ICEL’s Bishop Roche looks at what the prayer really says

In the article in the Tablet Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds, chairman of ICEL, gets into what a prayer for Easter really says.  Here is the bit from the article (my emphasis and comments):

Whatever is said about Liturgiam Authenticam by its critics, it has served us well as a key to unlock the treasury of the Missal [Sound like a familiar objective?]. We have been surprised and delighted by the riches that a careful attention to forms of prayer has revealed to us.

For example, we have translated the Prayer after Communion for Easter Day like this:

With unfailing love and care, O God,
watch over your Church,
so that, renewed by the paschal mysteries,
she may reach the bright glory of the

[This is how WDTPRS did it in a slavishly literal version not intended for liturgical use:

Look to Thy Church, O God, with unending dutiful good will,
so that, having b
een renewed by means of the paschal sacramental mysteries,
it may attain to th
e glory of the resurrection.

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Father of love,
watch ov
er your Church
and bring us to th
e glory of the resurrection
ed by this Easter sacrament.

I like the use of "she" for the Church in new ICEL version.  Now back to the article….]

Notice first that, whereas our current texts often begin with an address to God ("O Lord" or "O God" or simply "Lord"), we have delayed mentioning the divine title until a little later in the prayer as the Latin does. This seems to give prayers a less peremptory, more courteous tone.

Secondly, whereas in English a word or phrase that qualifies a verb usually comes after the verb, we have followed the Latin in putting it before. A more natural English word order would be "so that she may reach the bright glory of the Resurrection renewed by the paschal mysteries", but this ends the prayer on a diminuendo whereas our proposed version ends on a climax with the word "resurrection". Frequently the Latin prayers will end on a note of hope, naming what we look forward to either in this world or the next. We have judged it worthwhile to follow this pattern even though it often involves using constructions such as parentheses (like "renewed by the paschal mysteries" in this text) that may offer a certain challenge to the one who proclaims it.

We are constantly concerned with the issue of register. A register is a subset of a language suitable to a particular context: I would use one register to address Parliament and a different one to speak to a class of young children. Early in the process, we proposed that towards the end of Eucharistic Prayer 1 (the Roman Canon) the priest should say: "To us sinners also … deign to grant some share and fellowship with your holy apostles and martyrs." "Deign" was greeted with howls of derision from all sides [dopes!]: it was thought to belong to too formal a register for the liturgy. So we tried a much more colloquial version, "please grant some share and fellowship". This was judged too informal. So we finally settled on "be pleased to grant …" which seems to fall between the two.  [I like "deign".]

The prayers of the Roman Rite use many expressions of courtesy in addressing God. To find the appropriate polite form for an occasion is not easy: ask yourself what you would say if you unexpectedly met the Queen, for instance. The liturgical texts that we currently use omit many deprecatory expressions found in the Latin original. We are restoring them, and in doing so trying to forge a new register of courteous address to God. Like any new register, it will need to be learnt.  [Huzzah!  I say ye "yay" Arthur Roche!]

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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One Comment

  1. CaesarMagnus says:

    “[deign] was thought to be too formal for the liturgy”
    Gee whiz, can anything be “too formal” for the litrugy. If that is the attitude shouldn’t we just get rid of the rubrics and books too? It is the Divine Liturgy, not a TV sitcom, although in some churches it may have become that.

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