COLLECT OF THE WEEK - 17
The Collect for the 16th Sunday after Trinity:
Ecclesiam tuam, quaesumus, Domine, miseratio continuata mundet et muniat, et
quia sine te non potest salva consistere, tuo semper munere gubernetur. Per
Dominum . . .
O Lord, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy
Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without thy succour,
preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Once again there is a nautical allusion, actually not picked up in the BCP
translation, as Goulburn observes:
' . . . "Preserve" is a departure from the original Latin of the
Sacramentary, which is not altogether happy. The preservation of the Church
had been already sued for in the earlier part of the Collect; for God had
been there asked to "defend" His Church, and the result of His defending it
must be its preservation. Here the petition of the Latin Collect is, not
for preservation, but for government, - that sort of government which a
pilot or helmsman bestows upon a ship, when he turns about the helm, and
directs its path through the waters - "may it be governed and guided
evermore" gives as nearly as possible the idea in English.'
Goulburn also has a pertinent footnote on the alitteration:
'Those who have studied the Latin of the Sacramentaries will have little
doubt that one reason for the use of the substantive "munus" here was the
fact of its commencing with the same letters as the verbs "mundo" and
"munio" in the earlier part of the Collect. The plays upon words [the Latin
figure is called "Paranomasia" - Bill] are quite in accordance with the
style of the Sacramentaries. I know not whether it was by design, or
accidentally, that Cranmer in translating this Collect has used both the
adjective "continual", and the verb "continue", thus maintaining that
recurrence of similar sounds which finds place in the Latin prayer.'
Whether or not Cranmer deliberately tried to render that particular instance
of Paranomasia, it draws attention to the fact that a decent translation
needs to find an equivalent not only for the sense of the original, but what
we might call its "feel" - the word-play, rhythms etc., just as a translator
of poetry would feel the need to provide some idea of the rhyme, metre,
assonance or whatever of his original. Needless to say, the ICEL
translations fail most dismally in this regard.
Let me quote Goulburn again on "munus":
'"By thy help and goodness," - two words in the translation for one in the
original. It would be impossible by a single English word to give the full
idea of the Latin "munus" - "tuo semper munere gubernetur." If we were at
liberty to use as many words as we please, the translation would be, "may
she be governed and guided evermore by the gracious discharge of thine
office towards her!" "Munus" means the office of a public functionary, the
service which this functionary does to the public by the faithful execution
of his office, and hence a service generally, a kindness, a favour shown to
another at one's own expense, a gift. Now Christ is Head of His body the
Church, - so called, because in the head resides the brain, which directs
the movements of the body. When Christ then puts Himself at the helm of the
Church, and guides her course over the waves of this troublesome world, this
is a fulfilment towards her of His proper function and office; and yet it
is a fulfilment which is all of grace, a free favour, a great service done
to the undeserving.'
Of course, the difficulty is that we are not at liberty to use as many words
as we please, because the very brevity of the Latin collect is part of the
"feel" which we need to reproduce in translation. I was reading recently
Josef Jungmann's "The Early Liturgy" which has this passage on the collects:
'The orations of the Roman liturgy have always evoked great admiration.
Edmund Bishop's justly famous treatise, "The Genius of the Roman Rite", is
based substantially on a consideration of the Roman orations. The features
of the Roman orations that he singles out are soberness and sense. By means
of these two qualities at any rate, the Roman oration exhibits in an
outstanding fashion the essence and significance of this prayer. The
oration is essentially a summary; it is therefore called a "collecta" or
"collectio" in the liturgies of the Gallic type. For this reason, the
oration mentions only the larger and more general intentions, without
dealing with the merely accidental or individual. Wide perspectives,
matters eternal - these characterize it in all the liturgies. But the Roman
oration is especially distinguished by its conciseness and brevity. One has
only to compare a typical Roman oration with those of the Gallic type, some
of which are to be found in our Roman Missal. Take, for instance, the last
oration recited after the Litany of the Saints, "Omnipotens, sempiterne
Deus, qui vivorum dominaris," or the Post-communion which used to be added
during the weekdays of Lent, "Purificent nos, quaesumus." These Gallic
orations set for the contents of the petition in long paraphrases; the Roman
oration is content with a word or two . . .
'Another device of the Roman oration deservies mention: the "cursus". By
"cursus" is meant the arrangement of the words at the end of phrases and
clauses so that their accents produce a beautiful rhythm. This was one of
the principles of ancient rhetoric. In the sermons of Leo the Great as well
as in his letters, the law of the "cursus" was so strictly followed that the
absence of the "cursus" could be used as a criterion of literary criticism.
In the more ancient orations, the rules of the "cursus" have been regularly
observed. And this is another reason why many of these orations are
probably attributable to Leo the Great.
'We cannot here consider the matter more in detail. But we can clearly
illustrate the three main forms of the "cursus" in a familiar oration, which
in its substance originates from Leo the Great:
Deus qui humanae substantiae dignitatem . . . mirabílius rèformásti
da nobis . . . eius divinitatis ésse consórtes (cursus planus)
qui humanitatis nostrae fieri dignitátus est párticeps (cursus tardus).'
Jungmann then touches on a matter which has been raised on the list by
Pardon Tillinghast, so let us continue for another paragraph:
'It is significant that all the orations which go back to the old Roman
tradition - those in the Leonianum and in the older Gelasianum - are
addressed to God the Father and invariably conclude with the formul: "Per
Dominum nostrum". Naturally, even in ancient Christendom, prayer addressed
to a holy martyr, to an angel, or at least to Christ was permissible;
indeed in private prayer this was general practice. In official prayer,
however, the rule was to address the prayer to God himself, to god the
Father. At a synod of Hippo (393) this was expressly enacted: "Cum altari
assistitur, semper ad Patrem dirigatur oratio." This tended to emphasize
the common validity of the oration, its universal and objective character.'
The Supple Doctor.