The Polish translation of GIRM 299 on the position of the altar

16_07_01_PontMass_31The personal appeal made by His Eminence Robert Card. Sarah to priests to begin reading Holy Mass ad orientem has once again stirred debate about the correct translation of GIRM 299, about the position of the altar and about the position of the priest at the altar.  The Latin has been explained in a response by the CDW to a dubium.

The official English translation is WRONG.  Some continue to deny that, despite the fact that they are WRONG.

Some have responded, “But Father! But Father!”, they squeak, “the Italian translation of 299 also says that Mass must be ‘facing the people’!  We don’t have to know Latin to know what the Spirit of Vatican II wants us to do.  But you HATE VATICAN II!”

So much for the quality of their arguments.

In any event, under another entry on this matter one of the commentators here said that the Polish translation of 299 gets it right.  I asked for the Polish version and the commentator sent this by email:

 

You can find the Polish text on: kkbids episkopat pl/?id=201#id=225 (two dots removed to get past spam filter) – the official site of Polish “commission for divine worship and discipline of the sacraments”.

And here’s my try on overly literal translation of the first part of #299 into English:

The altar should be built in a distance from the wall, so it would be easy to walk around it and celebrate at it towards the people. It is proper to emplace it in such manner everywhere, where it is possible.

Or with wording similar to the actual English text:

The altar should be built apart from the wall, in a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and celebrate at it facing the people. It is desirable to put it in such a way wherever possible.

 

Note that one sentence of the original Latin has been split into two, [I never thought I would appreciate parataxis.] and the second sentence explicitly refers to the placement. No “quod” that may work differently depending on the language, and no way to misinterpret it.

Oh, by the way, one priest in my city has already said he’ll remove the table altar from his parish church, leaving only the high altar in the sanctuary.

Kudos to that priest and thanks for your effort!

The Poles got it right.

Meanwhile, on the topics of Cardinal Sarah and 299 see these.

Fr. Hunwicke HERE

We have reached a turning point at which every priest knows that if he heeds Cardinal Sarah’s exhortation, he makes it easier for his brother priests also to do the same; and that that if he opts for a quiet life, it will be that bit easier for the Tablet and ACTA to pick off his bolder brother clergy by clamouring for their episcopal persecution. There is no reason why a start cannot be made, after catechesis, by introducing versus Orientem ‘provisionally’ on alternate Sundays, or even just on the first Sunday of each month. Advent, when priest and people go forward together to meet the Lord who Comes to us, is indeed a highly suitable occasion.

In the Veni Sancte Spiritus we ask God the Holy Spirit to water what is parched, to heal what is wounded, to bend what is rigid, to warm what is cold, to govern that which strays from the way.

Prof. DeVille HERE

Many Orthodox have been appalled, as many Eastern Catholics have also been, less by the well-known if rather rare liturgical shenanigans one forever hears about (clown Masses, prancing ladies wafting incense from flea-market crockery, etc.) and more by the profound estrangement of Latin Catholics from their own tradition—indeed, appalled at their open disdain for their own tradition, and that of the universal and undivided Church.

True to form, critics of Sarah’s proposal give every evidence of this, insouciantly defending a disoriented priest celebrating Mass backwards and refusing with indecent haste (as in Westminster) to tolerate any other “tradition” than this one. That is a sign of deep internal pathology bordering on self-hatred, and does not bode well for East-West unity.

At a stroke, Cardinal Sarah’s wise proposal would accomplish two things. First, it would contribute to the slow but on-going process of the Latin Church’s healing and recovery of parts of her tradition that were perversely junked after Vatican II by shady operatives (see Louis Bouyer’s memoirs for evidence of this) playing duplicitous games with a credulous Pope Paul VI. Second, it would contribute to the slow but on-going process of the East and West drawing closer to one another by both drawing closer to Christ, the rising Son of God whom we worship by the first light of dawn in the East.

Prof. Huizenga HERE

I’d also like to remind readers that the issue of ad orientem posture isn’t merely a minor matter of moment for fastidious liturgical nerds, as if the Mass were a mere matter of aesthetics cordoned off safely on Sundays. Rather, liturgy breaks the bounds of the sanctuary and affects all that we do and indeed the wider culture as it brings God’s people to God. The cultivation of culture—first, among Catholics themselves, and then outwards from there—depends on a proper cultus, a liturgy in which God is sought and found. As Pope Benedict XVI made clear in his 2008 address at the Collège des Bernardins, Benedictine monasticism (for example) generated many of the glories of later western Christian civilization as a secondary result because its primary aim was quaerere Deum, seeking God. Restoring ad orientem posture to the ordinary form of the Mass would go a long way to putting God back at the center, and help shape Catholic culture and Catholic witness and service thereby.

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26 Responses to The Polish translation of GIRM 299 on the position of the altar

  1. MWindsor says:

    My wife is Polish and could translate it. But the url doesn’t seem to work even with the two dits added. Could you have another go at the url?

  2. iPadre says:

    I have seen a number of high altars you could walk around if you desired to.

  3. RichR says:

    Interesting, in Poland the liturgical changes back in the 1960’s and 70’s were not introduced piece-meal. The Polish hierarchy waited until most of the liturgical changes were promulgated by Rome, and then they introduced the reforms as a single package along with appropriate catechesis. As a result, there was little confusion or resistance to reforms in the liturgy. EMHCs are not rampant like they are here, vocations continue to stay high, doctrine is well-preached, and Marian devotion is very common. It seems to me that the Poles do not have much of a liturgical axe to grind – liberal or traditional.

  4. cathgrl says:

    MWindsor, when I Googled the part of the url starting with episkopat until the end, I was able to find the entire url.

  5. Elizabeth M says:

    Why does this change need to be done slowly? No one moved this slow with the changes in the late 1960’s. Family went to Mass on Sunday, like all the previous Sundays of their life and the next week – not a year later, not a month later – it was completely different. No warning, just a notice during the sermon that this is what VII said needed to be done and that was it.
    NOW they decide to care if someone gets their feelings hurt?
    One language for the Church, please. This is a battle on so many fronts but it reminds me of a certain quote from a Marine.

  6. Tony Phillips says:

    There’s a few things to keep in mind here. One, the Latin text is (theoretically) the primary text–not the English, not the Polish. Second, for better or worse, there are local versions of the GIRM. Third, the GIRM is the instruction for the Novus Ordo, which is an inferior liturgy to the Tridentine Mass. Taking these points in order:
    1) Although I admire Fr Z’s ardent desire for the quod to refer to altare, [NO! NO! NO! I have NEVER said that.] semantically that doesn’t make sense. If quod is a neuter singular nominative relative pronound (and not a conjunction “for, because”), then semantically it must refer to an entire clause: (a) Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, [That’s what I have been saying for YEARS. Sheesh.] (b) facile circumiri , or (c) in eo celebratio versus populum peragi. [You are going off the rails now.] The natural reading is for the antecedent to be the nearest clause (c), not the most remote (a). [Only if your Latin is not very good and you fall into the trap of reading in the order of the words alone.] So the GIRM does indeed seem to support a versus populum celebration. [No, it doesn’t.] That’s not surprising, given that the GIRM was devised by liturgical ‘progressevists’ and is thereby flawed. (For the Latin text, I’m using the following source, as I can’t find the Latin on the Vatican website:https://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/cdwlgrm.htm.)
    2) Regarding local GIRM variants, note that the French and the Swahili translations omit the quod clause, though it’s found in the Italian, English and Spanish translations. Go figure: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccdds/documents/rc_con_ccdds_missale-romanum_index_en.html.

    […]

  7. MWindsor says:

    Fr. Z – my wife says that your translation is ok but very simplified. [Not my translation. Read the post.]

  8. Augustine says:

    In my home country, the liturgical reform was introduced by firstly celebrating the liturgy in the vernacular for the years and then, abiding to the new rite.

  9. The Masked Chicken says:

    What can one say? You know, all of this could easily be solved if Churches were designed like Möbius strips – they are non-orientable surfaces, so if you start out facing west, one turn around the church and you are facing east. Everybody wins!

    Speaking of poles, once the magnetic poles are half-way through reversing, when the pole is at eastern latitude, any Mass said on the equator at 180 degrees latitude will be facing east, no matter which direction they face.

    The relationship of correct orientation of worship between the easties and the westies is called a skew-symmetric one, because a transform in direction gives the negative in acceptability.

    Just a little Friday night math fun.

    The Chicken

  10. Gail F says:

    Fr. Hunwick said what I have been sayign for years: Why not just say “On these days we’re going to do Mass ad orrientem”? (he said every other Sunday, but final Sundays or Friday mornings or any other days would work). With some catechesis of course — but then do it, as if it’s not a big deal . JUST DO IT, for goodness’s sake. It doesn’t have to be momentous. Some parishes have “guitar Mass” once a week, or folk Mass, or Mass with a cantor instaed of a choir, or… all kinds of things. Why is this any different???

  11. PA mom says:

    I am noodling around how to gently voice my support for this.

    I teach the older kids…maybe I mention lesson planning: adding in the 100 year anniversary of Fatima, suggesting that I have some materials to cover the turning around at the altar, if our parish was doing that….

  12. Eric says:

    I agree with father.
    One taxi is usually enough for me.

  13. Mike says:

    The whole GIRM 299 discussion and the ferocious reaction to Cardinal Sarah’s pleas distract from the central problem of the intrinsic anthropocentricity of the Novus Ordo. That problem, we may hope, can be addressed with greater clarity once the ‘presider’ assumes the aspect of one leading the congregation in prayer toward the Divine Majesty of the Creator, rather than of a game-show host.

  14. JeffK says:

    Okay, I understand that the ‘quod’ doesn’t HAVE to refer to the nearest antecedent clause. What I DON’T understand is WHY you say that it HAS to refer to the FIRST clause.

    Could you of your charity explain why you say that it MUST refer to the first clause but CANNOT refer to the ‘ut’ clause? Is it because ‘expedit’ would be ‘expediat’ by attraction?

    I can understand why ‘quod’ MIGHT refer to the first clause but I don’t understand why it MUST or even why that should be the preferred reading,.

  15. Henry Edwards says:

    JeffK,

    From Fr. Hunwicke, way back in 2001 (even before the CDW settled the matter authoritatively) when he was still an Anglican:

    “Would you like a Latin lesson? Consider the phrase: quod expedit ubicumque possibile
    sit
    . Quod is neuter. So it cannot possibly have as its antecedent celebratio (versus populum), which is feminine. Quod clearly refers to the preceding sentence as a whole, where the crucial term is possit. In GIRM this verb is commonly used for things which are genuinely optional-as in the preceding two and following two paragraphs (297-298 and 300-301).

    “Paragraph 299 says:

    “The High Altar [not, be it observed, every altar] should be constructed away from
    the wall, so that the option is open [possit] of walking easily around it and using it for
    Mass facing the people. This [i.e., having the altar free-standing so that the options are
    open] is desirable wherever possible.

    “GIRM continues-see paragraph 277-to accept that there will be churches where
    keeping the options open in this way is not ‘possible.'”

  16. JeffK says:

    Henry:

    I don’t understand that explanation. The fact that ‘quod’ is neuter means it either needs a neuter referent or be a sort of ‘referentless’ relative referring to ‘the stuff I just said’. Of course, you can also translate ‘quod’ in many circumstances as ‘because’ or ‘since’.

    It can refer back to a clause or a whole sentence.

    It’s unclear exactly what Fr. Hunwicke is saying that if ‘quod’ refers to the preceding ‘ut’ clause [That’s NOT what Fr. H said.] it MUST refer to ‘celebratio’ (and therefore be feminine: ‘quae’) and it CANNOT just refer to the general possibility expressed by the ‘ut’ clause as a whole (in which case it would be ‘quod’). [I think it is time for you to hang up your cleats.]

    So I don’t understand that proposition and I haven’t seen Fr. Zuhlsdorf endorse it.

    I would like to know why he thinks referring ‘quod’ to the ‘ut’ clause is to be excluded. Or even why referring it to the sentence as a whole is preferable. [We’ve been over this ground.]

  17. Andrew says:

    Perhaps a paraphrase might be of some help: for example: An electronic alarm should be installed, so that thieves cannot break into your house, which is useful. (quod expedit).

  18. Andrew says:

    JeffK
    If I trim the statement to its barebone elements I get: this should be done (extruatur) – which is useful (expedit). Within that I see a brief explanation of why this should be done (why extruatur): ut, so that it might be possible to walk around etc (ut circimiri possit); not even posset.

  19. JeffK says:

    Andrew:

    I think I have figured this out. I’m not sure if it would MIGHT have been better to attempt an answer to a legitimate question from someone who is entirely sympathetic to the argument but wants a coherent answer about the Latin rather than being told to “hang up his cleats”, but what the heck. ;)

    The Latin text:

    Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit.

    My question could be boiled down to this:
    1.) Suppose a Latin student is asked to translate this English into Latin–

    “The altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible.”

    2.) Suppose that from “in such a way…” his translation into Latin was this–

    “ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit.”

    3.) Suppose his teacher marks it wrong and asks him to consult with friends and try again and explain his mistake for partial credit. Suppose he consults with me.

    4.) Suppose I tell him that “quod” is the wrong pronoun to use in order to get that meaning. If he uses “quod” then the antecedent is the idea of the whole preceding sentence rather than just the idea of celebrating Mass facing the people. He needs to use “quae” instead, in reference to ‘celebratio’.

    5.) Suppose he then says, “Why can’t ‘quod’ refer just to the last clause generally—the one about celebrating Mass–rather than the whole preceding sentence?

    What answer should I give? I can say, Fr. Z says so. I can say, Learn some Latin, bub. I can, Hang up your cleats.

    But those aren’t the most helpful answers, are they?

    This is the answer that I have crafted:

    “‘Quod’ can refer generally to a sentence or clause or phrase. But it can only do so when the meaning does not clearly indicate a noun or pronoun antecedent that is being referred to.

    “If you want to express the idea that that Mass should be celebrated facing the people when possible then there is a clear noun antecedent that your relative pronoun is referring to: “Mass” in the English; “celebratio” in the Latin.

    “Therefore, you simply cannot use “quod” to express the meaning you wish to express. You MUST use “quae” which matches “celebratio” in gender.

    “If you use “quod” the sentence is either incorrect or “quod” must be construed to refer to the sentence as a whole.

    “Change your “quod” to “quae” and give this explanation and you should get the points offered.”

    Fr. Hunwicke’s answer is right but it didn’t directly address the question that was needling me so I didn’t fully understand it. Mea maxima culpa! ?

    Now I’ve solved it to my own satisfaction!

    And that helps me to see that the last phrase must have been added not to slip in under the radar the idea that Mass should be celebrated ‘versus populum’ when possible. Rather it was introduced to make clear that people didn’t need necessarily to do architectural violence to churches in order to produce altars that can be walked around because that probably doesn’t ‘expedit’—the exact OPPOSITE intention from that being conveyed by many!

  20. JeffK says:

    Andrew:

    I think I have figured this out. I’m not sure if it would MIGHT have been better to attempt an answer to a legitimate question from someone who is entirely sympathetic to the argument but wants a coherent answer about the Latin rather than being told to “hang up his cleats”, but what the heck. ;)

    The Latin text:

    Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit.

    My question could be boiled down to this:
    1.) Suppose a Latin student is asked to translate this English into Latin–

    “The altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible.”

    2.) Suppose that from “in such a way…” his translation into Latin was this–

    “ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit.”

    3.) Suppose his teacher marks it wrong and asks him to consult with friends and try again and explain his mistake for partial credit. Suppose he consults with me.

    4.) Suppose I tell him that “quod” is the wrong pronoun to use in order to get that meaning. If he uses “quod” then the antecedent is the idea of the whole preceding sentence rather than just the idea of celebrating Mass facing the people. He needs to use “quae” instead, in reference to ‘celebratio’.

    5.) Suppose he then says, “Why can’t ‘quod’ refer just to the last clause generally—the one about celebrating Mass–rather than the whole preceding sentence?

    What answer should I give? I can say, Fr. Z says so. I can say, Learn some Latin, bub. I can, Hang up your cleats.

    But those aren’t the most helpful answers, are they?

    This is the answer that I have crafted:

    “‘Quod’ can refer generally to a sentence or clause or phrase. But it can only do so when the meaning does not clearly indicate a noun or pronoun antecedent that is being referred to.

    “If you want to express the idea that that Mass should be celebrated facing the people when possible then there is a clear noun antecedent that your relative pronoun is referring to: “Mass” in the English; “celebratio” in the Latin.

    “Therefore, you simply cannot use “quod” to express the meaning you wish to express. You MUST use “quae” which matches “celebratio” in gender.

    “If you use “quod” the sentence is either incorrect or “quod” must be construed to refer to the sentence as a whole.

    “Change your “quod” to “quae” and give this explanation and you should get the points offered.”

    Fr. Hunwicke’s answer is right but it didn’t directly address the question that was needling me so I didn’t fully understand it. Mea maxima culpa! ?

    Now I’ve solved it to my own satisfaction!

    And that helps me to see that the last phrase must have been added not to slip in under the radar the idea that Mass should be celebrated ‘versus populum’ when possible. Rather it was introduced to make clear that people didn’t need necessarily to do architectural violence to churches in order to produce altars that can be walked around because that probably doesn’t ‘expedit’—the exact OPPOSITE intention from that being conveyed by many!

  21. Andrew says:

    JeffK
    In this example, the ‘quod’ is not a pronoun. It is a conjunction. The structure is: Fiat A ut fieri possit B, quod expedit. [In 299, quod is not a conjunction.]

  22. Henry Edwards says:

    JeffK,

    Fine details of Latin grammar aside, surely the final and definitive answer is that GIRM 299 means precisely what the Congregation for Divine Worship–the competent Holy See dicastery, whose creature the GIRM is–says it means. And, in response to the dubium discussed here previously, the CDW replied plainly and authoritatively that GIRM says it’s desirable that the altar be detached, not that it’s desirable for Mass to be celebrated facing the people. It added for emphasis that both orientations for the celebration of Mass are equally admissible under this law.

    I understand that this would be the case whatever grammar seemed to imply. For Church law means precisely what the Church says it does, whatever some individual, on whatever grounds, thinks it says.

  23. Andrew says:

    Henry Edwards
    Agreed! And also: it would be superfluous to speak of the possibility of walking around an altar that is detached from the wall. [It has to be far enough from the wall so that it can be walked around that Mass can be celebrated at it versus populum, not just separated a couple inches.]

  24. JeffK says:

    Henry Edwards:

    You are right indeed! But official interpretations can change and it helps to understand what the Latin says and WHY.

    In any case, I WANTED to understand it and now I do. ;)

  25. Matt Robare says:

    I’m almost at the point where I think we should bring back roodscreens.

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