May 3, 2010

Seeing, Not Contemplating

Without deserving it entirely, it seems to me, I have managed to earn for myself the reputation of having traditionalist tendencies. Therefore I am presumed to be the sort of Catholic who looks forward to the forthcoming English translation of the third edition Roman Missal, would like to sing the actual parts of Mass instead of replacing them with hymns and songs, etc.

Thus, it seems good to me to point out a moment when I feel like the 'dynamic equivalence' of the soon-to-be-replaced American English Sacramentary, frequently attacked by such types as I am presumed to be, actually succeeds as a translation.

Consider the prayer after communion for today, the feast of Ss. Philip and James, apostles:

Purifica, quaesumus, Domine, mentes nostras
per haec sancta quae sumpsimus,
ut, cum apostolis Philippo et Iacobo
te in Filio contemplantes,
vitam habere mereamur aeternam.
per Christum

And the English version heard today:

by the holy gifts we have received
free our minds and hearts from sin.
With the apostles Philip and James
may we see you in your Son
and be found worthy to have eternal life.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

To me the interesting translation question is the contemplantes, which the English gives as "see." Someone who wanted to keep a certain model of strict translation would certainly be tempted to say, 'may we contemplate you in your Son.' Now contemplor certainly has the sense of seeing, but "contemplate" and "contemplation" are so loaded in our spiritual parlance as to lose the simple sense of John 14:9 in the prayer, which it is obviously meant to bring out: "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father."

The 'dynamic equivalence' of "see" for contemplantes is the right decision, and I hope it's still that way in the new translation. See, I'm not so conservative.


Viator Catholicus said...

sed contra,
Jesus spoke those words to Philip who was seeing Him then and there with his sense of sight.
Our seeing of Jesus - unless granted a special grace - is not with physical eyes.
"Seeing" carries over the literal sense of the biblical passage, (not the Latin typical prayer), but is less meanignful for us who are called to contemplate or meditate upon Christ, for we cannot see Him as He is with our sense of sight. Even He had said to St. Thomas, "Blessed are they who do not see and yet believe."

Brother Charles said...

Love it! Thanks for the comment, which is a salutary corrective.

Ad Abolendam said...

Perhaps "gaze" would be a better choice? Honestly, I don't think "see" would count as dynamic equivalence, since "contemplor" conceivably includes that choice. Consider Job 39:29: God is reminding Job about the wonders of creation and says of the eagle in its nest, "inde contemplatur escam et de longe oculi eius prospiciunt [from there it sees food and its eyes watch from afar.]" (Humorously, this passage gets used in some medieval spiritual literature.)

Ad Abolendam said...

And quite honestly, I don't know if my comment actually advanced the conversation, or if I just like to hear myself type.