Wednesday, July 16, 2008

So, I was bringing my Gaba to Winn-Dixie...

What's a Gaba, you ask? That's the same thing Lion Boy asked as we were shuffling out the door to "make groceries" at the Winn-Dixie.

And while we Lutherans don't believe in Purgatory in the afterlife, there is nothing in the Lutheran confessions about standing in grocery store lines - so the concept of temporal Purgatory is an open theological question. I must always have reading material with me while being purgated in the queue, or even while walking the aisles. Usually, the reader software on my Palm device provides literary material for the grocerial grind. However, on this occasion, I reached for the small black binder on the fireplace mantle as we made our great egress out of the Hollywood Presbytère.

Hence Lion Boy's question, and my answer: "This is my Gaba. It's a prayer book. It has all the Psalms in English and in Latin. Uncle Latif wrote it." Leo's response was priceless. "Ooooh," he said in wonder, like he had just seen a fireworks display, and was waiting for the responsorial "ahhhh." Leo loves "Uncle Latif" who was recently in town staying with us, as Latif has the gift of making children laugh. Leo also knows the table prayer in Latin, and the Hollywood prayers are officially held in English, Latin, or French.

"Uncle Latif" is an old friend of mine and lay brother in the Society of St. Polycarp. In fact, the Reverend Subdeacon Latif Haki Gaba served as the subdeacon and reader at my presbyterial ordination at Zion Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana (the fourth anniversary of which I will commemorate two days hence).

So, I refer to the prayer book as the Gaba.

But you can't get a Gaba yet. I have a pre-publication copy. The working title is The Lutheran Prayerbook: A Manual of Prayers in English and Latin.

I had the Gaba printed in landscape on 8 1/2 x 11 pages, in booklet form, double sided, and had the pages cut in half. Thus it is half the size of standard notebook leaf. I punched it three-hole style and put it in a black vinyl-bound notebook. It's not exactly rich Corinthian leather, but it is only a draft copy. Besides, the real treasure is within.

The Gaba is bilingual. With a few exceptions, including his own remarks, rubrics, and those things he has not yet found extant in Latin, everything in the Gaba Prayerbook is in both English and Latin - in facing columns. Along with his own annotations, the prayer book includes:
  • A Preface
  • Basic prayers
  • Passages of Scripture
  • Liturgical Hymns
  • Biblical Canticles
  • Creeds
  • Various daily prayers
  • Four divine offices (Matins, Sext, Vespers, and Compline)
  • Collects for every week of the church year
  • An Itinerarium office (a brief prayer service before travel)
  • All the texts and rubrics for Holy Mass
  • The Small Catechism (in a traditionally-worded public domain text)
  • The Way of the Cross
  • A complete bilingual Psalter (the English being the traditional Book of Common Prayer/Coverdale Psalter, the Latin being the Clementine Vulgate translation from the Septuagint Greek)
  • Various charts, schedules, and tables (such as reading schedules for Bible and Catechism readings, church calendars, Books of the Bible, and the Lutheran symbols).
All of this, in a manuscript about an inch thick.

This prayerbook and its big brother (yes, its big brother) called Opus Dei, a full-blown Lutheran breviary suitable for monastic use, represent a good deal of Latif's life work in bringing traditional prayer offices back into use among Lutherans who wish to partake of such piety.

The Gaba unapologetically makes use of traditional churchly language and grammar, is firmly grounded in the Lutheran confessions and the centrality of the Gospel, and avoids copyright infringement by employing source material that is either his own copyright or is in the public domain.

I've started using the Gaba for my own prayer of the offices - and I'm impressed and pleased. While I do enjoy chanting, this prayer book only makes use of spoken prayer (the Brotherhood Prayer Book is an excellent resource for those wishing to maintain this kind of traditional prayer piety in a way that incorporates Gregorian chant). I find that praying the Psalms in Latin, and having to reflect more on their meaning, actually increases the meditative nature of praying the Psalter. As my eyes dart back and forth between English and Latin, I can't help but notice the depths of the literary devices and the inspired language used by the Psalmist. Praying in Latin is, in some ways, a "speedbump" that serves, rather than detracts from, the contemplation of the holy words.

I hope that the Gaba makes its way into general publication. I believe it is a project worthy of (and feasible for) the Society of St. Polycarp, and will be a great boon for traditionalist Lutheran Christians seeking a piety grounded in the rhythms of the ancient prayer offices and the richness of the traditional Latin texts.

Meanwhile, Brother Latif, please keep up the good work that you have been doing by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that Subdeacon Gaba return to the seminary and become part of the ministerium of the Church of the Augsburg Confession. For the Church not to make use of Latif's gifts would be a terrible example of poor stewardship that could only further the devil's work of either denying a parish a godly and gentlemanly pastor, or of depriving a seminary or university of a true churchman and scholar.

Dominus vobiscum!


Rev. Benjamin Mayes said...

When will we be able to purchase a copy of The Gaba? Also, I suppose Coverdale makes sense as a parallel to the Vulgate Psalter, seeing as Coverdale's text is closer to the Vulgate in many places than to the Hebrew.

Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Fr. Benjamin,
I praise God for the work I hear you are engaged in at CPH. I was going to stay quite away from this blog entry, out of embarrassment of Fr. Larry's kind words. But I would like to address your question, and maybe also your comment on Coverdale.

The prayerbook is extremely close to ready, and then I envision it being available this summer. My personal goal date will be the beheading of St. John.

What you say about Coverdale is true, and to be expected since Coverdale mainly based his translation on two texts, Jerome's Latin and Luther's German. But it is not the reason I chose it. I chose it because it is a truly classic English text, firmly established in the Church's use decades before KJ was published, and having never really fallen out of use. (To be clear, I refer here of course to his Psalms, not his whole Bible, for KJV for all practical purposes replaced all previous versions, with the exception of the Psalms.)

Maybe even more important than the fact that the Coverdale is closer to the Vulgate than to the Hebrew is the fact that it is closer to the LXX than to the Hebrew. That also is to be expected, since, of all of Jerome's Psalm translations, the truly classic one, in terms of the Church's preferred usage, and the one Coverdale employed, was the Gallican Psalter, based as it is on the Greek.

Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

To be clear, it would be good for us to keep in mind that there is no one thing that is called the Vulgate Psalter. St. Jerome published three Latin Psalters, two based on the Greek, and one on the Hebrew.

And beside these there have even been other Latin translations of the Psalms. The last century especially has seen a proliferation of new texts. Perhaps most worthy of mention is that in the so called Nova Vulgata, which became the text of the post-Vat.II Liturgy of the Hours.

Each of these versions has its strengths, and indeed imperfections. In the end my choice of text was made on the basis of several considerations, which at some point I will have to explicate.

Fraser Pearce said...

I use the Brotherhood Prayer Book, and I'm interested in this Gaba book. Who will be publishing it? That is: Where can I get it (live in Australia).

Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Mr. Pearce,
You ask about a publisher. I'm working on that. When that's all set, I'll do the best I can to get the word out. Thanks.

Thomas Pietsch said...

Looks great - you've got another waiting buyer from Australia!