and Reading the Bible
by Dom Theodore W esseling
THE Matter of translating, and reading the Bible is 1101 in the least the sinaple matter. which sonic people seem to think it is. It is most emphatically not just ' a book." It is not merely e piece of literature, even though parts of it are very literary end can give a good reader hours of undiluted joy. It is not merely a pious book either, even though all of it is meant to lift up the soul and if it is' not just a " book," the translation of it can never be just a " translation."
The Author of the Bible is. primarily
and principally, God. It is written by God, about God, rot God. In it God, infinitely above human understanding,' writes and speaks about Himself, that man may know ad come to Him. It is a meesage which is dropped on to our plane from a plane which is beyond our reach. It. is message which is given us, once for all, in order tonIigliteii Us, entronrage, strengthen, console and guide us.
The Only Changes Possible Because of its Author and its message the Bible is the vehicle of a truth that is eternal and does not change in itself. The only changes that axe compatible with the everlastingness of the Bible ate, those that mark our progress in its understanding. The truth of the Bible can never be diluted or distorted or diminished for the sake of a passing phase of hisfory, not even English history, not even Catholic English history. The message of the Bible, its understanding, must he put across to all men in any phase of •• history, adapted to them, bill not by chauging the words of the Bible, arbitrary interpolations (however well meant). or insufficient renderings of difficult Passages. Repeatedly the Popes. Pius IV, Clement VIII, Benedict XIV, Pius •VII, insisted that the aim of popularising Ole Bible la 120i to destroy the mystery of God's truth not to bring it down to the lowest possible level of common understanding' (see F. Cavaliers, Thesaurus Doctrinae Catholicae, Paris, 1920, p. 24). The popularisation, the reading, the living of the Bible must be increased hy study, explanation, tett-non, and, most of all, prayer arid theological exploration.; to replace this by bringing the actual words and sentences of the Bible down to a level where their meaning. is impoverished, or by interpolations, or by substituting woids which imply already a debatable interpretation, is not really helping the apreading of the Bible at all. There is in the Bible a lasting truth, a God-given truth which ts inexhaustible, To think that one can merely by a modernised translation render the whole sense of the Bible clearly and without difficultiea is not just an illueion; it is e misunderstending or the whole theological position of the Bible, And if one cannot possibly give the • full meaning o't the words and sentences because the Bible contains the Mygtery of Christ and the Church, the obvious 'conclusion is bang on to the literal sense at all cost -if I may use such a colloquial expression.
Literal Inspiration And that is precisely what the Church has throughout her history maintained, from the early centuries down to the pi esent Pope's Encyclical on the Scriptures. That is why literal inspiration and lneral translation are the first nornis of any official version. If thc Church had not preserved this attitude, there, would have been no standard of reference in the doctrinal conflicts which will arise constantly. Throughout, therefolie there midst be stable language and woods with a traditional ravening. Some people can only think at Ianguage as the group of words in which they themselves are accustomed to think, a view of language, entitely detached from its traditional, religious, theological or cultural values. A word may, perhaps (although I doubt it), he substituted in a present version of the Bible but anyone who knows the slightest bit of Church history knows, too, that only too Soon those apparently innocuous arbitrary changes will . he called to account. Those changes are permissible in a paraphrase which does not bind anyone; they are inadmissible in an official version.
Standards and Vulgarity It is strange, altogether, that here, among Catholics, there is always a large group of men and women, laity and clergy, who resent every kind of high standards in the things of religion. The Church is meant for the simple, it is argued. for the people. Quite so. But the Church was not meant to shrink to the lowest intellectual common denominator. The same Papal documents to which I referred before make this abundantly clear., The Church is for the people in the sense that she receives all and gives them what they ask for, if inijk. then -milk, if meat. thee meat. But it is an entirely false argument to hold that all food must he milk because, apart from adults there happen to be babies in the Church. If we took this line-as it is apparently taken in some quarters-the result would be, quite simply (and sometimes is) that the level of Catholicism is not popular but vulgar. And yet, those same people hope to attract non-Catholics into the one fold. They hope, however contradictorily it sounds, to attract people, accustomed to a high biblical tradition into a tradition which has reduced this tradition to about the lowest and most meagre existence that is compatible with being a Catholic at all. In the same way, one may be bombarded by begging letters asking a priest to sell devotional and artistically vulgar pictures for as high a price as please-11e as otherwise people won't buy them," but one may not point out that there is something in making people more fit to take part in the action of the Mass, without being told that " liturgy " is highbiow and Upsets the " simple-minded." It is u strange situation. It is ids° a situation which is heavy with consequences for the true good of the snub, The New Team I hold no heel for the new team that has set about translating the Bible. All I know is that its headquarters are at Downside; that the work is distributed among Benedictines, Dominicans, Jesuits and others, a finer combination ;ban which it is hard to find. So I am hopeful and wish that they may bring out a true translation which cornbines the scrupulous honesty of the Rheims-Douay verMon with up-to-date knowledge of scriptural studies, keen sense of " key-words " of the Bible (which could open up a splendid horizon for a genuine scriptural theology, a fascinating task) and a keen sense of the beauty of the English language. With a group of eleigy forming a kernel in this response to the present Pope's exhortation, there could come about a widespread renewal of the message of the Scriptures among both clergy and laity. for the good of clerical formation, sermons, general theelogy, spiritual life, and, by and large, a finer, more genuine and more digrtified presentation of the Catholic Church In the present world. And Gorl,knows the' world needs it.
Sean O'Casey's New Play
From Our Theatre Correspondent "Al I Billy," says Ayamonn, hero'
of Red Roses For Me (Embassy), "-what a begin yam were." Ayamonn
has been ratingo Shakesptre. After due reflection the reviewer, who has been watching O'Casey, can only echo, "Alt! Sean , ." The old magic is in the new play, The endearing young charms whirls set the Abbey aglow, in more ways than one, have returned. Be careful, says the reviewer to himself, lest they beguile you. There are limes whets one wonders if this minstrel boy is aware of the extent of the burden of his song. Many there are in to-day's Europe who sang " a bunch of red roses for me " and have found the flowei•s change to weeds in their grasp. O'Casey cries in blind love against the sufferings of the people of Edwardian Dublin ; have their pains blinded him so much that he is movie to the tragedy of Stalin's Warsaw? But the play's the thing even if the preamble
is not irrelevant. •
If will not be entirely unfamiliar to readers of the author's biography. It centres on Ayatnonn, who Toms life, art, literature, the poor and a Cutholie girl ; Ayamonn is the spiritual core of a strike, which is, in ita essence, the microcosm of the rebellion of the dispossessed. Around the star-crossed couple swirl .the contending Orange and Green of O'Casey's Hogarthian Dublin. The first two acts set the field with all the old lovely Warm brilliance. The third act shows the people sunk in nostalgic apathy, suddenly seeing, and rising to, a vision of a full, free life of dignity as seen through the eyes of the strike orator: and then as he goes off to die, relapsing into now uneasy apathy. The final curtain fa% as Ayamonn's coffined body lies within the church. being serenaded trom the porch by a street fiddler with the song, " Red Roses For Me."
The impressionism of that third act, rendered by the producer, Miss Rea Mooney, and a company of Irish players. who make memories of the West End seem like it heap of sawdust, is perhaps the best thing O'Casey ever created. If the play's the thing, Red Roses makes every other night in the London theatre one night too many. But there's more to it than that-the vision of this poet is surely malformed by the one thing in Marxism which his youth rationalised, hatred! He is cursed with the myopia which injuatice forced, like, a strait-jeeket, upon his soul. He shows us the Church as the enemy of the workers. That is a lie. But is it his lie? This reviewer thinks not. Many years before the author's strikers moved, their cause had been declared a duty on them by the Pope O'Casey depicts as their enemy. Just across the sea a great Cardinal had walked with their English brothers when they took similar action. Did the young John Casey, suffering the most hellish conditions of elumdorn in his native city, every hear of the Workers' Charter? He loved and loves the workers, the poor; his plays go winging up to Heaven crying for the vengeance which has bees% promised those who rob them How those words would surely have sung a sweeter song if the minstrel had been cradled in love instead of just hatred! If someone robbed him and his kind of the words of Leo then surely their sin is the most loathsome? Were there such thieves abroad? In its hatred for what we know is good, and what its author does not know, this bunch of " Red Roses " carries subject for meditation for Catholics_ Its love is the author's; its hatred is perhaps our sin. From O'Casey to Barrie is a sobering experience for a sew, In woham Green (Granville) that sinister trifle /Wary Rose is now glowing for the Saxon and glittering for the Gael. Let me put on record my opinion that Barrie, the pixie in marzipan, had Brighton Rock stamped on the crown of his head and that it penetrated to the soles of the feet inside his clothtopped boots. The Saxon glowed; the cast was good; I was sick. A Man About the House stars Miss Flora Robson and Mr. Basil Sydney at Ilse Piccadilly. The stars are excellent. All American-character plays in the hands of English actors tend to be a little uneasy. Dear Ruth (St. James's Theatre) is no exception. We don't produce Junior Misses over here on the lines of' the frightful child who is. the central figure hem and i1 is a tribute to Margaret Barton, who plays the part, that there arelaughs and quite loud ones at times.
BELGIAN "PRINCE OF PAINTERS" N exhibition of the work of the Belgian painter-Baron Ensorwho is now in his 86th year anti has never lived away from Osterele except for the three years he spent ut the Brussels Academy-was opened at the National Gallery last weak, Miss Ellen Wilkinson presiding. Describing Ensor as "our Prince of Painters," M. Leo van Puyvelde, Director of the Royal Galleries of Fine Art in Belgium, said " He is above all a painter-not a thinker. not a poet. . . I only regret that G. K. Chestettoa is no tenger here; how he would have enjoyed the streak of English wit in h im ." Several of the pictures deal with religious subjecia, the treatment of some of which may shock the converttional-such as The Man of Sorrows. The Ecce Homo might be classed in the problem picture " category, A notice of the exhibition by our Art Critic will appear in a subsequent iseue. Closing date, Mareh 30.