Many readers of this site will use the Grail translation of the psalms. Now there is a new version on the horizon. With many knowing this well-loved version by heart, what are the benefits of the change? Will it move forward complementary imagery and inclusiveness whilst accurately expressing the Hebrew? Will we constantly trip over little, minor changes? Will poorer communities be forced to purchase expensive new sets of liturgical resources? Or will they be free online? Will ordinary lay people who saved hard to purchase expensive volumes to pray with the church feel, and be told that because they are using an older translation, they are no longer praying the Prayer of the Church?
The Grail Psalter is the version used in the Roman Catholic liturgy and Liturgy of the Hours in many, if not most, English-speaking countries. Now the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ meeting in Baltimore have voted to seek Rome’s recognitio of the Revised Grail Psalter produced by the monks of Conception Abbey in Missouri. The alternative, the Revised New American Bible translation of the Book of Psalms, didn’t really get a look in. The vote was 203-5 in favour of accepting a recommendation of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship to adopt the Revisied Grail Psalter for use in all liturgical settings in the United States. Recognitio is acceptance by the Vatican.
Currently the Grail Psalter is used in the United States in the Liturgy of the Hours. Confusingly, the NAB Psalter is in use in all other liturgical books in the United States. Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the Committee on Divine Worship, said the Revised Grail Psalter has already has been adopted by all English-speaking episcopal conferences except the United States and Canada. I have been, as yet, unable to confirm that.
The 1963 Grail translation was modelled on the French translation of the psalms by the Jesuit priest Joseph Gelineau. His psalms are very rhythmic and work well with a particular set of psalm tones. The English Grail Psalms also pay attention to the rhythmic structure of the poetry of the psalms. The Grail psalms were revised in 1983 replacing “sons of men”, “mortal man”, and so on, with more inclusive horizontal language. A further light revision in 1992 tried to avoid gender specific pronouns wherever possible. In this 2008 Revised Grail Psalms I am interested to see the gender-neutral “GOD” has reverted to the gender-specific “the LORD”.
(1963) The Grail Psalms
Psalm 122(121) Laetatus sum
1 I rejoiced when I heard them say:
“Let us go to God’s house.”
2 And now our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem is built as a city
4 It is there that the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord.
For Israel’s law it is,
there to praise the Lord’s name.
5 There were set the thrones of judgment
of the house of David.
6 For the peace of Jerusalem pray:
“Peace be to your homes!
7 May peace reign in your walls,
in your palaces, peace!”
8 For love of my brethren and friends
I say: “Peace upon you.”
9 For love of the house of the Lord
I will ask for your good.
The Revised Grail Psalms (2008)
Psalm 122 (121)
1 A Song of Ascents. Of David.
I rejóiced when they sáid to mé,
“Let us gó to the hóuse of the Lórd.”
2 And nów our féet are stánding
withín your gátes, O Jerúsalem.
3 Jerúsalem is buílt as a cíty
bonded as óne togéther.
4 It is thére that the tríbes go úp,
the tríbes of the Lórd.
For Ísrael’s wítness it ís
to práise the náme of the Lórd.
5 Thére were set the thrónes for júdgment,
the thrónes of the hóuse of Dávid.
6 For the péace of Jerúsalem práy,
“May they prósper, thóse who lóve you.”
7 May péace abíde in your wálls,
and secúrity bé in your tówers.
8 For the sáke of my fámily and fríends,
let me sáy, “Péace upon yóu.”
9 For the sáke of the hóuse of the Lórd, our Gód,
Í will séek good thíngs for yóu.
The Grail translation is notoriously tight in its copyright restrictions, dating, as it does from a pre-internet time when even photocopying was cumbersome, when “intellectual property” was relatively unheard of, and when passing one’s copyright to major publishing houses was the norm. Changes to liturgical texts is big money. Especially in the Roman Catholic Church where the liturgical rubric “jump!” is still followed by a bevy of canon lawyers checking “how high?” This site advocates strongly for the minimum copyright restrictions on liturgical texts. Will I be positively surprised by the Revised Grail Psalter being freely available on the internet? Or will we see the compulsory throwing out of all English language liturgical books and the replacement with new ones, will some people be smiling all the way to the bank (even in this recession/depression)? And poor people and parishes made to feel second class citizens – and worse: harassed for breaking the latest liturgical regulation? With ordinary Liturgy-of-the-Hours-praying pew-sitters being told they are no longer praying the prayer of the church because they haven’t bought the latest only-legal translation?