In Praise of Clunky Translations


On November 17 the USCCB approved the final segments of a new English version of the Roman Missal.  A few have already criticized the Vox Clara translation as “slavishly literal” (here) and disrespectful of the “natural rhythm and cadences of the English language” (here).  On purely grammatical and stylistic grounds, I am actually inclined to agree with these criticisms.  However, a recent rereading of Liturgical Latin, Christine Mohrmann’s slim classic from 1957, has reminded me that slavish literalism and barbarous constructions have always been a hallmark of Christian liturgical language.

Mohrmann—at pains to show that early Christian Latin was hardly the Latin of the “common man”—notes that biblical Latin was marked by precisely those stylistic features most criticized in the new Roman Missal:

The earliest Christian Latin, like the Greek, bears a strong Biblical imprint.  The translating procedure, however, of the earliest translators, does not markedly differ from that employed by the translators of the Septuagint.  We find the same word-for-word method of translation which differed so radically from that recommended by Cicero.  The Latin translators of the Bible show the same reverence for the original text which had also been a guiding principle of the Septuagint translators.

Barbarisms, neologisms, and foreign idioms abounded in the first Latin translations of the Bible.  This translation philosophy naturally spilled over into Latin liturgical texts.  Besides Hebrew barbarisms such as “Amen” and “Alleluia,” Mohrmann singles out words that were plucked from their profane use and almost entirely retooled for Christian prayer, words such as confiteor, gloria, credo, and humlitas.

Mohrmann also observes that, even when Jerome re-translated the Bible, he was more concerned to account for the shifting sensus of Latin words than to update archaisms or recherché diction.  Jerome naturally saw that, in view of the effects of time on language,

some changes were obviously necessary to conserve the purity of meaning.  When the old words rendered the meaning accurately, these words were preserved.  For instance, when there was a general movement to replace the old words magnificare, honorificare, and clarificare by the “European” term glorificare, Jerome will have nothing to do with it, because in his opinion the use of the words threatened with extinction does not endanger the original meaning… We may say that Jerome, like Ambrose and Augustine, had a sincere appreciation of the biblical style, and he tries to leave it intact and maintain it as far as possible.

If Jerome were apply this translation philosophy to the English Missal, he might leave a rare or archaic word like “gibbet.”  On the other hand, he would probably update Holy “Ghost” to Holy “Spirit,” since recent shifts in the English language freighted “ghost” with a cargo of eeriness and malevolence.

On Mohrmann’s view, the net effect of this conservative tendency was actually creative.  Christians slowly forged a sacred language, one perhaps less apt for instantaneous communication, but one more apt for corporate expression.  This second function of language was no less important:

Whereas … language used primarily as a means of communication normally strives toward a degree of efficiency … language as expression usually shows a tendency to become richer and more subtle.  It aims at becoming, by every possible means, more expressive and more picturesque, and it may try to attain this heightened power of expression both by the coining of new words and by the preservation of antiquated elements already abandoned by the language as communication.

In this connection, English speakers might call to mind the solemn “thy’s” of the Our Father and the stern “thou-shalt-not’s” of the Decalogue.  They might also contrast the expressiveness of a cup that “runneth over” to that of a cup that merely “overflows.”

In fact, compared to the slavish deference that the first Latin “missal” showed to the Hebrew Scriptures, the respect that the Vox Clara translation pays to its Latin forebear is actually very slight.  For this reason, the aura of the sacred will be faint.  The new translation does, however, begin to give due consideration to the expressive power of language.  To this extent, it joins the age-old mainstream of Christian liturgical piety.

Once again, our cup runneth over.

18 Responses to In Praise of Clunky Translations

  1. Virgilijus Kaulius says:

    While liturgical expression will always have its
    own epistemological influences, the broader issue
    of mystical relevance, metaphysical Reality,
    and the core purposive role of liturgy in
    the Spiritual lives of the pews, challenges
    the resident ideals therein, if they can ever
    both be more fully identified, and then agreed upon?

    If the whole liturgy does not lead to our
    collective wholeness, then we ever need to
    revisit our best efforts!

    Hopefully too, this new liturgical venture
    is devoid of the gnosticism that has now
    been identified as pervading the pseudo
    accomplishments of the Enlightenment?
    Wherein according to Michel de Certeau,
    the institutionalization of knowledge
    moved from filiation to affiliation. And,
    that modernity was the period when gnostic
    claims to be able to account rationality
    for all truths, held sway, while today
    the present period currently is the beginning
    of one that seeks to distance itself from this
    gnostic domination….

    And so our comprehensive liturgical expressions
    hopefully reflect more of the correct Christian
    emphasis on the mystical, unarticulatable,
    existential, than on the rationally accurate?!

  2. Giovanni says:

    I think this speaks more to the limitation of the Novus Ordo rather than the limitation of the English language or the limitation of our abilities to translate a text in order to both encompass cultural sensibilities and true piety.

    However it is not even the Novus Ordo it self but rather the complete and utter abandonment of the Latin as the sacred language of the Western Church.

    It speaks also of the rashness and ineptitude that went on after the Vatican II.

    It was ridiculous to believe that one could so easily and harshly abandon a Thousand years of Tradition and development that went on the Liturgy. And expected to work just fine when you translated the Text, dumb down the words, detached alters, turned around Priests, and destroy sacred spaces that had stood for hundreds of years as testimony of our love for the Lord.

    And all because Bishop conferences all over the world wanted to get with the times.

  3. Virgilijus Kaulius says:

    Hmm, Gio: what more fully are you saying,
    and whom are you siding with?

    For my ethnicity, then, which I now table to
    take further what you table, I can probe deeper
    than mere tradition within the full Tradition of
    Western Christianity:
    my nation, as the oldest living language in
    Europe, was the last nation to be Christianized
    in Western Europe. Today, even the Pope, laments
    the loss of faith in Europe. But there is no such
    experience in my nation, within Europe, Lithuania!
    Which was a very devoted pagan nation before it
    became the dominant Chritian nation of today!

    And it had nothing to do with the liturgy nor
    other Christian mere “practises!” It had everything
    to do with the power of the One who came to save
    and to set hearts free. All externals are 2ndary
    to that: always and everywhere!

    It is our core faith as Faith that carries us
    as both the Land of Mary (at Siluva!) and as
    contemporary Christians of an otherwise re-paganised
    world order! There is always more mystery creatively
    active in the groaning (Chardin) of Creation towards
    its climax than reason as limited logic can ever
    even begin to explain within the other 3 quarters
    of what goes on in the subconscious (Jungian
    Psychology)in our confrontation of reality
    and the Prince of Darkness!

    All Christians are led by the Spirit, not by
    the liturgy or other assumed liberation externalia!
    Until Christianity fully accepts the Spirit behind
    our faith, we will continue to be distracted
    by either childish or adolescent faith, and rarely
    arrive a mature adult faith (Kierkegaard):
    His interior Peace, not the pseudo peace of the

  4. brettsalkeld says:

    Just the other day in Latin class, one seminarian was concerned that a literal translation from the Vulgate gives us, “And you shall call his name Jesus.” In English, he rightly insisted, you call a person Jesus, or you name a person Jesus, but you don’t call someone’s name Jesus. Nevertheless, the foreign idiom does make you realize that your native language does not determine reality in the strict sense, however much it determines your own reality. I sometimes think that humans, who are naturally multilingual, probably had a much better innate sense of their own limited perspectives before cultural developments led to speaking only one language as the norm (at least in much of the west).

    Another favorite foreign idiom of mine is “King of kings,” “saecula saeculorum (ages of ages)” etc. Hebrew has no superlative, and so used this genitive construction to convey the same meaning. Already in the Latin, the idiom is foreign.

  5. Sr. Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP says:

    I hesitate to take on such an impressive bevy of Jesuits, but I noticed some small points, which may be significant. In saying that “early Christian Latin was hardly the Latin of the ‘common man’ and then quoting Mohrmann—“We find the same word-for-word method of translation which differed so radically from that recommended by Cicero”— the authors seem to equate the Latin of the common man with that of Cicero. When linguistic studies in Italian began in earnest in the sixteenth century, there surfaced the theory that even in ancient Rome a difference existed between classical Latin (that of Cicero) and the “vulgare” (that of the so-called common man). This certainly was the case in other parts of the empire, even on the Italian peninsula. In addition, various social classes utilized their own variations of what is now referred to as the “volgare” or vernacular. This theory has been supported repeatedly by subsequent linguistic research, including modern (cf. La Lingua Italiana: Profilo Storico, 1.4). Apparently Cicero himself bemoaned the corruption of Latin among the common people, and archaeological evidence abounds to verify such a “corruption” as early as the first century B.C.

    Moreover, contrary to the assertion that Christian Latin was not common Latin, Italian scholars today concur that “the Latin of Christian authors, especially at the beginning, was deliberately ordinary and popular. Such a characteristic is seen well enough in the Vetus latina version of the Bible, which predates St. Jerome’s Vulgate: even this latter incorporates certain elements of popular Latin” (op. cit., 5.1, p. 127).

    Therefore, making a case for “clunky” translations on the basis of a supposed historical precedent for literalism is unfounded. In addition, even if “slavish literalism and barbarous constructions have always been a hallmark of Christian liturgical language” is that an excuse for continuing such a practice?

    • Aaron Pidel, SJ says:

      Sr. Margaret,

      Peace of Christ. Thanks for considering my post. A few small points of reply:

      1) “The authors seem to equate the Latin of the common man with that of Cicero …”
      Actually, Mohrmann was saying that the method of translation differed drastically from Cicero’s, which was more like the “dynamic equivalence” model of translation–sense for sense rather than word for word. Neither I nor Mohrmann are arguing that the Latin of the ‘common man’ was Ciceronian (it probably never was).

      2) Re your statement: “Moreover, contrary to the assertion that Christian Latin was not common Latin, Italian scholars today concur that ‘the Latin of Christian authors, especially at the beginning, was deliberately ordinary and popular. Such a characteristic is seen well enough in the Vetus latina version of the Bible, which predates St. Jerome’s Vulgate: even this latter incorporates certain elements of popular Latin.’

      This is a weightier objection. However, I think Mohrmann would say that this is the product of a sort of binary thinking about late antique Latin. Either it was Classical (i.e., Ciceronian) or it was Vulgar. If given only those two choices, then Mohrmann would agree that early Christian Latin was Vulgar. However, she would also want to argue that there was a third style. Within Vulgar Latin there opened up a whole new idiom–at first used almost exclusively for Scripture and Liturgy–that showed many elements foreign even to the Vulgar Latin of the time.

      A quick glance at a Latin breviary will confirm this. It employs genitive nouns rather than adjectives (more idiomatic to Latin) to reflect the Hebrew construct chain. It uses redundant participles to emphasize a verb, a practice which slavishly reflects the Hebrew use of the infinitive absolute. In Ps 40:9, for instance, even Jerome uses constructions such as “adjiciet ut resurgat” (“it will add that he rise”) to translate the idiomatic Hebrew construction יוֹסִיף לָקוּם (“he will rise again”). Instances could be multiplied.

      Similar things could be demonstrated for the KJV as well, which was deliberately archaizing in its translation practice (i.e., it sounded old-fashioned even at the time of its publication).

      The question of whether we want to continue this translation philosophy is one I won’t attempt to answer here. I would still hold, however, that a translation philosophy of “dynamic equivalence” applied to liturgical texts, as well as the concern that liturgical language be that of the “common man,” are rather recent in the Christian world.

  6. Also, Sr. Margaret, could we not factor in the
    new kid on the block: The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible?

    It stands as testament to all antiquity sources.
    Providentially, at least the theology of the past
    is not challenged by these modern day finds!
    But little is said in comparative translation
    exercises for the present to these Latin, or Greek
    sources? (And who knows what else God in His humour
    may yet visit on us as further archaeological finds,
    and wonders? To make us wonder!)

    And then the reverse issue also applies to our times:
    let the Cicero Latin be used by contemporary scholars
    and let pedestrian Latin apply to the pews!

    The pews never did relate to the literati nor ever
    will they! And to keep them ignorant in mindless
    sacred spaces, like in the past, was not and is not
    an answer to what the mysticism revealed to us is all about!

    If anything, the Jungian Psychology of today which
    has definitively dethroned “reason” from its pseudo
    pedestal, speaks to the need to interface language
    to the subconscious, wherein three quarters of
    what gets processed by consciousness transpires!
    Meaning therefore trumps literal use of language!

    And past misunderstanding of the limitations of
    reason, influenced and today continues to influence,
    our collective interpretation and application
    of the process of translation! The comprehensive
    existential person (both a subject and an object;
    both intuition and intellection and not just mere
    intellection!) today needs to become the target
    audience for present and future translations,
    and not “a” translation in and of itself, targeted
    to noone: life is not an abstraction no more than
    a menu is not the meal!

    It would be a more grounded epistemology of purposive
    translation theory that may be where we’re headed?

    On another note, as some say, coffee should be black
    as hell, dark as night, and sweet as love!
    Whether that communicates what coffee is all about
    remains in the mind of the hearer, no matter how
    coffee is defined, transcribed, or refined:
    experience is not understanding which is not
    knowledge. All are separate mind events!

  7. I contend that English as expressed on the street — with its many “uhs”, “ums”, “likes”, and “you knows” — is more disrespectful of the natural cadences of the English language than the new translation (and frankly, the one soon to pass also).

    As a product of Jesuit secondary education, I read this piece with gratitude.

    Now, the more important question: will you learn to chant this new translation? ;¬)

  8. Qualis Rex says:

    As a product of Jesuit University where I received my BS (pun intended) I was hesitant to read this blog and its take on the new translations. Why? Because my Jesuit education was itself rampant with loose translations, namely of the gospel, to support shakey if not downright heretical theology (foremost at the time was “liberation theology”- and yes, I realize I just dated myself). This is, IMHO, one of the biggest problems currently with the ICEL, and in both cases can lead to a moral relativism based on a feeling of “eh…close enough” regarding the translations. I can say I am overjoyed and extremely surprised to have read such a well-thought commentary on the new translations; even moreso knowing it comes from a group of Jesuits. Sincerely, good show here. You are backing the right horse on this one.

    As a speaker of Italian and Spanish, which are arguably the closest to Latin in their respectful order (if you discount dialects such as Sardinian), it is interesting that the Italian translations from Latin have always been very true and close to the original, while the Spanish took the opposite “ICEL” path. Witness the first line of the Credo:
    Credo in unum deum patrem omnipotentem…
    Credo in un solo Dio padre, onnipotente…
    Creo en un solo Dios padre, todo poderoso…

    The word “omnipotente” still exists in Spanish (as it does in Italian, although rarely used in both languages) yet “todo poderoso” or “all powerful” was . As with the Credo, I have always found the vast majority of prayers and liturgy in Spanish to be lackluster and “dumbed down”. This is my contention with the ICEL as well, and I for one am extremely happy with the revisions and new translations. Let’s abandon moral relativism as a church in 2010. This is a step in the right direction.

  9. Gray says:

    – Soliloquy –

    Can it be good when I am told the words I use in the Mass are too ordinary?
    Perhaps God isn’t to be found in ordinary words.

    Can it be good when I am told that my English needs to be transformed into Sacred English to help me worship properly?
    Perhaps my English does need renovating.

    Can it be good when I am insulted by the strange syntax and ugly cadence of the new Sacred English?
    Perhaps I should learn what beauty is.

    Can it be good when my new English sounds like a Latin parody?
    Perhaps I need to lose my sense of humour.

    How can it be a good thing when my language is mocked by The Liturgy?
    Perhaps my language really is a joke, and the joke’s on me.

    Can it be good when I am angered by the assault on the dignity of the Mass in English?
    Perhaps I should learn humility and leave the defence of dignity to my ecclesiastical elders who know better.

    Can it be good when my New English sounds pretentious and phoney, a throwback to an imagined yesteryear, the modern liturgical equivalent of Babu English?
    Perhaps “He took this precious chalice in his sacred and venerable hands” really does describe the Baroque Last Supper.

    How can it be a good thing when English, the language of dangerous free-thinking, is used in the liturgy?
    Perhaps it’s time to return to the safety of Latin.

    How can it be good when my language is hammered into Sacred English by linguistic rubricists, insistent that Latin is the template to die for.
    Perhaps Latin really isn’t dead, or perhaps it is the darkest of times before the dawn of the new English Rite. (Welcome, our brothers from Canterbury!)

    Perhaps the nobility and expressiveness of my English are just not up to the job of clearly expressing the profundity of my faith.

    Perhaps its all about Church politics and who controls, and not about God and me at all.

  10. quaesumus says:

    First time here. Nice site.

    A Counter-proposal

    Why should I cringe every time I hear the Mass in English, knowing that whole phrases have been swept away for ideological reasons?

    –the Latin Canon begins TE IGITUR for a reason. We don’t “come to the Father in praise and thanksgiving”. The input of the congregation is not necessary in the offering of the holy Sacrifice (unlike Lutherans etc.) The priest offers the eternal sacrifice of the Son to the Father in the action of the anaphora. There is a reason why the Canon begins with a bold, unmistakable TE, and the new translation unambiguously and proudly brings Christ and his crucifixion to the forefront.

    Why should a liturgical text presume that my knowledge and attention span ends at disyllabic words?

    — words like consubstantial, ineffable, venerable, and chalice are not designed to intimidate or insult people. These words are designed to better reflect the theological concepts that are clearly delineated in the Latin typical liturgy but are obscured by circumlocutions in the current English translation. Yes, priests and catechists will have to instruct some people on the meaning of these words. Yet their faith will be enriched through a revised English liturgy that succinctly expresses the theological realities handed to us through the Church’s universal Latin text.

    Why does everyone have to understand the Mass immediately?

    — The Mass is a mystery (sacramentum), and not something that should be immediately grasped by every person who walks through the church doors. Relatively few Catholics are catechized, and many don’t grasp the basics of our Catholic faith (the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Real Presence, grace and sacraments, basic prayers, the importance of frequenting Confession, etc.) The Mass cannot speak for itself. No liturgy, in any register of language, can catechize alone. A revitalization of the English liturgy through realignment with the meaning, intent, and subtle meaning of the Latin text will enhance, and not hinder, the re-catechizing of Catholics. Forty years of the “simple English” Mass has done little or nothing to bring about educated Catholics, in my opinion.

    Must I recognize that the Church didn’t begin in 1969?

    — We cannot fix the faith and the Mass in the year of Woodstock and moon landings. No, our liturgy and faith are given to us (as a gift and treasure) from millenia of refinement. Latin is a living language, and to mock it as a product of the “dark ages” is an affront to the Church’s glorious liturgical history. Some of the priest’s words arrive at us from earliest times — prayers identical to manuscripts scribbled by monks of centuries ago. Wouldn’t one perfer to assist at Mass in a translation that reflects the awesome power and significance of the ancient Latin that clothes the Mass? Or are we content to listen to many more years of flat, cornflakes-box English that distorts the very nuances of doctrine and theology encountered at every turn in the Latin text?

    The Church has given us an awesome patrimony. Let’s rejoice and be glad that the Latin has been translated to reflect the awesome mysteries it conveys.

  11. Qualis Rex says:

    Quaesumus – very well said. While the liturgy should be designed to give anyone a sense of what is taking place through the rubrics and symbolism, to assume that anyone should be able to understand it 100% in its entirety the first time the see and hear it is like assuming the same thing the first time someone pics up and reads a bible. These are things the best of people devote their entire lives to understanding.

  12. Hmm, the counter-proposal on its own wording merits
    sounds good, but limits itself to too much
    scholastic philosophical structure, epistemology,
    almost avoiding or forgetting Existential philosophy
    which is an equal-opportunity employer of thought,
    mystery, and metaphysical substance if not reality….

    For starters, Church life did not start with Latin,
    nor should it allow itself to be held hostage
    thereby, therein, and (!)

    The Mass is Mystery, no matter what language,
    what Age, or what Nation it operates in: it is
    independent of us, and is premised on Revelation.
    It is our Egos in every and any age that forgets
    that, and then errs, big time, because we’re not
    Angels! Nor ever will we be!

    When any Mass is said, however incomplete or
    imperfect, it is ALWAYS and EVERYWHERE the SPIRIT
    that accomplishes Jesus’ intended purpose thereof,
    through its medium of “do this in remembrance of me!”

    Separate from that, and because we must progress
    through Spiritual Life Stages (no one is exempt!),
    we are assisted by the vernacular, in our given,
    in any, nation! And so as I grew up hearing Latin
    masses, and especially the scripture readings
    therein, what a waste: on my growth! Growth is
    accelerated “when understanding” is present:
    that is the normal human condition. Latin is not
    the normal human condition, today! Even my
    Lithuanian language (oldest living language in
    Europe, and most Christian nation there today!)
    to me is irrelevant contrasted to my dominant
    language, English. So as long as a “rought sketch”
    of a Mass, Any Mass, is done in English, I grow:
    both psychologically and spiritually due to my
    response in the former, the Spirit’s action in
    the latter!

    That is our core foundation. Any movement away
    from that is a movement away from its founding
    purpose, as best as we have come in 2 thousand
    years to create the mere Pablum we still have
    of the Revelation revealed to our pathetic brains!

    Just maybe, Martin Buber was onto something when
    he addressed the Theological Club at the University
    of Edinburgh:
    “For some 30 to 40 years now, I have realized
    that I can’t learn anything from anyone over 3
    years of age.”

    More Grace in the New Years to come!!!

  13. […] new translations have been discussed before on Whosoever Desires by my Jesuit brother Aaron Pidel here and […]

  14. Tom McIntyre says:

    Christine Mohrmann’s Liturgical Latin is a treasury of information, but also an anti-vernacular tract. Her case is (1)Liturgical Latin was hieratic, not vernacular; (2) Modern European vernaculars cannot be hieratic. Her conclusion, key for (1), that the average 5th century Christian would not understand much of the Mass, is true only for her one instance, the Orations; true indeed in every language, but because of their complex theological argument, not their diction. As to her arguments from loan-words and extended senses:
    In every familiar trade (in omnibus hoc fit artibus, Cicero says) Latin’s poor vocabulary borrowed from Greek and stretched the sense of native words just as much as Christian catechesis and liturgy did – even making the first false stabs that Christine Mohrmann builds so much theory on. True, Scripture quotes were translated literally, but only Scripture, Jerome argued, citing Cicero and Horace. He had also pleaded with Hilary – whom he admired – to translate Greek prayers into simple language. In the essentials, syntax, idiom and imagery, Liturgical Latin is, as the Vatican grammarian Cleto Pavanetto says, ‘sermo simplex’.
    In these essentials, syntax, idiom and imagery, the new English Missal is not vernacular.
    Dr Maura Lafferty has well explained he 4th century inculturation – the familiar forms and address of traditional Roman religion introduced into Latin liturgy (now with unquestioning obedience – slavish really – re-implanted in the new English Missal). A Curial official has lately cited Christine Mohrmann’s arguments quite uncritically – even adding matter of his own eg the suggestion that the living Church should imitate the ossified hieratic languages of the great monolithic religions. Is it too much to expect balanced judgment from the Pope’s immediate advisors?

    • Aaron Pidel, SJ says:

      Alas, I no longer have Mohrmann’s “Liturgical Latin” in front of me so that I can review her argument. ‘Tis true that most of her examples of Liturgical Latin’s transparency to its source languages (esp. Greek and Hebrew) are derived from the Latin Scriptures. However, unless I am mistaken, Scripture has long formed a part of the Liturgy. Hence, drawing the line so sharply between Scriptural and Liturgical translation methods might not be possible. We might think in this regard of the Christian Latin solecisms, listed by Mohrmann, that began in Scripture and migrated to the Liturgy (“gloria,” “confiteor,” “credo in,” etc.).

      A second point: The claim that Latin’s poor vocabulary was “stretched” in “every familiar trade,” and that its liturgical variations were therefore unremarkable, can equally be used to support the idea of a ‘hieratic’ liturgical language. We’re familiar with the specialized cadences of legal English (‘legalese’) or of military English. As soon as we hear them, we know exactly the context of their use (courtroom, bootcamp, etc.). We could define these styles as purely “vernacular” on the grounds that every vernacular language includes variations and distinctive features when used in specialized disciplines. However, if we concede that “in omnibus hoc fit artibus,” why should we deny the ars liturgica alone its own “specialized” cadence and vocabulary? If “vernacular” is here defined so broadly that it includes “terms of art”, then a distinctively liturgical English should fit easily into your definition of “vernacular.”

      It seems that one is left with two choices: either admit that Liturgical Latin was not “vernacular,” inasmuch as the specific context for its use could have been surmised from its peculiar diction and structures; or admit that hieratic English is “vernacular”, inasmuch as it is distinctive only in the “normal” way that any specialized subdiscipline is. It doesn’t seem that one can consistently hold that “stretching” in liturgical Latin failed to remove it from the sphere of the vernacular, while arguing that “stretching” in liturgical English would certainly do so.

  15. Tom McIntyre says:

    Fr Aaron’s last paragraph offers two lines of distinction between a vernacular and a hieratic liturgical language. The point is that by either criterion our Latin liturgy and our present English liturgy fall on the same side. Both use esoteric technical terms. Both use specific Scriptural allusions. Otherwise the diction of both is correct, contemporary literary usage with conscious rhythmic effect; native vernacular, though not colloquial, in syntax, idiom and imagery.(Christine Mohrmann curiously seems to think that the Latin’s progressive declunkification would make it harder to understand.)

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