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Sacred English

Published Date: 
June 23, 2006

In today's "Wall Street Journal," Michael Foley, a professor of patristics at Baylor University, reports that U.S. Catholics have approved a new English translation of the Latin Order of the Mass. However, instead of updating the translation, it seems that they are backdating it. When Vatican II permitted translations of the Mass in 1963, the English translation was created with a liberal bent and the readings took great liberties with the ancient text. The new translation is more religious sounding and is a more accurate translation.

Foley explains: "Before a native language was used in divine worship, it was first 'sacralized'--its syntax and diction were gingerly modified, archaisms were deliberately re-introduced and even new rhythmic meters and cadences were invented. All of this was done in order to produce a distinctive mode of communication, one that was separate from garden-variety vernacular speech and capable of relaying the unique mysteries of the Gospel. Thus, if English is to convey sacred mysteries, there should be a 'sacred English.' The very word we use for everyday speech, 'profane,' comes from profano, 'outside the temple.' " Therefore, he concludes, there must be a language for use inside the temple.

Personally, I would add that the Catholics, as well as the Anglicans in the Common Book of Prayer and even Joseph Smith in his Book of Mormon, got this idea from the Bible. The Bible uses a special language to convey its special truths. What better way to sound authoritative than to mimic that special voice of God's holy word. Yet today, many are denying the power found in Biblical English and seeking bibles that sound just like they talk. It matters not to them that in order to do so they must change what God originally said. It is a shame that it takes a group of Catholic bishops to remind us of the importance of Biblical English.

David Reagan

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 26:14

As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.