Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Running to your promises

Ever potent God,
who we run into most often
when pursuing your promises,
strew wildly around us
even more clues of your grace, mercy and forgiveness,
until the chase brings us together
into the field in which all your treasure is found.

The Church Times alerts me to the way Cranmer’s own literal translation of this week’s ancient Latin Collect (for the 11th Sunday after Trinity) preserves a striking picture of ‘we, running to thy promises’ (‘ut, currentes ad tua promissa’ – I enjoyed discovering that Latin for ‘running’ gives us the word we use for running water), while our Common Worship form of the prayer preserves a more morally manipulative idea intruded into it in the 1662 revision of the Book of Common Prayer with ‘we, running the way of your commandments, may receive your gracious promises’.

It led me back to the original Latin prayer and the way, for example, the notoriously loose Catholic version from the 1970s has a different slant (‘to hurry towards the eternal life you promise’) which has been pulled back characteristically in the more literal new Catholic version (‘those hastening to attain your promises’).

Anyway, I played with the idea and found an image of a paper chase or treasure hunt in my mind and thus through the whole of the version I am developing for myself.  Unlike my version of the Collect for the 4th Sunday before Lent (which I use in public worship from time to time as if it was a long standing text) I suspect it only works for private meditation.

At the beginning, ‘ever potent’ echoes the Latin ‘omnipotentiam’ which is really ‘all powerful’ - an idea which the life and teaching of Jesus seems to subvert.  I was trying to get nearer to a dynamic ‘ever creative’ than a static ‘almighty’; inexhaustible potential rather than irresistible force. 

At the end, I’ve allowed an allusion to Mattew 13.44 (“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone found, hid again, and then in joy went and sold everything to buy it”) to do the work; discovery, surprise, joy and possession rather than conditional entry.

For what it is worth, I’ve tracked these and other shifts in my text as far as I have developed it thus:

Latin (in English word order) Cranmer (in his own word order) Mine
Deus God God
qui which who
manifestas declarest we run into / even more clues of
omnipotentiam tuam thy almighty power ever potent
maxime most chiefly most often
tuam parcendo in shewyng mercy your mercy
et miserando and pitie and forgiveness
multiplica super nos geve unto us abundauntly strew wildly around us
gratiam tuam thy grace your grace
ut that we until
currents ad running to when pursuing / the chase
tua promissa thy promises your promises
facias esse may be made brings us into
consortes partakers together
caelestium bonorum of thy heavenly treasure the field in which all your treasure is found.

The work of the ants is on our drive.

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