Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Liturgy: Quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur; or: Why language matters

For some reason, on my way back from Mass this morning, I was humming a song by French musician Francis Cabrel, L'encre de tes yeux. If you're interested in the complete lyrics, you can read them. I got to thinking about how hard it is to translate parts of this song into English and retain both the beauty of the French and the physical imagery it conveys. Here is the end of one of the verses of the song, along with an explanation (and attempted translation) into English.
J'aimerais quand même te dire
Tout ce que j'ai pu écrire
Je l'ai puisé à l'encre de tes yeux.
Roughly, this means "Nevertheless, I would like to tell you / All that I could write / I drew it from the ink of your eyes." Ugh; it just sounds so contrived in English. The general idea is that the woman's eyes are a source of inspiration to him, but the French words describe that inspiration with the metaphor of a quill pen drawing ink with which to write. The woman's eyes, then, are not "inky", but are rather an ink-well that has provided for all he could write: a bottomless well of inspiration.

But when you translate into English and opt for the "inspiration" concept over the literal French words, the person hearing it in English is missing the beautiful poetic metaphor: "Nevertheless, I would like to tell you / All that I could write / It was your eyes that inspired me." It's nice, but there is no longer the practically palpable relationship between the eyes and the words the man writes. What it comes down to is this: my English translation uses different words in its dynamic translation of the French.

Now, you might not think this is a "big deal", but what did Cabrel choose as the title of the song? L'encre de tes yeux, "The ink of your eyes". While I don't mind translating it for someone so they know what he's saying, I think this song in English would either sound stilted ("the ink of your eyes" does not have the same beauty in English as in French) or else would lose something inherent to the French words Cabrel chose to use.

Which leads me to Latin. (If you don't know what the post's title means, Google it.)

I've learned recently, through various sources (Adoremus, Fr. Z, and the efforts at producing a new English translation of the Latin text of the Mass of Paul VI), that the current ICEL translation of the Mass of Paul VI is pretty awful at times. The beauty is often obscured or lost, and particular Christological language is at times avoided. In addition, liturgical Latin is often very dense: a lot of meaning in a few words. This is not easily duplicated in English, which often leads to verbosity that still somehow misses the mark.

A simple example is the Gloria Patri prayer, common in the Liturgy of the Hours. The Latin version is Gloria Patri et Filii et Spiritui Sancti. Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper et in saecula saeculorum. I've heard this translated into English in two different ways. The way I use (because it's found in the English translation of the Liturgy of the Hours I use) is "Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever." The other way I've heard it is "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end." See, if we just said it in Latin, we'd all be saying the same thing, regardless of how people contend in saecula saeculorum should be translated (I happen to like "unto ages of ages" as I heard in a Divine Liturgy); as it is, people speaking it in English might get flustered as some of them use the first translation and some of them use the second.

Translation almost always loses something. An English translation of the Latin will always be, in some way, different from the Latin; but it doesn't have to be inferior. The more faithfully the Latin is translated, the more faithfully the Mass will be spoken by the faithful. If Latin is used instead of translating (but certainly not without knowledge of what the Latin means -- you know, proper catechesis) then what is being said and what is meant are identical. Lex orandi, lex credendi. In other words, as we pray, so we believe. (Or, literally, "the law of prayer [is] the law of belief".)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Liturgy: Liturgy of the Hours, Night Prayer (now in Latin)

Update (2007-07-27): I've added more Latin and corrected some more typos. See below.

I have a booklet available for download and printing. It's Night Prayer (part of the Liturgy of the Hours); I compiled it from my Liturgy of the Hours (in English) and from Latin translations of most of the prayers I found online, as well as from an edition sent to me by AJV on the Catholic Answers Forum. It covers Night Prayer for all the days of the week (Saturday's Night Prayer is Sunday's Night Prayer After Evening Prayer I). It has the Psalmody, Reading, and Prayer for each night in one section, and the "Ordinary" of Night Prayer (the Introduction, the Examination of Conscience, the Responsory, the Canticle of Simeon, and the Marian Antiphon) in another section. It also has a brief introduction to the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as a guide to the formatting used in the booklet.

(Updated) Latin is provided for all of Night Prayer, including each day's closing prayer and the all the antiphons for the Psalmody. The psalms themselves are provided in Latin, as are the readings, alongside the English translation; Latin translations primarily follow the Biblia Nova Vulgata. The page margins have changed to allow more text on each printed page. I've also added bold formatting to the psalms to aid in chanting and antiphonal recitation. Each strophe has the first word of each section in bold so you can split the psalms up between people or groups.

The file is a 322 K, 20pp MS Word document. Please refer to the printing caveat on my book list posting. The file is set-up as B4 paper size, so when you print it in booklet form, your printer needs to know it's converting B4 paper to Letter paper.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

News: Motu Proprio and "Subsistit In"

Two particularly interesting documents were released from the Vatican quite recently. One is the long-awaited motu proprio entitled Summorum Pontificum of Pope Benedict XVI that relaxes restrictions on the celebration of the Mass of Blessed John XXIII (commonly called the "Tridentine Rite" or the "Traditional Latin Mass"). The other is a document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (which Pope Benedict was head of before he was Pope) which answers questions about the phrase "subsists in" (subsistit in in the Latin) in Lumen Gentium, and why the Catholic Church uses the term "ecclesial communities" instead of "Churches" for those communities originating from the Reformation.

I will be writing about both of these in the near future. After my New Testament midterm (Thursday) and I finish Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I hope to visit Mater Ecclesiae in Berlin, NJ soon -- some Wednesday evening -- to experience (by active participation, no less) my first "Traditional Roman Rite" Mass; that is, the Extraordinary Rite of the Roman Missal, as clarified by Pope Benedict XVI in his motu proprio. I suggest, in the mean time, you check out Fr. Zuhlsdorf's blog "What Does the Prayer Really Say?", where he is currently focusing a lot of time and effort on responses to the motu proprio from various Bishops and Archbishops (as well as reporters).

On the topic of the statement from the CDF, let me just remind you that the statement is clarification of what has already been said many times in the past. The document is primarily quotations from previous Magisterial documents; the commentary on the document, also provided by the CDF, follows suit.

I expect to have posts on these two subjects by early August. Also in August there should also appear a post about the outline Historia Salutis (On the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church) from March of this year, which is the guideline for the 2008 Synod of Bishops on the Word of God. This is of particular interest to me because I will be the facilitator for a Young Adult Bible Study at Saint David the King parish in West Windsor, NJ, starting in October; the theme I have selected is the Psalms (as an introduction to lectio divina and the Liturgy of the Hours).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Personal: Eight Random Things

Anne (the Weekend Fisher) has tagged me on the "Eight Random Things" meme. This is my first new post since returning from my honeymoon; I updated my "Books of Reasonable Price" post, but this is the first new post.
  1. I am overcoming a childhood addiction. To LEGO sets. I adore Castle LEGO sets. When I moved into my new apartment two years ago, I bought many new Castle LEGO sets to pass the time and feed my addiction. Then I bought a lot of LEGO bulk sets on eBay. Now I am trying to figure out what to do with them all. I'm slowly overcoming this addiction. It's stopped sapping me of funds, but they still take up space in my new bigger apartment.
  2. I watched a lot of Voltron, MacGyver, and American Gladiators as a kid. Now I watch a lot of Monty Python, House MD, and The Colbert Report.
  3. I used to think yellow American cheese was intrinsically different from white American cheese. I was convinced white cheese "tasted funny".
  4. I've lost approximately 30 pounds since January, and I attribute a majority of that weight-loss to actually fasting for real during Lent this year. I held to the older traditional Eucharistic fast, meaning I consumed nothing but water from midnight until I had received the Eucharist that day (if I was planning on attending Mass, which I did almost every day of Lent); the trick was that Monday Mass was in the evening, so Mondays were harder fasting days for me than Fridays. I called my diet plan the "two square meals and one round one" plan, with no offense to the Eucharist intended whatsoever. (Really, I'm quite grateful that God stepped in where I was not able to... I don't find a lot of time for exercise.)
  5. My wife, Kristin, and I have known each other for seven and a half years; we've been engaged for three and a half years; we've been married for two and a half weeks.
  6. I am a Perl programmer by trade. I love Perl, always have, always will. I use PHP some of the time at work -- I don't like it, but I don't hate it (as much as I should).
  7. I have read all six Harry Potter books (as has the Weekend Fisher), although my wife has read them far faster than me (and multiple times). She will be consuming the seventh book in a day, I know it. We're taking our first "date" since getting married to see the latest movie tonight.
  8. My sense of clothing style has improved drastically since I met my wife. Apparently, a couple months after we started dating, I asked her if we had to "keep dressing up for each other". Ouch. She has helped my fashion sense considerably. I can dress myself now!
I have to tag eight other people (so say the rules) but I'm not sure my readership supports such a large number. I'll tag four and we'll see if another four want to step up to the plate.

I will tag Tiber Jumper, Prodigal Daughter, Gretchen, and Amber.