Friday, January 14, 2011

Liturgical Text Is Different

From Fr. Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, an adviser to the Vox Clara Committee, we now have his recent lecture in Portland entitled "Conceiving the Translating Task" (with a special thanks to Pray Tell).

In this new translation of the Roman Missal, the vernacular exhibits some sort of – I would call it “consanguinity” with the Latin, and it achieves a sacral tone comparable to the Latin. You will understand it because you understand English. But do not expect it to sound like English used in any other context. What we are doing at Mass is unique, and it requires a unique use of the language to express this.

He points out that liturgical translation is completely different from business translation or literary translation. With liturgy that developed over a long period, as long 1000 years, the translator must embed himself in the period and thought in which the originating text came to be. That universe of language, expression, and meaning must be reflected in the vernacular edition, which is why the results are different from everyday language. It is a mistake to isolate small passages and evaluate them solely according to contemporary language standards.

This is a very impressive lecture that reminds us of big picture here. As I listened, I was reminded of the book that had the largest influence on me, After Language by Catherine Pickstock, and it occurred to me that his points might not be entirely obvious in our times that elevate communicative cognition above prayerful and theological expression. So this lecture really addresses the fundamentals and the very core of the peculiar project we are dealing with here.

The entire lecture is strikingly brilliant. It is worth listening to the entire talk.