Page 4, 8th December 1978

8th December 1978
Page 4
Page 4, 8th December 1978 — 'Gresham's Law ,
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'Gresham's Law ,

of liturgy

Mr Michael Morris (December I) has responded splendidly to the challenge to those who "carp and moan" about the "English" version of the Mass. He says, rightly, that parts of the "English' version do not appear even to pretend to be translations, but are merely paraphrases.

I put this point to a young priest, introduced as a distinguished Liturgist. who recently visited my parish — the theological and doctrinal implications of mistranslation or paraphrase of vital parts of the Mass are too obvious to need emphasis.

But he refused to be drawn, pleading the necessity of recourse to his books. I do not think that a diligent comparison of texts, or even much linguistic ability, should be necessary for anyone to perceive that "Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth" is an inaccurate rendering of the opening sentence of the Gloria, or that "When supper was ended, he took the cup" for "simili modo, postquam coenatum est, accipiens et hunc praeclarum calicem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas" is a deliberate ellipsis, drained of all sacrality.

Such examples abound in the drab ICEL texts, which priests and faithful are obliged to speak or to follow at every Mass in English. What were the motives of the translators?

Did they suppose, in my view mis takenly. that worshippers without pretensions to great intellectual powers were incapable of grasping simultaneously more than a few words uttered in their native language, or were their motives of a more far-reaching and still undeclared nature?

In the same issue of the Catholic Herald Mr Bill Grisbrooke, in an article curiously entitled "Return to tradition", tells us that the new Eucharistic Prayers "are quite incompatible with any genuinely Protestant eucharistic theology".

This may be true of Eucharistic Prayers III and IV — though the latter refers after the Consecration. to "this one bread" -but has he lately examined that short and thin little composition (it is not, as many supposed, an ancient Canon now revived in its original form) Eucharistic Prayer II?

It contains no reference whatever to sacrifice, and could indeed be spoken with no qualms of conscience by a celebrant who had no belief in this essential quality of the Mass.

Many of your readers will have noticed that there is a "Gresham's Law" of liturgy — bad liturgy drives Out good.

Eucharistic Prayer II has the dubious merit of brevity; in my experience it is used more frequently than theothers precisely for this reason; the Roman Canon — the "Great Prayer", as it was once justly called -is increasingly reserved for major feasts.

The lists of saints in the Roman Canon do not appear at all in the new Eucharistic Prayers; I remember that the heroic persons named in them were written off by someone, at a very early stage in the liturgical reforms, as "those Roman worthies".

When the Roman Canon was first put into English, most of the "worthies" were listed between brackets. and it was left to the ' celebrant whether to speak their names or not. The missalette now used in my parish church omits the bracketed saints completely. Yesterday's option has become today's compulsion.

Martin Lynch Chairman, Association for Latin Liturgy London, W5.

I do so agree with Mr Michael Morris (December 1) that the language of the English Mass should be "accurate, simple, reverent", but I do not follow how his suggestion to replace "you" and "your" with "thou", "thee" and "thine" fits in with this view.

According to a leading English language expert, Dr C. L. Barber, in his book "The Story. of Language",'

Loveable Pope

What a pity that so many people could not obtain your November 3 issue, with that charmingly informal picture of the Pope on its front page! I do hope that we are not about to be presented with a dehumanised image of this most loveable man, whose warmth, spontaneity and sense of humour made us feel so close to him when we saw him on television — especially during and after the three-hour inauguration ceremony.

Remember, after all, that Our Lord was truly human!

(Mrs) Theresa Kohen Birmingham these three forms and their corresponding verb endings in "-st" and "-eat" had disappeared from standard English by about 1700, They are found since in dialectal forms which are not part of the Received Dialect (most of which forms will not survive this century), or where the speaker or writer wants deliberately to appear archaic.

If we are in the business, then, of rendering an accurate translation of the Mass into the widely accepted standard English, then we should use "you" and -your". If we want to be shriple, then what could be simpler than one form for both singular and plural, both subject and object. And as for reverence, does Mr Morris seriously suggest that people nowadays address all those persons they love and respect as "thou"?

No, vernacular translation means vernacular translation; it does not mean the use of out-of-date language and special churchy words.

And by the way, what has a "direction" on how I am to exchange the Sign of Peace with my neighbour to do with the translation of the liturgy?

Paul Danon Northwood, Middlesex.




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