Cordibus nostris, quaesumus, Domine,
gratiam tuam benignus infunde,
ut ab humanis semper retrahamur excessibus,
et monitis inhaerere valeamus, te largiente, caelestibus.
This prayer is in the ancient Veronese Sacramentary in the month of December, which was a fast time, of course: Cordibus nostris, quaesumus, domine, benignus infunde, ut sicut ab escis corporalibus temperamus, ita sensos quoque nostros a noxio retrahamus excessu. In the Gelasian it was given for Tuesday of Lent, which I am not sure. In the pre-Conciliar Roman Missal a predecessor was found on Friday of Passion Week: Cordibus nostris, quaesumus, Domine, gratiam tuam benignus infunde : ut peccata nostra castigatione voluntaria cohibentes, temporaliter potius maceremur, quam supplices deputemur aeternis.
For inhaereo, which is "to stick in, to stick, hang, or cleave to, to adhere to, inhere in" and it is constructed with the dative. I like "cleave to", because there is an echo of the spousal relationship of God and His Church in the word.
O Lord, we beg, kindly pour
Your grace into our hearts,
so that we may always be drawn back from human aberrations,
and we may be strong enough, you making it possible, to cleave to heavenly admonishings.
God admonished our First Parents not to eat of the fruit of the tree. Yet, because of the wiles of the Enemy, they turned their will from God’s command and made the choice to decide their own good and evil. Now, because of the rupture with God, our intellect and will is gravely wounded, still good, but wounded. We can still reason to what what is good and right and true by means of the tangle of our minds and through the help of different kinds of authority. Then our will must make the choice to grasp what is good and right and true. Our intellect and will need the necessary help of grace.
All good things come from God. When we make the choice to grasp hold of those things, God makes our hands strong enough for the grasping. Together we bring to completion those things He began. So, God crowns His own works in us, so that they are simultaneously His and ours.
“humanis/caelestibus : excessibus/monitis”
In the second part of todays prayer we have a typical latin rhetorical device known as chiasmus because of its diagrammatic representation by the letter X (chi): AB Ã¢â‚¬â€œ BA. It isnt just word-play, but an interconnection of ideas.
(1) I dont think its a matter of “aberrations”, altho Fr.Z quite understandably picked that word because of the root (“erro” . . wander off, hence mistake). But in english “aberration” is now petrified in the figurative sense of “perverse error” and has no connotation of physical movement. The latin 4th declension noun “excessus” means nothing more than “departure”, primarily in the physical sense but in figurative ones too, as in “passing away” or “falling short of a standard”: “a pudore excessus puniebantur” doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mean “aberrations from modesty were punished”, but “all breaches of modesty were punished” (to use a related english metaphor). What we want is a word descriptive of movement. “Wandering” or “straying”, unlike “aberration”, keep in play the double sense of movement and error.
(2) This is important because the latin continues with the word “retraho”. The prayer is that movement by us humans (in the wrong direction, to be sure) is to be corrected by God’s intervention. “Retraho” has the primary meaning of dragging back in the opposite direction from where [he/she/it] was going. It is putting a movement into reverse. For this purpose a vigorous intervention is envisaged, hence “retraho” is generally used in a context of forcible retraint and reorientation. Its the word used for the rendition of fugitive slaves, for instance. It has softer applications, too, but the strong sense is the primary signification of the word, and it fits in with our knowledge of human nature, our obstinacy. God’s intervention must be unrelenting “semper” because we are always sliding back: “sine Te labitur humana mortalitas”: (Tuesday of week 2). Think of a dog on a lead. Its natural (“caninis excessibus”) for the dog to be running off in all directions when the owner is taking it for a walk. Thats what the lead/leash is for: to pull it back on course.
(3) The pay-off in the prayer is the second petition: for us to be strong enough or capable enough (or “successfully”) “inhaerere” to the heavenly counsels. We need to try and maintain the rhythm and flow of the image. “Cleave” sends us off, rather, in the wrong direction again because it is exclusively figurative and static. The image of the Church as the bride of Christ and the extensive set of images centring on marital love as expressive of Gods love for us (see Deus caritas est, part I, passim) is beautiful and vivid, but it is totally out of place here. The latin word, when applied to things is generally static (fixtures/fittings/attachments). But in a human context it is used for instance, of “marking” an enemy (think of a ball game), and of keeping close to a companion, either so that the companion wont get lost, or that you wont. Think also of an obedient dog out for a walk. The latin verb is also used for “sticking to a trail” (I havent found it used of a dog: that was my idea). Since journeying and guidance are among the dominant themes of the latin so far, all these remarks are pertinent without in any way straying from the principle of literal translation. There is nothing in a literal translation that necessarily involves dropping crucial connections.
I have been looking over the ICEL translations seeing how they match up to the themes of the collects as provisionally analysed by me on an earlier post which I cant now identify (I remember Fr. Z. handed me out a star for effort, and exhorted me to continue: applause, applause!). The immediate conclusion is that the ICEL translations by and large follow their own drift (the military theme is ignored part from “struggle” on ash wednesday; renewal/growth is a major theme, but not reflective of anything in the latin prayers; and a bland “help” stripped of all metaphorical input is fairly ubiquitous, as Henry has been reminding me).
When I locate my previous post I will see how subsequent collects fit in. The thematic development within a flexible vocabulary is an essential element of the style and structure of the latin collects which avoid monotony while revolving the same basic ideas among various themes.
Martin: I can picture you each morning, stretching, yawning, pouring that cup of coffee, saying “How can I disagree with WDTPRS today?”
Still, I am pleased these daily entries are helping you get into the prayers. That is the point of the series. I sometimes wonder if the weight of information doesn’t scare away other, less dictionary endowed, readers of the blog. A long time ago I applied to these articles (in print and the internet) the profound truth that a prof here in Rome uttered at us all in dismay: “Mentio non fit expositio!” he thundered.
BTW… I see that you have applied some WD-40 to that Shift key, for which we are all grateful.
fill our hearts with your love
and keep us faithful to the Gospel of Christ.
Give us the grace to rise above our human weakness.
Well, there you have it, the all-purpose ICEL-word appearing in every collect this week. Seriously, when a word is used constantly as a general placeholder for whatever meaning vaguely fits, it begins to lose its original force and particular meaning. So after forty years of ICEL-prayers and so many ICEL-like homilies, too many fine old words like “love” no longer retain their once beautiful and powerful meanings in everyday Catholic use. There! Perhaps we can let luv alone for awhile.
Martin: You wrote: “I dont think its a matter of “aberrations”, altho Fr.Z quite understandably picked that word because of the root (“erro” . . wander off, hence mistake). But in english “aberration” is now petrified in the figurative sense of “perverse error” and has no connotation of physical movement. The latin 4th declension noun “excessus” means nothing more than “departure”, primarily in the physical sense but in figurative ones too, …”
The L&S says “a deviation, aberration from any thing” providing also Christian reference, from Prudentius.
Also, you wrote: “‘Cleave’ sends us off, rather, in the wrong direction again because it is exclusively figurative and static.”
I don’t think this need be interpreted as static at all, except in relation to the thing one cleaves to. Cleave is “to adhere firmly and closely or loyally and unwaveringly”.
Clearly today’s prayer needs an image of movement.
never yawning, or drinking coffee, Fr. Z.
yes, its a lenten observance, with a lot of thought and reflection and a lot of input.
no, Im not intimidated (and I dont think you mean to intimidate or patronise me) by your several intimations that my comments are contrary, perverse, over-fastidious or excessive.
I hope that my contributions (long and short; some are very short) might actually encourage others to find their own way through the latin, and not feel that Fr. Z. is always right (Fr. is usually right, and always provoking, in the best sense of the word, but people dont need to be shy in speaking out if they think Father is wrong, although they must always be courteous).
Translation is about choices, and sometimes, through haste or oversight, a wrong choice is made.
Take my post on “retraho” above, for instance.
On Tuesday of the 2nd week the latin had “[ecclesia] abstrahatur a noxis et ad salutaria dirigatur”. You translated it: “let [the Church] be pulled back from injuries” and that properly conveyed the force of “traho” as “drag”. Today you give “drawn back” for “retraho” and the impact is far milder; hortatory, even. I try to demonstrate why the forceful sense is the correct one, not only as a matter of being true to the latin, but in the overall context of the prayers. The ICEL translations are disappointing precisely because they ramble without staying focussed. And when they do focus, as Henry reminds us, the result is too often vacuous and banal. What I am focussing on is the persistence of a thematic structure in the language as well as in the thought. Its as well, too, for people to understand how it is that the translation project must take so much time.
Again, the ICEL have used “help us” in 10 collects so far; but the help is without any context. In the latin we have imagery of soldiers fighting, of sickness/health, of people on an arduous journey. All of these are crystal-clear images of people in need of immediate help and support, and out of them the Church draws many and fruitful parallels which mesh with our experience of lent. God is the only force which can overcome our weakness. Sometimes he coaxes, sometimes He consoles and these are in the latin prayers too. But when the words have force and urgency, we need at least to recognise the issue and test its applicability. The point of a blog such as this is to engage with the issues, isnt it?
Even at the expenditure of time and effort, and i do recognise that many people do not have a lot of time to research and probe. You, too, Fr. Z. have a busy schedule and maybe on occasion you make a post which isnt as polished as it might be. The spirit of the blog, as i have distilled it in my few weeks of following the collects, is a joint exercise of study.
A project where Fr. Z. dishes out all the relevant material (no questions allowed) and leaves his class to do their version on the basis of what he has provided is not where we are at. Or have I missed something? No, i know i havent!
But its a blog, after all. And if some people want to use it for one purpose and others for another, they can just scroll down the comments until they get where they want to be. Im just very grateful for the opportunity you provide for a serious engagement with the tribulations of translating Church latin.
Thank you very much for the changes in your style of typing. Today I was able to read through and follow your two long posts above with ease and pleasure, whereas before I would have probably dropped out halfway through as being just too labourious to continue.
I can only speak for myself, of course, but the “weight of information” is why I am here in the first place. I am definitely among the “less dictionary endowed” (having at hand only an ancient Cassell’s Latin-English dictionary published in 1910, and which you did not even mention in your recent and very informative discussion of available dictionaries), and I can by no means enter the discussion on the level at which you and Martin operate.
But I am here to learn, and I’m pleased to find that by now I can usually get the sense of at least two lines of the daily Collect before I check the translation. So some progress is being made.
tipping my non-existent biretta to Karen:
Fr. Z. , yes, for sure “aberro” means wander off/deviate/get lost as well as make a mistake or be unfaithful. But thats altogether wide of the mark since we dont have “aberro” in the prayer. I guess the only issue is whether people generally would recognise movement in the english word “aberration”. I strongly doubt it. Anyway,we are agreed about the image of movement. And there is its counterpart: the image of God hauling us back on track.
The problem with “cleave” was precisely that it introduced a new image (and a once-off, i bet) of the Mystic marriage which is between us and God, and between Christ and His Church. Static or dynamic, the marriage theme isnt in the latin prayer and a translation that starts us drifting of in that direction isnt, I think, what is called for.
While i am on the trail, I have been looking back over the ICEL translations to see how this theme is handled.
In the 1st week of Lent we get “bring us back to you” and “turn [our hearts to
you]” for “converte”; in the 2nd week the sense of God’s necessary intervention to correct us from going off-beam becomes stronger, and we find the verbs “abstraho”, “dirigo”, “perduco” (x2) and “guberno”. This theme is continued in the 3rd week with “guberno” and now “retraho”. In each case, ICEL gives help/bring/guide which doesnt quite cut it. With todays “retraho”, God’s forceful and dramatic intervention is air-brushed out of the picture. What todays ICEL translation conveys is more “give us the tools and we will finish the job”.
Sometimes (perversely) it seems slang is more suited to sketching the area of discussion than the more correct usages which must appear in the prayer. I shows how sloppy I am that slang jumps unbidden to my pen while i have to strain for the “right” word.
Martin: About that inhaerere. Unless I missed it in a couple of readings, you didn’t reveal you own preferred alternative to “cleave”, which I must admit to liking. I’m reminded of the line
fac me tuis semper inhaerere mandatis
in the priest’s prayer for sanctification before communion (mandatory in the old Mass, optional in the new Mass — unfortunately so, as with all its options; as Cardinal Ratzinger has suggested, elimination of all options would do much to pull the Novus Ordo out of the ditch, but that’s another matter). My two 1962 Latin-English hand missals give the translations
make me always adhere to Thy commandments
make me always cleave to Thy commandments
of which I much prefer the latter; it suggests to me a deeper more determined personal commitment, whether to commandments or to heavenly admonishings. But what would be your recommendation here? Incidentally, the ICEL version of this line is
keep me faithful to your teaching
which I assume we can all agree to reject as more flat and passive.
Karen: Thanks for the note. I am always concerned that the detail we go into doesn’t scare people off.
Karen: Aside from “weight of information” about Latin, Fr. Z certainly told us more about Latin dictionaries than anyone else can stand to know. During the first year of his WDTPRS series in The Wanderer, I was about where you say you are now, with just a copy of Cassell’s. It was a great leap forward when I learned about and acquired the copy of Stelten, Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin that after five years of constant daily use still shows little sign of abuse. Seriously, and speaking as a bookman, it’s binding and pages are of truly uncommon durability; the publisher evidently knew how such dictionaries get thumbed. If enticed, you can check it out by going to amazon.com and searching on “ecclesiastical latin”.
UK/Ireland Breviary Translation
Lord, open our hearts to your grace.
restrain us from all human waywardness
and keep us faithful to your commandments.
I think the breviary translation of the first part is excellent, and “wayward” catches it exactly.
“inhaerere valeamus, te largiente” is massively under-translated, tho.
This is my problem with “cleave” (I think “cling” would do, but Im not sticking to it). The word is fairly under-used and is on the edge of falling out of general use except in certain phrases, like “tongue cleaving to the roof of my mouth”, or as a reminiscence of the marriage ceremony in the Book of Common Prayer. Because of this development, it has the sense of “stuck fast” and in such a situation the result a kind of immobility: as with “embrace”. I recognise that when someone is clinging to you (or if you are clinging to someone else) freedom of movement is impaired, but something’s gotta give.
“Adhere” is a possibility despite the gluey element because it maintains a life independent of proprietary adhesives. We adhere to principles and we can be adherents of an ideology. Of course, in slang we can say “I will stick to you like glue”, but thats another story.
Why is freedom of movement necessary in the translation? I began my first comment by drawing attention to the chiasmus in the latin. The thought is that we have gone off-track (“humanis excessibus”)and we are pleading with God to drag us back by a forceful intervention. But we are on a journey. We need to get back on track because we are going somewhere. “Inhaerere” has the meaning of “sticking to a trail”. See how complex i think the prayer really is? We are off-track, please God drag us back, and help us to keep on-track.
Now, in the OT the notion of walking in God’s paths actually means following His precepts and we have the same overlap in “ways”. But the prayer cant say “caelestibus viis” because the journey is an earthly one altho the precepts are from God. In fact the latin isnt “praeceptis” anyway, but “monitis” and a “monitus” is a warning as well as advice.
We could turn it round and say “hold fast to Your words [of warning]” or quite [too?] simply, “follow Your advice” which is perfect on a semantic level but fails the style test. It was precisely because this is too banal for a prayer that the latin composer added “caelestibus”, but in english “heavenly” can have simplistic overtones except in fixed phrases like “heavenly kingdom” “Heavenly Father”, and “divine” is subject to the same dilution. Modern use of capitals, however, allows us to impart a sense of divine when we write “Your advice” or “Your words”, and this is quite sufficient in a written text, but gives no assistance with a spoken text, so we may have to insert an alternative divine reference to the Deity here.
“hold fast to Your Fatherly words of warning” is where I have ended up, i think, Henry. For now, at least. Try adding “divine” before “words” or “warning” and you may see the problem I have in mind.
Fr. Z. I apologise for a rushed post yesterday answering one of yours to me where you gave a definition from lewis and short under “excessus” which I took to be from an entry under “aberratio”. I acknowledged that “excessus” had a figurative sense of “deviation” or “falling short of a standard” and quoted “excessus a pudore puniebantur”.
The issue, however, isnt the meaning of the latin (on which we agree that the primary sense is movement); rather it concerns extraneous connotations, in particular the connotations of the english word “aberrations” which lacks any sense of movement away from something: mostly it means some kind of “mistake”.
It was the same issue over “cleave”, which you liked precisely because it had a marital connotation, but which I objected to because that connotation was out of place in this prayer in this lenten series of collects. I misremembered its anglican roots, by the way, for it appears not in the marriage service, but in the AV version, Gen.2:24 quoted at Mt.19:5. In the same translation, bones cleave to skin (Ps.102:5) and the tongue cleaves to the roof of the mouth of the psalmist (Ps.137:6) and of Ezekiel (Ezk.3:26). There are many non-marital instances of “cleave” there too: personal (e.g. Jos.23:8), and with an ethical intent (e.g. Ro.12:9). My point here is that these other uses are obsolescent in modern english, where the dominant usages are the marital and buccal ones (and even there only in atrophied phrases). As long ago as the 4th edition of the Oxford Concise English Dictionary (1951), included under “cleave” the physical meaning of “stick or adhere to”, but noted the word was archaic except in the figurative sense of “be faithful to”. Half a century later, the generalised figurative sense of being faithful is archaic, and the physical meaning is obsolete.
I am no longer surprised to encounter the coincidence that the psalm cited above is actually used for Laetare Sunday (Ps. 136 in the vulgate), although I had no idea of the fact when I was writing this note this morning, and only posted now.