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Why do we need a new translation of the Mass, anyway?

By Diogenes (articles ) | Dec 14, 2010

In English-speaking countries, the First Sunday of Advent was traditionally known as “stir-up Sunday”—not only because housewives were expected to “stir up” the plum pudding that would be served with Christmas dinner, but also because of the opening prayer for the Sunday liturgy:

Stir up thy power, O Lord, and come, that by thy protection we may be rescued from the dangers that beset us through our sins; and be a Redeemer to deliver us; Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

The original Latin version of this prayer—which is now said on the first Thursday in Advent—is: 

Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et magna nobis virtute succurre, ut, quod nostra peccata praepediunt, gratia tuae propitiationis acceleret. Per Dominum. 

The translation currently in use—the one you heard, if you were at Mass on December 2—reduces the poetry of the prayer to this office-memo prose:

Father, we need your help. Free us from sin and bring us to life. Support us by your power.

Any other questions?

[H/t to Women for Faith and Family.]

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Show 7 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: New Sister - Dec. 23, 2010 12:06 PM ET USA

    "boring"? How about officious to the point of irreverence? Sure, the revised "translations" are a vast improvement, but now that I go to the Traditional Latin Mass (with my mother's 1958 Missal), I, along with throngs of others who are blessed with access to this solemn liturgy, find even the new translations– yea, modern liturgy itself – so far lacking. Why, o why, not use the rich translations and Eucharistic prayers that were in place pre-Vatican II?

  • Posted by: Lisa Nicholas, PhD - Dec. 20, 2010 1:47 PM ET USA

    I rejoice that this collect is still used on the Third Sunday of Advent in the Anglican Use (notice how it translates "magna nobis virtute succurre"): Stir up thy power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let thy bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory, world without end. Amen.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Dec. 20, 2010 10:31 AM ET USA

    Has anyone noticed how often good things come in November?

  • Posted by: ILM - Dec. 16, 2010 1:02 PM ET USA

    Stpetric, your comment seems to assume innocence on the part of those that defend “this stuff”. The rewrite of the Mass after Vatican II very skillfully eliminated reference to personal responsibility for sin. The example above shows this. Hopefully changes coming next November will undo some of the damage.

  • Posted by: unum - Dec. 15, 2010 8:24 AM ET USA

    They say that a giraffe is a horse designed by a committee, and boring prose is inspirational prayer translated by a committee. In many of the Church meetings we attend, we pray, "Come Holy Spirit ..." and then dive into our own agendas without giving the Spirit a chance to inspire us. The result is uninspired. I pray that in the coming year we will actually invite the Spirit so that we may produce inspired results.

  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Dec. 15, 2010 2:36 AM ET USA

    But the current version has fewer than 140 characters! Surely a Twitter-compliant liturgy is SO much to be preferred.

  • Posted by: stpetric - Dec. 14, 2010 10:08 PM ET USA

    These "translations" are not only put into English so bad that 3rd graders would find it boring, but it's not even a good reflection of the Latin--the worst of both worlds! How people can defend this stuff completely baffles me.

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