Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Why we also need a retranslation of the Office

There are some really cool things that happen in Latin that don't come through in English. For instance, note what happens here in Latin.

Responsorium breve
Tu es vas electiónis, * Sancte Paule apóstole. Tu es.
V/. Prædicátor veritátis in univérso mundo. * Sancte Paule apóstole. Glória Patri. Tu es.

Ad Benedictus, ant. Celebrémus conversiónem sancti Pauli apóstoli, quia ex persecutóre efféctus est vas electiónis.

Now in English:


You are a chosen instrument, holy apostle Paul.
You are a chosen instrument, holy apostle Paul.

Preacher of truth to the whole world,
holy apostle Paul.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
You are a chosen instrument, holy apostle Paul.


Ant. Let us celebrate the conversion of Saint Paul the apostle. He was transformed from being a persecutor of Christ into a vessel of his grace.

Note the highlighted terms. The same phrase in Latin (vas electionis) is translated in two different ways in English, neither of which is a literal translation of the Latin. So, you loose the connection between the two. Why?

Then there is this in the Intercessions:
Fratres caríssimi, hereditátem cæléstem ab Apóstolis habéntes....
Now in English:
Beloved friends, we have inherited heaven along with the apostles....
Note that we now inherit heaven along with the Apostles, not from the Apostles. There is a theological point lost here, although the rest of the petitions actually hit home the point that the means of salvation come to us from the Apostles (capital "A").

Paul's Conversion

People think Paul's conversion was sudden because he was "knocked off his horse." I suppose such a dramatic last straw was necessary to push him over the top, but he himself says that God's grace was active in him from before he was born:
"Cum autem plácuit Deo, qui me segregávit de útero matris meæ et vocávit per grátiam suam, ut reveláret Fílium suum in me...." ["But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me...."]
God's grace was operative in St. Paul from before he was born. He was a vessel of election (see my next post). Of course, according to Paul himself the covenant of Moses was a grace, but I will presume he meant more than that. Paul's zealousness and devotion for the Law was part of his long preparation for receiving the revelation of Christ when it occurred. The difference wasn't the operation of grace, but Paul's awareness or consciousness of that operation. We often focus so much on the bad that is happening in our lives, that we are unaware, or blind to the operation of grace, or divine providence. That is why the Ignatian Examine begins with thanksgiving and includes meditation on the operation of grace in your life during that day.