Roman Missal: How Does the Translation Change the Meaning of a Prayer?

Last week, we discussed the different ideas of how we translate things, both with dynamic equivalence, a more general and everyday translation, and formal equivalence, a more literal or direct translation of the original.  Just think of Mr. Schaberg and his sixth grade class!  Well this week, I had the idea to give you a sneak peak of one of the new translations of a prayer…before it even comes out!!!  I know, I know, it’s pretty outstanding, but just try to contain your excitement.

This is the opening prayer (called a collect) for this Sunday, the 31st Week of Ordinary Time:

Current Translation

New Translation

God of power and mercy,

only with your help

can we offer you fitting service and praise.

May we live the faith we profess

and trust your promise of eternal life.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ,

your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Almighty and merciful God,

by whose gift your faithful offer you

right and praiseworthy service,

grant, we pray,

that we may hasten without stumbling

to receive the things you have promised.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

So lets take a look, shall we?  At first glance, we can definitely see that the new translation has much more complex and formal sentences and words, while the current translation is a bit easier to read.  But the new translation is a much more exact translation of the original Latin text (I wanted to print the Latin words here too, but I was afraid the parish secretary would kill me if I didn’t get in my article in time.).  That’s dynamic and formal equivalence in action!

What about the meaning?  The new translation prayer has a slightly different meaning than the current, and what a rich meaning it is!  Let’s look, for example, at the line: “May we live the faith we profess” versus “that we may hasten without stumbling.”   The current version is certainly an important part of our faith – living out what we say in church – but the new translation makes us think of a race, an image that St. Paul uses in his second letter to Timothy (2 Tim 4:7).  Our life of faith truly is a race, with us each striving toward the goal of being with God forever in heaven.  Unfortunately we know that there are obstacles in our lives – hurdles like sin and failure – that cause us to stumble and slow down.  But like a good runner, we get back up and do what we can to move faster and closer to our goal!

The more exact translation of the Latin gives us this imagery that the looser translation doesn’t.  This is not to say that the current prayers don’t have value, but I think this is a good example of how the new translation might give us a new perspective.  Tune in next week!

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