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US Bishops Approve Hymn Translations for Liturgy of the Hours

The Latin rite bishops of the United States voted overwhelmingly at their November 2019 meeting to approve the International Commission on English in the Liturgy gray book translation of the hymns of the Liturgy of the Hours.

The November 12 vote was 204 in favor, and five against.

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville tweeted that “the translation of the Latin hymnody in the editio typica of the Liturgy of the Hours is a tremendous contribution to the liturgical heritage. The theological insight and aesthetic of the Latin hymns will have an English voice into the future; a work of theological transmission.”

Before the vote, the Fall General Assembly was treated to a demonstration in which the hymn translations were sung for the bishops.

The choir, which was directed by [Adoremus contributor] Adam Bartlett of Denver, consisted of Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionaries who live in the Baltimore area, as well as music students from the Catholic University of America. The choir sang the opening verse of the hymns, and were then joined by the bishops.

Before ICEL did this translation, the vast majority of the hymns that were printed in the English edition of the Liturgy of the Hours were [not] translations of those found in the editio typica.

“What’s unique about this translation is that the hymns of the Latin typical edition are actually being translated, which didn’t happen the first time around,” said Bartlett.

“So we have hymns from St. Ambrose, Gregory the Great…, all of the great hymn writers…that are being translated and also paired with chant tunes that come from our rich tradition. In addition, of course, to modern melodies that they can be sung with,” he added.

He said these translations created “great utility” as they could be sung with different tunes.

Bartlett said he found the updated hymns to be “absolutely gorgeous” and “so rich with theological imagery.” He thinks that these hymns are going to “make a really remarkable contribution to the musical life of the Church.”

“These are our hymns as Catholics,” he said. “These are the ones that come from the liturgy itself, and are put in the place where they ought to be sung, which is the Liturgy of the Hours. But I think that’s probably going to have an impact on the hymns that we sing at Mass as well.”

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