Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Right and Just

The other thing we see in the opening is that "It is right to give God thanks and praise" has been changed to simply "It is right and just." This might be a more literal translation, but boy is it clunky. The prior version actually offered the same number of syllables in the response as in the presider's words -- which is how good liturgical poetry works. It has a rhythm that satisfies, that signals movements like yearning or completion.

The old version also allowed the congregation to restate for themselves -- to own, if you will -- the presider's invitation that we give thanks. This new version doesn't quite do that. If anything it calls attention to the words being used. What do we mean it's "just" that we give thanks. How is that different than "right"?

Clearly, this is a minor point. But it does speak to a main issue with these translations, which is that they are so literal as to sacrifice the poetry of the words.

On the other hand, the new translation uses "right and just" right away again in the preface that follows.

It is truly right and just,
our duty and salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Father most holy, through your beloved Son...

It's a nice way of connecting the dots.

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