Sunday, 28 March 2010


Strange word, Hosanna. The retired and erudite priest who lives in my parish commented this morning at the procession that it roughly equates to two words; 'come' and 'save us'. The days of my Hebrew studies are long past, but I was interested to read at Matins yesterday that St Augustine enquired of some Hebrew speakers of his own age, and they said that the word was (in his own time, anyway) simply untranslatable. Which is, presumably, why the liturgy does not translate it. It corresponds, Augustine said*, in a different context, to 'heu' or 'vah' (equally untranslatable). Perhaps in English we might better render it 'hooray' (which is not translatable, but might convey the sense) than 'come and deliver us'. But in the liturgy, I would not encourage 'hooray', would you?
Hosanna in excelsis! = Hip, hip, hooray!

No, definitely, no!

* Vox autem obsecrantibus est Hosanna, sicut nonulli dicunt, qui Hebræam linguam noverunt, magis affectum indicans, quam rem aliquam significans, sicut sunt in lingua Latina, quas interjectiones vocant: velut cum dolentes dicimus heu, vel cum delectamur, vah dicimus.

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