What Does the Prayer Really Say? The Roman Canon / 1st Eucharistic Prayer – 8: "Simili modo"
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2004
PART 1 of a 4 part article on the words of consecration of the Precious Blood, focusing on the pro multis issue.
We arrive at the second stage of the two-fold consecration. The priest consecrates the chalice containing wine with the drops of water. Massive controversies of momentous spiritual and theological import revolve around translation of this prayer. WDTPRS cannot possibly deal with all of issues. But explore and make conclusions and choices we must. Ad ramos!
LATIN TEXT (2002MR):
Simili modo, postquam cenatum est, accipiens et hunc praeclarum calicem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas, item tibi gratias agens benedixit, deditque discipulis suis, dicens: Accipite et bibite ex eo omnes: hic est enim calix Sanguinis mei novi et aeterni testamenti, [mysterium fidei] qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum. Hoc facite in meam commemorationem.
We will not spend too much time with a comprehensive overview of vocabulary. However, as we attempt to look through the Apostle’s "dark glass" (1 Cor 13:12) at the mystery that follows our lantern to dispel the darkness of ignorance, the Lewis & Short Dictionary informs us that testamentum (from testor) is "the publication of a last will or testament; a will, testament". It is therefore an instrument that bears witness to the intent of one regarding the other concerning inheritance, participation by others in his goods after his death. It is used here for the concept of "covenant". A covenant in Biblical terms was a sort of contract and establishing of a special relationship between parties. The covenants between God and His chosen People were not by any means between equal parties. God initiated them, on His terms, to which He was and is absolutely faithful. This is the new covenant (testamentum ‚ Gr. diatheke), replacing and by far outstripping the old by which God draws heaven and earth into a new and deeper binding relationship forever. It is eternal (aeternum) and it is signed, sealed, and guaranteed before witnesses with the Blood of the God made man in an indestructible bond with our humanity. It is a matter of pure undeserved gift from Him to us to make a covenant with us. Effundo (ex fundo) signifies "pour out, pour forth" in a lavish or extensive way.
The ancient Roman form of the prayer had merely the terse Hic est sanguis meus to which was added the word calix from the Lucan and Pauline accounts. The idea of covenant from Matthew and Mark was blended in together with other elements.
The words mysterium fidei were pronounced in the midst of the formula since at least the 7th c., but were removed for the Novus Ordo. They refer to the chalice specifically and seem merely to point out very explicitly what has been said before. Some suggest that once the deacon would exclaim these words so that the people could know what was going on behind the curtains which were drawn before the altar. History shrouds exactly how they got inserted. However, to be sure, the word mysterium is of profound importance. We cannot linger over this, however, for we are constrained by space and must stick to the Novus Ordo.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
When supper was ended, he took the cup. Again he gave you thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples, and said: 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.
We are trying to be precise and accurate, true to what the Latin says and also, God helping, to the Church’s understanding of what this text of Holy Mass is intended to accomplish. This means that we must now justify the choice‚ – how odd that sounds! – to translate pro multis as "for many" rather than what ICEL and other modern language version have, "for all". First, let it be said that pro multis in Latin means "for many". All the Latin rites, historical or modern, have pro multis and not pro omnibus or pro universis. Those who choose "for all" have theological reasons for their choice. We must examine this issue and the arguments on both sides with great care and respect. We cannot simply reject "for all" out of hand. We must understand the reasons for that choice. Before moving on we will have to deal with the pro multis question at length, which will involve some nitpicking and patience.
What has the liturgy of the Mass actually had in the past? We get “pro vobis et pro multis … for you and for many” in the formula of consecration from a blending of the accounts in Mark 14:24 (translated from Greek: “this is my blood of the covenant (diatheke) shed for many (tò peri pollôn)”) and Matthew 26:28 also says “for many” together with Luke 22:20 (translated from Greek: “Likewise also the cup, after the supper, saying ‘This cup is the new covenant (diatheke) in my Blood which will be poured out for you.’” The choice to do this had theological significance. Our patristic sources, such as the writings of the 4th c Doctor of the Church St. Ambrose of Milan when describing the words of consecration in the Eucharistic liturgy, have pro multis and not pro omnibus, etc. The liturgical formulas were from Scripture. The 4th c. Doctor of the Church St. Jerome, who translated from Greek and Hebrew texts into Latin giving us a Bible translation called the Vulgata, chose to use pro multis when translating the Greek tò peri pollôn (genitive plural of polus) in describing Jesus’ words at the Last Supper. In Greek polus means “many” or “much” or even “most” as in the majority: it does not mean “all”. In the ancient Church, no one said “for all” instead of “for many”. In the Greek Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, Jesus uses a form polus “many”. The liturgical rites of the East retained a form of polus. The rites of the Latin West have ever used pro multis.
Theological challenge, especially heresy, forces us to reevaluate our doctrines and their formulations. Theological revolt and heresy constrains Catholics to go deeper, and the disputes bear great fruits in the long run. During the 16th c. the Church was compelled to battle the Protestant heresies concerning the Eucharist, grace, and justification, the nature of man, etc. The long process of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) deepened our understanding of the faith and gave clear expression to what we believe. We find the Church’s teaching enunciated succinctly by the Roman Catechism or Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566), the practical guide for pastors of souls. This Catechism says about the pro multis topic:
But the words which are added for you and for many (pro vobis et pro multis), were taken some of them from Matthew (26: 28) and some from Luke (22: 20) which however Holy Church, instructed by the Spirit of God, joined together. They serve to make clear the fruit and the benefit of the Passion. For if we examine its value (virtutem), it will have to be admitted that Blood was poured out by the Savior for the salvation of all (pro omnium salute sanguinem a Salvatore effusum esse); but if we ponder the fruit which men (homines) will obtain from it, we easily understand that its benefit comes not to all, but only to many (non ad omnes, sed ad multos tantum eam utilitatem pervenisse). Therefore when He said pro vobis, He meant either those who were present, or those chosen (delectos) from the people of the Jews such as the disciples were, Judas excepted, with whom He was then speaking. But when He added pro multis He wanted that there be understood the rest of those chosen (electos) from the Jews or from the gentiles. Rightly therefore did it happen that for all (pro universis) were not said, since at this point the discourse was only about the fruits of the Passion which bears the fruit of salvation only for the elect (delectis). And this is what the words of the Apostle aim at: Christ was offered up once in order to remove the sins of many (ad multorum exhaurienda peccata Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Heb 9:28); and what according to John the Lord says: I pray for them; I do not pray for the world, but for those whom you gave to Me, for they are Yours (John 17:9). Many other mysteries (plurima mysteria) lie hidden in the words of this consecration, which pastors, God helping, will easily come to comprehend for themselves by constant meditation upon divine things and by diligent study. (My translation and emphasis. Part II, ch. 4 (264.7-265.14) from the Catechismus Romanus seu Catechsimus ex decreto Concilii Tridentini ad parochos …. Editio critica. Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1989, p. 250. Cf. The Catechism of the Council of Trent. Trans. John A. McHugh & Charles J. Callan. Joseph F. Wagner, Inc.: New York, 1934, pp. 227-28.)
Naturally those working towards a new English translation must cope with all of this. And God help them! I hear that at this point they are leaning (again) toward "for all". Rumor aside, what is the status quaestionis … the "state of the question"? What current evidence can we find for what is happening around this thorny problem?
It seems years ago, but in WDTPRS for the Post communionem for the 4th Sunday of Easter (8 May 2003), I already addressed at length the problematic translation, and indeed Latin text, of the Holy Father’s latest Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (EdE). When the Pope referred to the words of institution, he used “for all” rather than “for many.” I went through all the Scripture and showed also that, probably in their haste, the people in charge of the release of the letter made mistakes in the Biblical citations (“Mt 14:24” should have been either Matthew 26:28 or Mark 14:24). Even the Latin version of the Encyclical, at the time of its first release said: “qui pro vobis funditur et pro omnibus in remissionem peccatorum” which changed the words of Scripture and thus the Mass formula. Mind you, the citation was clearly a paraphrase of the account and not a direct quote: it was cited with a confer (“cf.” or “cfr”) reference, so they have an out. However, that was in fact, in black on white, the text at the time of the public release of Ecclesia de Eucharistia.
But wait, there’s more.
The certified text of any papal document is always promulgated in the official monthly publication of the Holy See called Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS). Very often, after big documents come out with a great bang and splash, some months later the real text is issued, and it is different – and no one knows it because no one reads the Latin anymore. When you look now at the official AAS text of the EdE 2 wherein the Pope supposedly changed pro multis to pro omnibus we find that a correction has been made (cf. AAS 95 – 7 July 2003 – p. 434). Someone, God bless him, put the smack down on pro omnibus in EdE 2. A Polish colleague of mine verifies that on the Vatican’s website, the Polish version says “za wielu…for many” in the controverted spot. Draw your conclusions as you will, someone, if not the Pope himself, had the clout to get this changed. That is the status quaestionis.
The Church’s teaching is clear. This is our Catholic faith: Christ died for all but not all will be saved. Many will be saved. Many can be a huge number, a multitude so vast it defies human imagining but not God’s ability to number. Lacking even one, not all are saved. What does this mean? Why did ICEL chose “for all” in the translation we have been using? How is WDTPRS going to translate pro multis? Come back next week to find out!