Q: I was just re-reading your piece on the Our Father and updating the language. While I agree that sometimes there is a need for familiar language, sometimes there is also a need to keep a language that is readily recognizable and comfortable, but is set apart from ordinary conversational vocabulary in order to help us recognize, even through the very words, that THIS is special. It is like the more formal language we might use in addressing someone we love and admire who is a bit distinct from the friends I hang around with regularly. I am becoming more familiar with other cultures where there is a distinct, more formal, vocabulary used when addressing someone who is older, revered, or beyond the “ordinary” and very familiar.
There is a need, I think, to keep and deepen our awareness that God who is Father is different from our earthly parents, and that a person’s experience of fatherhood or someone who is “father” is not totally identified with God’s fatherhood. The few “archaic” words in prayer might help us be aware of the special fatherhood that we sense in God. We just had a session a few months ago in our RCIA/RICA that focused n the Lord’s Prayer, and it was interesting to hear the participants reflect on how some needed a different experience of “father” that what the word evoked in them from their life’s experience. One young man even became quite formal in his language as he was sharing his reflections. In his journaling, he said, he always capitalized “Father” when referring to God because his own father was no where near the characteristics and qualities of God the Father others had talked about.
I am not sure what the re-working of the translation might include, but I hope it will keep the sense of reverence, specialness and “set apart” feel of the vocabulary of prayer.
Thanks for listening and as always, for your thoughtful responses to the questions on your blog.
A: Thanks for sharing. This was some of the thought that appeared in Liturgiam authenticam about translating the liturgy in general.
The archaisms are quite unique to the English language Lord’s Prayer. Other languages don’t have them. Those that distinguish a formal and informal second person singular use the informal for the Lord’s Prayer.
Personally, I doubt we’re going to see a change in English. But the pope’s remarks sure got people talking!