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July 17, 2006


Having discussed the Our Father in English, I couldn't help thinking about the words in it.  The Our Father is the most noticeable part of Mass which retains any sort of sacral language.  The question is, which is more "popular" (in the sense of authentically belonging to the people) - to say it in a way that sounds nothing like the way ordinary people talk English in their day to day lives, or to say it in a way that has been painstakingly designed to sound like they way ordinary people talk English in their day to day lives?

A lot of people assume that it must be the latter, but do you know why the official version of the Our Father is the way it is?  Some years ago, rumor had it that ICEL was going to modern up the official version of the Our Father, get rid of all those fusty old thees and thous, arts and hallowed bes, and so forth.  The mere rumor caused such an outcry from the people in the pews that they kept the old way.  At least, this is what I read in Catholic newspapers.

For another example, you may be aware that the official translation of the Minor Doxology (i.e. Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto, sicut erat in principio et nunc et in saecula saeculorum, amen.) is "Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, amen."  But apart from priests and religious I have hardly met anyone who doesn't say it the old way "world without end" (whether or not that is the most literal translation).   Even though "forever" is what "in saeculum" or "in saecula saeculorum" means, it sounds more boring and less special, and I can really only see it changing in popular devotion if 1. there was a big publicity campaign, one almost certain to be disproportionate to its importance and 2. there was some reason that it wouldn't be resisted, such as that the new tranlation was something like "ages of ages" so that there would be some sort of appeal to tradition rather than arbitrary disruption of popular devotion.  But even then I don't see it as that as all that likely.

Posted by Thomas A. on July 17, 2006 at 06:24 PM | Permalink


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I discovered that discrepancy with the Minor Doxology only about a month ago, when I was looking for Compline online. I'm torn over whether to try to break the habit for the sake of correctness, or keep it for the sake of unity in group prayers with people who use the "ever shall be, world without end" ending.

Posted by: Lindsay | Jul 20, 2006 4:44:54 PM

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