4 January 2008


Should the Lord's Prayer (LP) be modernized? It is, of course, translations that we are considering; Common Worship and ICEL each offer (different) new versions of the original Greek, neither, incidentally, bold enough anyway to satisfy modem scholarly opinion about the meaning of the original. Rome says a firm No; ordinary people can say the old form even when semiconscious! And Rome has a policy aim here; to maintain continuities and prevent modern committee liturgists from slicing through the collective memories that link different generations. Worship, in Rome's view, is not something to be constantly and abruptly Improved by Experts. The Roman pendulum has now swung very firmly back to the principle enunciated by Vatican II and then promptly forgotten by those who claimed to be enacting the Council's wishes: liturgies should evolve organically.

"For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever, Amen" (the Doxology). The C of E and its cultural derivatives in English Protestantism stand alone in treating these words as part of the LP. Modern textual critics have no doubt that they formed no part of the original text of the Gospels. And the worshipping tradition of the Church has not usually regarded them as part of LP. In the Byzantine Rite, the people say LP and the priest then 'caps' it with the Doxology, in a Trinitarian version (For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and for ever and world without end). In the Roman Rite the Doxology was originally unknown, LP was followed by an elaboration of its final clause (Deliver us Lord, we beseech thee from all evils ... ), known as the Embolism, and said by the priest alone. After Vatican II this prayer was abbreviated and eschatologized; and, at its conclusion, the people (not priest and people together) acclaim (ICEL gives a modem translation) the Doxology. In BCP the shorter form of LP is normal, although in services in which LP occurs twice, one of them is in the longer form. Common Worship, curiously, flies in the face both of modern Biblical scholarship and of liturgical tradition by attempting to persuade us to use the longer form, the one with the Doxology, on all occasions.


Anonymous said...

There are, for me, two reasons why the contemporary versions of the LP provided in CW and the ICEL/ICET texts are unsatisfactory. Fr John should please forgive my ignorance of theological reasons - either translation-based or historical.

These reasons are both are both concerned with the pastoral effect which has been hinted at by Fr Hunwicke.

The continuity issue is a valid one but, I think, we must allow change to happen albeit organically (what a good way to think about liturgical development) rather than kneejerk.

Firstly, when one visits an elderly or seriously ill person in hospital it is unlikely that even a regular worshipper will slip easily into a contemporary LP - still less if they are unchurched or dechurched.

Secondly, and this is a point that I would want to make to the (last) CofE Liturgical Commission and to CIEL (the replacement from ICEL and ICET): if we're going to make a change - and it does make some sense to in a contemporary language liturgy - then why can't we just agree on ONE text between us.

This one text could be a flexible version - i.e. with or without embolism - but should be something that unites us. This is especially important with the LP.

Ironically, the comments from Anglican liturgists regarding the latest revision of the Roman Missal tend to be accusations of straying from common texts and making differences more obvious rather than less so - the first time this has happened since the ecumenical movement was reignited in the mid-20th century.

However, it should be pointed out that when CW was compiled - though not when the 1974 missal was - the ICEL/ICET texts were available and were not used: a crying shame.

Both the compilers of CW and the current revision of the Roman Missal are guilty of this. It will be interesting to see how much further things go at the next stage.

Anonymous said...

Sorry - I'm in error. CIEL is not the new ICEL/ICET... though I'm sure some would like it to be! Mea culpa...

Athanasius of Alexandria said...

My attention was caught by the line:

"Worship, in Rome's view, is not something to be constantly and abruptly Improved by Experts. The Roman pendulum has now swung very firmly back to the principle enunciated by Vatican II and then promptly forgotten by those who claimed to be enacting the Council's wishes: liturgies should evolve organically."

It seems as though the greatest putdown which the Tablet can employ is to describe someone who has made comments on the liturgy as "...not a Liturgist." The Bitter Pill and like-minded folk do seem to have forgotten that principle of organic evolution.

Nevertheless, there is an argument for reminding people, especially seminarians, of the existence of the modern form of the LP: many could no more recite it with confidence than they could the Latin (another grievance entirely...), and this is a Bad Thing.

Finally, cibavit eos points out the Anglican Liturgists' (them again) objection to the Roman amendments: that they stray from common texts. The amendments, however, are merely intended to refine one language's translation of the normative text, which happens to be in Latin. It would never occuur to most Anglicans that the words they say on a Sunday morning are translations, that they did not simply drop out of the sky and into the lap of the Archbishop of Canterbury, be he Cranmer, Coggan or Carey.

I have no difficulty with Liturgical pronouncements being made by non-Liturgists (who are - and I think Fr Hunwicke might support this - etymologically speaking, "ordinary people").

I do have grave difficulty with translations being handled by non-linguists, and being pontificated about by those who have no idea why those words are in the order they are.

At least Roman "experts" know they ought to be bilingual.

Anonymous said...

To answer your question, NO! Every modernized Our Father I've seen doesn't improve the meaning or accuracy and is darn hard to say for proper traditionalists like myself.