Sunday, 16 October 2011

Two translations, two apparitions and the service of God's majesty

The Latin text of the prayer at the conclusion of Morning Prayer for 29th Sunday of the Year, today, is as follows. The same prayer would be used as the Collect at Mass, if Mass were to be celebrated in Latin.
Omnipotents sempiterne Deus, fac nos tibi semper et devotam gerere voluntatem, et maiestati tuae sincero corde servire.
[My rough translatation: Almighty eternal God, make us always and devoutly to do your will, and to serve your majesty with a sincere heart. BUT: there is a possible translation of "servire" as "obey" and of "gerere" as "celebrate" or "to bear, in the sense of carry". My commas have been placed as in the original, but the placing of a comma before "servire" would then apply that verb to the previous clause as well and indicate more clearly a translation of "servire" as "obey" and "gerere" as "celebrate".]

The English translation provided in the Divine Office:
Almighty, ever-living God,
make us ever obey you willingly and promptly.
Teach us how to serve you with sincere and upright hearts
in every sphere of life.
And the English translation provided in the (now previous - I haven't yet got access to the propers of the new) translation of the Roman Missal:
Almighty and ever-living God,
our source of power and inspiration,
give us strength and joy
in serving you as followers of Christ.
By the time we reach the (previous) Missal translation the connection with the Latin original has become what one might diplomatically describe as "loose", and the detailed nuances pretty much lost altogether. The Divine Office translation appears much more honest as a translation, "willingly and promptly" expressing some idea of "devoutly", "upright" providing a not unfair, though perhaps unnecessary, gloss on "sincere". It's weakness, though, is in the substitution of serving God "in every sphere of life" for the serving of God's "majesty". It is the case that God's "majesty" is served by every aspect of Christian living, both the immediately Liturgical and the generally apostolic. But the idea of serving God's "majesty" is saying more than this, and, whilst it includes the apostolic aspect, it nevertheless suggests a certain priority to the Liturgical aspect.

What has caught my attention is the comparison of the question raised by this translation to aspects of the messages of two Marian apparitions, those at Fatima and La Salette. I was able to visit Fatima last June, and will be in La Salette in ten days time.

The first year of preparation for the celebration of the centenary of the apparitions at Fatima is taking for its theme the apparitions of the Angel that preceded those of the Virgin Mary herself. The words of the prayer of the Angel provide the strap line:  "Most Holy Trinity, I adore you profoundly" and are the inspiration of a "pilgrim way" for the year.

At La Salette, one of the appeals made by the Virgin Mary was to respect Sunday as a day dedicated to the Lord and not to treat it just like any other working day. The "beautiful Lady" also encouraged the children to say their prayers with sincerity.

Both of these apparitions contain a call to the direct adoration of God, something that was relevant to the particular context of each apparition and which is still very relevant at a time when Europe is losing its sense of God. In this context the reference to service of God's majesty in the Prayer for the 29th Sunday of the Year has something to say to us, and it is unfortunate that it should be "lost in translation", so to speak.

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