Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Translation Tuesday: Words Falling from the Sky

"New Translation Tuesday" greetings from a very crisp and cold Midwest.

This past Sunday, my pastor did a wonderful job proclaiming the texts from The Roman Missal.

Last week, I went to the movies with some friends and saw the latest James Bond film, Skyfall. I really enjoyed the film and have been thinking about many of the scenes since.

When my pastor prayed the Collect on Sunday's Feast of Christ the King, a few words really stood out. Having just seen the super-spy in "Her Majesty's Secret Service," can you guess which words stood out? Here you go:

Almighty ever-living God,

whose will is to restore all things
in your beloved Son, the King of the universe,
grant, we pray,
that the whole creation, set free from slavery,
may render your majesty service
and ceaselessly proclaim your praise.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Many had already commented on this translation when the new texts were first released, but I had forgotten about the discussions of the phrase "may render your majesty service." I have never thought about referring to God as "your majesty." It sounds so much like a phrase addressed to royalty of this world. I wonder how our friends in Great Britain heard this text when it was proclaimed on Sunday.

Our new transitional deacon, himself a refugee from Vietnam, preached a marvelous homily about the kingship of the Lord, telling us that his kingship will never pass away. I was moved by his story and his words, but couldn't help but think that the Collect somehow reminded me of earthly kingship.

Anyone else have a reaction to the words in the Collect on Sunday?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Alan Hommerding said...

This prayer has/had several things working against it:
1) Since the feast was such a recent addition to the Roman calendar, its prayers were written down before they were prayed aloud - so they are theological constructs, which don't always work as orations. (As a very general rule of thumb, the older prayers tended to exist - the scholars I've read seem to agree - in an oral version before they existed as a written version.
2) The Latin prayer uses a construct we don't hear very often, especially in English: offering our service to an attribute of God. I'm sure lots of people thought the prayer was addressing God as "Your Majesty" but it's really speaking of offering our service to the majesty of God. Even inserting a "divine" before "majesty" might have helped; but the fact remains we wouldn't say "offering your glory service" or "offering your wisdom service" or other such constructs.
3) Related to #2 ... Some of the folks I know who worked on the 98 ICEL translation talked about "unintended equivalence" where the literal translation of the Latin created a phrase or expression in English that did not accurately convey the meaning of the Latin, since it has another connotation in English. I'd think "your majesty" would be an example of this.

Siobhan said...

Thanks for this explanation, Alan.

I, too, was struck by "your majesty" in the Collect. But then when I proclaimed the psalm, "majesty" did not seem odd, which struck me as ... odd. I've been cantoring or accompanying and/or coaching this psalm setting for years, and I never thought "majesty" was, um, odd.

Later, in the Preface, "the immensity of your majesty" was, er, odd again.

(I'm off to the thesaurus to find synonyms for odd for future reference.)