6 August 2008

Liturgiam authenticam?

...was an admirable Roman document which urged as much literalism as possible in the rendering of Latin liturgical texts into English. I had tried my own hand at translation, mainly in the rendering of the Paul VI prefaces (the ICEL products just seemed too gross for use in the House of God) and in texts of propria novissima which the users of my ORDO wished to be able to use; and I did find the tension between exactness and literary elegance rather a struggle. So I was interested how exactly New ICEL would work this out in practice.

It has to be said that New ICEL has not been nearly as literal as it could quite easily have been. Examples: Cardinal Medina Estevez once singled out the phrase in the Apostles' Creed carnis resurrectionem as one which would have to be translated accurately as 'the resurrection of the flesh' (Cranmer himself dithered over this, writing 'flesh' in one place and 'body' in another). But Ordo2008 renders 'the resurrection of the body'. Laus tibi Christe is rendered in traditional Anglican liturgy as 'Praise be to thee O Christ', where I would argue that 'be' does accurately express an exclamatory optative in ellipse. Dead literalism could have been served by 'Praise to thee O Christ'. I wonder why NewICEL went for pleonasm here.

Ite missa est has always been a problem. 'Go: it's the dismissal' has just seemed too, too banausic for anybody to sponsor it. I feel it could be justified; this formula has a bivalence, a unique double function and nature as being simultaneously the conclusion of the liturgical act and the resumption of the non-liturgical world; at one a part and not a part of the Mass; so perhaps it could have done with having such a unique and striking literary form. I am cautious about developing the dismissal element in the mass. Among Anglicans such development has led to unfortunate turgidities like 'Send us out into the world in the power of thy Spirit to live and work to thy praise and glory'. I do hope that my RC friends will not allow themselves to be led down this path. The Eucharist is not a jolly useful springboard for the real Christian business of going out and changing the world and doing social service and voting Green. The Eucharist is the telos, the end and purpose of human life and existence, the Son's everlasting propitiation before His Father in a wonderful mysterion granted to be among us. Seeing the Mass as having a utilitarian purpose, however high and noble, is the beginning of godlessness.

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