The National Catholic Review

Having just presided at a Mass, I have a question about the new translation.  And this is a sincere question: I’m somewhat puzzled about whether a particular feature is an error in the translation, a typo or some part of the Latin translation that I don’t understand.  I noticed it when I read the Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent, which I decided to practice since I’m celebrating Mass at our local Jesuit church that Sunday.  The Collect reads:

O God, who see how your people faithfully await….

Who see?  Shouldn’t it be “who sees”?  Is God plural?  Are the translators referring to the Trinity? 

I thought it might be a mistake in the edition of the missal I’ve been using (from the Catholic Book Publishing Corp.) but this morning I noticed the same locution in “Give Us This Day,” the daily prayer resource from Liturgical Press.  (And I thought: there’s no way that both Catholic Book Publishing and Liturgical Press got it wrong.) 

Then tonight I stumbled over this familiar part of the Mass:

Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your Apostles: Peace I leave you, my peace I give you, look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will. Who live and reign for ever and ever.

Live and reign?  Shouldn’t it be "lives and reigns"?  Jesus Christ is certainly singular. 

I asked several Jesuit priests in my community who know Latin, and they scratched their heads.  My best guess is that it's a Latin-based problem, or that it's a way of addressing the Trinity, but it certainly made it difficult not to feel that the priest is making a grammatical mistake by saying “O God, who see…” and “Lord Jesus Christ…Who live and reign for ever and ever.” 

Can anyone explain what seems, at least on the surface, to be a grammatical mistake?  Thanks in advance.

Comments

Paul Schwankl | 12/3/2011 - 3:21pm
Hurray, David, for teaching about subordinate clauses in general—a subject far from arcane. If students learned how these clauses operate, maybe we’d see less of “It’s one of four states that has no state sales tax” and the like. And if some students figure out that there can be subordinate clauses in the second person singular—even though it's a bad idea to use these clauses because they leave the general public bemused—that shows thorough learning.
I have lots of prescriptivist sympathies, but I think the composers of our new missal are flaunting correct grammar here rather than using it responsibly.
Paul Schwankl | 12/1/2011 - 8:21pm
Tongue was partly in cheek there. If subordinate clauses in the second person are in our missal for the duration, they are something worth knowing. But ideally, in my opinion, they would not be worth bothering about—at least not to Father Jim and others who avoid archaic English—because they would have fallen into disuse and would be of purely antiquarian interest.
Paul Schwankl | 12/1/2011 - 12:29pm
All right, that’s it. If a fifty-year-old Jesuit who writes torrentially can’t recognize a subordinate clause in the second person, and none of the Latin-trained confreres he consulted can recognize it either, it’s time to stop using this construction. I can’t think of any place it’s found in current English except prayers and hymns. No wonder it seems so strange.
As other posters have pointed out, the remedy is not to go looking for more grammatically astute Jesuits, and certainly not to use an ungrammatical third-person verb instead, but to turn the relative pronoun into a personal one and the subordinate clause into an independent. (One of Bernadette Farrell’s songs contains “Son of God, who leads [OUCH] us to freedom: glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ.” Why didn’t the editors at GIA try to talk her into “Son of God, you lead us to freedom”? It looks as though they don’t know what a subordinate clause in the second person is either.) Of course, this remedy won’t be applied, because it strays too far from the Latin original to satisfy the current authorities.
Other points:
1. Father Jim, it appears you are too young to clearly remember the period, 1964 to 1970 if I recall, when the Gloria had “you who” in it. We sounded like matrons from a 1930s screwball movie trying to get Jesus’ attention. “You who” got revised to “you” at the first opportunity. I wouldn’t push it if I were you.
2. Four hundred years ago a priest could have said, in normal English for that time, “O God, who seest how thy people faithfully await . . .” and “who livest and reignest forever and ever.” A second-person singular verb would not have to share its form with the first-person singular or the second-person plural and could be readily recognized for what it is. On this question, the Episcopalians who favor the old Prayer Book have a point.
3. We outside the Society should have known that when we finally caught Jesuits being ignorant about something, it would be something not worth knowing.
Liam Richardson | 12/1/2011 - 11:23am
Second person singular vocative usage has shifted in common usage where "you" is omitted.

This drives people who are syllogistic prescriptivists about usage batty. But there you have it. Despite efforts by prescriptivists to tidy up and rationalise usage logically in the early 19th century (when a lot of relatively new "schoolmarm" rules arose), actual English usage fights that approach. We don't have a French Academy.

Right now, that usage employed in the new translation is rightly considered archaic. It would be best to insert the implied you or switch to the more currently idiomatic usage.

 
KEN LOVASIK | 12/1/2011 - 11:11am
I think the question your post poses, Fr. Martin, is a valid one:  what is the best way to render the meaning of the Latin text in English?  I don't know if one person or a group of persons worked on this translation, but I wonder, as I listen to the ''new'' texts at Mass, if they really understand English!

I teach Latin to high school kids.  My juniors and seniors would have known to translate
the Latin text as Vin did in his response to your post:  Qui is best rendered ''You who''.
Latin, even Classical Latin, - which our liturgical texts are certainly not! - often begins a new sentence with a relative pronoun (Qui, Quae, or Quod) when the sentence is grammatically linked to the previous sentence.  Translated literally - like our ''new'' texts - the new sentence begins with Who (as if it were a relative clause).  I teach my students to translate the Qui as either he, she, it, or they.  Apparently, our 'translators' didn't learn this in their Latin studies. 

From what I heard last Sunday at Mass, they've taken something very beautiful and very poetic and turned it into a choppy, hard-to-listen-to, Latinized English text that is a tongue-twister for the Presider who has to pray the Eucharistic Prayer!  I hope they don't begin to tinker with the Liturgy of the Hours next.  As a lover of Latin, I could 'hear' ablative absolutes, participial phrases, purpose and result clauses!  I am disappointed that the genuine meaning of the Latin wasn't rendered more faithfully in these texts.
KEN LOVASIK | 12/1/2011 - 11:11am
I think the question your post poses, Fr. Martin, is a valid one:  what is the best way to render the meaning of the Latin text in English?  I don't know if one person or a group of persons worked on this translation, but I wonder, as I listen to the ''new'' texts at Mass, if they really understand English!

I teach Latin to high school kids.  My juniors and seniors would have known to translate
the Latin text as Vin did in his response to your post:  Qui is best rendered ''You who''.
Latin, even Classical Latin, - which our liturgical texts are certainly not! - often begins a new sentence with a relative pronoun (Qui, Quae, or Quod) when the sentence is grammatically linked to the previous sentence.  Translated literally - like our ''new'' texts - the new sentence begins with Who (as if it were a relative clause).  I teach my students to translate the Qui as either he, she, it, or they.  Apparently, our 'translators' didn't learn this in their Latin studies. 

From what I heard last Sunday at Mass, they've taken something very beautiful and very poetic and turned it into a choppy, hard-to-listen-to, Latinized English text that is a tongue-twister for the Presider who has to pray the Eucharistic Prayer!  I hope they don't begin to tinker with the Liturgy of the Hours next.  As a lover of Latin, I could 'hear' ablative absolutes, participial phrases, purpose and result clauses!  I am disappointed that the genuine meaning of the Latin wasn't rendered more faithfully in these texts.
Kang Dole | 12/1/2011 - 10:49am
I was kind of joking about the Isaac thing, but bear in mind that your matrilineal explanation doesn't really wash: matrilineal descent is irrelevant in the Bible.

Anyhoo, I do know that Christians like to make a lot of hash out of the yachid and echad distinction in the Bible, but, for what it's worth, from a Jewish perspective these arguments leave one scratching his head.  (I also know the context of this argument is almost invariably that of messianic evangelism or apologetics against Jehova's Witnesses).

Regardless, all of this is irrelevant to the thread at hand, so no worries.
Gina Guarnere | 12/1/2011 - 9:59am
BTW, Abe, I appreciate you giving me the benefit of the doubt and allowing me the chance to respond. 

You raise the issue of my lack of clarity.  That's something I should probably alter since it's doubtful you're the first one befuddled by my lack of coherence. 

My appreciation for that.  :)
Gina Guarnere | 12/1/2011 - 9:58am
Jewish custom is to follow the maternal line.  Abraham had only one son by Sarah.  His firstborn, yes, came from Sarah's maidservant (in addition to subsequent others), but his "only" son of Sarah... the line that matters to Jews, was Isaac.

I hope that clears it up a bit. 

Thus, the Hebrew still makes sense.
Kang Dole | 12/1/2011 - 9:52am
Um, I looked at your blog entry, but it's kind of hard to trust your explanation of Hebrew numbering when you can't correctly count how many sons Abraham had.
Gina Guarnere | 12/1/2011 - 8:53am
Hello!  I was linked this blog by a friend of mine. 

This is a very valid question and it seems folks have a lot of good ideas on it.  I'll throw mine into the mix since I had to tackle it with my CCD students (6th grade) at the beginning of their school year.  I hope it helps others, as I break it down into very basic, understandable language.

http://www.mybrokenfiat.com/1/post/2011/09/the-trinity-as-a-plural-singular.html

P.S. - I hope no one takes offense to me posting my blog, but I didn't want to simply copy and paste that entry into a comment space.  Best wishes to all!
JIM MCCREA | 11/30/2011 - 4:44pm
Oops, thanks Patrick!

Mea maxima consubstantal roofer.
JIM MCCREA | 11/30/2011 - 4:42pm
Vox Clarabelles!  That's another good one that belongs right up there with sheople and pew potatoes.

Thanks, Vince.
Nicholas Stein | 11/30/2011 - 4:32pm
Carolyn,

From what I read on Pray Tell, the ''Xavier Rynne'' - ''Xavier Rindfleisch'' connection to the New Yorker writer from Vatican II is intentional.
NORMA NUNAG | 11/30/2011 - 4:15pm
Yes,   I agree with you Barbara #5" "Let's hope the grammatical issues don't detract from the beautiful blessing that Jesus gave us."

Let's just focus on Jesus' words:  Do this in remembrance of me.  And what do we remember he was and did?  He was all embracing, all loving, all forgiving, all patient, all accepting, all focused on Almighty God the Father, and the Holy Spirit.  He gave, gave, gave and gave, including his own life for the good of humanity, and  for which he claimed  was the reason he came to be one of us.  He cared for the poor, the marginalized, the outcast, the unwanted, the arrogants, and in the process he transformed them to be better individuals, people, and even transformed them into himself (as St. Paul claimed he no longer lives, but that Christ lives in him.)  So I suppose that's what he meant by "do this in remembrance of me".... that is, become me.   He wanted us to be his flesh and blood for others now, today, everyday of our lives, after his earthly life.  
Carolyn Disco | 11/30/2011 - 3:19pm

Doesn't ''Xavier Rindfleisch'' have a certain similarity to ''Xavier Rynne''?

Then again, ''where's the beef?'' comes to mind as I search for a litte mirth in the linguistic and theological fine points. 

This thread is an interesting education in itself.
Marie Rehbein | 11/30/2011 - 12:16pm
My reaction presumes that the grammar is intentional and the meaning this conveys to me is that God is a codename for a group of some kind.  It depersonalizes God in my opinion.

What will it be ultimately, translators changing English so that new phrasing and grammar conveys old understanding or translators changing the perception one has of God? 

In any case, translating machines need a bit of AI inserted into them so they can think about meaning instead of just matching up words and phrases.
T BLACKBURN | 11/30/2011 - 12:03pm
The New Yorker used to have fun regularly with the instructions in English that accompanied Japanese products. Fitting English words into Japanese syntax produced many howlers. Unfortunately, Japanese companies cleaned up their instructions by hiring people who know English. I hope some day the Church will do the same. Until then, we have to hope The New Yorker doesn't notice what we are doing.
Nicholas Stein | 11/30/2011 - 10:46am
''Xavier Rindfleisch'' on the Pray Tell blog has this entry concerning your question. The whole thing can be found at http://www.praytellblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Bending-slightly.pdf

''THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT 

Deus, qui cónspicis pópulum tuum nativitátis domínicae festivitátem fidéliter exspectáre, praesta, quaesumus, ut valeámus ad tantae salútis gáudia perveníre, et ea votis sollémnibus álacri semper laetítia celebráre. Per Dóminum. 

2008  

O God, who look upon your people as they faithfully await the feast day of the Lord’s birth, strengthen us, we pray, to reach the joys of so great a salvation, and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad rejoicing. Through our Lord. 

2010 

O God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity, enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvation, and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad rejoicing. Through our Lord. 

1) conspicere is “to look upon” or “to watch” or even “to gaze upon,” i.e., much more intense than videre – to see. So if you decide, for some reason contrary to LA, not to translate the Latin, to turn conspicere  into videre, than at least use a proper English construction: “who see that your people” not “see how your people.” What could that mean? Perhaps we’re making Advent wreaths or preparing Christmas baskets? This “trick construction” is something the revisers should have encountered during their SAT preparation, not in a submission to CDW!''

Hope that helps!
Kang Dole | 11/30/2011 - 10:41am
I was about to bring up the Lord's Prayer, too. I Know that the Latin uses the second-person verb with the relative pronoun, and that in the liturgy this verb is translated into English using the second-person verb "art."

"Art," though, is early modern English. I wonder what people's reaction would be if the archaizing were dropped and the contemporary English second person verb of "to be" were to be used instead:

"Our Father, who are in heaven..."

Oy.

I notice that in both the Jerusalem and New American Bibles, the relative clause is simply dropped: "Our Father in heaven..."

The Greek in Matthew 6:9 has the relative pronoun, but no explicit verb (Greek doesn't require it). When I translate the Greek, though, I have to make a decision. I can drop the relative clause all together (lots of translations do, and say: Our father in heaven...", or I can pick a verb. When I pick a verb, I use the third person: "is."

If you read an English Bible and you see something like "Our Father, who art in heaven...", you may be apt to accept it on account of the fact that we've been made to expect "Bible-sounding" language in such contexts. But if you saw "Our Father, who are..."? Surely, that would be disorienting.

When I look for a new translation of a classical text, I am suspicious of anything using Old English words like "thou" or "thine." Why wouldn't I be similarly suspicious when I look at a biblical text?
Aidan O'Neill | 11/30/2011 - 10:12am
There is precedent, surely, in the long established English translation of ''Pater Noster, qui es in caelis....'' as  ''Our Father, [Thou] who art in heaven...'', though it has to be admitted that ''Our Father, [You] who are in Heaven'' would not be English as we know it.  Perhaps the future intent of the translators - as part of the drive towards to ''exclusive language'' in the liturgy - is to reintroduce the second person singular into English and again return to talking to and of God as Thou, Thee and Thy.  Suitably elevating ?   Or perhaps just alienating.
David Pasinski | 11/30/2011 - 10:08am
This is an interetsting exercise to a point, but only a few remarks address the much discussed process of this whole translation issue.  I know America published the excellent article by Anthony Ruff in February, but now we are wrestling with the implementation of this flawed process.  However, id we  are discussing grammar and syntax, since when is "Who lives reigns for ever and ever a sentence"? I correct my kids for their fragments.  Why was that in the text?  
William Ruff | 11/30/2011 - 6:54am
The comments so far have answered Jim's original question:
''who see'' is correct (but rather antiquated] 2nd person singular, and ''you-who'' doesn't sound good.

The solution used by now in most English-speaking liturgical churches is to make it an indicative sentence and eliminate the subordinate clause:
''O God, you do such and such. [period]  Now give us...''

But that solution is not allowed by our new translation rules because it doesn't preserve Latin syntax. It is thought that the grammar expresses interrelationship of theological ideas.

Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB
david power | 11/30/2011 - 6:15am
If it was "who sees" then we would be referring to God in the third person(not in a trintarian way) and so it would no longer be a direct address or prayer.
This either way is clumsy as somebody else said.
10 years they spent on it???
I think that it is a mistake for the simple reason that the Church has never prayed to God using the plural(at least to my knowledge!).
The easiest solution would be to place the subject (you) before the clause and verb as is always done in English.
 
david power | 11/30/2011 - 6:04am
It might not affect the situation a whole lot but in the Latin ,Italian and Spanish languages the verb usually holds   the subject unlike English.So it is normal for us to repeat the subject but not for them. 
Carolyn Disco | 11/30/2011 - 3:10am
Why the linguistic technical contortions that result in clumsy English, when Jesus did not speak Latin anyway? Perhaps even the Lord's patience is exhausted by now.

THOMAS WELBERS | 11/30/2011 - 1:42am
Oops, I should have proofed my previous post one more time:

Uh, Jim, you can't be serious.  "Yoo-hoo" wouldn't sound all that good, would it? When all is said and done, "God [vocative], who [second person singular verb]" is correct, if clumsy, English; "God, who [third person singular verb]" isn't.  I suspect in the course of time, those of us who are seriously trying to make a pie out of the lemon rather than just lemonade will probably cionsciously or unconsciously make a lot of little tweaks to make it smoother and more graceful.  Perfectly justified canonically: De minimis non curat lex. (The law doesn't sweat little things.)   I just hope we do so out of knowledge, not ignorance, and don't further violate the English language or the meaing. One that I always make: changing "through Christ our Lord" in the middle of the Preface to "through our Lord Jesus Christ" to stave off the Pavlovian "Amen" that usually results when spoken as written.

I think the law does care about minibuses! 
Vince Killoran | 11/29/2011 - 10:54pm
Abe's query about whether the fictive exam-taker's first language was English might be close to the truth here!

Folks might be interested to know that, even in the mid-seventeenth century, it was quite acceptable to say "you was going to the opera." The grammerians went to work on this and, by 1830, "you was" became "you were." Ken Cmiel's DEMOCRATIC ELOQUENCE: THE FIGHT OVER POPULAR SPEECH IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY AMERICA includes a wonderful discussion of ham-handed efforts to contort English syntax into unnatural Latin shapes.
Marsha West | 11/29/2011 - 10:42pm
One of the problems with this translation that has been mentioned frequently in the discussions leading up to this time was that there are many grammatical and synctatical errors in English usage which resulted from straining to keep the Latin syntax. Latin is a language which depends on suffixes and changes in the forms of word and word order is not very important. English is a language which depends mostly on word order to show grammatical relationships. 

When you have Italians translating Latin into English, you get this sort of thing. 
W P TOWELL | 11/29/2011 - 10:32pm
Is it possible that, after they shoehorned three ''chalices'' into the Consecration, even the Vox Clarabelles figured that any more would be overkill?
Susan Teaford | 11/29/2011 - 9:25pm
I'm curious as to why all other references to a 'cup' were changed to 'chalice' except for the Memorial Acclamation, '' When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, /until you come again.''  Not complaining, just wondering....



Kang Dole | 11/29/2011 - 9:23pm
I don't get it. Why translate a 2nd-person into English without using the appropriate personal pronoun? In the English, without the personal pronoun the relative pronoun seems to have "God" as the immediate antecedent. So, I ask the same question that Father Martin asks in his comment above.

If I was grading a stack of exams, and I saw "O God, who see how your people faithfully await….", my first instinct would be to double-check whether the student had English as a first language.
Jack Barry | 11/29/2011 - 9:17pm
There seems to be a similar second-person singular-plural problem in the Gloria in the USCCB Parts of the People.   In English, the one word ''you'' has two different meanings, singular and plural.   In Latin, two recognizably different words are used for the two meanings, as in French, Spanish, etc.  The final proof reader obviously neglected the language difference and ended up with the praying people strangely praising, blessing, adoring, and glorifying people of good will until the equivalent of 5 sentences pass.  Then, the antecedent of the pronoun ''you'' is identified  -  singular God and not plural people.  Strange in what is called an approved English-speakers' translation.  
http://old.usccb.org/romanmissal/peoplesparts.pdf  
Barbara Pellegrini | 11/29/2011 - 9:15pm
I consulted the Latin text and found that the first part of the Prayer for Peace addresses Jesus in the first person singular with the words ''Domine Jesu Christe, qui dixisti Apostolis tuis...'' and the last part (after a colon) now addresses God in the first person singular with the words ''Qui vivis et regnas, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen''  

If I remember my Latin correctly,the Latin word ''qui'' (who) is first person singular. 

 I too think the translation may have missed the mark when translating the verb forms after ''qui/ who'''' into English.

What an interesting ''catch.'' Let's hope the grammatical issues don't detract from the beautiful blessing that Jesus gave us. 

Barbara Pellegrini, Wartervliet, MI  (an amateur historian of the Mass)

 
Stephen Tyndall | 11/29/2011 - 9:12pm
The translation, with 'O God' (a vocative case noun in Latin) indicates an address to the second person, and in Latin, you'd expect a second person singular verb to follow such a vocative noun phrase. It seems the translator tried to capture that with some very awkward English.
Rachelle Cournoyer | 11/29/2011 - 8:47pm
I don't know Latin, but I know French and Spanish, so the rules might be the same.  The second person singular is the informal form, but if one wants to show respect one uses the second person plural form.  For example, my closest friends would use the singular form in speaking to me, but I would expect that my employees, colleagues, and anyone younger thant me to use the more formal second person plural form.  The English language does not have this syntax.
Vincent Rush | 11/29/2011 - 8:26pm
It's the second-person singular.  ''O God, (you) who see...''   The second is similar: ''(You) live and reign...''  It sounds odd (because unfamiliar?), but is correct.