Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Divine Office


Two of my favorite things about the Roman Catholic Church are the Divine Office and the Holy Office. The latter is, sadly, no longer in existence. The former, however, is still going strong; stronger than ever, thanks to Vatican II. Yes, I like the Liturgy of the Hours. I'd happily kiss Card. Bugnini's ring for his work on the revision of the Office, despite whatever quams I might have with other of his work.

One of the main reasons I like the Office is that it sanctifies the day, and does so liturgically. The celebration of the Mass is extended throughout the day by the interconnectivity of the readings and antiphons from the Hours and the Eucharistic Liturgy. The Divine Office is a valuable way of carrying the meaning of the Mass into your apostolate. And it upsets me that some of its value has been lost by none other than (you guessed it) the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. Yes, the Liturgy of the Hours is another of ICEL's less-than-greatest hits, and surprisingly it has not been mentioned during the recent months of hullabaloo over the Mass translation.

Now, first I must admit to knowing a lot less about the General Intruction on the LOH than I do about the GIRM. I must also admit to a certain ignorance as to what difference in jurisdiction the Bishops may have over the text of the Office or what instructions from Rome might cover this issue (does LA mention it, for example?)

That having been said, what I'm going to blog about is my personal impression of the superiority of the Latin L.O.H. compared to the English translation. Since I don't know who, ultimately, is responsible for this translation, please don't take me as being disobedient. Disclaimers done, let's get into it.

* * *

Today was the Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B of the Sunday Lectionary Cycle. The Gospel at Mass today was about the Apostles returning to Jesus and speaking about all they had done. Afterwards, Jesus takes them off to a deserted place. But when he finds crowds in his deserted place, he is moved to teach them, who are "like sheep without a shepherd."

It should be noted that Years A and C are different. Last year, for example, on this Sunday, we heard from Jesus a series of parables about the kingdom of Heaven. Next year, we will hear about Mary choosing the better part.

Now, let's take a look in the Breviary for today. Remember how I said that the antiphons capitalize usually upon the message from the Gospel? Well, here are the three proper antiphons from this occasion (taken from the 1975 ICEL translation of the Liturgy of the Hours, Volume III):

Evening Prayer I: The kingdom of heaven is like yeast which a woman took and kneaded into three measures of flour until all the dough had risen.

Morning Prayer: He saw the great crowd and had pity on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.

Evening Prayer II: Mary has chosen the better part, and it shall not be taken from her.

Respectively, these antiphons correspond to the three years of the Lectionary Cycle. So, never will a year go by that at least one of the proper antiphons doesn't correspond to the Mass setting for the day.

But, the Latin has something quite different. It's a difference not of translation, really (although our English renderings are a tad weak). It's a difference of content. For, there, in the Latin, for each of these three "Hours," there are three separate antiphons: one for Year A, one for Year B, and one for Year C.

The Evening Prayer I antiphon in the English translation is really the Year A antiphon from Morning Prayer; the antiphon for Evening Prayer II is in its proper place, but is from Year C of the cycle.

So, what would we have read in today's liturgy had we prayed it in Latin? Let's take a look (and forgive me if my translations are not up to par, but my Cassell's is packed in a box in the attic for when I return to school.)

Evening Prayer I: Convenientes apostoli as Iesum, renuntiaverunt ei omnia quae egerant et docuerant. (Literally: The apostles, gathering together to Jesus, related to Him all which they had carried out and taught.)

Morning Prayer: Venite vos ipsi seorsum in desertum locum et requiescite pusillum, dicit Dominus. (Literally: Come, you, into a deserted place and rest a little, says the Lord.)

Evening Prayer II: Vidit Iesus multam turbam et misertus est super eos, quia erant sicut oves non habentes pastorem. (Literally: As above, in Morning Prayer - except that here Jesus is named (no pronoun) and I prefer "had compassion" to "pity" for misertus est.)

The difference is incredible. It really speaks for itself, with the antiphons carrying the message throughout the day.

* * *

So, now my question: does anyone know why this discrepancy? Someone out there with a better knowledge of liturgy. Has the editio typica been modified to include antiphons for each year and the new English version not yet prepared? To the best of my knowledge, the revision of 1980 (which made it to America 8 years later) didn't change the reading cycle, really, so I don't think that would have been a factor. And one final question: Has anything been said about retranslating the Breviary?

I will post more on this issue, because it perplexes me more the more I think about it. Now that I have noted the most obvious difference, you'll hear about the second most obvious difference next time: psalm prayers. And finally, we'll get into my quams with certain renderings of the text (mostly in the antiphons and prayers).


I have recieved an answer in the combox regarding some of my questions. Apparently, the first editio typica did not include the three-year antiphons. Still, I wonder how long we're waiting for the translation of the new edition. Perhaps I'll get a similar answer after I speak my quams about psalm-prayers. I'm going to stay away from strictly translational quibbles though, since I'm not sure of the two versions I'm comparing. I'm going to try to pick up an older latin breviary at the library at school when I visit on Friday.



Anonymous richard said...

I am an English seminarian, and I agree with your comments about the superiority of the Latin Breviary to its English (and American) equivalents. The UK and US Breviaries are translations of the first Latin edition(1970)in which the Benedictus and Magnificat antiphons did not harmonise with the three year gospel cycle. This defect is remedied in second Latin edition(2000)and is much more satisfactory as a result. The Latin edition also has much better intercessions at Lauds and Vespers, and a vastly superior collection of hymns. The UK edition is the probably the worst breviary in world. At least the US edition sticks to one version of Scripture throughout. The UK version is eccentric and eclectic and, in at least one case, changes translation half way through the book. It is also printed on cheap and nasty paper and is unique in consisting of three volumes instead of four. It is a truly dreadful publication and is to be avoided at all costs. Vist to see what we are missing!

7/24/06, 4:48 PM  

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