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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rest of Part 8. Revised Roman Missal: The Liturgy of the Eucharist

HandyGramps Explains (the rest of part 8)...

Now let us take a look at a few of the changes that are for the priest. Although those revisions will not be for us, seeing them will help us better understand what is happening in this central, most important part of the Mass: the Consecration. And, of course, we will also look at those revisions that do affect what we say. It is important to understand that, even though it is the priest actually saying those words, for the most part what he says is our prayer as well. There is, however, a moment when he gently slips away from our prayer and enters into the timeless moment that memorializes the words and actions of Christ at the Last Supper in…

The Institution Narrative is that moment in the Mass when the priest (only) speaks the words of Consecration that Our Lord spoke at table with His disciples. The translation does not match exactly what you read in the Gospels, simply because it cannot. The words of institution appear only in the Gospels of Matthew (26:26-30), Mark (14:22-26), and Luke (22:14-23), and in 1 Corinthians (11:23-25), and the words in Greek are different enough each time that they cannot be translated word-for-word. Because we cannot know precisely what words Jesus said, we have tried to capture their essence in such a way as to allow a deeper understanding of what happens during the Consecration.

[The revised words are shown in bold type.]

Former Translation
Take this, all of you, and eat it:
this is my Body which will be given
up for you

Revised Translation
Take this, all of you, and eat of it,
for this is my Body,
which will be given up for you.

It’s amazing how the addition of two simple words – “of” and “for” – can so profoundly alter the meaning of the words. To say “eat it” could easily imply that one is to consume the bread in its entirety, whereas “eat of it” suggests that one is to consume only a part of it. Think about that in terms of what you know about the Eucharist: we share in consuming the Body of Christ. This will become even more evident when you come forward to receive Communion (more on that later). The word “for” adds another dimension to the words, in that it tells us WHY we are consuming the Body of Christ (see the more detailed, Scriptural explanation in John 6:48-58).

Former Translation
Take this, all of you, and drink from it:
this is the cup of my Blood,
the Blood of the new and everlasting covenant
It will be shed for you and for all
so that sins may be forgiven.

Do this in memory of me.

Revised Translation
Take this, all of you, and drink from it,
for 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.

Do this in memory of me.

Once again, “for” gives us the WHY of it. The change from “cup” to “chalice” echoes what we learned earlier about an increased, ceremonial elegance in the language of the Mass, reflecting as well our regular use of that term for the vessel itself. Modern usage of the word “everlasting” likely encouraged the change to “eternal” in that today, we often use “everlasting” to define, say, the life of a battery – and we all know that in reality batteries have a finite life span. We understand time to be finite – that is, time will end at some point in the future. Not so the covenant, which extends beyond and outside of time.

The change from “shed” to “poured out” presents to us another of those deep meanings designed to encourage us to think beyond the obvious. By His wounds, Christ was naturally bound to bleed, a normal consequence of the tortures He endured. To say, however, that He “poured out” His Blood defines an act of the will – His will. Jesus CHOSE to shed His Blood for us. It didn’t merely happen as a result of the wounds. Any one of us can shed our blood. Only Christ can pour out His Blood and have a unique and unfathomable consequence: the salvation of humankind!

One of the more curious changes is from “all” to “many”. This is one of those instances in which a direct translation from the Latin is employed. But, what prompted The Vatican to choose multis (many) over omnes (all) in the first place? Isn’t salvation offered to all? In the accounts of the Last Supper in both Matthew and Mark, Jesus, Himself, uses “many”. Also, “many” is used in Matthew 20:28, reflecting the fourth Servant Song in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. In a way, it identifies the role of Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament by making a direct connection with the terminology used in the Old Testament. Beyond this, the explanation gets a bit heavy; so suffice it to say that God is not omitting anyone from salvation. It is simply a matter of language used in those days that does not equate to language we use today (exemplifying the difficulty of translating from one tongue into another).

The Acclamation of Faith (formerly the “Memorial Acclamation”)

Immediately following the Consecration, with the words “The Mystery of Faith”, the priest invites the people to shout with joy! Yes, you read correctly. We are called to make an “acclamation” regarding what just happened. The previous translation, “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith”, called for a proclamation, not an acclamation. So, what is the difference? The Random House Dictionary makes it very clear. It tells us, proclaim: “to announce or declare in an official or formal manner.” That hardly fits what we just experienced. But, acclaim: “to salute with shouts or sounds of joy” far better expresses the attitude of a people who realize that they have just been offered salvation – eternal life. Note that our four responses have been reduced to three. “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” has been removed.

[Again, the revised words are in bold type.]

Former Translation
Dying you destroyed our death,
rising you restored our life.
Lord Jesus, come in glory.

Revised Translation
We proclaim your death, O Lord,
and profess your Resurrection
until you come again.

Former Translation
When we eat this bread and drink this cup,
we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus,
until you come in glory.

Revised Translation
When we eat this bread and drink this cup,
we proclaim your death, O Lord,
until you come again.

Former Translation
, by your cross and resurrection
you have set us free.
You are the Savior of the world.

Revised Translation
Save us, Savior of the world
for by your Cross and Resurrection,
you have set us free.

(Hmm… You probably noticed it, too – “proclaim your death” in the first two acclamations. What seems like a contradiction is really not when you look at it closely. What we do is, indeed, an acclamation, a shout of joy addressed to Christ for what He has done. It is WHAT we shout, the words we use, that is the proclamation. The shout, itself, is a true acclamation.)

So, why did we lose the most familiar one, “Christ has died…”? Simple. We have just experienced the ongoing moment of salvation: the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. That moment touches our lives in such a profound way that we cry out to Christ with every ounce of joy we can muster. We shout our joy directly to Christ. In “Christ has died…” we simply stated some facts about Jesus. Joy is the order of the day, so we let Our Lord know how we feel.

The Doxology, said only by the priest, will change from “Through Him, with Him, and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever” to “Through Him, and with Him, and in Him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, for ever and ever.” The rearrangement of words, plus the additional words in bold type, more closely matches the Latin.

The Great Amen, our response to the Doxology, is so-called because it is our enthusiastic response to the most profound, most wonder-filled prayer we say: the Eucharistic Prayer. In his booklet, Understanding the Revised Mass Texts, Fr. Paul Turner tells about a child who was asked to define “Amen”. After a bit of thinking, the child said, “It’s like hitting ‘Send’” on e-mail. “Indeed,” Fr. Turner says. “We send our entire message all at once through the angelic Web server to the in-box of the One who rules over all.” (Don’t you just love how the electronic age has affected our ways of thinking, even at the level of a child?)