Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Profound Postcommunion

My ears pricked up while Fr Allan read the prayer after Communion at Mass to-day for the 22nd of December: unusually for the ICEL translation, it included the word "merit" - and in toto was a most noteworthy collect:

strengthen us by the sacrament we have received. [Probably we are to understand this as a subordinate clause causally linked to the next, so read it as "Lord, strengthen us by the sacrament we have received, that thereby you may..."]
Help us to go out to meet our Saviour
[This clause gives an Advent flavour by alluding to the parable of the wise and foolish virgins waiting for the Bridegroom to arrive for the wedding feast: which is an image of our Christian life of expectation and keeping watch for Christ's Coming]
and to merit eternal life [gulp! that's a rather scary thought - but of course we do this "in Christ", Whose members we are by baptism, and Whose grace makes our actions supernaturally meritorious for the sake of His Passion]
with lives that witness to our faith.
We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. [Or, rather, "Through Christ our Lord," the proper short ending, much more truly significant, since all this we ask, and all this we know can only be granted, through Him our Mediator and Redeemer.]

So much for the ICEL version; in default of having the upcoming new and faithful translation to hand (it's due for implementation in 2011 I now understand), here is the Latin:

Roboret nos, Domine, tui sacramenti perceptio, ut venienti Salvatori mereamur cum dignis operibus obviare, et beatitudinis praemia promereri. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.

May the reception of thy sacrament strengthen us, Lord, that [yes, the first clause was a subordinate one of causation] with worthy works [not "lives that witness to our faith" as ICEL Protestantizes it] we may be deserving to meet the coming Saviour, and to merit the reward of beatitude. Through Christ our Lord.

Two separate verbs for deserving and meriting are used: mereamur and promereri. The concept is clearly crucial in this prayer; happily for once ICEL broke its usual rule and actually translated the word "merit".

Note how crappy and patronizing the ICEL paraphrase is: not only is Our Saviour not referred to as "coming" - a pretty stupid omission - but "the reward of blessedness", a beautiful and theologically significant phrase, is replaced with the easier-for-simpletons paraphrase, "eternal life". The causal link between the sacrament and our ensuing actions is removed, and "worthy works" is replaced most misleadingly with "lives that witness to our faith". Bleh!

But to give that body its due, here it actually did manage to convey something of the prayer.

What a great pity that English-speaking Catholics have been given an anemic and positively misleading translation of the Mass for so long. Arguably this is a greater wrong than ever was inflicted: for in the past when Mass was only in Latin, the translations in the hand missals that the laity took to Mass were scrupulously literal. Look at how people nowadays have no idea of the doctrines of merit and of grace - the latter word, so vital in theology, hardly appears at all in the English Mass, and yet it's there in the Latin. O, I forgot, ICEL renders it as "love" - a treacly mess in which we drown.


Anonymous said...

Fancy translating 'grace' into 'love'. What a travesty!

Rob A

Joshua said...

You've no doubt heard of the researcher, here in Australia, who was dumbfounded when a Year 12 student - after thirteen years of Catholic education - said, "Who's this Grace person you're talking about?"

Anonymous said...

Ha ha, 'Grace person', that would be the 'Love person', no doubt.

Rob A