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opening prayer translation absurdity

The new English Roman Catholic translation of the Opening Prayer for Sunday (and hence this week) has come under some criticism:

O God, who in the abasement of your Son
have raised up a fallen world,
fill your faithful with holy joy,
for on those you have rescued from slavery to sin
you bestow eternal gladness.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ..

I was made aware of the criticism through referral being made to my comments.

A lot of the criticism is being levelled on the word “abasement”. But what intrigues me is actually the word “for”. I think that this translation not only is poor English, but it doesn’t make sense (including theologically), and it doesn’t actually translate the Latin (which is supposed to be the whole point of this new exercise, isn’t it?!)

Here’s the Latin:

Deus, qui Filii tui humilitate iacentem mundum erexisti,
fidelibus tuis sanctam concede laetitiam,
ut, quos eripuisti a servitute peccati,
gaudiis facias perfrui sempiternis.

The hinge, to me, appears to be the word “ut”. And, help me here people, I think it means “so that” in this sentence. But the Vatican appears to have made a complete mess of it, and now we ask God “fill your faithful with holy joy, for on those you have rescued from slavery to sin you bestow eternal gladness.” Ie. “fill us with joy because you fill us with joy”!!!

ICEL in 1998 first presented the Vatican with:

God of power,
who raised up a fallen world
through the lowliness of your Son,
grant to your faithful people a holy joy,
so that those whom you have rescued from the slavery of sin
may delight in the happiness that never ends.

That wasn’t good enough for the Vatican. So ICEL and the English speaking Bishops’ Conferences in 2008 presented the Vatican with:

O God, who in the abasement of your Son
raised up a fallen world,
grant your faithful people a holy joy,
so that those you have snatched from the slavery of sin
you will bring to enjoy eternal happiness.

Even the ever-careful-to-translate-the-Latin-literally Fr. John Zuhlsdorf has

O God, who raised up a fallen world by the abasement of Your Son,
grant holy joy to Your faithful,
so that You may cause those whom You snatched from the servitude of sin
to enjoy delights unending.

Every translation other than the authorised one, including mine, has “so that…”

The Vatican insists not only on English as no one speaks it, but over-ruling the English-speaking bishops of the world to give us theological and conceptual nonsense which doesn’t even abide by its own rules of accuracy of translation.

Or am I missing something?

[see further here and here]

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26 thoughts on “opening prayer translation absurdity”

  1. Perhaps you should consider the possibility that the Latin itself is bad theology. As they say, “garbage in garbage out”.

  2. My initial reaction was that I would have used “so that” here. But I’m not sure that “fill us with joy because you fill us with joy”, as you abbreviate the official translation, is that much worse than “fill us with joy so that you may cause us to be filled with joy”, to do the equivalent to your translation.

    I must say, as well, that I have occasionally seen (in medieval and ecclesiastical texts) “ut” used to mean “because”; although of course no immediate examples are springing to mind 🙂 I vaguely remember an example in the Prologue to a copy of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius that I used to have (vintage 1828 I think). It floored me because I could see the sense of the sentence but hadn’t run across that particular usage. It appeared quite a few times though.

  3. Hee hee! 😀

    Google Translate gives the following:

    God, who laid upon the humility of your Son you have set up the world,
    grant to Thy faithful ones, the holy joy,
    order that they whom delivered from the bondage of sin,
    do enjoy the eternal joys.

    Maybe we should try that.

  4. Laura Dejmek, OP

    In the USA “abasement” aurally will sound like “a basement”–i.e. the underground place under many homes. But Rome is not concerned with aurality. {sigh!}

      1. Laura Dejmek, OP

        I didn’t want to speak for the entire English-speaking world, as I am aware of differences–elevator / lift…and we don’t even want to begin talking about “rubbers!” 🙂

  5. My point is that you attach importance to human words that should be reserved only for Scripture (God’s words). Presumably, that is what you want to believe, that a traditional Roman Catholic prayer bears all the authority, power and authenticity of the Bible.

    The theological error in the prayer is, in short, that it suggests the Gospel is a transformational rescue from sinful habits rather than the singular, all sufficient and substitutionary atonement for the sinful nature we inherit from Adam. False notion of both sin and grace.

    1. “aaytch”, there is nothing in your comment that requires you to be anonymous. Please give us your ordinary name a per this site’s comments policy. This is part of the culture we have in the community that gathers around this site – listening to each other with respect and, as much as possible, not hiding behind anonymity or pseudonymity. Please, use your normal name as I requested or there is a high chance that your comment will not pass moderation.

      Secondly, you can presume whatever you like, but there is nothing in this post that indicates this “prayer bears all the authority, power and authenticity of the Bible”. In fact I have already suggested that this “prayer is best read and prayed alongside Philippians 2:5-11”.

      Thirdly, I struggle to see where you find “a transformational rescue from sinful habits” in this prayer.


  6. Wow!!!! I am bewildered by how amazingly wrong that translation is. Here go the rumours that the new Missal would be more accurate and faithful to the Latin!

    Off the top of my head, I would say:

    God, who through the lowliness of thy Son hath raised up a fallen world,
    grant holy gladness to thy faithful ones,
    that thou mayest make those whom thou has snatched from the slavery of sin
    to be fruitful with eternal joy.

    Maybe not up to public use standards, but at least (I think) up to translation standards! It all hinges on UT. One could possibly translate it “as”, which would be sim to “for”, since it precedes a relative pronoun; however, the punctuation clarifies the syntax here, and “quos … peccati” need not stand where it does; ie. is not tied to UT — it is, rather, the direct object of FACIAS. UT + subjunctive, as we have here, is a purpose clause, as Bosco says, it should be, “so that.”

    Furthermore, considering the fact that this is a collect, UT should = “so that” in English. Almost every Latin collect I’ve read includes UT and uses UT in this way — it’s part of the pattern, “God, who does/has done/is something really great, do something so that something else may happen for your people.” I see no reason, based on both grammar and genre, that UT would be translated as “for” in this instance.

  7. That particular passage in Philippians is probably my favorite in the New Testament (outside the story of Bartimaeus). It’s not one that would have occurred to me as an accompaniment; but it fits perfectly. Thanks!

  8. Further (as I didn’t think of this in time) I have to say I agree with Laura on the sound of “abasement”; though I’m not sure I make as much of that as she does. A few potential synonyms: humbling, humiliation (especially in view of the Latin), mortification, submission. (“Loss of face” was a candidate, and quite close in meaning, but doesn’t fit in tone with the rest of the prayer.)

  9. The sad thing about the Vatican’s “new, unimproved” translation is that it completely misses out on the poetic contrast of “lowering” versus “lifting up” (“humilitate” versus “erexisti”).

    through your Son lowering himself,
    you lifted up a fallen world:
    grant holy rejoicing to your faithful people,
    so that those whom you set free from slavery to sin
    may fully enjoy everlasting gladness.

      1. Thanks, Bosco. One could even refine it to:

        through your Son laying himself low,
        you lifted up a fallen world…

        The play between “laying” and “lifting,” and “low” and “up,” would really make that poetic contrast “pop” and get the point across in words ordinary people can grasp.

  10. Actually Phillipians 2:5-11 is not a good reference for this prayer at all. It reads:

    “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God,but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name,that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

    As you can see, the passage says that Jesus humbled himself (rather than the Father humbling him) SO THAT (wherefore) God might also raise up Jesus. Our resurrection and our joy or gladness is not the subject of this passage at all. The principle purpose of God’s plan of salvation is to please HIM rather than us, and this is precisely my point, that God did it SO THAT “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

    The Cross is about God making things right on the scales of justice vis-a-vis the condemnation of mankind. Although our joy (an inner joy or gladness) and a more sinless life comes with this purchased Salvation, that is not it’s primary purpose.

    One might also consider 1 Corinthians 15 in this context, and recognize that the Christian life is not about cheating death, but is rather about following Christ first to the grave than then to heaven, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.”

  11. I used to live in a home with a big abasement…. that’s where my Italian grandmother would store her canned tomatoes and dried meats.. right?!? And they said she couldn’t speaka da’english good.

  12. Brother David

    Wow Hudson, that is a very LDS-sounding, strict Trinity, that you have there; God the Father and God the Son are very separate and very distinct beings.

  13. I noticed something that I feel is not right at all and that is, “…for on those you have rescued from slavery to sin…”

    God did not rescue us from “slavery to sin”, but from “slavery of sin you bestowed eternal gladness. Basically, it is wrong to say that God rescued us from slavery to sin. That means there is no freedom; no salvation. I reject thatin, for we have been rescued from the slavery of sin through Jesus, amen.

  14. Pardon me, I am very. I think I was wrong. o didn’t get the context right before, but after someone explained, I understood. The opening prayer above in this website is correct. That is, “…slavery to sin.” For it simply mmeans, we are slaves of sin, and so we have been rescued from slavery to sin TO freedom of righteousness. It means we sin due to our slavery of bondage of sinning.

    Brethren, the opening prayer, “O God, who in the abasement of your Son
    have raised up a fallen world,
    fill your faithful with holy joy,
    for on those you have rescued from slavery to sin
    you bestow eternal gladness.
    Through our Lord Jesus Christ” is correct.

    God bless you all.

  15. Hudson/Aaytch

    As Bosco said, “The prayer is best read and prayed alongside Philippians 2 which says (vs 1) “If there be any consolation (joy), it is because Christ (vs 8) “humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”, and His purpose in doing so (vs 11) was to please and bring “Glory to God the Father.” In other words, the ‘ut’ (purpose) of Christ’s incarnation was to bring eternal glory to God. Our joy is not the ‘ut’. Consequently, the truth of Christianity is rooted not in our experience of joy but in the accomplishments of Jesus which pleased His heavenly father.

    Since you raise the matter of WWCD (what would Cranmer do), it must be noted that Cranmer NEVER wrote a collect expressing the sentiment of this Roman collect, regardless of translation. The Cranmerian collects speak of temporal joy in the collect for Easter Even which reads “… we may be buried with him; and that through the grave, the gate of death, we may pass to our joyful resurrection; for his merits…” Also, his collect for Whitsuntide suggests that the reign of Christ and the sending of the Holy Ghost is the ground of our rejoicing. Also, the collect for the 5th Sunday in Trinity teaches that the Church’s temporal joy comes from serving God.

    Incidentally, “Aaytch” is a nickname not unlike “Tim” or “Matt”.

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