Sunday, May 25, 2008

Speaking in Tongues

The Hollywood family prays the table prayer as it appears in the Small Catechism of Martin Luther (using the latest translation as it is published by Concordia Publishing House and as it appears in our latest hymnal, Lutheran Service Book). It's really an ancient Latin prayer that Luther translated into German, and which was then, in turn, translated into English.

We also pray it in its traditional Latin form.

So, I often give three-year old Lion Boy the choice: "English or Latin." Almost inevitably, he emphatically lobbies for Anglophonism. He knows the prayer well, and can say it along with me.

Once in a while, he chooses Latin - and he knows it pretty well in its original form too.

The other day, he threw us for a loop. First, he insisted that we pray in English. Then, just as the Hollywoods were poised to dig in, he called out "Now in Latin." We meekly complied. Then, he further requested: "In French!" We have never prayed the table prayer in French.

So, I headed to the internet to find a French version of the prayer Benedic, Domine. About the only way I could find it was to locate a copy of Luther's Small catechism in French. Mrs. Hollywood (a Dutch-French-Canadian) commented that the prayer just doesn't sound natural (I think her exact words were: "too Lutheran" - which gave me seminary flashbacks of sitting in Dr. Scaer's class). I would surmise it's because the prayer made a long journey from Latin, to German, and from there to French - which would probably make it sound unnatural.

I believe this is why the Latin table prayer in the Lutheran confessions is different than the way the rest of the world prays it in Latin - because it was translated from Latin, to German, and back to Latin again. I don't know this for sure, but I think it's a reasonable hypothesis given the wording.

But anyway, in my search, I ran across a really interesting website of various works of Martin Luther and the Lutheran Confessions in numerous languages. Especially interesting was the facsimile (and English translation) of the sixteenth century translation of the Augsburg Confession into Greek - I suspect for the purpose of the ill-fated theological dialog with the Patriarch of Constantinople, Jeremias II. The title of the Greek version of the Augsburg Confession is: Exomologesis tes orthodoxou pisteos (The Confession of the Orthodox Faith).

As interesting as all this is, I still haven't found a standard translation of the table prayer into French. Maybe Francophones simply prayed the prayer in Latin for so long that they never got around to "going native" on that one. If anyone knows, please fill me in!

Here is the original Latin version:

Benedic, Domine, nos et haec Tua dona, quae de Tua largitate sumus sumpturi, per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.


Past Elder said...

One of my favourite things to have happen, being by your own description a rascal, is when having a meal with Catholic friends, they get all ecumenical and don't make the Sign of the Cross or say "Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts ..." but some other table prayer. Then I ask if I may offer a Lutheran "grace", and proceed to make the Sign of the Cross and say "Bless us, O lord, and these thy gifts .. ".

Which is the only observance at meals in the Elder house, though the boys have learned "Come, Lord Jesus .. " as well for other LCMS contexts.

I think as many Lutherans as Catholics are amazed to discover this is simply a catholic table prayer.

Bill Scott said...

I found this French prayer at

Bénissez-nous, Seigneur, ainsi que la nourriture que nous allons prendre, grâce à votre bonté.

But it's missing the last clause "... through Christ, Our Lord, Amen."

Pr. H. R. said...

Alors! Qu'est-ce que c'est? Je crois que nous disons "tu" quand nous parlons avec Dieu! "benissEZ-nous"???
Par example - "Notre Père. . . donne-nous aujourd'hui notre pain. . ."

À bientôt,

Grab a towel said...

Thank you, Pastor! I've been wanting to make copies of the Small Catechism with Japanese and English for my children. Guess what? The links worked for the Japanese, but not the English! (No worries, I have the English already.)

I grew up saying "Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts...." With a father who was raised Catholic and a mother raised in a Lutheran Church by a formerly Methodist mother, it was about the only thing may parents agreed on!