The farcical process of the new translations of the missal into English has taken a bizarre new twist. The final, definitive version of the English translation of the second most important text of the Roman Catholic Church, namely the Missal, is announced to the world not by the Vatican and not by the bishops but by Wikileaks.
Looking at this text, one finds that indeed it contains much bad, ungainly English. The Prefaces are horrible:
"For he assumed at his first coming
the lowliness of human flesh,
and so fulfilled the design you formed long ago,
and opened for us the way to eternal salvation,
that, when he comes again in glory and majesty
and all is at last made manifest,
we who watch for that day
may inherit the great promise
in which now we dare to hope."
The two "ands" that I print in bold type are stylistically lame, in a way that any high school student writing a composition should be able to detect. The 'that' introduces a cumbersome, lamely appended clause. Much better is the current text, "Now we watch for the day, hoping that the salvation promised us will be ours..." Anyone with an ear for rhythm can see this, but not the Vatican translators.
"we sing the hymn of your glory,
as without end we acclaim"
The 'hymn of your glory' is opaque and unidiomatic; 'acclaim' is obviously incorrect English. These two lines are perhaps the product of a non-native speaker or of a dozy committee.
Another oddity: 'John the Baptist sang of his coming' -- Perhaps the translators listened to Handel's Messiah when drunk, and imagined the Baptist singing, "Every Valley"? No doubt the Latin is canere, which means to sing, but surely has a wider connotation that would more appropriately be drawn on here. I surmise this a priori, simply on the basis of common sense. The image of John the Baptist singing is a bizarre one, an eccentric innovation.
"For in the mystery of the Word made flesh
a new light of your glory has shone upon the eyes of our mind,
so that, as we recognize in him God made visible,
we may be caught up through him in love of things invisible."
The phrases in bold are typical of the broken-backed, nerveless language of this entire translation. Another example is this, from a Christmas Preface:
"For on the feast of this awe-filled mystery,"
PEOPLE are filled with awe, not THINGS -- this is pretty basic English idiom.
The following, from another Christmas Preface, flirts with mixed metaphor:
"For through him the holy exchange that restores our life
has shone forth today in splendor:
when our frailty is assumed by your Word
not only does human mortality receive unending honor
but by this wondrous union we, too, are made eternal."
An exchange restores life and shines forth? And since when are human beings made "eternal"? Does the Latin say aeterni facti sumus? The idea of being made eternal is a contradiction in terms in any case. The two other phrases in bold type are again off-key.
Insensitivity to the used of tenses is shown in the following:
"For today you have revealed the mystery
of our salvation in Christ
as a light for the nations,
and when he appeared in our mortal nature,
you made us new by the glory of his immortal nature."
Because of the change of tense the utterance is deprived of a secure temporal location and becomes feeble and vague.
From a Lenten Preface:
"For by your gracious gift each year
your faithful await the sacred paschal feasts
with the joy of minds made pure,
so that, more eagerly intent on prayer
and on the works of charity,
and participating in the mysteries"
Again those awkward, unrhythmical 'ands,' and the drab, inexpressive phrasing at every point.
"For you have given your children a sacred time
for the renewing and purifying of their hearts,
that, freed from disordered affections,
they may so deal with the things of this passing world
as to hold rather to the things that eternally endure."
The first phrase here irresistibly evokes "you have given your children a good time" and the second phrase is clunky; the rest is drab.
"For you will that our self-denial should give you thanks,
humble our sinful pride,
contribute to the feeding of the poor,
and so help us imitate you in your kindness."
This is gobbledygook. Self-denial gives thanks to God, humbles pride, contributes to feeding the poor? The last phrase "imitate you in your kindness" is wheezy bathos.
"For through the saving Passion of your Son
the whole world has received a heart
to confess the infinite power of your majesty,
since by the wondrous power of the Cross
your judgment on the world is now revealed
and the authority of Christ crucified."
Shades of a cosmic heart transplant. A heart to confess? The clumsy repetition of 'power,' already occurring in a vacuous pleonasm on its first appearance, voids this language of its substance and makes it unprayable. The final phrase is lame indeed: "by the power of the Cross is revealed the authority of Christ crucified" -- heavily nichtssagend as if the speaker were laboring under some invisible impediment, bodily or mental (such is the effect of the false translation philosophy propagated by Liturgiam Authenticam).
"For the days of his saving Passion
and glorious Resurrection are approaching,
by which the pride of the ancient foe is vanquished
and the mystery of our redemption in Christ is celebrated."
What does 'by which' here referred to? One thinks it must be the Passion, the Resurrection, or both, since it overcomes 'the pride of the ancient foe' (a very undemythologized reference to the Devil). But no, for it is that by which the mystery of our redemption is celebrated. So it must refer to "the days" -- but again are the days those of the original paschal events or those of the forthcoming Holy Week? Again it must be the latter. So it is to these days that the vanquishing of Satan is attributed, not to the Paschal Mystery itself. The translators will say I am quibbling about straws, such is the barbaric insensitivity that they have shown continually throughout this entire sacrilegious farce.
The Easter Prefaces uses the infelicitious phrases "laud you yet more gloriously" (verb-adverb mismatch) and "overcome with paschal joy" (misplaced idiom).
Another Preface has "to live like us in all things but sin" which is intended to mean "to live as one like us in all things but sin" but fails to articulate what it is trying to say.
Here's another clumsy clunker:
"that a people, formed as one by the unity of the Trinity,
made the body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit,
might, to the praise of your manifold wisdom,
be manifest as the Church."
"Nourishing your faithful by this sacred mystery,
you make them holy, so that the human race,
bounded by one world,
may be enlightened by one faith
and united by one bond of charity."
Bounded by one world? And the echo between "bounded" and "bond" is tasteless and fails to communicate any significant intention.
In no case is the new translation of a Preface an improvement on what we currently have; in most cases it is a signal disimprovement. Here is the language now to be used at funerals:
"In him the hope of blessed resurrection has dawned,
that those saddened by the certainty of dying,
might be consoled by the promise of immortality to come."
Why not keep "the bright promise of immortality"? Why not keep all the current prefaces? -- there is very little difference in content and the tinkering that produced these new translations has merely rendered that content opaque and hollow-sounding. If it's not broken don't mend it.
"For even though by our own fault we perish,
yet by your compassion and your grace,
when seized by death according to our sins,
we are redeemed through Christ's great victory."
The third line here is characteristic of this translation's failure to locate events in a clear way syntactically and temporally.
I've had enough of this dreck. It is an insult to the People of God, and to the One they seek to worship in fitting language, human language, with the "noble simplicity" urged by the forgotten Second Vatican Council.