Translating Psalms (30)

Do you pray compline?  You should pray compline.  If you do, you know part of this psalm well.

There’s a horrific grammatical construction in verse 14 that deserves a little above-the-fold commentary.  In eo dum…simul is a laugh-out-loud way to say “when,” and even my inclination to the slavishly-literal can’t quite push me to translate it as “In that [time] when at once…”  Where I come from, we just say Dum and move on.

Here’s a speculative defense of St. Jerome, both here and in all the other famous “wha…?” moments of the Vulgate.  St. Jerome, the tradition tells us, traveled to Jerusalem to study Hebrew and consult manuscripts as part of his epic translation labor.  I propose he learned actual psaltery tunes and that his Latin gymnastics are an attempt to meet the metrical demands of the traditional Hebrew chants.

Some people, including me as a young man, like to dump on the Vulgate for being trashy, later Latin, but tend to forget that St. Jerome was extremely, formally educated and knew Latin better than anyone alive today.  God accused him of loving Cicero more than Himself!  I don’t think his signature work is going to be riddled with crappy Latin, and you shouldn’t either.  So there’s a fanciful hypothesis to explain the oddities of his Latin.

“In te, Domine, speravi” (Psalm 30)

[1] In finem. Psalmus David, pro extasi.

Unto the end.  A Psalm of David, pro extasi. Continue reading Translating Psalms (30)


Translating Psalms (28)

Probably my favorite psalm and certainly my favorite to sing.  Clearly made for parts; I learned a modern arrangement with male and female parts in college that I still remember well.  This one just touches something magical for me.  Imagine David and the people singing it as the Ark is installed in Jerusalem.

“Afferte Domino” (Psalm 28)

[1] Psalmus David, in consummatione tabernaculi. Afferte Domino, filii Dei, afferte Domino, filios arietum.

A Psalm of David, at the completion of the tabernacle.  Bring to the Lord, ye sons of God, bring to the Lord sons of rams. Continue reading Translating Psalms (28)

Translating Psalms (27)

Exaudio is one of my favorite words in Latin because it doesn’t translate too well.  Audi means to hear or listen.  Exaudi means…well, in the litany of the saints it’s usually translated as “graciously hear” so that it doesn’t simply repeat the audi immediately before (Christ hear us…Christ graciously hear us).

To get the sense, compare with specto and exspectoSpecto is simply to look, while exspecto means to be on the lookout, to scan the horizon like a sentry for the anticipated arrival of a thing–hence, mundanely, to await.  Exaudio is the same thing but with listening, like when the fainting damsel in the horror movie is hiding in the dark house listening for sounds of the intruder.  Colloquially we might say “Listen up, what I say next is important!” or something like that.  That’s the kind of attentive listening we are asking of God, not just that He happen to hear our prayers.

I probably said all this in a Psalms post last year (1-25), but it bears repeating!

“Ad te Domine clamabo” (Psalm 27)

[1] Psalmus ipsi David. Ad te, Domine, clamabo; Deus meus, ne sileas a me : nequando taceas a me, et assimilabor descendentibus in lacum.

A Psalm of David himself.  To You, O Lord, shall I cry; my God, lest you be silent from me never keep silent from me, and I shall be like those descending into the pit.

[2] Exaudi, Domine, vocem deprecationis meae, dum oro ad te, dum extollo manus meas ad templum sanctum tuum.

Hear, O Lord, the voice of my deprecation when I pray to You, when I extol my hands unto Your holy temple.

[3] Ne simul trahas me cum peccatoribus, et cum operantibus iniquitatem ne perdas me; qui loquuntur pacem cum proximo suo, mala autem in cordibus eorum.

Lest then You drag me off with sinners, and with them working injustice You destroy me; who speak peace with their neighbor but evils in their hearts.

[4] Da illis secundum opera eorum, et secundum nequitiam adinventionum ipsorum. Secundum opera manuum eorum tribue illis, redde retributionem eorum ipsis.

Give to them according to their works, and according to the wickedness of their inventions.  According to the works of their hands bestow to them, return their retribution to them.

[5] Quoniam non intellexerunt opera Domini et in opera manuum ejus; destrues illos, et non aedificabis eos.

For they have not understood the works of the Lord and in the works of His hands; You will destroy them and not rebuild them.

[6] Benedictus Dominus, quoniam exaudivit vocem deprecationis meae.

Blessed Lord, for He has heard the voice of my deprecation.

[7] Dominus adjutor meus et protector meus; in ipso speravit cor meum, et adjutus sum : et refloruit caro mea, et ex voluntate mea confitebor ei.

The Lord my helper and my protector; in Him has hoped my heart and I have been aided; and flourishes again my flesh and out of my will shall I confess Him.

[8] Dominus fortitudo plebis suae, et protector salvationum christi sui est.

The Lord, the strength of His people and the protector of the salvations of His Christ is He.

[9] Salvum fac populum tuum, Domine, et benedic haereditati tuae; et rege eos, et extolle illos usque in aeternum.

Make safe Your people, O Lord, and bless Your heritage; and rule them and extol them even unto the eternal.

Forgot to add: don’t ask me why it’s ipsi in the superscription.  It’s either some random audience, a mistake where ipsius is called for, or some kind of code/formality.

Translating Psalms (26)

My idiosyncrasies: deferred subject in Latin = deferred subject in English; always use “lest” for ne, even when it introduces a negative wish.  Remember, they are singing.  I’m less constrained to go for prose sense.

“Dominus illuminatio” (Psalm 26)

[1] Psalmus David, priusquam liniretur. Dominus illuminatio mea et salus mea; quem timebo? Dominus protector vitae meae; a quo trepidabo?

A Psalm of David, before he would be annointed.  The Lord my light and my safety; whom shall I fear?  The Lord, the protector of my life; from whom shall I tremble? Continue reading Translating Psalms (26)

Translating Psalms Index

Only now, as I prepare for another Lent of translating Psalms from the Vulgate, have I realized that there is no index page for the ones I have already finished.  Well that’s easy to fix!  Tedious, but easy.  I probably flip this over to a permanent page once I finish them all.

Here’s a list of the Psalms I have finished so far.  Let’s see if I can add another 25 to it, and finish on the super-famous Miserere by the end of Lent!

From Lent 2017: Psalms 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25

From Lent 2018: We shall see!

Ratramnus on the Eucharist (V)

Concluding my translation series of Ratramnus of Corbie’s book on the Eucharist.  Outline here, introduction here, part one here, part two here.

Where will I go next?  Backward in time to Radbertus or forward to Berengar?  First a break for Lent while I work on other pieces, I think.

Without further ado: Continue reading Ratramnus on the Eucharist (V)

Ratramnus on the Eucharist (IV)

Wherein Ratramnus concludes his arguments about the nature of the Eucharist.  For how we got to this point, see my previous posts here, here, and here.  Next post in the series here.

The main thing to comment on here, setting aside some of his really interesting claims about identity and difference, is the structure.  This section of the letter seems to have been rewritten at some point, or perhaps even reworked by a later author.  Why?

The formatting of the first section of the letter was very straightforward: terms, analysis, Scripture, Fathers, conclusion.  This latter section, however, does a few things differently.

First he begins with a lengthy presentation of St. Ambrose’s thoughts on the Eucharist.  With very little commentary added in his own words, this essentially amounts to a twenty-paragraph appeal to Patristic authority.  This is no big shock; perhaps Ratramnus felt he was on riskier ground here and wanted to give himself as much advance cover as possible for his views.

Second, and I think more interesting, Ratramnus embeds his subsequent analysis on identity and difference inside a surprising inclusio: the Eucharist is a two-fold figure of not only Christ, but also of His mystical body–us.  Between raising this in #73-75 and closing out with St. Augustine’s take on the same in #93-96, he lays out differences of attributes and definition in a way that doesn’t really depend on the Two-Fold Figure idea.  The opening of the inclusio is based on liturgical practice, but when he returns to liturgical texts inside his analysis he shows no notice or dependence on the earlier material.

Third, his use of Fulgentius in #90-92, while still pursuing the same kind of dichotomies as the earlier analysis, is far subtler an argument than anything used previously.  There are some new text markers in the last ten or so paragraphs as well, most notably referring to St. Augustine by the hitherto unseen Pater Augustinus.

Now I’m pretty skeptical of authorship claims based on text variation, but at the very least it should be well-noted how different “part two” of this letter is.  I’m open to any number of interpretations here, including the possibility that I’m over-pressing the claim or missed structure in “part one,” but one thing I know: I had a lot more outline-thinking to do for this part of the text!

Without further ado: Continue reading Ratramnus on the Eucharist (IV)

Ratramnus on the Eucharist (III)

See my outline with introductory remarks here and the opening paragraphs with brief commentary here.  Next post in the series here.

Now we come to the first phase of the argument that Ratramnus wants to make: when Catholics consume the sacrament of the Eucharist, do they consume the body and blood of Christ in mystery or in truth?  He runs down a basic primer of Augustinian signification (which, sadly, I did not study at any length in my school years) before launching into an account of change and some Scripture commentary before finally covering his bases with some Patristic authorities.

By later standards of Lateran orthodoxy, to say nothing of Tridentine, and even by the laxer standards of 20th and 21st century Catholic theology, much of what Ratramnus writes in this book can only be described as heretical.  Some of it is highly dubious even in his own context, and I have no interest in playing the game of defending or rehabilitating the man or his work.  But it is interesting throughout, often thought-provoking, and in the end serves as an excellent set of objections for a quaestio format.  Indeed, that last is the thin justification I gave myself for this project–to prepare material for teaching the theology of the Eucharist to students at my school.

But if you prefer strict adherence to more recent Church teaching on the matter–and I don’t blame you if you do–then you might want to look away from some of what comes next.  There are some eyebrow-raisers!

Some of my grammar notes are still scattered throughout, and the entire work could use a good proof-read.  I’ve gone back over some of the rougher spots but surely there are many errors to be fixed.  A hobby for another day!

Continue reading Ratramnus on the Eucharist (III)

Ratramnus on the Eucharist (II)

For my introduction to this little project, see here.  Next post in the series here.

The interesting thing about these opening lines, other than the statement of the two questions in #5, is the way in which Ratramnus frames his entire project.  In the opening paragraphs of his letter to Charles the Bald, Ratramnus sets up Charles as a New Constantine solving a new Arian controversy for the sake of both the spiritual and political realms. Is this flattery of the cleverest sort, addressed to the grandson of Charlemagne?  Or did Charles himself set the terms of the argument this way?  Or did Ratramnus’s entanglement in matters Greek influence him to see the situation this way?  In any case, it seems unlikely to have been the real theo-political situation, since no wide controversy seems to have erupted from the exchange and no councils took canonical action on the matter for generations.

Still, the theological claim is interesting: should St. Paul’s classic exhortation to unity of thought and confession (ut idem sapiant et idem dicant omnes) apply to this question about the Eucharist?  It seems unlikely at the time to have been much more than an academic battle over how to interpret St. Augustine and the other Fathers on the Eucharist, nor does there seem to have been much appetite within the Church to settle the matter definitively.  But in that sense Ratramnus was either ahead of his time or forced the issue himself, since indisputably this set of questions would soon come to be critical and would become a definitive chapter in the deposit of faith.

Grammatically there are a few frustrating points throughout the paragraphs but I’ve streamlined out all but one: the irritating relative pronoun in the second sentence.  The sentence as a whole is clear: What could be worthier than A and B, where A is to understand something (sapere) and B is to allow something (pati).  Each of A and B are further modified by their own relative clause whose antecedent “must” be found inside A and B respectively.  B’s relative clause is quite clear: the antecedent is the last phrase of B, the body of Christ, in which is found the “source and summit,” to steal a much later phrase, of the Christian life.  But now the irritating part: A’s relative clause “must” have some hidden masculine noun as its antecedent, and the only nouns in A are mysteriis (neuter plural) and the hidden noun modified by catholicae (feminine singular).

While it deeply offends my grammatical sense, and while I fear I must be overlooking some better solution in which illius is somehow a masculine form referring to Charles, I have judged that qui must in fact be quae and refer to the Church.  Checking a critical edition would help a lot there, but what can you do?  It’s just a hobby!

Enough of that problem.  Without further ado: Continue reading Ratramnus on the Eucharist (II)