April 22, 2010

On the Translation of Liturgical Texts (Part 3 of 4)

...continued from Part Two

Third. Usually those that call for linguistic reforms fall into the big mistake to consider man as only possessing logic, and they seek to subordinate everything under logic. "Let the texts be translated so that we can understand them. So that we could understand what we say and what is going on." And they think that with logical processing (thinking) they will solve the internal problems that bother them. To be exact, man's existence does not consist of one side, and especially of the arbitrary function of logic. Man also has internal intuition, the nous, the heart, and many times he conceives essential things and interprets someone or something without using logic. For example, from the first moment, a judge can perceive with his natural intuition the innocence or the guiltiness of the person that is accused. Even more, this happens to the Church, when man partakes of divine grace, which is when he "suffers for the divine". It is known through the gifts of insight (diooratiko) and foresight (prooratiko) and of all the gifts (charismata) that are gifts of the Holy Spirit, which we also see in the lives of the saints.

Thus, it is possible to find in worship famous philologists who understand everything being said, or theologians that understand the entire evolution of divine worship, but these also do not understand, or rather, do not experience the worship services like a "charismatic" man experiences it, or a little child, or an illiterate person among the blessed faithful.

Let me provide an example. The apostolic blessing which is given during the Divine Liturgy by the priest to the people: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you", if it is translated into the modern demotic (Greek) language so that it could be understood better, will read more like this: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you". [Trans. Note: The translation in English is the same, though in Greek it is more "understandable" in demotic Greek.] However, who can understand logically what is the "grace of Christ", or what is the "love of God the Father", or what is the "communion of the Holy Spirit", or what is the mystery of the Holy Trinity, or what does it mean for the grace of the Holy Trinity to be with us? How can we "understand" the Holy Trinity when we are internally disorganized and externally isolated? This demands the transformation of our nature, the development of our internal senses, and the essential experience of God. It is definitely not a case of logical processing.

In the patristic tradition there is clearly a distinction between the nous (the mind of the heart) and dianoia (intellect or logic). When the nous is subordinated to dianoia, the passions, and the environment, then we have the death of the soul, and thus, man is unable to understand anything in the Divine Liturgy. In contrast, when the nous is freed from the tyranny of dianoia, the passions and the environment become graced, then it experiences God. The knowledge of God and of divine things is related inseparably with the experience of God. And the experience of God is achieved when the nous is purified, and is unceasingly thinking of God. Then it even graces dianoia, which becomes subordinated to the nous and expresses its experiences. Thus, the issue of understanding divine worship is foremost an issue of purifying the heart, the transformation of man, and the discovery of personhood (prosopon). It is an issue of man's rebirth, which takes place when he is transformed from an individual person into a real person (prosopon). And we know well from the teachings of the Fathers that a person is reborn from above. As a real person, in worship he comes into communion with God, men and the saints. When he is a real member of the Body of Christ, then he lives in the communion of angels and men, heavenly and earthly, living and fallen asleep.

Continued...Part Four