I’ve long thought that there is a secret organisation at work in the church: the Campaign for the Abolition of Poetry. The CAP is dedicated to hammering flat the language used in liturgies, hymns and biblical translations, turning “difficult”, “alienating” poetical language into “accessible” prose.
The CAP’s motto is: “And the rich he has sent away empty”. Membership is open to all who truly believe that “low murmuring sound” is an improvement on “still small voice”.
Revd Bosco Peters’ latest post inadvertently highlights one of the CAP’s most spectacular triumphs in recent years. Here is the collect for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, from the Book of Common Prayer:
O God, the protector of all that trust in thee,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy;
Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy;
that, thou being our ruler and guide,
we may so pass through things temporal,
that we finally lose not the things eternal:
Grant this, O heavenly Father,
for Jesus Christ’s sake our Lord. Amen.
Revd Peters quotes the 1979 US version of this prayer, which modernises the language slightly but is otherwise recognisable as the same profound, moving and beautiful prayer.
And here is the ICEL version as used in the Roman Catholic Church:
God our Father and protector,
without you nothing is holy,
nothing has value.
Guide us to everlasting life
by helping us to use wisely
the blessings you have given to the world.
Revd Peters describes this as “the same prayer”. Well, yeah, technically. But the ICEL version is so bland and dull that it makes me want to weep. It literally causes me physical pain to see the two versions side by side. But the ICEL version is simpler and more accessible, which I suppose is what counts in the end. </sarcasm>