Monday, November 28, 2011

3rd Edition of the Roman Missal

Dear Folks Who Are Griping About the New Translation:

It's not a very good argument (or a very good reflection on your logic and intelligence) to gripe for paragraphs about how much you hate the new translation and then at the end of it all to say, "Well, it's all just semantics.  Words aren't important."  If words aren't important to you, then you have no reason to argue.  Either words are important to you, in which case you need to come up with a reason why the old translation is better than the new one (good luck with that), or else words aren't important to you, and you shouldn't care one way or the other.

I think the words ARE important.  Very important.  The reason being that words are signs of the undergoings of the soul, to put it in somewhat Aristotelian language.  That is to say, we use words to communicate to other people what we are thinking and what we wish to convey.  If the words we use are inaccurate, the thought conveyed will be inaccurate.  In the case of highly complex but nonetheless extremely important doctrines of Christianity (the Trinity and the Incarnation are two good examples), the Church has striven for centuries to find the most accurate words possible in order to avoid giving rise to heresies.  For instance, the Nicene Creed which we say at Mass has been revised so that rather than saying that Jesus is "one in Being with the Father" we say that He is "consubstantial with the Father".  This is an extremely important distinction.  In Aristotle's "Categories" he lays out 10 "modes" of being - substance (I am human), quantity (I am one in number), quality (my skin is white), relation (I am my father's daughter), place (I am in Wyoming), time (it is 2:30 p.m.), position (I am sitting), acting (I am baking cookies), being acted upon (I am being pulled on a sled), and being shod (the determination arising from the physical accoutrements of an object, e.g. I have socks on).  The old translation does not specify in which mode of being Jesus is one with the Father.  For all we know from that translation, Jesus and the Father could be one in being because they are both sitting down.  And if that's all we know, how is that different from me and my dog being one in being because we are both sitting down?

The new translation is extremely superior in that it specifies in which mode of being Jesus and the Father are one - substance, or the what-it-is of something; its nature.  "Consubstantial" basically means "of one substance with".  This clears up the disastrous ambiguity of the previous translation.  Now we know that Jesus and the Father have the same substance predicated of them - deity.  They are both divine.  In response to the question "What are you?" both the Father and Jesus would answer "God".  The previous translation was not precise enough to convey this important truth, and therefore left the door open to the heresy of Arianism, i.e. that Jesus is not God.

This is just one example among many of the superiority of the new translation of the Mass, and of the fact that words, actually, do matter quite a lot.

Another example is a change which can be found in the words for the consecration of the wine.  The old translation said that Jesus' blood would be shed "for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven."  The new translation says His blood will be poured out "for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins."  First of all, I'd like to include the original Latin text for this line.  It goes as follows: "pro vobis et pro multis effundeter, in remissionem peccatorum."  The most literal translation of this line would be, "it will be poured out for you and for many, unto the forgiveness of sins."  And here is where another very important truth is conveyed.  Although we believe that Jesus died for all men and that His sacrifice and the shedding of His blood made salvation available to all men, we do not believe that all men will take advantage of this.  Not all men will repent, have their sins forgiven, and enter into heaven.  Some will reject God and end up in hell.  The original Latin makes this abundantly clear: Jesus' blood will be shed for the apostles unto the forgiveness of their sins, in other words His sacrifice will have the desired effect in them of the forgiveness of their sins; and also unto the forgiveness of the sins of many.  However, since many other men will not accept God's grace and will therefore not have their sins forgiven, Jesus' blood will not be shed unto their forgiveness, in other words His sacrifice will not effect the forgiveness of their sins since they did not repent.  The old translation does not convey this truth at all.  At best it conveys the fact that Jesus' blood made salvation available to all men; at worst it conveys the false idea that all men will have their sins forgiven and go to heaven.  The new translation, however, by going back to the word 'many' and by saying that Jesus' blood will be poured out for many FOR the forgiveness of sins, does a much better job of conveying the truth that many will receive the effects of Jesus' sacrifice, but that not all will receive those effects.

So there are two examples of how the wrong words can cover up truth or even promote heresy.  Of course in this day and age when truth is unpopular and matters little compared with how you feel when you go to Mass (and you had better feel good about yourself and everyone else), it's not surprising that some folks are fighting claw, tooth and nail against some of those pesky, uncomfortable truths that the new translation is bringing clearly back into the light.


Blogger Jean de B. said...

Wonderfully laid out argument. It warmed my heart the other day when John was wearing around a TAC teeshirt. I'm quite sure he was be attending there one day.

5:45 PM  
Blogger Jean de B. said...

As the mother in the "Incredibles" says proudly at the end of the movie when the daughter protects them all from a blast with her force-field shield, "That's my girl!" You said it perfectly.

11:12 AM  

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