Liturgical Translations

Tonight I began translating the Gelasian Sacramentary (a digitised version is here). Given that a. my current research is into sixth-century Greek & Syriac saints’ lives and b. my future research is into fifth-century papal correspondence, this project will take a while.

Nevertheless, I believe a translation of this sacramentary is a worthwhile and important object — and not only of this sacramentary but of the Leonine and Gregorian Sacramentaries as well. Why?

I’ve been thinking about the (New) Liturgical Movement — the move for modern liturgies that began in the 1960’s and has given us the Book of Alternative Services (BAS) for the Anglican Church of Canada, the Alternate Service Book and Common Worship for the Church of England, the Novus Ordo for Roman Catholics, similar liturgies for Lutherans (Book of Worship?), a host of prayer resources such as Celtic Daily Prayer or Celebrating Common Prayer, and a proliferation of liturgies for special occasions or individuals at the local church or small group level. And the Taizé office and music.

All of this is well and good, although sometimes I have my reservations about particular moments in the Liturgical Movement. One of the reservations I have is that sometimes the Liturgical Movement, like the evangelical equivalent of Contemporary Worship, does not drink deeply enough.

Edith M. Humphrey, before she became Eastern Orthodox, recommended that writers of new songs of worship begin by drawing on the Psalms. I would echo that, calling them also to immerse themselves in the old hymns both musically and textually for a while.

For the liturgists, an immersion in the Psalms would be helpful. Also helpful would be the vast resources of the ancient and mediaeval church. For the liturgical reformers of the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries, this was a real possibility. Men like Quignon, Luther, Cranmer, and the editors of the 1570 Roman Missal, all knew Latin and probably Greek as well.

This meant that as they sought to reform the liturgy, they had access to centuries of liturgical writing, and we can see that Cranmer certainly put this to good use in his famous Collects that draw heavily upon the Gelasian and Gregorian Sacramentaries and his daily office includes a prayer from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (which, incidentally, is also present in that of St. Basil the Great).

Today’s liturgists, be they clergy or worship leaders or diocesan committees or church-wide committees often lack this knowledge of obsolete languages. Thus, it is harder for them to drink deeply as did their forebears. One result is collects that aren’t even properly collects, for example (as lamented somewhere on Liturgy).

Accessible translations of ancient and mediaeval liturgical texts is a worthy endeavour. As you can see, I have already done some of this with the Mediaeval Wedding and the Mediaeval Vespers (both Sarum Use). More needs to be done, for although the Sarum Missal has been translated into English (here for the Mass, here for the book on Amazon), the Sarum Breviary has not (at least, not in its entirety).

I believe that translations of liturgical texts from the long and venerable tradition of western liturgy would be a blessing to the Liturgical Movement. What do you think?

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Gaudete!

First Page of 'Gaudete' in Swedish Manuscript

This past Sunday is called ‘Gaudete’ Sunday — Rejoice! Sunday, in other words.  This, I believe, comes from the Epistle reading that also doubled as Introit at the Tridentine Mass we attended on Sunday.  It is from Philippians 4:4-7 and begins:

gaudete in Domino semper iterum dico gaudete

Or, in English:

Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say, rejoice!

Despite my current immersion in Pope St. Leo (or is it because of it?), I will not quote Tr. 11 for the Advent Ember Days (of which today is one).  For that, you can go here or here (and please do!).  For his Christmas sermon beginning, “Gaudeamus,” go here.  Those who know Latin know where they can go already, I assume.

Instead, I would like to turn everyone’s attention to what the Latin word gaudete always makes me think of:

Refrain:
Gaudete! gaudete!
Christus est natus ex Maria virgine,
gaudete!

1. Tempus adest gratiae, hoc quod optabamus;
carmina laetitiae devote reddamus. Refrain

2. Deus homo factus est, natura mirante;
mundus renovatus est a Christo regnante. Refrain

3. Ezechielis porta clausa per transistur;
unde lux est orta, salus invenitur. Refrain

4. Ergo nostra contio psallat iam in lustro;
Benedicat Domino; salus Regi nostro. Refrain

Sing with me!  This song inevitably makes me happy.  I have been known to dance around the house singing the chorus.  If you have no idea what the tune is, here’s a youtube video (poor-quality image, but the best recording I know):

And if you’re feeling all 39-Articles about a language not understood of the people, here’s what they’re singing:

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Christ is born of the Virgin Mary,
rejoice!

1. The time of grace is here, this which we shall choose;
Let us return songs of happiness faithfully.

2. God is made mad with a wondrous nature;
The world is renewed by Christ who reigns.

3. The closed gate of Ezekiel has been passed through;
whence light arose, salvation is found.

4. Therefore let our speech now sing in purification;
May it bless the Lord; salvation is from our King.

And . . . done.

Yesterday I finished the Reading List Exams for U of T’s MA in Classics.  This was the conclusion of four days of intensity and spilling forth from my brain excessive amounts of information, some of which I wasn’t even sure was there until the pen hit the paper.  The Reading List looks like this.  My week looked like this:

Tuesday, 9:00 AM: Greek Verse translation exam.  Translate 2 out of 4 from Set A and likewise from Set B.  Passages taken from the Reading List, of course.  Did the passages from the Iliad, Hesiod’s Theogony, Tyrtaeus 9, Callimachus’ Hymn to Athena.

Wednesday, 9:00 AM: Greek Verse commentary exam.  Theoretically write something clever about 3 out 5 passages from sets A and B.  Only Emilia looks at it and says, “Hey, Set B only has four passages!”  Set A was similar.  Wrote the exam under much stress, wondering what would happen in these unforeseen circumstances.  Furthermore, would they discipline a prof who acts in such bad faith yet who is also published and publishing?  Commented on passages from Euripides’ Bacchae, the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, and Homer’s Odyssey, book 6 from Set A, and Mimnermus, Sappho 31, and the parabasis of Aristophanes’ Acharnians.

Thursday, 9:00 AM:  Latin Prose translation exam.  Same format as Greek.  Translated passages from Livy, Ab Urbe Condita Book 21, Suetonius Life of the Divine Julius, Cicero, and from a letter of Pliny the Younger.

Friday, 9:00 AM:  Latin Prose commentary exam.  Same format that Greek was supposed to be, not what Greek was. Thankfully.  Commented on passages from Cornelius Nepos’ Life of Atticus, Sallust’s Bellum Catilinae, Livy Book 1, a letter of Cicero to Atticus, Seneca Letter 47, and Cicero’s speech Pro Archia.

And now, I’m done the Reading List!