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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Welcoming the New Translation part 3

Welcoming the New Translation (Part Three)

The past couple of weeks, we have been looking at the new translation of the Roman Missal and how we can take advantage of it as an opportunity to deepen our experience of the Holy Mass.  Again, I have been drawing on my own reflections (intended to be in line with the heart of the bishops) and the work of Dr. Edward Sri, whose book is listed on the sidebar of this blog.

          I now get to the Sanctus in the Mass.  Here, we have changed from calling God, “Lord, God of power and might,” to, “Lord, God of hosts.”  What does it mean?  In this context, “hosts” refers to angels, armies of angels.  The translation brings out a couple of important realities.  First, if we look in the fourth chapter of the Book of Revelation we find the angels in Heaven repeating a version of the Sanctus.  When we say the words, “Lord, God of hosts,” it can remind us that when we participate at Mass, we are joining Heavenly worship.  The angels are present, and we are taking one step out of time and into eternity.

          Also, it seems to me that “power and might” can be a little ambiguous.  For example, at the height of his power Adolph Hitler, by worldly standards, could have been said to have had power and might, but he certainly never commanded the angels.

          When we reach the Eucharistic prayer we find a number of changes, most of them subtle, but a couple of which I would like to highlight.  First of all, we no longer speak of the cup, but rather the chalice.  Why would I bring this up?  I think even though the change is small it is important.  I can put my coffee in a cup, but a chalice is for something special.  The chalice at Mass holds the very Blood of Jesus.  The very minor change in language might perk up our ears and help us remember that we are not receiving a common drink but rather, as St. Ignatius of Antioch said, “His Blood, which is Love incorruptible.”

          During the consecration we come across perhaps the most controversial change in language.  The priest now says, “This is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  This is contrasted with the old translation, which said, “for you and for all.”

          Many have been vocally upset by this change because they think it excludes some people from the love of Christ or puts limits on the power of His Sacrifice.  Catholic teaching is very clear that God wants all men to be saved and the salvific power of the Cross knows no bounds.  The Grace of salvation is available to all people, but as with any gift we are given, we can choose to say “yes,” and accept it, or to say “no,” or in this case, perhaps, “hell, no.”  Cardinal Arinze makes the point that we can recognize in this language the reality that though all are offered salvation, not all accept it. 

          There is another point about the term “for many” that Dr. Sri brings to light.  The phrase doesn’t only echo Jesus’s own words at the Last Supper, it actually goes back to the prophet Isaiah, who said that the Messiah would come not only for the Jews but for “the many,” the many nations on earth.  This is, I think, also an appropriate way to look at the term.  Jesus’s Blood was poured out for the many.  Though the Savior came from the Jewish people, He came to save the many nations, Jew and Gentile alike.

Finally we get to the Ecce Agnus Dei.  The priest begins, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.  Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.”  What is the Supper of the Lamb?  If we turn again to the Book of Revelation, we find the answer.  It is a wedding feast.  The Mass is not only a sacrifice, it is a wedding feast, and the two are connected.  Jesus from the Cross cries out, “It is consummated.”  And He gives His Body over to His Bride, the Church.  As St. Paul says in the fifth chapter of his letter to the Ephesians, “the two shall become one flesh.  This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church.”  At Mass we, the Bride of Christ, become one flesh with the Divine Bridegroom in the Eucharist.  The priest’s reference to “the Supper of the Lamb” highlights the spousal imagery.

Our response also has that flavor, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof…”  It also quotes the words of the Roman centurian in the Gospel who asked Jesus to heal his servant with only a word.  We go on to say, “but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  This also emphasizes the fact that we have to be spiritually prepared to receive the holy Eucharist.

As we become more and more familiar with the new translation I pray that it will not become rote for us, but rather that the imagery, theology and Scripture will penetrate us so that we can fall more and more in love with Jesus at each Holy Mass.