imposing an agenda? (continued)

By Diogenes (articles ) | Apr 10, 2006

I want to elaborate on my objections below to Bishop Trautman's criticism of the proposed retranslation of the Mass.

The text to be translated into English is the latest edition of the Missale Romanum, the approved Latin base text (editio typica), which is the official standard text of the Roman Rite and the text from which all vernacular versions (German, Tagalog, Spanish, Tamil, English ...) are to be translated.

That means that the task of the translators of the Missale Romanum, regardless of the receptor language, is one and the same: to translate the approved Latin text by means of which the Church has definitively codified the Roman Rite.

One of the translations that Trautman singles out for criticism concerns the First Eucharist Prayer (Roman Canon), specifically the words of the Institution Narrative: accipiens et hunc praeclarum calicem. The proposed retranslation renders the words as "he took this precious chalice..." The translation we've been using since 1974 says simply: "he took the cup."

Note the grounds of Trautman's objection:

[T]he proposed Order of Mass uses the word "chalice" where we had previously said "cup". Eucharistic Prayer I says: "When supper was ended, he took this precious chalice into his holy and venerable hands." Did Jesus at the Last Supper use a "precious chalice" or a "cup"? The gospels clearly say "cup", but even in the Lectionary from Rome we have the word "chalice" imposed on the inspired text to carry out this "sacred language". "Chalice" is not the translation of the New American Bible, nor the New Revised Standard Bible, nor the Oxford Annotated Bible, nor the Jerusalem Bible, nor any current or older translation. Greek-English lexicons and authoritative biblical commentaries all say the meaning of the Greek word which describes what Jesus drank from is "cup or drinking vessel". To say not just "chalice" but "precious chalice" in Eucharistic Prayer I is clearly not a reflection of the biblical text. Should the agenda of a sacred vocabulary, no matter how well-intentioned, be allowed to circumvent the inspired word?

Trautman is correct that the Gospels (Matt 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:20) all use the ordinary Greek word for cup (poterion) in the Last Supper narratives, as does St. Paul in his (1 Cor 11:25-28). Trautman is correct that modern translations of the Bible do not use "chalice" in these passages. Trautman is correct about what he says concerning the lexicons and the biblical commentaries. Trautman is correct that "precious chalice" in Eucharistic Prayer I is not a reflection of the biblical text.

All of which is entirely beside the point.

The translators of the Missale Romanum are not out to translate the Bible, but the Latin version of the Mass. The Latin version of the Mass does not claim to be itself a translation of the Bible. It is what it is: a rite, richly biblical in form, symbolism, and language, but for all that something quite distinct from the New Testament, reflecting the biblical patrimony reshaped by traditions of prayer, worship, and theological reflection -- and given a distinct and characteristic ritual form.

Bishop Trautman may not happen to like that form -- at least as it is mediated in the ancient formulae of the First Eucharistic Prayer. Bishop Trautman may prefer the relatively non-ornate language of Prayers II, III, and IV. Bishop Trautman's aesthetic and liturgical principles -- the principles that inform his preference for biblical simplicity -- may be superior to the principles of those who created and approved the First Eucharistic Prayer. I'm willing to concede all that. It doesn't matter.

Like it or not, the Church has decided the words to be translated depart (consciously, deliberately) from the language of the New Testament narrative: accipiens et hunc praeclarum calicem -- and, for Trautman, it gets worse -- in sanctas et venerabiles manus suas: "into his holy and venerable hands."

"Should the agenda of a sacred vocabulary," asks Trautman, "no matter how well-intentioned, be allowed to circumvent the inspired word?" Of course it should -- whenever the job at hand is not to translate the inspired word but to translate the sacred vocabulary. And here's the key: the sacred vocabulary one hears in "he took his precious chalice into his holy and venerable hands" belongs not to the agenda of Liturgiam Authenticam, not to the agenda of the men who translated the Missal according to its norms, but it obviously and undeniably belongs to the original Latin, the textus vertendus.

Within the terms of the Missale Romanum as it stands now, three of the four main Eucharistic Prayers already use the spare biblical language that Trautman and his colleagues desire. Suppose that they succeed in doing yet again what the "translators" of the 1974 Mass did: in eliminating the ritual language of the only remaining exception, the Roman Canon or First Eucharist Prayer. This is an act of suppression. Free on every occasion of worship to opt for an approved Eucharistic Prayer that conforms to their principles, they want to deprive the rest of the English-speaking Church of the sole text exempt from their sensibilities and their censorship.

So I repeat: who's imposing an agenda on whom?

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Show 26 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Apr. 15, 2006 1:55 PM ET USA

    In Trautman we have a new Bugnini. What we have seen as dumbing down the schools is another version of what modernists have accomplished in dumbing down the liturgy.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 6:04 PM ET USA

    pupil, He likely wants to make such a change. Remember that Bp. Trautman is of Erie - the land of Chittister. He likely desires the following: "Our God who is in heaven..." For Donald... where to buy a 1962 Missal: (Advertisement seen here on CWNews)

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 11:48 AM ET USA

    Eventhe the prayer "Our Father..." is not a literal translation of any one of the Gospels. Is Bp. Trautman going to change that next?

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 11:44 AM ET USA

    Diogenes, If you want to put another fly in Bishop Trautman's Gatorade cup, please provide instructions in a future column as to where to buy a traditional Roman Missal -- as well as providing a needed financial boost to some starving Catholic publisher, it would be tremendously edifying for the faithful.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 10:06 AM ET USA

    I am so disaffected by all the new translations, and the endless interpolations, modifications and utter corruptions of the clergy, that I simply use the old Missale Romanum, in Latin, as a "prayer book". Almost whatever the priest says or does up there, it is still the Mass, and I participate by joining my heart with the intent of the Church, but I have no intent of ever buying another Missal till the Church comes to grips in our day with the idiots running around loose and uncorrected.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 9:37 AM ET USA

    I long for the sound of bulldozers in the diocese of Bishop Trautman.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 8:58 AM ET USA

    The key words are "sacred language." And the key word is "sacred." Does anyone who is with knowledge even seriously listen to Bishop Trautman anymore even in his own Diocese where he came in and destroyed so much that was "sacred" to the people there as in the physical structure of their Churches, its art, and the pratice of their liturgy and faith? I think not. I think Bishop Trautman should learn the meaning of the word "sacred" as it exists in any language except his own.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 8:36 AM ET USA

    "In the meantime, I now have a sizeable stack of "legacy" missals in which the translations have gone through more "versions" than Windows OS." Interesting analogy. Experts recommend that when spyware infects the root directory of Windows, that its cheaper to reformat the hard drive and reinstall the operating system than to attempt repair on the damaged operating system. Something to think about.

  • Posted by: Venerable Aussie - Apr. 11, 2006 7:41 AM ET USA

    This comment from Bishop Trautman's speech explains where he's coming from: “For the early Christians there was no such thing as a sacred language. And yet they knew and loved the transcendence of God.” Yes, just let that one sink in for a minute. If only we could be like those “early Christians” (man, I can feel those Popish accretions just peeling away as I write) then we could all be sitting around holding hands and singing kumbaya. (PS "Kumbaya" might need to be ICEL-ed first)

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 12:24 AM ET USA

    benedictus, brilliant idea. And it's so... Biblical! Why just this last Sunday, did we not all hear when the Gospel was read, "for many?" Or did Bishop "Humpty Dumpty" Trautman change that, too, when he read it? You're correct, of course -- we are not talking about translations. We are talking about agendas.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 11, 2006 12:15 AM ET USA

    jchrysostom, the passage you cite is not "a more felicitious rendering of the approved Latin text." It is an accurate translation of the text. I'm still waiting for the day when the English translation of the Mass isn't a total insult to anyone who managed to get through Caesar's Gallic War. In the meantime, I now have a sizeable stack of "legacy" missals in which the translations have gone through more "versions" than Windows OS. With an equal number of bugs.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 10, 2006 11:42 PM ET USA

    So August Bishop Trautman dislikes the careful translation of the Roman Canon into English because it is not biblical. Then in another argument he dislikes: “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word...”, preferring, "Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word..." Yet the first is the more biblical rendering (reference to the centurion). Since he was called to task for this contradiction last Summer, he seems to have quited down about it.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 10, 2006 10:22 PM ET USA

    Excellente, Diogenes! I hope also that Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis will be returned to Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will, as well as an official and effective insistence on the literal and correct translations of the Magnificat and the Benedictus. Omnes vos Sancti et Angeli, ora pro nobis.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 10, 2006 6:42 PM ET USA

    The old Roman canon is rarely used in my diocese. It is as if there is an unwritten instruction from above not to use it, or a common understanding that it does not reflect the so-called "spirit" of Vatican II. The Trautmans of the world have done an outstanding job of wrecking the liturgy. I choke on "and also with you," and I have done so for nearly 40 years. Time to restore the ancient Mass, in Latin, so the "translators" cannot ruin it.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 10, 2006 4:00 PM ET USA

    I ( have been ranting about this for a long time. It's not whether we like the Latin text or not, it's about translating what the original says. How bloody hard is it to do that? Of course, if we still had Latin..... Allowing the vernacular in the 1960s...bad idea Of course, the Maoists of the 1960s saw the vernacular as mandated, not as merely allowed. In case you're wondering, I've been Catholic for a year and was, thankfully, not around in the 1960s.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 10, 2006 3:18 PM ET USA

    What's interesting is, while the Bible does relate the word as merely 'cup', when I look at the scene in my mind's eye, with the eyes of faith, I see 'precious chalice'. Regardless of the original material used, however base, it was and remains a most precious chalice. The liturgy isn't describing a merely material event, bound by space-time and composed of mere matter. It's representing one that is at once both imminent and transcendent, that took place in time but also for all time.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 10, 2006 12:47 PM ET USA

    In the translation used by the Anglican Use, the phrase is "...taking this goodly chalice into his holy and venerable hands..." This form of the liturgy is fully approved by the Holy See, and our people have no trouble in fully participating. We even use such words as "vouchsafe," along with phrases like "manifold and great mercies," and "we laud and magnify thy glorious Name." We use this liturgy not only on Sundays, but also for our daily school Mass, and everyone seems to understand.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 10, 2006 12:33 PM ET USA

    "Should ... sacred vocabulary... circumvent the inspired word?" Funny, I thought it was the Eucharistic ***PRAYER*** not the Eucharistic Bible reading. The "good" Bishop disproves his own point. Regarding the church named Incarnation: That is the anglicized version of "Encarnacion." The building must have been named after the St. Louis Cardinal's outfielder: :o)

  • Posted by: MM - Apr. 10, 2006 11:31 AM ET USA

    "Glory to God in the highest...", "...heaven an earth are full of your Glory..." The Trautman's of todays Church always seek to undermine this aspect of our faith. Yes, He was a humble carpenter, but He was also GOD! Modern prelates seem to recoil in horror at the notion. Thats why the liturgy is stripped of "ornament", thats why our churches look like whitewashed barns, thats why the awesome altars of the past were replaced with simple tables. Another excellent piece, Diogenes.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 10, 2006 11:05 AM ET USA

    I'm still bothered that they reference Jesus with "he", "him", and "his" instead of "He, "Him", and "His."

  • Posted by: - Apr. 10, 2006 10:57 AM ET USA

    So, Bp. Trautman's beef isn't so much with the translation as it is with the original Roman Canon. If we can no longer "fix" it in translation, why not just throw it out! What really hurts is that he thinks anglophone Catholics are so stupid they don't know what "incarnate" means. If that's true, is it because (the old) ICEL took words like that out of the Catholic vocab 30 years ago? Horrors! We still have a church named "Incarnation" in this town!

  • Posted by: - Apr. 10, 2006 10:34 AM ET USA

    don't see what is excessive about a correct translation of the Roman canon into English. "Taking the sacred calice in his holy and venerable hands" is simply doing it correctly. It also expresses the atmosphere in which we are participants: that of holy reverence and awe.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 10, 2006 10:33 AM ET USA

    "Benedictus" sees the truth. Furthermore, "praeclarum calicen" and "venerabiles" are obviously used to blend a humble recreation of Our Lord's action at the last supper with the essential words that He used, seemingly adding an element of justified and awed reflection on the action being performed. Further, the Church does not have to use the precise words of a particular Gospel, which all vary slightly, and Mass was said before the Gospels were written, perhaps even in Latin, by the Apostles.

  • Posted by: Charles134 - Apr. 10, 2006 10:16 AM ET USA

    The First Eucharistic Prayer (the Roman Canon) has already been de facto supressed throughout much of the world. Certainly in the (three U.S.) dioceses in which I've lived in the past year.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 10, 2006 9:39 AM ET USA

    Gee ... to extend Bishop Trautman's logic ... why doesn't he labor for the return to the use of "for many" instead of "for all" in the words of consecration of the Precious Blood (Mark14:24)? Is it because this would offend Protestants and universal salvationists or what? I judge this tree by its fruit ...

  • Posted by: - Apr. 10, 2006 9:39 AM ET USA

    I dislike Trautman intensely, believing him to be a liar on child sexual abuse matters in the Erie Diocese, and am hence disinclined to agree with him on anything -- even, say, the time of day. However, "he took the precious chalice into his holy and venerable hands," even though a more felicitious rendering of the approved Latin text, sounds ridiculously excessive, fulsome.