About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and two children.
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I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing—direct murder by the mother herself. And we read in the Scripture, for God says very clearly: "Even if a mother could forget her child, I will not forget you: I have carved you in the palm of my hand."
— Mother Theresa (11 Dec 1979)
Problematic Sequence Translations In Our Current Lectionary
published 2 June 2014 by Jeff Ostrowski

399 GIA Worship IV EVERAL FULLY APPROVED pew books avoid the Sequence translations found in the current Lectionary. Examples include GIA’s Worship IV, the Gregorian Missal (Solesmes, 2012), and the Jogues Illuminated Missal.

As a member of the Jogues editorial committee, I’m happy to reveal why we made this choice. First, I’ll give a tiny bit of history. Then, I’ll mention some problems with the current translation. Finally, I’ll explain our solution.

When the Lectionary first appeared in 1970, it included two translations for each Sequence: one prose, one poetic. However, the prose version was eventually dropped. Furthermore, the poetic version was bowdlerized and given an erroneous copyright. 1

An irrational fear of Thee, Thou, and Thine caused the removal of such words, damaging the meter and making the bowdlerized version impossible to sing to the original chant tune:

Original 1964 Version:
Come, thou Holy Spirit, come!
And from thy celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!

Come, thou Father of the poor!
Come, thou source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine!
Bowdlerized Version:
Come, […] Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!

Come, […] Father of the poor!
Come, […] source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.

The whole point of these “poetic” translations was to match the Latin rhythm exactly. However, the meter was wrecked when somebody decided words like “reconcileth” were too hard to understand:

Original Latin:   Reconciliávit peccatóres.   (10 beats)
Original 1964 Version:   Reconcileth sinners to the Father.   (10 beats)
Current Lectionary Version (Bowdlerized):   Reconciles sinners to the Father.   (9 beats)

Original Latin:   Quid vidisti in via?   (7 beats)
Original 1964 Version:   What thou sawest, wayfaring.   (7 beats)
Current Lectionary Version (Bowdlerized):   What you saw, wayfaring.   (6 beats)

When we consider the ingenious efforts of the poet — who perfectly matched the rhyme scheme, meter, and accents of the original Latin — we recognize how audacious and unacceptable is such vandalism. Look how they treated the Lauda Sion of St. Thomas Aquinas:

Original 1964 Version:
Laud, O Sion, thy salvation,
Laud with hymns of exultation,
Christ, thy king and shepherd true:

Bring him all the praise thou knowest,
He is more than thou bestowest,
Never canst thou reach his due.
Bowdlerized Version:
Laud, O Zion, your salvation,
Laud with hymns of exultation,
Christ, your king and shepherd true:

Bring him all the praise you know,
He is more than you bestow.
Never can you reach his due.

Someone might exclaim, “Oh, who cares about meter?” But things get even worse. For instance, yours doesn’t rhyme with “divine” :

Original 1964 Version:
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of thine,
And our inmost being fill!

Where thou art not, man hath naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Bowdlerized Version:
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!

Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.

They even replaced the “sexist” word man, but such changes weren’t sufficient for some. Observe how somebody carefully deleted every reference to God being “He” or “Him” throughout the entire 1970 Lectionary.

CONSIDERING THIS TEXTUAL VANDALISM, our choice was simple, since current law does not require use of the Lectionary version. In the Jogues Illuminated Missal, we provided two (2) translations for each Sequence: metrical & literal.

Parishes lacking a choir will probably want to use the first version, which we set to simple-yet-beautiful melodies. A single cantor could easily lead the traditional tunes we chose. However, parishes with excellent choirs will probably sing the Sequence in Latin, and each member of the congregation can actively participate by means of the superb literal translations we placed alongside the Latin, printed in massive fonts. 2

Also pertinent are comments by the Consilium Secretary regarding vernacular translations of Latin poetry: “There are so many beautiful texts which can never have the same effectiveness in translation.”



NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:

1   Documentation of the erroneous attribution is here, for those who care about such things. Today, I shall speak of the bowdlerization only.

2   A question remains about the Lauda Sion, which (unlike the Veni Sancte Spiritus and Victimae) is an optional Sequence. It has a “shorter version,” and (frankly) is much less familiar and very long. We don’t know what most parishes will do for the Lauda Sion, but we gave two special options that (in our view) will be appreciated greatly.