Thursday, December 22, 2011

New Translation Thursday: Who Is His?

"New Translation Thursday" greetings to you all.

Last Christmas, at "Mass at Midnight," those gathered in English-speaking countries heard this opening prayer:

you make this holy night radiant
with the splendor of Jesus Christ our light.
We welcome him as Lord, the true light of the world.
Bring us to eternal joy in the kingdom of heaven,
where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

This Christmas, "At the Mass during the Night," those gathered in English-speaking countries will hear this Collect:

O God, who have made this most sacred night
radiant with the splendor of the true light,
grant, we pray, that we, who have known the mysteries of his light on earth,
may also delight in his gladness in heaven.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

I have spent quite some time with the new text. In my opinion, the new text, which does not directly name Jesus Christ as the true light, becomes confusing when it refers to him twice later in the prayer, using the pronoun "his." Of course, theologically, we understand "the true light" as a descriptor for Jesus Christ but, without naming him as such (as did the previous translation), the prayer makes little sense.

I think this is a case where strict adherence to the Latin has resulted in a poor prayer, simply put.

I will be listening very carefully at Christmas Mass at midnight.

Your thoughts?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Adam Wood said...

Capitalizing "True Light" might have made it more clear in print, and helped the Presider read it in a way that communicated the intention.

(Of course, I'm of the opinion that pronouns which refer to God should be capitalized, which apparently no one does anymore, so...)

Anonymous said...

If it were a stand alone prayer I might agree with you, Jerry, but set at the beginning of Holy Mass, for the Nativity, I think there's really little chance that anyone won't know who "his" is.

I think the greater depth of "...grant, we pray, that we, who have known the mysteries of his light on earth, may also delight in his gladness in heaven" more than compensates for the perceived flaw you cite, making it a much stronger prayer than the now obsolete version.

Merry Christmas!

Steve Raml said...

While I agree with Adam on capitalization of any pronoun for God or Jesus Christ, I would point out that no one "hears" capitalization. So a reference to "Jesus Christ our True Light" would better serve the assembly hearing this prayer.

Anonymous said...

Capitalization of pronouns referring to the Deity does not go back much before Victorian times, I think. (And never in liturgical books or most translations of the Bible.) While in a few cases it might clarify, it can become very fussy. If something isn't clear without capitalization, it should be recast to be understood. As was pointed out, one does not hear capital letters.
A recent hymnal printed "Go Down, Moses" with this refrain: Tell old Pharoah: Let My people go. Does this really clarify anything for the singer or hearer?

Robert Noble said...

I've chanted the Christmas Proclamation at the beginning of Mass (just before the hymn) for about 10 years now. Perhaps we might think of the Collect referencing "Jesus Christ" from the end of the proclamation. (I do agree, however, with those comments already posted.)

Anonymous said...

Of course, the translators have NOT translated the Latin literally in many other places... for a variety of reasons... if the "final test" for any translation had been "can the people follow and understand as listeners?" we would not have all these problems... the translators simply did not give the aurality of the prayers the priority it deserved.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful prayer, and not confusing at all. In fact, it's painfully obvious that the true light is Christ, and by not spelling out the obvious, it invites active participation by filling in the blank. We're not in Kindergarten, folks.