Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bishop Vann on the new English translation of the Roman Missal

Well, I've been too sick to blog.

But Bishop Vann of our diocese here in Fort Worth has something I want to link to instead: a nice discussion of what's coming:

When the Second Vatican Council provided for wider usage of the vernacular in the Sacred Liturgy, it also envisioned that the initial translations would be reviewed and changed after a time of practical experience using it in the Liturgy. The publication of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal in Latin in 2000 was seen by the Church as the time for this review. Also, in March of 2001, the 5th instruction on vernacular translation of the Roman Liturgy, Liturgiam Authenticam, was issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. This new instruction on translation recognized that various vernacular translations of liturgical texts were in need of improvement through correction or a new draft. This is when the new English translation of the Roman Missal began.

Liturgiam Authenticam mandated a method of translation called ‘formal equivalency’. This method of translation requires that the texts be translated without omissions, as close to the original Latin syntax as possible and doctrinally precise, using language that preserves the dignity and beauty of the original text. This method of translation is very different from the method used by the translators of the current Missal. The translators of the 1970 Missal following the 1969 instruction Comme le Prevoit used a method called ‘dynamic equivalency’ for their translation which allowed translators to render the text more freely, in a sense to re-imagine the text in the common language of the people. This method allowed for the paraphrasing of texts and removing those parts of the text that were considered to be superfluous. In many instances, with this method of translation, much of the richness of the language present in the Latin liturgy was literally lost in translation.

However, using Liturgiam Authenticam as the basis for this new translation of the texts we pray in the Mass, we will be praying in English, in some ways for the first time, the ancient texts that Church has prayed for hundreds of years. This new translation reflects the dignity and noble simplicity of the original Latin. The English used in the translation is not the language of everyday speech, but the elevated language of great poetry and prose, language that is worthy of the worship of Almighty God. The translation, because of its closeness to the original Latin, reflects more precisely the doctrine of the Church, sometimes using words which, while part of the patrimony of the Church, are unfamiliar to our ears. The new translation of the Roman Missal will also more closely connect the English used in the Roman Missal to what is already being prayed in the majority of European languages, including Spanish. [All emphases added: E.M.]

Go and read the whole thing here--and may I take this opportunity to thank Bishop Vann for such a clear reflection on what we're about to do, and why we're going to do it!


Magister Christianus said...

If you have not seen it, may I suggest my recent post on Anthony Esolen's exquisite piece on the new translation? You can find it here:

The Ranter said...

I want to second Magister's suggestion of Anthony Esolen; he's been writing up pieces for the Magnificat magazine that I have found truly thoughtful.

kkollwitz said...

I second Magister's post.

L. said...

It isn't working out so well over here:

"The Church in Japan and the rest of Asia is preparing new Mass translations. The rule that Rome has issued for this work is that Asian Catholics must celebrate a Western liturgy using literal translations of a Latin text as well as gestures that come from a Mediterranean cultural context.

"So, Japanese bishops have had to argue repeatedly against re-inserting the kissing of the altar into the liturgy here. In Japan, the kiss is a sexual gesture, not one of reverence as it sometimes is in European countries. Yet, the Roman insistence on uniformity has made even that little recognition of cultural diversity a struggle. It appears that since sex enters the picture, the curial officials involved have finally agreed to back down and allow some form of bow instead.

"The response to the greeting, “The Lord be with you,” presents another difficulty. The Latin text that must be translated literally is, “Et cum spiritu tuo” (And with your spirit).

"However, there is no Japanese equivalent to the Latin word, spiritus. The only words that come remotely close mean “spook” or a word that is usually used in a hyper-nationalistic way about “the Japanese spirit.” The curial response to native Japanese speakers who try to point out that difficulty has been that they just do not know their own language well enough."

eulogos said...

So what word do they use for the name of the third person of the Holy Trinity?


eulogos said...

It also strikes me that a kiss here is both sexual and a sign of reverence, and that if a kiss cannot be used that way in Japan, it indicates a deficiency in the Japanese understanding of sex which desperately needs to be Christianized.
Susan Peterson

L. said...

聖霊 = literally, "Holy Ghost." It's not a term that translates easily. But to change, "...and also with you!" to "...and with your spook!" seems to pulling away from the original meaning, not closer to it.

As for the sexual meaning of kissing being "....a deficiency in the Japanese understanding of sex which desperately needs to be Christianized," I admit, I found this to be quite an offensive notion. I think it shows that I, too, have begun to think of kisses as highly sexualized, and, me, they are.

I do know Western people who kiss their children on the lips, and I don't object because I understand they feel differently, but for me, lip-on-lip contact is very intimate, and I don't think this cultural difference is a "deficiency."

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see actual examples of Japanese bishops grousing about the new translation because frankly reading that Grimm article, I've never seen so much projection outside of a movie theater.

eulogos said...

The Holy Ghost is not a spook!

Ghost=geist=spirit. "Spooks" means scary spirits, unholy ones, you might say.

I might be wrong, but I think in this context spiritus means the same thing as anima, the soul, one's true being. And with your spirit means, "with your true self, the part that is immortal."

Some people in our society hear "Ghost" and think Spook. Not those of us who first worshipped with the old Book of Common Prayer, though!
The words pre-existed Christianity, and were Christianized. That can happen to the Japanese word as well.
And I would think it already has, for those whose perspective is larger than the world of the comic strip. After all, there have been Christians in Japan.... since the time of the Nestorians (about 600?) who were heretics but did know the name of the Trinity!
And up until a mere 40 years ago, Catholics in Japan followed the mass in Latin with missals which must have had a Japanese translation of "Et cum spiritu tuo" on the other side. Catholics my age would still remember that from their childhoods.

So this sounds to me like a shallow objection, like one totally unrooted in the whole cultural history.

eulogos said...

As for kisses, and reverence....

Have you heard the line from the old Anglican wedding ceremony,

"With my body I thee worship." ?

That is the connection which makes a kiss part of the marital embrace and also how we reverence a crucifix, an icon, the hands of a priest, or the altar.


Anonymous said...

Just to dot the i's, etc., I jotted off an email to someone I know who was raised Catholic in Japan for his input. I'm not saying what Grimm says is bogus, but we've been burned by hard-to-verify claims of cultural artifacts before.

L. said...

I'd be interested to hear what your friend says, romishgraffiti -- I am not Japanese myself, so I have no intuitive appreciation of the nuance of the word.

I would also guess Fr. Grimm, who is a missionary himself (Maryknoll - many decades in Japan), is perhaps not just concerned with the impact of the language changes on the already faithful, but on potential Japanese converts, too.

And funny, I don't why, but "As Time Goes By" seems to be going through my head right now...

LarryD said...

Erin - hope you feel better soon!

Turmarion said...

"Ghost" comes from a Germanic root meaning "rage" or "fury", implying fear. It was later used as a translation for the Latin spiritus (literally, "breath"). As often the case in translation, there was in imperfect overlap of meaning.

It's true that "Holy Ghost" was (and in some places still is) the usual usage for spiritus sanctus; but you have to remember that this usage has centuries of usage in English, but an analogous usage in Japanese would be much more recent, since Christianity was re-established in Japan only a century and a half ago. It may not yet be quite appropriate to say something that could be construed as "And with your spook" in a Japanese context.

For those who say that the Japanese view of kisses shows "a deficiency in the Japanese understanding of sex which desperately needs to be Christianized," let me ask this: Do you think the kiss of peace should involve a kiss (on the lips, or even the cheek) between congregants, regardless of gender or marital status? If the answer is "no", then do you have "a deficiency in the Japanese understanding of sex which desperately needs to be Christianized"?

Erin, hope you feel better soon. Also, I miss the cat in your profile photo! ;)

Anonymous said...

My contact's response:

I have mixed feelings about the liturgy in Japanese and the whole philosophy of "inculturation" behind the move to adapt liturgy to local cultures.

On the one had, I understand the logic and wonder why everything should have to be uniform. We do allow a great diversity of non-Roman liturgies in the Roman Catholic Church -- like the Chaldean Rite, Byzantine Rite, and many others. Why not allow even more diversity?

I can also appreciate how certain things can be stumbling blocks initially. What can "Lamb of God" mean in a culture that has no lambs but only pigs? Can one substitute "Pig of God"?

On the other hand, I think there are limits to such accommodation. There's an innate inappropriateness due to the objective qualities of a pig that would prevent it from substituting for a lamb. Moreover, anybody from any culture can learn what the differences are and signify.

It's true there are problems in translating into Japanese, as the comments in the linked article indicate. They're right. The word they translate as "spook" is "tamashi" or "damashi," and doesn't quite capture "spirit." But then the Japanese originally didn't have a word for "sin" and the Jesuit missionaries had to take over a Buddhist term and invest it with the Christian meaning of "sin," namely the term "tsumi." The same is true with all the other problematic terms. There's no reason Catholicism cannot be transmitted in terms the Japanese or anyone understand, with proper catechesis.

As to gestures like kissing the altar, it's true that these have different significances in Japan. This is why people do not shake hands during the sign of peace, because physical contact (even of hands) is seen as too intimate with strangers sitting next to you in church. So they bow instead, which seems appropriate. Even the handshaking in the West today is an accommodation to our sensibilities, because the original gesture during the Sign of Peace was an actual kiss, though only between those at the altar, not those in the congregation.

Somehow I can't help thinking that most of these objections would never have even arisen had the Church stuck with the traditional Latin Mass. Not only would be not have problems of translation, but we would simply have to all learn what the Latin term "spiritus," for example, means. Further, the priest kisses the altar, not facing the people, which is the source of embarrassment for some, but facing God at the altar, standing before the Tabernacle, where the question of sexual signification is so far from anyone's mind that it would not even occur. Most people in the congregation wouldn't even know the priest was kissing the altar anyway, since it looks to them like no more than a profound bow toward God.

L. said...

People do not shake hands during the sign of peace, because physical contact (even of hands) is seen as too intimate with strangers sitting next to you in church?
If a handshake cannot be used that way in Japan, sounds as if it indicates a deficiency in the Japanese understanding of intimacy which desperately needs to be Christianized!

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Erin, wake me up when they translate the Mass into Fortran or Java....;)

Word verification: feses

I'm not making this up!

Perfect description for a church that focuses on minutiae, such as this translation, and ignores larger moral issues (see