Sunday, July 8, 2012

New Translation of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Well, we were bound to get an official announcement from the USCCB at some point:

"Among the many liturgical books affected by the implementation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition, none has generated more questions or interest than the Liturgy of the Hours. Numerous inquiries from clergy and religious have prompted the Committee on Divine Worship to begin to develop a plan to produce a revised edition of the Liturgy of the Hours (and related texts such as the one–volume Christian Prayer). This revision would incorporate updated and already–approved translations of many elements, including the Revised Grail Psalms and the orations of the Roman Missal, Third Edition, as well as new additions to the Proper of Saints, some of which still need to be translated and approved. The Committee reviewed the current state of each element of the text, including the Psalter, the orations, antiphons, and Scripture readings, to determine which elements can remain intact, which elements require replacement with updated texts, and which elements require retranslation. The International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) has been consulted regarding its role in producing draft translations of certain elements, including an expanded collection of proper antiphons for the Gospel canticles for Sundays and solemnities, which were added to the Liturgia Horarum, editio typica altera, published between 1985 and 1987. The Committee hopes to present a proposed scope of work to the body of Bishops for their approval in November 2012, and then work can commence to assemble the necessary elements. At this time there is no estimated timeline for this project."

 It is worth noting that, by the statement's own admission, the actual production of the retranslation of the Liturgy of the Hours is still some years off. We're talking about approval to begin the project in November 2012. A new translation was inevitable and has been so for some time. The New American Bible, the often maligned but nevertheless typical Bible for the USCCB, has been fully revised, including the Old Testament as of last Autumn. Of course, the proper collects of the divine office were all revised as part of the new translation of the Roman Missal. Thus, two considerable portions due for retranslation have already been completed. The same goes for the revised grail psalms, although, if the project is a serious endeavor there should be some discussion on whether or not to replace the text of the psalms. Alas, the above quoted statement does not indicate such a discussion is on the agenda. Our text of the Liturgy of the Hours is horribly out of date; aside from the new antiphons and feast days mentioned, John Paul II's pontificate restored previously excised feasts as well as provided a proper office for other feasts that had previously lacked everything except an oration. 

While the project is some years away from fruition (assuming it receives the green light), I highly doubt the twenty year process involved in producing the new translation of the Roman Missal should be used as a time gauge for the Liturgy of the Hours. The percentage of persons who pray the divine office is comparatively small and a retranslation of the breviary is unlikely to cause as much controversy and consternation as that of the missal due to the decreased exposure. Additionally, the more controversial texts (the proper orations) have already been translated. It would be highly unlikely for there to be an occasion for debate and I hardly doubt any bishop would ring his hands over the translation of an antiphon. Assuming the project gets the green light, I would imagine within five years we could see a new edition of the English Liturgy of the Hours.


Is there anything that could delay a new translation? Oddly enough, yes. Though the grunt work has essentially been done it remains to be seen if the bishops will deem a retranslation a priority. That the project has no timeline indicates there's no rush to get this out there. Even during the early rounds of the vox clara committee and the reorganization of ICEL, there was talk of getting the new translations out in five years. It didn't happen that quickly, but at least there was some sense of an ideal timeline. In addition to the statement's admission that no timeline exists of the project, one must consider the above mentioned fact that exposure to the divine office is limited when compared to the rite of the mass. The numbers may not seem to justify either the production of a new translation in the near future or, worst case, the production of a new translation at all. 


If you'd rather not wait on the new American edition of the Liturgy of the Hours, you can order the South African edition here. From what I can gather, it uses the previous edition of the orations, however, it also makes use of the revised grail psalter, new antiphons, new feasts, etc. Also, you get the South African calendar.