What a good thing, last Sunday, that for family reasons (my turn to look after a particular grandson) I went to Mass with the Oratorians at Alyoggers (rather than to the Oxford Ordinariate Vigil Mass which we have in Pusey House at 6.30). So I had the opportunity to hear the Pastoral Letter from the hierarchy of England and Wales on the new translsation of the Missal.
As parish priests - we gather - begin to catechise their congregations on the new translation, some readers might like a brief account of the background: of some viciously fought cultural wars which have don't worry - ended up with the victory of the Goodies. Readers who know it all already have my apologies. I will centre my comments on the opening words of the Preface. I append a by-the-word literal English crib.
Vere dignum et iustum est,
aequum et salutare,
nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere,
Domine, Sancte Pater, Omnipotens Aeterne Deus.
Truly fitting and just it-is
fair and for-salvation,
us to-you ever and everywhere thanks to-give,
Lord, Holy Father, Almighty Eternal God.
The first thing you will notice here is that, in the out-going translation, the Latin line 4 is promoted to be the first line; Lord goes missing; and Father comes first, but loses its adjective holy. Let me tell you why. The translations which were published in the early 1970s followed the style recommended in a Roman document known as Comme le prevoit, which advocated "dynamic equivalence". According to this idea, you don't have to translate carefully every word of the Latin into your vernacular tongue; it is sufficient - indeed, better - to mix it all up, leave it on the oven to simmer for a minute or two, and then ladle out the Essence, the Ideas. So the old translators thought that Father, all-powerful and ever-living God gave the essence, although not the actual words, of line 4 in the Latin.
They were wrong for the following reasons. The word Lord does matter. It represents the name of the Hebrew God, which is given by the Hebrew letters YHWH. Because this Name, by the most ancient tradition, is not allowed to be uttered aloud, when Jewish readers got to those four letters in the text, what they actually said aloud was the word which means Lord. Greek and Latin Bible translators (and the Douai and King James Bibles) followed this custom, using Kyrie, Domine, and Lord in their respective languages. So Lord, in the Preface, takes us back to our forefathers in the Faith, back to Moses to whom it was revealed that his Saviour-God was YHWH, I am ... the LORD. Omitting it from the translation slices away our Jewish roots, cuts us off from the Old Testament, and is actually, I would go so far as to say, implicitly antisemitic.
Missing out the Holy before Father is, if possible, even worse. "Holy Father" - see S John's Gospel chapter 17 - is how the Lord Jesus, the night before he died, addressed his heavenly Father. So this omission erases the reference to the Last Supper, and to the relationship between the Incarnate Word and the First Person of the Blessed Trinity.
It is interesting that the 1970s version transposes and omits words so as to put Father first in the Preface. This represents one of its commonest habits. In that decade, it was felt that "Father" was an intimate and cuddly way of addressing God. It had a friendly, folksy, feel to it. Evangelicals were accused - probably unjustly - of beginning every prayer with the formula "Father, we just want to say ...". Similarly, in the translation we are just about to say good-riddance to, prayer after prayer begins "Father ...". Most of them in fact, in the Latin, began Deus, "God" or Domine, "Lord". But, according to the priciples of "Dynamic Equivalence", the translators of the 1970s argued "Well, the Person of the Trinity who is [nearly always] meant by Deus is the Father. So we can translate it as 'Father'". There is a quite delicious historical irony here ... I'm sure you can see it coming. Within a decade of that old translation coming into use, "Father" had become politically incorrect; a victim to the rise of feminism. From being the Nice way of addressing God, "Father" became overnight pretty well a taboo. The moral here is that Dynamic Equivalence runs the risk of betraying you into a usage which very soon becomes very dated. So, in the 1970s, fashionable translators used "Father" for Latin words which do not strictly mean Father; as my next piece will illustrate, the fashion of the following decade was to eliminate the word "Father" even when that would have been a correct translation of the Latin ... because feminists, we are told, do not want to have Patriarchy thrust down their throats! Perhaps you begin to see the problems about this sort of approach to translation.