October 2, 2011
NEW TRANSLATION OF THE ROMAN MISSAL, continued. Last week we discussed the new translation of the Mystery of Faith (formerly called the Memorial Acclamation) (last week’s column is available on the parish website). This week’s column I’d like to discuss the changes to the Gloria, which we will begin to sing on at Sunday Masses on October 8-9.
The changes to this prayer are substantial, since the old 1973 translation was very flawed, especially by the standards of outlined in the Vatican’s 2001 instruction on translation, Liturgiam authenticam [LA].
The Gloria begins with the angelic Christmas acclamation to the shepherds. Although the original Greek Scripture text is difficult to translate, the text in the Latin has been the translation in liturgical use since at least the 3rd century, and the new English translation is faithful to it:
Latin: Glória in excélsis Deo et in terra pax homínibus bonæ voluntátis.
Old Translation: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.
New Translation: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.
While the first phrase (Glória in excélsis Deo) of the old translation [OT] agrees with the biblical text, the second part does not, no matter what “version” of the Bible you use; nor does it agree to the Latin at all. The OT refers to “his people,” which would properly apply only to Christians and Jews, while the Latin and the new translation [NT] refers to “people of good will,” extending the angels’ greeting to any human being on earth who is open to hear the good news, indicating that Christ has come to save all mankind, if they will simple hear and follow the Gospel.
The next part of the Glory is a short litany of praise.
Latin:  Laudámus te,  benedícimus te,  adorámus te,  glorificámus te, 
grátias ágimus tibi propter magnam glóriam tuam,
OT:  we worship you,  we give you thanks,  we praise you for your glory.
NT:  We praise you,  we bless you,  we adore you,  we glorify you,  we give you thanks for your great glory,
Besides the fact that the OT did not at all accurately translate the simple Latin into English, we also see one of the key problems in the OT that is prevalent in this prayer: omissions. Notice how the five phrases of the Latin and the NT are shortened into just three in the OT. I believe this comes from the effort of the translators of the OT to apply a principle enunciated by Vatican II (SC 34): “The rites…should be short, clear, and free from useless repetitions.” But, as LA 20 points out, applying that principle is the job of the “composers” of the rites (i.e., the Pope and his assistants), not the translators of what is composed:
The Latin liturgical texts …are themselves the fruit of the liturgical renewal, just recently brought forth [i.e., the reforms of Vatican II]….[T]he original [Latin] text…must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions…
The Pope has already applied the principles of Vatican II when he decided what should be in the Latin, and by omitting words or phrases from those prayers translators place their judgment above the Pope’s.
We should also note the last words, “magnam glóriam tuam,” are well translated in the NT as “your great glory,” but the OT omits the magnam/great. This is an example of lowering of the sense of sacred so characteristic of the OT: the prayer is extolling God’s glory, “Glory to God”, and yet the OT can’t afford to call it “great.”
The next part presents only a very small much change:
Latin: Dómine Deus, Rex cæléstis, Deus Pater omnípotens. OT: Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father,
NT: Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father.
But notice, in the Latin and NT this phrase follows the above litany of praise, whereas the OT moved it to proceed the litany. Perhaps there was a sensible reason for this, but I have never understood it. Some argue that it was moved to the beginning to clarify who object of the litany was, i.e., God the Father; but that is to change the prayer, not to translate— it presumes to correct the Pope and centuries of Catholics before him.
The next part has only a slight, but very doctrinally important change:
Latin: Dómine Fili unigénite, Iesu Christe, OT: Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, NT: Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son,
The OT is at best doctrinally “confusing” in calling Jesus the “only Son” of the Father, since all the baptized are sons and daughters of the Father. But as the Latin and NT point out, Jesus is the only “begotten” Son of the Father, while the baptized become sons and daughters by being united to Christ in baptism, sharing in His unique sonship.
The changes in the next part are again due to the OT’s omission of texts: 16 words in the English! (See the underlined text).
Latin: Dómine Deus, Agnus Dei, Fílius Patris,
qui tollis peccáta mundi, miserére nobis;
qui tollis peccáta mundi, súscipe deprecatiónem nostram. Qui sedes ad déxteram Patris, miserére nobis.
OT: Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer.
NT: Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.
Notice how the omitted phrases are repetitions of phrases or concepts. Again, this was an apparent attempt to apply Vatican II’s principle of reducing “useless repetitions,” which was not the translators job presumptuously implies an error in the Pope’s Latin text.
But notice, Vatican II called for reduction in “useless repetition,” but sometimes repetition is a useful tool for emphasizing important points, or for poetic grace. For example, here we repeat “you take away the sins of the world” and “have mercy on us” to emphasize (among other things) both Christ’s action toward us and our petition to Him.
Notice also the change from the OT’s “sin of the world” to the NT’s “sins of the world,” accurately translating the Latin “peccata,” but also making an important theological point: Christ does not take away simply “sin” in general, but all sins of all the individual persons in the world through all time.
The rest of the Gloria is without change.
To be continued….
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles