The Southern Cross : December 2010
Page 14 December 2010 The Southern Cross www.adelaide.catholic.org.au ways of worship A question of style In our continuing series on the revised translation of the Roman Missal, Jenny O'Brien from the Office for Worship looks at the challenge of upholding the style of the Latin version. Have you ever thought much about 'style'? We are aware when someone has it or is lacking it, but it is not always easy to explain exactly what it is. Different ways of speaking and dressing are suitable depending on the circumstances. For example, what is appropriate for wearing to a football match will hardly satisfy the requirements for a wedding. Similarly, the familiar way we might speak to our family or close friends would not be appropriate in a more formal situation. The translators of the third edition of the Roman Missal carefully considered 'style' as they went about the work of translation. Traditionally, the Roman Rite has been characterised by a certain conciseness and simplicity, especially in the way that God is addressed. The Latin prayers of praise and petition are generally succinct and direct. (Compared to the Roman Rite, the old Gallican Rite, for example, would be considered very flowery and wordy.) Images tend to be concrete, although devices like repetition and parallelism are also often employed. As a consequence, the Latin form of the Roman Rite, has a 'style' that sets it apart from other Catholic Rites (of which there are 22, including the Maronite, Melkite and Ukrainian Rites that are in Adelaide) and the rites of other Christian traditions, like Anglicans and Lutherans. When translating from the Latin into modern languages, the translator is faced with the challenge of retaining this 'style'. One of the criticisms levelled at the 1969 (and 1975) translation of the Roman Missal into English was that it somehow lacked the style of its parent (Latin) text. Following its new Latin translation of the Roman Missal in 2000, the Vatican issued the document, Liturgiam authenticam, in 2001, detailing new guidelines for translation. By then, the Church had had more than thirty years' experience in the use of the vernacular in liturgical celebrations. While the previous guidelines, drawn up in 1967 and approved by the 11 English- speaking conferences of bishops throughout the world, had allowed for a style of translation known as 'dynamic equivalence', which tried to remain faithful to the meaning if not the actual words of the text, this new document calls for "formal equivalence", a much closer adherence to the Latin original. And while acknowledging that the translation must be understood by ordinary people, it nevertheless asks that it "be expressive of the dignity and oratorical rhythm of the original". In other words, the style of the language is to be rather more elevated than normal speech, and may even include forms of speech that might seem a little archaic to our ears, in order to maintain as much continuity as possible between the original Latin and the English translation. The dignity of liturgical prayer must be apparent in the language that expresses it. The difficulty of providing a translation that is suitable for English-speakers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, South Africa, England and Wales, Ireland, Scotland, India, Pakistan and the Philippines is obvious, and yet this is what faced the translators. Liturgiam authenticam notes that while liturgical prayer is formed by the culture which practises it, it also forms that culture. That is to say, the very way in which liturgical language is expressed can and should have an impact on those of us who are using it or listening to it. Another point made by this document is that liturgical texts are intended to be publicly proclaimed and even sung. Therefore, a more elevated style of English speech is called for. Indeed, in many cases the new texts will sound better when they are sung, so let us oil up our vocal chords and prepare to enter the world of chant, at least as far as the simple dialogues between priest and people are concerned! A final point to be made is that the Roman Rite has always been characterised by many biblical and poetic images. This too has been a focus for the translators, and we will find that phrases such as "from the rising of the sun to its setting" (instead of "from east to west" in Eucharistic Prayer III) have been restored. The question of style is not as simple as one might have thought! ̨ Visit www.adelaide.catholic.org.au/ officeforworship. The dignity of liturgical prayer must be apparent in the language that expresses it.