Revised Grail Psalter
A Psalm Translation, 50+ Years in the Making
In the mid 1950s-a time when the movement toward liturgical reform that began in the early twentieth century had gained significant momentum-the Ladies of the Grail (England), a lay women's community, gathered a group of scholars to prepare a new translation of the psalms. Published in 1963, the Grail Psalms were adopted worldwide for the Liturgy of the Hours and approved for general liturgical use following the Second Vatican Council. The unique character of the Grail Psalms is that they incorporate the rhythm of the original Hebrew text and are singable to the psalmody of the late French Jesuit priest and composer Joseph Gelineau. The combination of this text and the Gelineau music came to be widely known as the "Gelineau Psalms."
In subsequent years, when inclusive language became a growing concern within the church, two revisions were undertaken and published in 1983 and 1993. Both revisions were submitted to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops requesting approval for liturgical use; neither received the two-thirds majority vote required for passage. It should be noted, however, that the later version was granted an imprimatur.
In the wake of the 2001 document Liturgiam authenticam, which called for more literal translations of the Scriptures and liturgical texts, all contemporary translations of the psalms came under criticism for their use of paraphrase. This criticism affected the Grail Psalms, original and revised; the psalms, both original and revised, from the New American Bible; and the ICEL Psalter, among others. Benedictine monk and priest, musician, and Old Testament professor Abbot Gregory J. Polan, OSB, of Conception Abbey in Missouri, responding to a request of the then-Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy and with an eye to its use for his own monastic community, undertook the work of preparing a third revision of the Grail Psalms. For this task, Abbot Gregory worked exclusively from the original Grail version and the Hebrew Massoretic and Greek Septuagint texts, with an eye to the Nova Vulgata. During the process, he conferred with the Grail, as well as Vatican and international sources, in order to create a version that would meet the requirements of Liturgiam authenticam and be suitable for English speakers throughout the world.
The final draft was submitted to the Bishops Committee on Divine Worship, which subsequently submitted it to a vote of the entire bishops conference. On November 11, 2008, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the Revised Grail Psalter for liturgical use by a vote of 203 to 5. In due course, the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments granted a recognitio of The Revised Grail Psalms, the imprimatur was given in accordance with the requirements of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and The Revised Grail Psalms have been available since.
Within a year of its publication, Christian leaders from groups beyond the Roman Catholic communion expressed appreciation for certain aspects of the texts of The Revised Grail Psalms, particularly the poetic quality of the text and the sprung rhythm, which facilitates recitation, chant, and musical settings of the texts. Among these leaders were an Episcopalian bishop, a bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the president of a Baptist seminary, and the academic dean of a Calvinist seminary. They further inquired if we might consider publishing another edition of The Revised Grail Psalms, focusing more directly on the original Hebrew while seeking a more inclusive final text of the sort preferred in the current worship of their respective communions.
The undersecretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments was consulted. He indicated that he considered the project a worthwhile endeavor, suggesting that it first be vetted by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops through their offices of Divine Worship and Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. These offices responded in the affirmative, stipulating that, while recognizing the value of the project as an ecumenical endeavor, it would be necessary to state clearly that The Ecumenical Grail Psalter is not approved for liturgical use in the Catholic Church when published resources for the Lectionary and for the Liturgy of the Hours are prescribed. In such cases The Revised Grail Psalms, as approved by both the USCCB and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, is a viable option. This does not preclude potential use of the EGP in hymns, choral compositions, etc., where paraphrasing and metrical adaptation are already commonplace.
The copyright on The Ecumenical Grail Psalter is held jointly by Conception Abbey and The Grail. The copyright holders are committed to making this text available on terms consistent with the licensing of liturgical texts. GIA Publications, Inc., is proud to serve as the worldwide agent and pledges to administer the rights in an efficient and impartial manner.
Visit giamusic.com/EGP for licensing details and other stipulations for reprinting the texts of The Ecumenical Grail Psalter.