Friday, 28 December 2007

More Asses

A most interesting comment by Auricularius on the Ox and Ass post concerning the poverty of the English translation of the (N.O.) Breviary (worth a read) reminded me of something that William, another friend, pointed out to me the other day. Since I hardly ever say the breviary in the vernacular (even when I used the N.O. version) I had never noticed it.
In general, the UK version of the breviary tends to be a bit better than the US one (in the translation of the collects, for instance), but how about this howler from the UK Te Deum?

Original: Tu rex gloriæ, Christe. Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius.
UK: You, Christ, are the King of glory, Son of the eternal Father.
US: You, Christ, are the King of glory, the eternal Son of the Father.
For the sake of non-Latinists, the US version is correct. According to the original, the Son is eternal; the Father's eternity is not mentioned.
There is a legend that many of the translations of the UK English Breviary were done by students of the English College, Rome, often in an post-prandial somnolent and alcoholic haze. I have heard this positively asserted with reference to the intercessions at Lauds and Vespers. These are at times cringe-making ("Help us to be generous and kind — let us bring joy, not pain to the people we meet today") and often inaccurate.
I am no great shakes as a latinist, but to find such an elementary schoolboy error in the public prayer of the Church just goes to show what little care they took over it in the first place. Or, perhaps worse, to them it just didn't matter. The Father is eternal, after all, isn't He?

P.S. Please don't point out to me that the picture is of a donkey, not an ass. I know that very well. When I looked for a picture of an ass on Google image search, I can't tell you what I found! I'm still blushing! Another example of the difference between US and UK English usage, I suppose. This particular donkey, by the way, is called Donkey Oatie. Geddit?


Auricularius said...

Well, now that you have mentioned the vernacular Breviary (which is something that no gentleman should ever do to another without pouring a couple of stiff whiskies down his throat), perhaps I can point out what is (to me) the worst horror of all, i.e. the fact that the days of the week are named after the pagan gods Wotan, Thor, Freia and Saturn rather than Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (I can’t help thinking it would make more sense to go the whole hog and say Heiatoho instead of Alleluia!) It would, doubtless, be counter-intuitive to change “Sunday” to “The Day of the Lord” and the days of the week from “Monday”, “Tuesday” etc to “Second Day”, “Third Day”, which is what the Latin says (in both the NO and the Old Breviary). But it would make the point in a very vivid way that Christ is the Lord of time and that the principle purpose of the Divine Office is the sanctification of the day and all human activity (cf: Sacrosanctum Concilium n56; GILH n10-11) by penetrating it with the Common Prayer of the Mystical Body of Christ, which, of course, exists outside of time. I readily conceded that there will be those who think this view eccentric, but I can’t help thinking that the translators’ decision to stick with the traditional English usage rather than that of the Christian Roman calendar, springs from the utilitarian and functionalist mentality, which, I am afraid to say, seems to have lain behind many of the reforms of the 60s and 70s and which has given rise to the liturgical impoverishment which we see all around us.

If this were just a matter of personal preference or taste, then perhaps Mgr Marley and Canon Scrooge could simply lament the decline of liturgical manners whilst the rest of the world passes them by. But the point at issue goes far deeper than that. Christianity is distinguished from other religions by its doctrine of the Incarnate Word, through whom the Divine and Human Natures have been substantially united in the historic person of Jesus Christ, the mediator between God and Man. This fundamental doctrine of our faith gives a meaning and value to human nature, human history and human life which is absent from both the Unitarian absolutism of Islam and the world-denying unreality of the great Oriental religions. Because of the Incarnation, because the Word became Flesh, heaven is, as you pointed out in your original post, wedded to earth and Man is reconciled to God. Because of this reconciliation, there is a redemptive significance to human life and suffering which results from our membership of the Body of Christ (cf: Col 1:11-29) , and which, paradoxically, is both the cause and the effect of the sanctification of time. If we understand the Divine Office in a non-utilitarian sense, our daily recitation of it can keep this fundamental fact before our eyes during every hour of every day and thus give new meaning and purpose to our lives.

berenike said...

What is the difference between an ass and a donkey?

nicholas said...

After a bit of searching i found a picture of the animal you were looking for.

William said...

First-form howler by a p*ssed seminarian, or the Revenge of Arius?

I have a vision of the translator, fanatical glint in his eye, muttering "erat quando non erat" under his breath as he plants the great heresiarch's doctrine right at the centre of the Church's worship …

gemoftheocean said...

"When I looked for a picture of an ass on Google image search, I can't tell you what I found! I'm still blushing!"

If you've seen one, you've seen them all, sell, most of them.

Best clear your browser "search history" you don't know what the housekeeper would think!

Paulinus said...

Oh, thanks heavens for that. I'm not the only one to have thought that the intercessions at Lauds and vespers were written by a Guardian sub-editor or the wizened old hippy who used to make a nuisance of herself at the University Chaplaincy I attended in the late 1980s.