This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

How to translate the Mass

The story so far: at the time of Vatican II, it was decided to rush out translations of the Mass into the vernacular. Not the true vernacular, as phrases such as "Cor, strike a light, guv", "Eee ba gum", and "Och aye the noo" were used very sparingly; but a sort of casual and imprecise vernacular, all the same.

Now, when I say translation, I really mean "variation on an original theme". The people translating the Mass didn't even have the benefit of Google translate, so they had to guess what the Latin words meant. Actually Google itself seems to have been got at, as it turns the Latin Gloria into:
Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.
We praise you,
thank you,
we adore you,
we glorify you,
Thank you for your glory;
Lord God, heavenly King
Father Almighty.
Which looks distinctly wonky.

Gloria, with angels

"Do any of you speak Vernacular?"

Anyway, for about 40 years, people muddled on with a B-grade translation, not quite sure whether the peace on Earth was intended for everyone, or just people of goodwill, or those whom God loves. There is also this problem about whether the Precious Blood is shed for many, for all, or just me and my mates.

So, in 2011, an English translation was produced, and it caused hysterics among liberal Catholics. For example, the precise theological concept "consubstantial" had previously been vernacularised into "of one being", or "being of one oneness", or possibly "one of one beingness", or maybe "being of one beingness". Whatever it was, it was a waffly as possible. The new translation made worshippers use a 4-syllable word which required thinking about... my dear, it was awful!

Arthur Roche and Pope Benedict

"I've added some cartoons to make it more popular."

The French and Italians wanted to go their own way. "Lead us not into temptation" appears to be what Jesus said. But we can improve on that. "Zut alors, ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation parce-que la plume de ma tante est dans le jardin" seems to be the version currently used by the frogs, although I may not have got that quite right. The Italian version is full of Mama Mias and references to tutti-frutti ice-cream but they also don't want to be allowed to enter into temptation.

Anyway, the good news is that Pope Francis is going to take a lead on this. The Lord's Prayer, in particular, needs updating. Apart from local variations it has remained unchanged for 2000 years, and omits to mention climate change, equality and diversity, and vaccinations. A theological commitee - consisting of the Pope, Bill Gates, George Soros, Klaus Schwab, Joe Biden, Alyssa Milano, and Ocasio-Cortez - will be rushing out a new Lord's Prayer (not tested on humans, but many hamsters have reacted favourably to it). This will become compulsory in 2021.

Molesworth translator

Experts prepare a new version of the Latin Mass.


  1. A Christmas Carol Revisited

    Pope EbeGeezer Scrooge sat hunched over tricky liturgical translations on his desk, satisfied that another day had been spent scrooging sincere souls seeking an audience with him.

    There came a knock on the door. Scrooge’s beleaguered clerk, Bob Catch-it, ushered in the two men Scrooge least desired to see, the dread Dubia Bros. making their annual appeal.

    Dubia Bros: At this festive time of year, we again beseech you to answer the 5 simple questions we asked you lo, these many years ago. Will you put the poor faithful out of their misery?

    EbeGeezer: They had better die and reduce the surplus population’s carbon footprint.

    As the Dubia Bros hastily retreated, yet another man attempted to enter Scrooge’s office.

    Cardinal Zen: Pope EbeGeezer, long have I sought an audience with you. Will you not speak with me in this holy season of the year? My poor Chinese people are suffering.

    EbeGeezer: Bah, humbug. Are there no workhouses, no CCP
    re-education camps?

    Later that evening, in a chill room unadorned by tree or creche, Scrooge sat brooding in his armchair. Suddenly, rattling chains announced the ghost of his old partner, Marley McCarrick.

    EbeGeezer: McCarrick? I thought we had you hidden in the deep church. By the way, have you read my report exonerating me and blaming JPII & Benedict XVI for everything we did?

    Marley McCarrick: Woe is me, what a whitewash. EbeGeezer, this is our last chance to alleviate the pains of perdition. I bring you a warning from the nether regions. Firstly, you must cancel your Caesar’s decree cancelling Christmas. Christmas travel decrees always backfire!

    Floating to the window and flinging it wide open, McCarrick revealed an ethereal spectacle of spectres with wailing and gnashing of teeth. Could it be the Curial Cardinals in session?

    Marley McCarrick: Observe! In life, these souls called good evil and evil good. Sound familiar? Remember the 4 last things. You will have one more visitor: The Spirit of Vat-II.

    At the stroke of midnight, an eerie vapor enveloped the room, transporting Scrooge to the Vatican cemetery.

    EbeGeezer: O Great Spirit of V-II, through the intercession of Pachamama, you have set us free from ancient constraints of Christendom. Now in the advent of “Spiritus Mundi...what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

    The Spirit of Vat-II points an accusing finger toward a gravestone, partially covered with snow.

    EbeGeezer: (shivering) I can’t look...I don’t believe in hell... I-I’ll think about that tomorrow.

    Spirit of Vat-II speaks: Famous last words...Farewell for now, EbeGeezer Scrooooge…

    Epilogue: In a happy home filled with the laughter of children, prayer & carols, roast goose & plum pudding, Tiny Tim’s voice still rings out like bells: God bless us, everyone!