4 February 2011

Knowing it by heart

One of the most important perceptions of the document Liturgiam authenticam, by which Rome set a new course in the matter of how Latin liturgical texts should be translated into the vernacular, is the idea that stability in liturgical texts enables people to make an interior appropriation of them so that the texts can then feed their Christian lives. I can illustrate this from my own life. I am nearly 70. I became familiar with the day hours of the Breviary in Latin as a 15-year old. The text I used had the Vulgate psalter in it. Then circumstances found me using a text with the new psalter of Pius XII. Then it became convenient to return to the Vulgate psalter. For the 25th anniversary of my priesthood, I acquired the Second Edition of the Liturgy of the Hours. It contains the psalter of the neo-Vulgate. Three different psalters.

The result of all this is that I can't say any one single psalm (except, for obvious reasons, Judica me and Lavabo), with confidence, by heart. If I try to do so, I find, creeping into my recitation, variants from the other psalters that my memory is cluttered up with. And I get lost. At Benediction, I need to make a conscious act of memory to tell me whether, in the second verse, to sing "laudate"(with the Vulgate) or "praedicate" (with Pius XII) or "collaudate" (with John Paul II). I am sure that hours of learned committee work and gallons of ink led those committeepersons, all doubtless infinitely cleverer than me, to hone and finesse every syllable of their texts to perfection. Sod the b*****s.

I hope that future generations, whether they are using Latin or English, will be spared this problem.

11 comments:

Pete said...

I understand the cathedral choirs were not going to change the version in 1611 to the new fangled one of King James some 400 years ago.

merum said...

Yes, it is annoying. I began praying the BR at 15 with Pian psalter, but singing daily Vespers with Vulgate. Migrated to LH typica in 1976 with Nova Vulgata I, then in 1989 moved to LH typica altera with Nova Vulgata II. Now the new AR II offers two different Magnificat texts! The result is that one can't even join in singing the Magnificat or Benedictus in common without knowing in advance which text is being used.

Patricius said...

The Bea Psalter made virtually impossible the Gregorian chant. Happily it was withdrawn by John XXIII.

Anthony Jordan said...

Patricius - I believe that the 1963 Collegeville Hours of the Divine Office in Latin and English, an authorised bilingual version of the Breviarium Romanum, employs the Bea Psalter, so I am not sure that your statement that it was withdrawn by Bl. John XXIII can be correct.

Chris said...

In English, of course, the worst offender is the Lord's Prayer - I find I can only keep track of which is being used by thinking a tune, if not outright singing it. Merbecke for the traditional (and never mind if everyone else is saying who art while I say which); Dearnley and Wickes (which I learned as a child in the 80s) for the new.

Albertus said...

I empathise with your frustration at three different Latin psalm versions. A veritable crime! Now that I am older and wiser, I make sure that all books which i use contain the Vulgate Psalms.
I would most prefer to use St. Jerome's First Vulgata Psalms, practically the same as the original Latin translation of the Septuagint, still in use by St. Peter's Basilica until recently. But that would be impractical nowadays. Anyway, St. Jerome's Second Vulgata version known as Gallicana, is differs slightly from his First, and consequently, from the Itala. Missale Romanum (and the Invitatorium of Matins) has preserved the original Latin version of the Psalms in most of the Propria based upon the Psalms, as these came to be regarded as unchangeable liturgical elements. Those pseudo-experts who would constantly ''retranslate'' the latin Psalms should be banished from Roma and never again allowed entry to utter or write a word in public on the Liturgy or any of its constituent parts!

threehearts said...

Tell me father do you find any etymological problems in some of the later translations of the Holy Scriptures. Can any of you erudite scholars give me and others how these errors if there are some came to be? There is a very interesting commentary by a well respected Romanian Theologian on the translation of the Jerusalem Bible with proving quotations from Paris Monde. I have scanned it and would send it as an attachment to any of you, conditionally on you critiquing it.

Flambeaux said...

For what it is worth, Father, my children are growing up with the Vulgate sung in our humble home.

Where recourse must be made to the English, I'll confess an aesthetic preference for the Coverdale, although the Douai is often more readily at hand.

But I do understand the frustration. I have run across when when trying to do something as relatively simple as sing Compline in common with some of my friends in Holy Orders.

Auricularis said...

John XXIII never used the reformed Psalter himself but I don't remember seeing that he actually "withdrew" it by any specific decree. I certainly appreciate if Patricius could substantiate his statement.

eulogos said...

I have this problem with the Nicene creed in English. Having first learned it in the version in the 1928 prayer book, and then in the ICEL Novus Ordo version, and now almost weekly in the version used in my husband's Anglican parish and the version (without the filioque) in my Ruthenian Byzantine parish...which itself has been recently changed along unfortunate lines... ( for "us" rather than "us men" for instance)

As a result I can never remember if I am to say "one in being" or "of one being" or "of one essence" I tend to say "shall" when others are saying "will." Is it, "suffered death and was buried," or "suffered, died, and was buried," or is it just "suffered and was buried" as the Ruthenian text says? (Is there a Greek word which means something like 'suffered unto death' in one word which would justify this?)

Anyway, I always stumble.
I never say "He has spoken through the prophets" without hearing an echo of "who spake by the prophets" in my mind.

Susan Peterson

voltape said...

Well, with due respect to all feelings, I am a layman nearing 80. I began praying the breviary hald a century ago (3 nocturns)and my breviaries were all in the Bea (Pius XII) Latin version. I have even printed in my computer the Liturgy of the Hours Psalms in the Bea version, so that I can use the present office, but with the Latin version I love. For me, the Bea version is true tradition. Because of my agen (I was 30 at Vatical II) I have attended Latin Masses, and even was married in Latin. When I learned of the Gallican I found it meaningless, with too many errors. Particularly for me (Peruvian Spanish speaker) the "eructavit" in Psalm 44 sounds awful - eructar in spanish is "belch" - So it sound My heart has belched .. verbum bonum.... There are so many mistranslations in Gallican that only hard core traditionalists could like it. I believe God deserves the best possible Latin, and it is found in the Bea Psalter.
Even the Nova Vulgata is the Gallican patched here and there with Bea (Meriba and Massa, etc.) And Bea is really singable. I was in 1972 the entire year singing the office at the Lima, Peru, Cathedral with the canons, and we sang the Bea Psalter. I have the Liber Usuales published by the Benedictines,with full Gregorian Bea. God bless