about is not just the business of the house in the street, it is also strange and astonishing and terrifying and there’s something about the language of the authorised version which just holds on to that for us…”

Any parallels with what WDTPRS has been saying about liturgical language not being street language?

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53 Responses to Anglican Archbp. Rowan Williams on the tone of language in the King James Bible

  1. chantgirl says:

    As a child, I loved reading the psalms in the King James version because they were so poetic. The New American Bible, and others, absolutely kill the poetry and the glory of the psalms. There has to be a way to translate poetry that is accurate AND beautiful.

  2. Tom in NY says:

    The AV committees used language “dated” even then. They often borrowed from Tyndale’s and Coverdale’s translation, approx 80 years before, which used out of date English. Cf. God’s Secretaries.
    Salutationes omnibus.

  3. Supertradmum says:

    The English language owes its richness to the King James’ Bible. In fact, when I met and had several conversations with the Nobel Prize Winner for Poetry, Czeslaw Milosz, he told me that the King James’ Bible influenced his poetry a great deal. Another Nobel Prize Winner, T. S. Eliot was also influenced by the KJB. Classical languages, including English at its best, inspire and edify the mind and imagination.

    Why we need liturgical language as well in the Catholic Church….

  4. JohnB says:

    Keep in mind, though, that Dr Williams is trying to cover all the bases. This is simply his nod to traditionalists, for whom there is very little room in his own communion. Tomorrow I’m sure he’ll say something that can be read as just as accommodating to the we-need-more-lesbian-bishops faction. Actually, he’s presiding over a communion that’s in the process of disintegration — St. Paul’s [Anglican] Cathedral in London has had to close its doors for the first time since 1940 due to its mishandling of Occupy Wall Street protesters there. The Canon Chancellor has resigned, and a former Archbishop of Canterbury has come out in public recrimination over the mess. I’m on my way out and into the Ordinariate; I wish more Anglicans could discern what’s going on.

  5. anna 6 says:

    Fascinating! Thanks…and happy birthday.

  6. mrose says:

    Wasn’t the Douay-Rheims a major source for the King James version?

    In any case, if Mass must be in the vernacular, it ought to be, as Fr. Z suggests, in a phraseology far different than “street language.”

    I am reminded of when I was in Sweden for a wedding this past summer, chatting with a man in his late twenties or early thirties and not particularly religious in any way. He mentioned that some people were trying to foist a “modern Swedish” version of the Our Father upon them, and he even remarked that one ought to pray differently than how one talks.

    Why is it that average people get this and not those who make these decisions?

  7. Simon_GNR says:

    The Authorised Version was very much part of my Anglican upbringing in the 1970′s, even though by then the RSV was widely used in many CofE parishes, and I’m still rather attached to the AV for some of its more well-known passages, e.g. John 1 and 1 Corinthiams 13. I think the ABC is spot on when he says (if I understand him correctly) that the language used for worship and scripture needs to convey something of the majesty, the mystery and the “otherness” of God, something the Catholic Church is rediscovering with the new translation of the Mass. But having got rid of the Lame-Duck ICEL translations, we’re only half way there: when can we look forward to the replacement of the awful Jerusalem Bible (which is what we have in England) scripture readings at mass with something better, such as the RSV? It’s not as if anybody needs to prepare a new translation (and take many years making sure a good job was done) like they did with the mass – good alternative transalations are already available.

  8. Centristian says:

    I’m often intrigued that our contemporary liturgical language at Mass is so common, except when we pray the Our Father. Why, in the case of the Our Father, is the high English left intact? “Our Father Who art in heaven hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…”

    I think this is the only instance in the Missal in which “Thy” replaces “Your” (and in which “art” replaces “are”). It’s odd. I’m glad they didn’t change it, of course, but what was their reasoning, I wonder?

  9. pseudomodo says:

    I prefer the DR bible. As Jimmy Akin has noted before, the DR is referenced in the AV’s introductory notes as being a very good translation and obviously noting that it pre-dates the AV by years.

    I also prefer the DR for a more obvious reason – it is COMPLETE.

  10. wmeyer says:

    I agree that the use of common English is part of the problem. However, while I do like the DR, I have come to greatly appreciate the RSV, which accomplishes the task without reducing things to trivialities. One of my problems with the NAB is that I suspect the translators never, or rarely, spoke aloud what they wrote. Some of it is really awkward, and considering what liberties were taken in the translation, that’s really unacceptable.

  11. Supertradmum says:

    I would add that I am an older Catholic who still says the Thee and Thou in both the Hail Mary and the Angelus. I hate the common British usage of the you, as it is too informal for me. Another example of the lack of proper, elevated language.

  12. JohnB says:

    I’m a little puzzled here, though: as an Anglican going through catechism for the Ordinariate this past summer, I was told (as part of the segment on the history of the Catholic Church in the US) that a major impetus for Catholics to start their own schools in the 19th century was the fact that the KJV was read in the public schools, and it was the “Protestant Bible”. What is the version that’s read in Catholic churches?

    There was a comment above that the DR is “complete”, possibly a refence to the idea that some versions of the KJV (“Protestant” versions, maybe) don’t have the Apocrypha. The original KJV did have the Aprocrypha, but of course Protestant denominations don’t recognize the Apocrypha, so may have been left out of many mass-market editions.

  13. Charles E Flynn says:

    There is a good blog devoted to Bible translations:
    Catholic Bibles

  14. RichR says:

    I have the Baronius Press pocket version of the DR Psalms & New Testament, and I have given them out as gifts. Very portable and the hieratic English is wonderful.

  15. FrAWeidner says:

    John B, the version used in Catholic liturgy in the United States is the New American Bible, although the Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition is also authorized for liturgical use. Most Catholics reading Fr. Z.’s blog would probably prefer the Douay-Rheims or the RSV. The RSV is in objective terms the most accurate translation of the Hebrew and Greek available.

    Also, John, to Catholics, those books are by zero means Apocrypha, but rather part of canonical corpus of the Scriptures. To us, they are just as much the Word of God as the other books. A Bible without them is a deal-breakingly incomplete Bible. I would guess that the other major issue, for Catholics, with the KJV (gorgeous as the prose is) is that several passages were translated with a theological (anti-Catholic) ax to grind.

  16. pjsandstrom says:

    One of the many ‘loose ends’ in translation both in the present Sacramentary and the New Roman Missal texts if that for the “Our Father” which is kept in the Thee/Thou form — the doxology which is part of the prayer “for the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory are yours” was inconsistantly forgotten into the ‘you/yours’ form. To be consistant it should have retained the Thee/Thou: “For thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory”. This is just one more example of ‘tin ear’ translation technique.

  17. FredM says:

    I don’t recognize psalms in the Catholic Church. There are occasions when I hear a word in the NAB and I find myself thinking that one of the translations is just wrong. When I became Catholic I had to use older forms of most prayers to commit them to memory.

  18. Sam Urfer says:

    FrAWeidner,

    Nope, the New American Bible is the one and only translation approved for use in US dioceses. Ignatius made a go for the RSV lectionary, but the USCCB shot it down.

  19. JohnB says:

    Fr Weidner, thanks for the clarification. Now I’m going to have to ask what happens when we go over, it hasn’t been discussed! Actually, our parish is having an adult class on the Apocrypha (of which a slightly different version is used by Anglicans, but often ignored). I’ve learned that “apocrypha” means “hidden” in Greek, not “suspect” or whatever, and the reason is that while they were originally Hebrew scriptures, the Hebrew text was lost following the Greek translation of the Septuagint, so that the Christian versions come over from Greek and not Hebrew. The stories are often enormously entertaining, I’m finding!

  20. Supplex says:

    Growing up as a Protestant, I absolutely adored the Kings James. It sounded so… well, holy. Doesn’t “thou” sound much better than “you”?

  21. FrAWeidner says:

    Sam, thanks for the clarification. I would like some further elucidation, because I know I was taught at some point that the RSV was of a similar level of official approval – if not for liturgy, it must have been for some other milieu.

  22. Captain Peabody says:

    The “traditional” Catholic English translation was the Douay-Rheims, which was translated at around the same time as the KJV, and later significantly revised in the 18th century: this revision was the standard English Catholic Bible in use until the mid 20th century.

    The original Rheims Bible had a significant role in shaping the text of the KJV New Testament as well, and is perhaps most notable for the closeness with which it follows the Latin Vulgate, with much influence from the Greek texts as well.

    I agree that the modern NAB is a pretty horrid translation. My own Bible is a revised Douay-Rheims, and the KJV, the NKJV, and the RSV are all fine as well. The worst I’ve encountered, though, is the execrable “The Message Bible,” which, to be fair, was never intended to be used as a study or liturgical Bible, but somehow is anyway. Here’s a sampler:

    Matthew 16: 24 (the “take up your cross and follow me” passage)
    “Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?”

    John 3: 16
    “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.”

    The worst literary crime, though, is the Hail Mary in Luke, which becomes:
    “Good morning!
    You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
    Beautiful inside and out!
    God be with you.”

    (Shudder)

  23. asperges says:

    @Centristian. No-one has taken up your points about the Our Father and thee/thou. I think it was considered a “step too far” even for the vandals of the original ICEL team to touch the two prayers everyone knew, the Our Father and the Hail Mary. Even the familiar “Glory be to the Father,” apparently has lost its “be” recently in the US, thus ruining its cadence. We are not alone in this. French uses “tu” to God, but retains “Je vous salue” to Mary. Portuguese uses the “vos” form reserved for very formal speech and prayers still, to their credit.

    “Thee and thou” are more familiar in the UK perhaps where some northern regions still use that form to a degree in dialects and ordinary speech. Personally I think thee/thou ought at the very least to be used as in the older RSV. An example is when someone – eg Our Lord – quotes Scripture when it then reverts to the older form.

    One of the great disadvantages of modern translations are that they break with familiar phrases. No-one remembers the bland, flat versions of the new psalms or the dreadful Jerusalem bible and similar, but everyone remembers the more traditional, “My soul doth magnify the Lord,” or “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” or “.. where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” because these phrases have timelessness and power.

    I remember one martinet cleric in the 70s saying, “As from next week, we all say Holy Spirit.” I thought “Oh no, we don’t” and stuck to “Holy Ghost” ever after: the traditional form. Don’t be bullied by the iconoclasts.

  24. Centristian says:

    Captain Peabody:

    Awful as the translations you posted are–and they are–it may be that the Church of England, despite Rowan Williams, has actually topped those translations with a gem of their own. From the Anglican-Episcopal “Hip Hop Prayer Book”:

    Psalm 23 as adapted by Ryan Kearse
    The Lord is all that, I need for nothing.
    He allows me to chill.
    He keeps me from being heated
    and allows me to breathe easy.
    He guides my life so that
    I can represent and give
    shouts out in his Name.
    And even though I walk through
    the Hood of death,
    I don’t back down
    for you have my back.
    The fact that you have me covered
    allows me to chill.
    He provides me with back-up
    in front of my player-haters
    and I know that I am a baller
    and life will be phat.
    I fall back in the Lord’s crib
    for the rest of my life.

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/1621406/posts

  25. Joe in Canada says:

    The NRSV was being considered for use, when the Canadian Bishops went ahead and had the lectionary printed using it. Then it was not approved by Rome, but Rome turned a blind eye to Canada.
    I often wonder why it is laudable that the NAB is such a good translation of the Hebrew and Greek when the official bible of the Catholic Church is the current Vulgate, namely Latin. This question becomes glaring for me in Advent when we have Isaiah translated from the Hebrew “behold the young woman shall conceive” and then Matthew quoting Isaiah as “the virgin shall conceive”.
    Ps the French used to say “vous” with reference to God, and still do in the chapels of the SSPX.

  26. JARay says:

    I’m interested in reading the comments about the Our Father.
    This prayer WAS changed.
    When I was a boy (quite some time ago) it began:-
    Our Father, WHICH art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come,
    thy will be done IN earth as it is in heaven….
    Now you can see that a couple of changes were made.
    But how about the Hail Mary!
    For those who like a bit of Latin we have the last vestiges of the use of different cases in the English language which are lost in modern English:-
    Hail Mary! Full of grace.
    The Lord is with THEE (ablative case)
    Blessed art THOU (accusative case) amongst women.
    And blessed is the fruit of THY (genitive case) womb, Jesus
    etc., etc.
    Well, I suppose I must admit that we still do have a few vestiges of different cases in use in the English Language now. We do differentiate between “We” and “Us” (nominative case) and (accusative case) and some people do not know when to say “You and I” and when to say “You and me”. A hint is to replace the one or the other with either ‘We’ or ‘Us’ and you should then be able to work out whether to say “You and I”….”We” or “You and me”….”Us”
    e.g.
    The Lord has spoken to you and I……No, No, No!
    The Lord has spoken to US
    So it should be…..The Lord has spoken to you and me.
    And I wish that priests could get that right when giving sermons!

  27. Centristian says:

    @JARay:

    Did you grow up a Protestant, by any chance? I’ve never seen that version except in Protestant prayer texts. I have seen many old Catholic missals and prayer books but none that feature “which art in Heaven” or “in earth” in the Lord’s Prayer. I also do not hear that form ever employed by “traditionalist” Catholics. Anglicans and Episcopalians in many cases still use that form, however. I’m under the impression (perhaps erroneous) that most English-speaking mainstream Protestants use that form, in fact.

  28. albinus1 says:

    The Lord is with THEE (ablative case)
    I don’t think that English has (or has ever had, at least since it has been recognizably English) an “ablative case” as such. This is the objective case. Pronouns in English use the same case to indicate direct object, indirect object, and propositional object. (E.g., “John saw ME; he gave ME the book; he went with ME”.)

    Blessed art THOU (accusative case) amongst women.
    “Thou” is nominative (or rather, since this is English, “subjective”). (The accusative, or actually “objective” case of this pronoun is “thee”, as seen above.) The verb here is “art”, and is second person singular; “thou” is the subject. The word order here is simply inverted for poetic effect and emphasis; normal English word order would be, “Thou are blessed (etc.)”. In that order it is easier to see that “thou” is clearly the subject.
    Another example: “Blessed is he (who comes in the name of the Lord).” The subject is “he”; the word order is just inverted for poetry and emphasis.

    And blessed is the fruit of THY (genitive case) womb, Jesus.
    I think “thy” is actually a possessive adjective, here modifying the noun “womb”. The genitive (or, since this is English, “possessive”) case of this pronoun would be “thine” (as in, “thine is the kingdom, (etc.)”, just as the possessive case of “I” is “mine”. But I suppose this particular point could be debatable.

    I agree with you about the “to you and I” business; it’s like nails on a chalkboard for anyone who has an ear for grammar. I think the source of the problem is that so many people have had it pounded into them that “me” is wrong when they say things like “Joe and me went to the movies”, that it should be “Joe and I”; as a result, they have developed the reflex of considering “me” always wrong when used in a compound. The fact that all common nouns in English, as well as the pronoun “you”, have the same form in modern English for the subjective and objective just complicates the issue.

  29. albinus1 says:

    Even the familiar “Glory be to the Father,” apparently has lost its “be” recently in the US, thus ruining its cadence.

    I’m sorry, but what?!? What’s been done to the “Glory be”? How else would one say it? “Let there be glory”? “May there be glory”? (In Latin grammar terms, it’s a jussive subjunctive, also seen in English in the phrase, “Long live the king”.)

  30. Banjo pickin girl says:

    albinus, As for myself (or me or I) I prefer the KJV, ha ha.

    Centristian, Mainstream Protestants today such as United Methodists, Presbyterians, etc. pray, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come,” etc.

    “Which art in heaven” is an old form. I have seen it used in old books such as novels where people were praying. I have never heard it used in any ecclesial community with which I have been involved.

  31. Banjo pickin girl says:

    albinus1, yes, it now goes, “Glory to the Father, and to the Son…” So I guess “The Glory Be,” is now simply “The Glory,” or “The Glory to.” (gaack, pass the headache medicine please).

  32. AnAmericanMother says:

    JARay,
    “Our Father ‘which’ art in heaven” was the English/Anglican version for many years.
    When the American bishops revised the Book of Common Prayer for American use, the change to “who” was one of many small ones (including dropping the prayers for Guy Fawkes Day as well as the prayers for the (then) king.)
    In one of Kipling’s short stories, “An Habitation Enforced” an American couple find themselves by chance settling in England. When they attend church for the first time, the differences in language disturb them:

    “When the wicked man turneth away.” The strong, alien voice of the priest vibrated under the hammer-beam roof, and a loneliness unfelt before swamped their hearts, as they searched for places in the unfamiliar Church of England service. The Lord’s Prayer “Our Father, which art”–set the seal on that desolation.

    But it all comes right in the end – the story’s worth reading as it’s from Kipling’s late and best period.
    Bit of trivia: in the screen version of “Master and Commander”, there’s a mis-step when during a burial at sea the new version of the Our Father is used – “who” instead of “which”.

  33. AnAmericanMother says:

    Oh. . . the New American Bible is a hideous travesty of Scripture.
    I grew up with the KJV of course, but the DR/Challoner is a fine version, just a bit more Latinate than the Committee’s work.
    I still prefer Cranmer’s Psalter for reading out loud or chanting. Accurate translation, beautifully Englished, balanced in rhythm and breathing and tone.
    For comparison’s sake, Cranmer’s version of the 23rd. You’ll find it somewhat unfamiliar, but observe the stresses and balances; read it out loud.
    THE Lord is myshepherd: therefore can I
    lack nothing.
    2 He shall feed me in a green pasture: and
    lead me forth beside the waters of comfort.
    3 He shall convert my soul: and bring me
    forth in the paths of righteousness, for his
    Name’s sake.
    4 Yea, thou I walk through the valley of
    the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
    for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort
    me.
    5 Thou shalt prepare a table before me
    against them that trouble me: thou hast
    anointed my head with oil, and my cup shall
    be full.
    6 But thy loving-kindness and mercy shall
    follow me all the days of my life: and I will
    dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

    Splendid setting of this text by John Rutter: The Lord is my shepherd

  34. Geoffrey says:

    My late confessor told me that the KJV was his favourite English translation of the Bible. Mine is the Revised Standard Version — Second Catholic Edition.

    Meanwhile The Revised Grail Psalms, in my opinion, are a great improvement. They have been approved for liturgical use. I wonder when that will be…

  35. Art says:

    High church Anglicans have an ear for beauty. Maybe those joining the Ordinariates can render the mass in hieratic english?

  36. Supertradmum says:

    Here is one of my favorite writers on the KJV Peter Hitchins: from wiki

    Hitchens defends the use of the Church of England’s 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Authorised (or King James) version of the Bible. Of the latter, he has written “it is not simply a translation, but a poetic translation, written to be read out loud to country people in large buildings without loudspeakers, to be remembered, to lodge in the mind and to disturb the temporal with the haunting sound of the eternal”.[42] Hitchens feels that both books are indispensable foundations of Anglicanism’s “powerful combination of scripture, tradition and reason”,… and that they have been undermined as a result of “senior figures [within the Church of England] wishing to dump what they regard as the baggage of a penitential and gloomy past”.

  37. Supertradmum says:

    PS footnotes are wiki ones and I apologize for misspelling the great conservative’s name.

  38. Robertus Pittsburghensis says:

    I think it’s great that people are celebrating the 400th anniversary of the AV.

    I think it’s a pity that the 400th anniversary of the DR bible came and went without so much as a mention by the our Church.

  39. Simon_GNR says:

    Taking AnAmericanMother’s specific example of Psalm 23(22), I’ve noticed that only the Book of Common Prayer (Coverdale, ed. Cranmer) translation has the word “therefore” in verse 1. To say “therefore” means that it follows that if the LORD is my shepherd, I can lack nothing. I’ve not seen “therefore” in any other tranlsation: is it there in the Hebrew?

    On the earlier point about the retention, with small but significant changes, of the traditional English translation of the Lord’s Prayer, no-one has mentioned the point that grates the most with me: the change of “..them that trespass against us” to “those who trespass against us”. I always say the older version, which I regard as more accurate, “them” being the accusative form of the 3rd person plural pronoun “they”, “those” being the plural form of the noun “that”. I don’t know what the Greek says but the Latin version in the Ordinary of the Mass avoids this problem by using “debitoribus nostris”, literally, “our debtors”.

  40. Andrew Mason says:

    albinus1: That’s not the only horrible change they made to the “Glory Be.” If you look at the Liturgy of the Hours (which I use, but substitute the traditional words for this prayer), it gives the text of the prayer as “Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.” I can’t stand it.

  41. Banjo pickin girl says:

    You would love the St. Meinrad version, Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, as always before, so now and evermore. Amen.

    I was told this was done to preserve the three beat structure of the chant.

  42. BobP says:

    Either you have Latin in the Mass or you don’t. I prefer to listen to the Latin endings rather than the “spake” and “brake” and “heauen” stuff every Sunday. Old English, the language of “Beowulf,” “Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum… hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.”
    could have been just as easily used if one wants a “non-street” language. I’m sure it was considered dignified and noble at some point.

  43. FrAWeidner says:

    Andrew Mason – I understand that we don’t like movement from the traditional to something new, but I personally don’t have any attachment whatsoever to the “traditional” Glory Be. The world will end. Insofar as it is “the world,” we as Catholic Christians want it to end. The new translation is minimalist to the point of outright inaccuracy, but better than what one (TLM-favoring) liturgist described as “Henry VIII’s error.”

    BobP – I am fine with the readings in the Latin (which is the issue which you seem to be addressing given the thread topic) at Mass (both OF and TLM), but solitarily if they are also repeated in the vernacular. Unless, of course, every soul of the age of reason at the Mass is capable of dreaming in Latin. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ, and we were made to know Him (and thereby to love and serve Him). Not to mention ex opere operantis, to which the Word is sine-qua-non for those of reason.

  44. Parasum says:

    “…the King James Bible, which has an important anniversary this year…”

    ## This year is the quatercentenary of the “KJV” – or to call it by its right name, the Authorised Version. An important anniversary indeed .

  45. Andrew Mason says:

    FrAWeidner: I have no problem with “new” stuff, in fact I usually attend the OF Mass and have only been to the EF once. If the ICEL Gloria sounded good then I would be fine with it but it just doesn’t sound right. You’re free to disagree, of course, but every time I hear it I cringe. It’s not so much a tradition thing for me as an aesthetic thing, although I really don’t see the point in replacing a good old thing with an inferior new one either.

  46. Andrew Mason says:

    That should be Gloria patri, not Gloria. I realized after I wrote it that it might be unclear.

  47. FrAWeidner says:

    Andrew,
    sure, that’s just a matter of taste, although it would be nice either way just to have a translation that conveyed (as Fr. Z. would say) what the prayer really says.

  48. Ken.Hendrickson says:

    High church Anglicans have an ear for beauty. Maybe those joining the Ordinariates can render the mass in hieratic english?

    After Vatican II, what ought to have happened (in my opinion), is that the Roman Catholic Church in the English speaking world should have adopted the Anglican Missal. It was a beautifully translated English version of the Tridentine Mass. The Anglican Missal also had the incredibly beautiful and theologically catholic “Prayer of Humble Access”:

    We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

    If there were any theological problems, they could have been corrected. The Anglican Missal (with necessary corrections) was probably what Vatican II was really aiming at! It is tragic this didn’t happen, and the English-speaking Roman Catholic world had to suffer through the ICEL translations of the Novus Ordo for the last 40+ years.

    If it had happened, then I would probably be Roman Catholic today, instead of Byzantine Catholic. But at least I am now in the True Church.

    We eastern Catholics and Holy Orthodox have a prayer every bit as beautiful as the Anglican Prayer of Humble Access just before we receive the Eucharist, in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom:

    O Lord, I believe and profess that you are truly Christ, the Son of the living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first.

    Accept me as a partaker of your mystical supper, O Son of God; for I will not reveal your mystery to your enemies, nor will I give you a kiss as did Judas, but like the thief I profess you:

    Remember me, O Lord when you shall come into your kingdom.
    Remember me O Master, when you shall come into your kingdom.
    Remember me O Holy One, when you shall come into your kingdom.

    May the partaking of your holy mysteries, O Lord, be not for my judgment or condemnation, but for the healing of soul and body.

    O Lord, I believe and profess that this, which I am about to receive, is truly your most precious body and your life-giving blood, which, I pray, make me worthy to receive for the remission of all my sins and for life everlasting. Amen.

    O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.
    O God, cleanse me of my sins and have mercy on me.
    O Lord, forgive me, for I have sinned without number.

    Lord Have Mercy,
    Ken Hendrickson

  49. Ken.Hendrickson says:

    … the Liturgy of the Hours (which I use, but substitute the traditional words for this prayer), it gives the text of the prayer as “Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.” I can’t stand it.

    For a few years now, we Ruthenian Byzantine Catholics have been praying it:

    Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
    now and ever and forever. Amen.

    It is good English, and I have grown to like it.

    Lord Have Mercy,
    Ken Hendrickson

  50. AnAmericanMother says:

    BobP,
    I profoundly disagree.
    Until this faithless and perverse generation, the King James or Authorized version was part of the upbringing of the vast majority of the Anglophone world — whether they were Catholic or Protestant or nothing in particular. Not just the old past tenses and the second person singular, but the forms and cadences and the vocabulary. And the language echoed in literature and politics and theater and radio — and everybody recognized it.
    We have lost something precious in the last 30-40 years.
    We are probably worse off for losing familiarity with Beowulf as well (and the Battle of Maldon, the Pearl, Gawain, and all the rest) but unless you were fortunate enough to encounter those at college (I did, although it was a brief encounter, a two-semester survey course of Anglo-Saxon and Middle English) that was gone 100 years ago or more.

  51. AnAmericanMother says:

    Ken.Hendrickson,
    Just what I have been saying for ages!
    A few necessary theological corrections (preferably by a team of slightly pedantic literary men familiar with the Latin and good 17th c. English) are all that is required to have an accurate, vigorous, beautiful, reverent translation of the Mass.
    From your keyboard to God’s monitor!
    And don’t forget a Rosary or two for Cranmer.

  52. jfm says:

    I agree with Ken.Hendrickson and AnAmericanMother.
    The Anglican liturgy contains the most beautiful prayers in English.
    If only the English translators in the RC Church followed their Anglican brethren…

    And while I admire the EF liturgy, I am a post-Vatican II boy who has been longing to love the Mass in English. I have only felt that level of linguistic awe as a guest at Anglican services (particularly Sunday Vespers at St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue in NYC.) Best Sundays: Latin Mass (St. Agnes) in the morning, gym, brunch, then Vespers at St. Thomas.