Truth in the New Translation Series # 4: The Hanc Igitur of the Roman Canon

We have been exploring the new translation of the Roman Missal that will go into effect by Advent of 2011. It is the purpose of this series to show the value of the New Translation by meditating upon the truths that it more accurately translates. These truths were never lost to the Church for the Latin texts have remained with us. However, most Catholics who do not read Latin have not been able to appreciate these beautiful truths since the  1970 translation currently in use omitted a great deal of the Latin meaning. With the new translation, much of this meaningful teaching is fully restored to the faithful. We are a little less than half way through the First Eucharistic Prayer (the Roman Canon). If you have missed previous installments of this series they can be viewed here: Truth in the New Translation Series

As with previous installments we note first the Latin text. Then the new translation, and then the 1970 rendering that is currently in use. There follows commentary that shows forth the improvements in the new translation.

LATIN: Hanc igitur oblationem servitutis nostrae, sed et cunctae familiae tuae, quaesumus, Domine, ut placatus accipias: diesque nostros in tua pace disponas, atque ab aeterna damnatione nos eripi et in electorum tuorum iubeas grege numerari.

NEW TRANSLATION: Therefore, Lord, we pray: graciously accept this oblation of our service, and that of your whole family; order our days in your peace, and command that we be delivered from eternal damnation and counted among the flock of those you have chosen.

1970 TRANSLATION: Father, accept this offering from your whole family. Grant us your peace in this life, save us from final damnation, and count us among those you have chosen.

1. Rediscovering a more polite and requesting tone – One of the more puzzling qualities of the translation currently in use is the consistent refusal to translate the word quaesumus. This Latin word is variously rendered as “we beseech you,” “we ask you,” “we humbly pray,”  “we pray” It is a Latin equivalent of what we mean when we say to one another “please.” In almost every case (and the word comes up a lot in the Latin text) the word is simply ignored by the 1970 translation. Without the use of this word our tone can easily sound imperative, as if we were telling the Father what to do or making a demand: “Father, accept this offering!” Thankfully the new translation will restore the tone  of  humble request so clear in the Latin. It renders the text quite faithfully by saying: Therefore, Lord, we pray: graciously accept this oblation….  Hence the imperitive tone of the current rendering gives way to a more requestful tone (we pray =quaesumus) that also recognizes God’s graciousness in accepting our offering. This a much more proper tone for prayer.

2. Rendering our debt to God –  The current rendering simply asks God to accept our offering but the Latin calls it an oblation of our service (oblationem servitutis nostrae). We are not simply making offerings to God, we are making offerings that are expected. As we have discussed earlier in these reflections  on the Roman Canon, our praise is due to God. We have a debt of gratitude to render unto God. It is true we could never thank God enough for what he has done. That is why we join our prayers to Christ who alone can give the Father the thanks and praise he deserves. Hence it is good that the new translation will render the Latin more faithfully and thus remind us that our offering is not just some wonderful gesture on our part but is, rather, the partial rendering of a debt that is owed that only Christ can complete.

3. Peace is experienced in good order– The current rendering merely asks God to “grant us his peace” but the Latin has a little more to teach us here about how God gives us his peace. He orders our days in his peace (diesque nostros in tua pace disponas). To be under God’s good order, under his law, under his dispensation is to experience greater peace. Sin is chaos and disorder, grace is good order and brings peace. The new translation brings to light this teaching once again by rendering the Latin more faithfully:  “order our days in your peace.”  Peace and good order are hand and glove.

4. Sheep of the flock– one of the criticisms of the Old Mass was it’s diminished use of scripture. This is not an invalid critique in that we have a far richer sampling today than we used to. However, there were many allusions to scripture in the prayers of Mass and many of them were lost when the current 1970 translation went into force. One of the allusions to scripture is here where we ask the Lord to number us among the sheep he has Chosen (in electorum tuorum iubeas grege numerari). This is a clear allusion to Matthew 25:31ff  wherein the Lord says he will judge the nations and place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. The sheep will inherit everlasting life, but the the goats (those on his left) will depart unto eternal damnation. The allusion is lost in the current rendering which eliminates any reference to the sheep and only asks that we be counted among the chosen and saved from final damnation. The new translation will restore the scriptural allusion.

Once again we see that the new translation restores many things to us that were  lost or diminished in the current 1970 version. Many riches have lay hidden which are now brought to light. Stay tuned for more installments.

Since the Eucharistic Prayer is about gratitude due to God this video says gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam (We give you thanks on account of your great glory)  From the Vivaldi Gloria in D

9 Replies to “Truth in the New Translation Series # 4: The Hanc Igitur of the Roman Canon”

  1. I have loved listening to the music — the Beethoven, the Vivaldi, and others — at the end of your posts. Does the New Translation also mean that we will return to a more traditional music? And by traditional I mean music that *sounds* like church music from the olden days. Thank you.

  2. Domine, dilexi decorem domus tuae: et locum habitationis gloriae tuae… in ecclesiis benedicam te, Domine. Gloria Patri…

  3. Father, I have always deplored what Archbishop Bugnini did to the old mass. But your series is making me realize that much of what I thought Bugnini did was really what the 1970 translators did. Thanks.

  4. My husband has acquired a copy of the Liber Usualis. The music is in *wail* those neume-doohickeys I never learned to read!

      1. I still want real notes that my 44-year-old brain can process…or some nice recordings so I can fake my way through it.

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