A By-word Eternally

[E]t dabo vos in opprobrium sempiternum, et in ignominiam æternam, quæ numquam oblivione delebitur.

[You shall be a laughing-stock for ever, a by-word eternally; time shall never efface the memory of your shame.]

Jeremias xxiii. 40.

Dona et Vocatio Dei

I must not fail, brethren, to make this revelation known to you; or else you might have too good a conceit of yourselves. Blindness has fallen upon a part of Israel, but only until the tale of the Gentile nations is complete; then the whole of Israel will find salvation, as we read in scripture, A deliverer shall come from Sion, to rid Jacob of his unfaithfulness; and this shall be the fulfilment of my covenant with them, when I take away their sins. In the preaching of the gospel, God rejects them, to make room for you; but in his elective purpose he still welcomes them, for the sake of their fathers; God does not repent of the gifts he makes, or of the calls he issues. You were once rebels, until through their rebellion you obtained pardon; they are rebels now, obtaining pardon for you, only to be pardoned in their turn. Thus God has abandoned all men to their rebellion, only to include them all in his pardon.

Romans xi. 25-32.

The Three Marys of Great Reknown

The Three Marys at the Tomb (1396) by Lorenzo Monaco; illumination on vellum; 46 x 48 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris.
The Three Marys at the Tomb (1396) by Lorenzo Monaco; illumination on vellum; 46 x 48 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Respóndens autem Angelus, dixit muliéribus: Nolíte timére: scio enim quod Iesum quǽritis, allelúia. Antiphon from Vespers during the Octave of Easter

And when the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome had bought spices, to come and anoint Jesus. So they came to the tomb very early on the day after the sabbath, at sunrise. And they began to question among themselves, Who is to roll the stone away for us from the door of the tomb? Then they looked up, and saw that the stone, great as it was, had been rolled away already. And they went into the tomb, and saw there, on the right, a young man seated, wearing a white robe; and they were dismayed. But he said to them, No need to be dismayed; you have come to look for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified; he has risen again, he is not here. Here is the place where they laid him. Go and tell Peter and the rest of his disciples that he is going before you into Galilee. There you shall have sight of him, as he promised you.

— St. Mark xvi. 1-7.

A Pheadair, a Aspail,
An bhfaca tú mo ghrá geal?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Chonaic mé ar ball é,
Gá chéasadh ag an ngarda.
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Peter, Apostle,
Have you seen my bright love?
Alas, and alas-o!
I saw not long ago
Surrounded by his enemies.
Alas, and alas-o!
Cé hé an fear breá sin
Ar Chrann na Páise?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
An é n-aithníonn tú do Mhac,
A Mháthrín?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Who is that good man
Upon the Passion Tree?
Alas, and alas-o!
It is your son, Mother,
Don’t you recognise me?
Alas, and alas-o!
An é sin an Maicín
A hoileadh in ucht Mháire?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
An é sin an Maicín
A rugadh insan stábla?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Is that the wee son
That was nourished at Mary’s breast?
Alas, and alas-o!
Is that the son
That was born to me in the stable?
Alas, and alas-o!
An é sin an Maicín
A d’iompair mé trí ráithe?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
A Mhicín mhúirneach,
Tá do bhéal ‘s do shróinín gearrtha,
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Is that the son
I carried for three quarters?
Alas, and alas-o!
Darling little son,
Your mouth and your nose are cut,
Alas, and alas-o!
Cuireadh tairní maola
trína chosa ‘s trína lámha,
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Cuireadh an tsleá
Trína bhrollach álainn.
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Blunt nails were pushed through
His feet and his hands.
Alas, and alas-o!
And a spear pierced
Through his beautiful chest.
Alas, and alas-o!
Alas, and alas-o!

— Caoineadh na dTrí Muire (Lament of the Three Marys)

Who Can Bear the Thought of That Advent?

Detail of St. John the Baptist from the Isenheim Altarpiece, Unterlinden Museum, Colmar, Alsace, France.
Detail of St. John the Baptist from the Isenheim Altarpiece, Unterlinden Museum, Colmar, Alsace, France.

See where I am sending an angel of mine, to make the way ready for my coming! All at once the Lord will visit his temple; that Lord, so longed for, welcome herald of a divine covenant. Ay, says the Lord of hosts, he is coming; but who can bear the thought of that advent? Who will stand with head erect at his appearing? He will put men to a test fierce as the crucible, searching as the lye that fullers use. From his judgement-seat, he will refine that silver of his and cleanse it from dross; like silver or gold, the sons of Levi must be refined in the crucible, ere they can offer the Lord sacrifice duly performed. Then once more the Lord will accept the offerings of Juda and Jerusalem, as he did long since, in the forgotten years. Come I to hold assize, not slow to arraign the sorcerer, the adulterer, the forsworn, all of you that deny hired man his wages, widow and orphan redress, the alien his right, fearing no vengeance from the Lord of hosts. In me, the Eternal, there is no change, and you, sons of Jacob, are a people still.

Yours to keep the law ever in mind, statute and award I gave to assembled Israel through Moses, that was my servant. And before ever that day comes, great day and terrible, I will send Elias to be your prophet; he it is shall reconcile heart of father to son, heart of son to father; else the whole of earth should be forfeit to my vengeance.

Malachias iii. 1-6, iv. 4-6.

What Would an Englishman Have Said?

Ronald Arbuthnott Knox.
Ronald Arbuthnott Knox.

I said it was the translator’s business […] to preserve the idiom of his original. That means, not that he must copy it, which would be easy enough; he must transpose it into the idiom of his own language.

A hundred turns of phrase confront you as you read the Old Testament which make you sit back in your chair and ask yourself, “What would an Englishman have said?” When I say “an Englishman,” I do not mean a modern Englishman. The Old Testament record is of events that happened a very long time ago, under primitive conditions; to strike a modern note in rendering it is to make fun of it.

The new Catholic version of Genesis which has appeared in the U.S. contains one such lapse into the vernacular. When Eleazar, Abraham’s steward, has gone to Mesopotamia to find a wife for Isaac, this version represents him as “waiting to learn whether or not the Lord had made his trip successful.” Now, I am not objecting to that as an American way of talking. My objection is that an American would not speak of the Mormons as having had a successful trip to Salt Lake City in A.D.1850. A successful trip suggests shifting your cigar from one side of your mouth to the other as you alight from your airplane in San Francisco. It does not suggest trekking over many miles of desert on a camel.

Ronald Knox, Trials of a Translator (1949).

Consecrated Phrases

Ronald Arbuthnott Knox.
Ronald Arbuthnott Knox.

Apropos of that, may I suggest some considerations about what are called “consecrated phrases” in the Bible, which, we are told, we must not alter in any way, because they have become so familiar? I quite admit that where a form of words has become stereotyped through passing into liturgical use, it is a pity and probably a waste of time to try and alter it. The words of the Our Father and of the Hail Mary have got to remain as they are. Again, there are certain formulas which are best left alone, or altered as little as possible, because alteration cannot hope to make them clearer, and they have already a supreme literary value of their own, depending on association; the words of Consecration, for example, or the seven words from the Cross. But it is, I submit, a grave error to sick to a form of words, in itself unnatural English, merely because a thousand repetitions have familiarized the public ear with the sound of it. Just because we are familiar with a form of words, we fail to be struck by its full meaning. For instance, I had a very interesting letter from an Irish Redemptorist, expressing the hope that I had found some better translation for arneito heauton (abneget semetipsum) than “let him deny himself.” This has become a consecrated phrase; and for years, now, nuns have been encouraging schoolgirls to give up toffee during Lent and write the fact down on a card as a record of “self-denial.” For years, Salvation Army lasses have picketed us with demands for a half-penny because it is “self- denial week.” The whole glorious content of the phrase, arneito heauton, let him obliterate himself, let him annihilate himself, let him rule Self out of his world-picture altogether, has become degraded and lost. That is what happens to “consecrated phrases.”

— Ronald Knox, On Englishing the Bible, Baronius Press (2012), pp. 5-6.

 

Seductio Cordis Sui

Pope Paul VI presiding over the the Second Vatican Council, flanked by Camerlengo Benedetto Aloisi Masella and two Papal gentlemen.
Pope Paul VI presiding over the the Second Vatican Council, flanked by Camerlengo Benedetto Aloisi Masella and two Papal gentlemen.

Et dicit Dominus ad me: Falso prophetæ vaticinantur in nomine meo: non misi eos, et non præcepi eis, neque locutus sum ad eos. Visionem mendacem, et divinationem, et fraudulentiam, et seductionem cordis sui, prophetant vobis.

These are but false promises, the Lord said, that they utter in my name; warrant they never had from me, nor errand, nor message; of false visions they tell you, and soothsayings, and trickery, and their own hearts’ inventions.

Jeremias xiv. 14.