The Guéranger Blog

Welcome to the Gueranger Blog! You have stumbled across the notebook I use to record my thoughts as I read through Dom Prosper Gueranger's 15-volume set, The Liturgical Year. I do not have any special expertise in liturgy, but I have some general knowledge of Catholic theology and an enthusiasm for Gueranger's magnum opus. Think of it as the Liturgical Year fan site!

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The Joys of Mary

Canisius | 01 May, 2006 18:43

In VIII,126-8, Dom Gueranger offers a beautiful hymn about a tradition previously unknown to me, the "Seven Joys of Mary." As you might guess, they counterbalance the more familiar "Seven Sorrows of Mary." For those of you who do not have the text, here are the traditional "Seven Joys":

1) The annunciation
2) The birth of Jesus
3) The visit of the Magi
4) The resurrection of Jesus
5) The ascension of Jesus
6) The descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
7) The assumption of Mary

There's an interesting translation moment in the third joy:

O Maria, stella mundi,
A peccatis simus mundi
Per te, Virgo Maria....
O Mary, Star of the Sea!
pray for us, that we may be
cleansed from our sins....

Our translator says "star of the sea", but the Latin says "star of the world". The problem here is that the Latin contains a play on words that just can't be transferred into English: in one line mundi means "of the world", while in the next line it means "cleansed" (nominative plural). Yup, the same word mundus, mundi can mean "world" or "clean"!

So a literal translation would say, "O Mary, star of the world! Pray for us, that we may be clean from our sins...", but I can't think of a way to communicate the fact that "world" and "clean" are the spelled the same way in Latin.

Lastly, note that the Latin asks that we may be cleansed from our sins "through you, O Virgin Mary"; the English omits this phrase and substitutes "Pray for us". This continues the trend I have observed before in which the translator takes pains to make sure his readers do not misunderstand the theology of the prayers, and consequently dilutes the phrasing sometimes to take emphasis off of Mary's power.


Comment Icon Mundus

Chester | 01/05/2006, 20:03

I had never really thought about mundus, -i (world) and mundus, -a, -um (clean) being related, but what about this?

Mundus, -a, -um can mean clean, neat, elegant (even the noun mundus, -i can mean the elegant dress or decoration of a woman). If we see mundus, -i (world) as signifying something like the Greek 'kosmos', maybe we can make the connection. The kosmos/mundus itself is a certain order, an elegance, a neatness (I think the word kosmos in Greek originialy meant something like an 'ordered arrangement').

I suppose none of that helps us to find a single English word that captures the play in the Latin, but it helps us see the connection a bit more clearly.

Here's St. Augustine, sermonizing on St. John's Gospel, playing on the two words: "Let none then, brethren, say, I am not of this world. Whoever you are as a man, you are of this world; but He who made the world came to you, and delivered you from this world. If the world delights you, you wishest always to be unclean (immundus); but if this world no longer delight you, you are already clean (mundus). And yet, if through some infirmity the world still delight you, let Him who cleanses (mundat) dwell in you, and you too shall be clean."

Comment Icon Say, neat!

Peter_Canisius | 02/05/2006, 04:10

Where'ja dig that Augustine quote from? That's great stuff!

Comment Icon Tractate XXXVIII

Chester | 02/05/2006, 22:18

The text is from St. Augustine's Tractate 38 in which he is comments on the middle of the eighth chapter of St. John's Gospel. This small snippet, though (without thinking too long about it) seems rather to be more closely related to Ch. 15 than to anything in Ch. 8.

Interestingly, both uses of mundus (clean & world) appear there in Ch. 15, but not close enough together to suspect St. Jerome's translation to be playing on them the way St. Augustine does.

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