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Japan bishops finalize Ave Maria text

July 5, 2011

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Recently, on the first day of their 2011 Ordinary Plenary Assembly, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan (CBCJ) formally endorsed a new, colloquial translation of the “Hail Mary” in colloquial Japanese. This new version replaces a previous colloquial version introduced in 1993. The new prayer’s formal Japanese name is Ave Maria no Inori, or “The Ave Maria Prayer.” A first draft of this translation underwent a nationwide trial period of provisional use from December 8, 2010, to March 25, 2011. During that time, 446 people contacted the CBCJ with their opinions. In response to some questions and concerns that formed part of this feedback, the CBCJ recently issued a guide to the revised prayer on its website. That document highlighted nine features of the translation and offered the rationale for the translations used in each. Here is the final text of the prayer in Japanese, with the official Latin and English texts provided in parallel for reference. Each numbered passage has accompanying notes summarizing the most important clarifications offered in their guide.
Latin Japanese English
? Ave Maria, ? gratia plena, ? Dominus tecum. ? Benedicta tu in mulieribus, ? et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora ? pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen. ? Ave, Maria, ? megumi ni michita kata, ? Shu wa anata to tomo ni oraremasu. ? Anata wa onna no uchi de shukufuku sare, ? go-tainai no on-ko Iesu mo shukufuku sarete imasu. Kami no haha Sei Maria, ? watashi-tachi tsumi-bito no tame ni, ima mo shi o mukaeru toki mo, o-inori kudasai. Amen. ? Hail Mary, ? full of grace, ? the Lord is with thee. ? Blessed art thou among women, ? and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray ? for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
? Ave, Maria The Latin prayer begins with the greeting, Ave Maria. Among Japanese translations of the Bible, this is translated using phrases such as omedeto (“Congratulations”) or yorokobinasai (“Be joyful”). However, there have long been objections that, in many situations when the Rosary is prayed, such as at a deathbed or during a vigil ceremony, it would be awkward to pray “congratulations” or “be of good cheer.” The phrase Ave Maria is already well-established in people’s minds, even outside the realm of Christianity, through the names of songs and the like. Therefore, the CBCJ opted to retain the opening words of the Latin original in the Japanese, as they had for the provisional translation. ? megumi ni michita kata The previous official colloquial translation from 1993 used the Japanese phrase megumi afureru, (“brimming over with grace”), but has been revised in this translation to use the verb michiru, (“to be full”), as a more faithful translation of the Latin. During the provisional phase, some felt that this would not capture the fact that Mary was filled with grace by God, but this phrase was ratified as-is out of consideration for ease of recitation and with the confidence that the possibility of misunderstanding is small. ? Shu wa anata to tomo ni oraremasu Some wondered whether the verb orareru, which is an honorific form of an alternate version of the standard Japanese verb iru, “to be,” was grammatical. However, the legitimacy of the form was confirmed with Japanese linguistic specialists and preserved in the prayer’s final text. ? Anata wa onna no uchi de shukufuku sare Until now, the official Japanese Hail Mary contained the passage, Shu wa anata o erabi, shukufuku shi (“The Lord chose you and blessed you”). It has been observed that the Latin phrase in mulieribus (“among women”) was not reflected in this rendition. The older translation also shifted the grammatical subject from Mary in the Latin to the Lord God in the Japanese. Finally, in the phrase Shu wa anata o erabi (“The Lord chose you”), the verb erabu (to choose) represents and addition not present in the Latin original. Some objections were raised to the use of onna instead of josei, which both mean “woman” but of which the latter is considered most appropriate in modern rules of Japanese usage. Nevertheless, the CBCJ decided to leave the original, onna, in the final translation. ? go-tainai no on-ko Iesu mo shukufuku sarete imasu The 1993 translation rendered the Latin fructus ventris tui (“fruit of your womb”) as simply anata no ko (“your child”). To capture the Latin ventris (“womb”) explicitly in the new translation, go-tainai no on-ko (“the child within your womb”) was selected instead. Some felt that the word tainai (“inside of the womb”) seemed like too much like medical technical terminology, but no adequate substitute could be found. It is true that a literal translation of fructus (“fruit”) would be either mi or kajitsu, but because this would be utterly foreign as an element of a Japanese prayer, the CBCJ adopted on-ko (“child”) instead. ? watashi-tachi tsumi-bito no tame ni The provisional translation retained the 1993 phrase tsumi-bukai watashi-tachi no tame ni (“for us, deeply sinful”). After some reconsideration about the difference between tsumi-bukai (“deeply sinful”) and tsumi-bito (“sinners”), the CBCJ revised the text to watashi-tachi tsumi-bito no tame ni (“for us sinners”) to be closer to the Latin pro nobis peccatoribus.
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