September 26, 2010

Sapientia Multiformis

As I've settled down to celebrating Sunday Mass in Spanish, I've begun to appreciate some of the differences between the English and Spanish sacramentaries. Different languages have particular gifts as they express the mysteries their speakers hope to approach through human speech. Within this one also notices the choices of translators.

Today I prayed the eighth preface for Sundays in Ordinary Time, which is one of my favorites:

En verdad es justo y necesario, es nuestro deber y salvación, darte gracias siempre y en todo lugar, Señor, Padre Santo, Dios todopoderoso y eterno. Porque has querido reunir de nuevo, por la sangre de tu Hijo y la fuerza del Espíritu, a tus hijos dispersos por el pecado; de este modo tu Iglesia, unificada por virtud y a imagen de la Trinidad, aparece ante el mundo como cuerpo de Cristo y templo del Espíritu, para alabanza de tu infinita sabiduría. Por eso, unidos a los coros angélicos, te aclamamos llenos de alegría...

I am intrigued by the sense of the Church being formed into the image of the Trinity, so that it may appear to the world as the Body of Christ and temple of the Spirit. I'm not exactly sure how this makes theological sense, but perhaps that's why it draws me in. I also like the image of the children of God dispersos, 'scattered' or 'dispersed' by sin. I enjoy how that has an exterior and interior dimension.

Here's the soon-to-be-replaced English translation to which I have been previously accustomed:

When Your children sinned and wandered far from Your friendship, You reunited them with Yourself through the blood of Your Son and the power of the Holy Spirit. You gather them into Your church, to be one as You, Father, are one with Your Son and the Holy Spirit. You call them to be Your people, to praise Your wisdom in all Your works. You make them the body of Christ and the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit. Now, with the saints and all the angels we praise You for ever...

The differences are subtle, but real. In the English version the Church is called to imitate the unity of Father, Son, and Spirit, a somewhat more pointed assertion that the simple image of being united toward becoming an image of the Trinity as it says in the Spanish. I definitely prefer how the Spanish uses the word 'Trinity.' On the other hand, I like the idea of wandering from the friendship of God. Sin is an erring, a missing of the mark, a departure from the path.

Of course, as a good WDTPRSer, I had to check the Latin...

Vere dignum et iustum est, aequum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere: Domine, sancte Pater, omnipotens aeterne Deus: Quia filios, quos longe peccati crimen abstulerat, per sanguinem Filii tui Spiritusque virtute, in unum ad te denuo congregare voluisti: ut plebs, de unitate Trinitatis adunata, in tuae laudem sapientiae multiformis Christi corpus templumque Spiritus nosceretur Ecclesia. Et ideo, choris angelicis sociati, te laudamus in gaudio confitentes...

So there's the Trinity. In the English we are 'gathered' into an imitation of the oneness of Father, Son, and Spirit rather than of the Trinity. What's the difference, you say? I am teasing, I know, but see the end of the post. So let's hope for an improvement when we first have a chance to hear the new version of this preface in the winter of 2012, should the general judgment not come first.

Behind some of this are the daydreams I've begun to have about the dissertation proposal I will be expected to produce within the next couple of years. One of the half serious and half bemused inspirations I have had is something called, "The Use and Abuse of the Social Trinity: A Proposal for Disciplining Our Speech and Imagination."


Barb, sfo said...

I note also that in the Spanish, (roughly translated) "united with the angelic choirs, we praise you, FILLED WITH JOY."
You don't get that in the English either.

Brother Charles said...

Indeed! I hadn't caught that! It's there in the Latin too. Too bad the English translators forgot about the joy. X-(

Anonymous said...

Translating the Spanish text into English using babble-fish gives an interesting and almost scientifically unbiased comparison between the two. In one sense it highlights the subtleties that you discussed. It also dramatically illustrates the enormous effort that it took to translate the Bible from its native language and culture into 21 century English.

4narnia said...

thanks for sharing this, Fr. C! we were talking about the soon to be changes in the english translation at SH yesterday before a 9:30 am funeral Mass. Fr. Moe was explaining it to Rose and Ollie because somehow the subject came up.
anyway, i like the wording of the new translation. it is so much richer, deeper, more prayerful and meaningful.
hope all is well with you!
~tara t~