Varietates Legitimae 53: Translation from Latin

Today we’ll begin a subsection (VL 53-61) that treats “Adaptations in the Liturgical Books.” These next discussions may help inform our next series on Liturgiam Authenticam, in which the CDWDS addresses just one topic, translation into the vernacular.

In 1994, the work of inculturation was seen as translation first, and revision when necessary:

53. The first significant measure of inculturation is the translation of liturgical books into the language of the people. (SC 36, 54, 63) The completion of translations and their revision, where necessary, should be effected according to the directives given by the Holy See on this subject. (Cf. Vicesimus Quintus Annus, 20.) Different literary genres are to be respected, and the content of the texts of the Latin typical edition is to be preserved; at the same time the translations must be understandable to participants (cf. above No. 39), suitable for proclamation and singing, with appropriate responses and acclamations by the assembly.

Notthing surprising here. The many literary genres within the liturgy (poetry, prose, hymnody, acclamations, litanies, etc.) should be maintained, as should the content of the Latin original. For the people, these texts must be understandable–otherwise, why bother to translate at all? Active participation is a prime consideration, especially singing.

All peoples, even the most primitive, have a religious language which is suitable for expressing prayer, but liturgical language has its own special characteristics: It is deeply impregnated by the Bible; certain words in current Latin use (memoria, sacramentum) took on a new meaning in the Christian faith. Certain Christian expressions can be transmitted from one language to another, as has happened in the past, for example in the case of ecclesia, evangelium, baptisma, eucharistia.

Latin should influence the vernacular religious language of the people, as it has in the past.

Moreover, translators must be attentive to the relationship between the text and the liturgical action, aware of the needs of oral communication and sensitive to the literary qualities of the living language of the people. The qualities needed for liturgical translations are also required in the case of new compositions, when they are envisaged.

And lastly, tranlsators must be attentive not only to words, genres, and the occasional Latin phrase, but also the bigger picture of what is happening in the liturgy.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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