Te igitur, clementissime Pater, per Iesum Christum Filium tuum Dominum nostrum, supplices rogamus ac petimus uti accepta habeas, et benedicas, haec dona, haec munera, haec sancta sacrificia illibata, in primis, quae tibi offerimus pro Ecclesia tua sancta catholica: quam pacificare, custodire, adunare, et regere digneris toto orbe terrarum: una cum famulo tuo Papa nostro N. et Antistite nostro N., et omnibus orthodoxis, atque catholicae, et apostolicae fidei cultoribus.
Therefore, most gracious Father, we humbly beg of Thee and entreat Thee, through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord to deem acceptable and bless, these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unspotted oblations. which we offer unto Thee in the first instance for Thy holy and Catholic Church, that Thou wouldst deign to give her peace and protection, to unite and guide her the whole world over; together with Thy servant N., our Pope, and N., our bishop, and all true believers, who cherish the catholic and apostolic faith.1
Various renderings of the Te Igitur:
Therefore, we humbly pray and beseech Thee, most merciful Father, through Jesus Christ Thy Son, Our Lord, to receive and to bless these gifts, these presents, these holy unspotted sacrifices, which we offer up to Thee, in the first place, for Thy holy Catholic Church, that it may please Thee to grant her peace, to guard, unite, and guide her, throughout the world; as also for thy servant N., our Pope, and N., our Bishop, and for all who are orthodox in belief and who profess the Catholic and Apostolic faith.2
We, therefore, humbly pray and beseech Thee, most merciful Father, through Jesus Christ Thy Son, Our Lord, that Thou wouldst accept and bless these gifts, these presents, these holy unspotted sacrifices, which, in the first place, we offer Thee for Thy holy Catholic Church, which Thou mayst vouchsafe to pacify, guard, unite and govern throughout the world: together with Thy servant N., our Pope, N., our Bishop, as also all orthodox believers and promoters of the Catholic and Apostolic faith.3
Missale Romanum 1970
Te igitur, clementissime Pater, per Iesum Christum, Filium tuum, Dominum nostrum, supplices rogamus ac petimus, uti accepta habeas et benedicas haec dona, haec munera, haec sancta sacrificia illibata, in primis, quae tibi offerimus pro Ecclesia tua sancta catholica: quam pacificare, custodire, adunare et regere digneris toto orbe terrarum: una cum famulo tuo Papa nostro N. et Antistite nostro N., et omnibus orthodoxis, atque catholicae, et apostolicae fidei cultoribus.
We come to you, Father, with praise and thanksgiving, through Jesus Christ your Son, Through him we ask you to accept and bless these gifts we offer you in sacrifice, We offer them for your holy catholic Church, watch over it, Lord, and guide it; grant it peace and unity throughout the world. We offer them for N. our Pope, for N. our bishop, and for all who hold and teach the catholic faith that comes to us from the apostles. 4
This is the first prayer of the Roman Canon, referred to as the Te Igitur. Notice immediately that the difference between the two versions is not in the official Latin, but rather in the translation into the vernacular. A couple of points might be mentioned here with regards to this translation. First, it was traditional in the Altar Missal and even most missals for the laity to decorate this prayer with the ‘T’ of Te igitur, as a cross. This was a visual aid to recognize the action that was being intended, the making present of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This artistry could have been retained, had the traditional translations of the Latin-English missals been used which begin this prayer with ‘Therefore’. Secondly, the English version changes the tone of the prayer. The ICEL text draws a continuation from the praise and thanksgiving of the Preface, while the Latin original actually changes the mood to one of supplicants who are humbly begging and pleading the most merciful Father for acceptance and blessing of the gifts being presented for consecration. According to ICEL notes, the reason for their translation was, “To translate clementissime directly would violate English usage, which rarely attaches an adjective to a vocative; the meaning of clementissime is carried into the English by the tone of the first two lines.”5 “Both of these claims are, in fact, untrue. English usage is actually most hospitable to adjectives attached to vocatives, since nearly every letter written in the language begins with one: "Dear so-and-so." The "tone of the first two lines" is dominated by thanksgiving in ICEL’s text; there is no allusion to God’s mercy or a suggestion that we might need it. While the English translation seeks to establish continuity between the Canon and what immediately precedes, the Latin begins with a change of mood. In the Preface we have thanked and praised God for his goodness already shown to us and, in consequence (igitur, "therefore"), we find ourselves able in the Canon to implore his mercy for the present and future.”6
The reason for the differences are from a viewpoint of style. Now I disagree with this principle, because I think that the Roman style should be allowed to show through in the translation, because as Latin Rite Catholics, the mood, rhythms and stylistic devices of the Latin are a part of our Catholic heritage. Let me note again, that while I disagree with the principle of translation used, I see no reason to impugn the inaccuracy of this translation with denials of any theological distinctions. Imploring is asking, oblations are gifts that are offered though the preciseness of translation is what will convey the mood of the original.
The differences in tone and preciseness of translation do not necessarily point to a doctrinal deficiency. With regards to the theological and doctrinal value of humility and supplication to a merciful God the ICEL version of the Ordo Missae of Pope Paul VI is not lacking, though not as repetitive as the older missal. The humility with concern to the priest's and the faithful's disposition is supplied in the prayer of the offertory "Lord God, we ask you to receive us and be pleased with the sacrifice we offer you with humble and contrite hearts.". Thus we see that the offering that is continued in the Te Igitur is one of humbleness and contrition. That mercifulness is an attribute of God's is well known and also supplied in the ICEL translation in earlier prayers, especially as part of the Penitential Rite: 'May almighty God have mercy on us...' The very purpose of the Penitential Rite is to prepare ourselves for the sacrifice that takes place in the Mass, and to ask forgiveness for our shortcomings from our God who is merciful. This further demonstrates how the ICEL's english version should be understood in light of orthodox theology, though it does not alleviate the fact that the ICEL's translation is not a precise or accurate work, which can and should be improved upon.
To that end, with the promulgation of Liturgiam Authenticam, the latest ICEL translation submitted (but not yet approved) gives this rendering of the same verses: “Most merciful Father, we therefore humbly pray and implore you through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, to accept and bless + these gifts, these offerings, these holy and undefiled sacrifices...”7 This certainly goes a long way in satisfying my personal tastes, though for some who simply do not wish for the liturgy to be said in English, I’m sure it won’t please them. Though to make one final point, the English translation of the Te igitur in my grandfathers 1962 My Sunday Missal isn’t precisely accurate either, though it is certainly superior to that of our current ICEL text in conveying the character, tone, and meaning of the Latin original.
Supplementary Data: 8
igitur: then, therefore, accordingly
clementissime: most gently, most mildly, most kindly, most compassionately
supplices: kneeling, on one's knees, in entreaty, humble, submissive, suppliant
rogamus: to ask, ask for, beg, request
petimus: to demand, require, exact; to ask for; to claim, lay claim to, sue for; to beg entreat etc.
habeas: to have, to hold, to posess
dona: gift, present; votive offering, sacrifice
munera: to reward, honor, present
illibata: undiminished, unimpaired, intact
1 My Sunday Missal, Confraternity of the Precious Blood, Msgr. Joseph F. Stedman
2 The New Roman Missal, Fr. Lassance, 1993 reproduction of the 1945 edition, page 777.
3 The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: Dogmatically, Litugically and Ascetically Explained, Rev. Dr. Nicholas Gihr, 1877 1st edition, 1897 6th edition, translated from German ©1902, printed 1924, page 586-587.
4 The New Roman Missal, Rev F. X. Lasance, Christian Book Club of America, 1993 “Faithful reprint of the 1945 Copyright edition of the Fr. Lasance New Roman Missal with appendix and changes of feasts promulgated under the pontificate of His Holiness Pope Pius XII, pages 746-747.
5 The Roman Canon in English Translation Together with their Notes on the Text (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1967), 28. (As found in www.liturgysociety.org Antiphon Volume 5, Number 2, Bruce Harbert).
6 Antiphon Volume 5, Number 2, Ancient Rhetoric and Modern Prayer: The Case for the Roman Canon, Bruce Harbert.
7 Roman Missal Translation Update: Bishops Receive ICEL Missal Texts; Translation Norms, Online Edition - Vol. X, No. 1: March 2004, Helen Hull Hitchcock, Adoremus Bulletin Vol. X, No. 1: March 2004
8 The New College Latin & English Dictionary, Revised and Enlarged, John C Traupman, Ph.D., 1966 and Revised 1995.