What Does The Prayer Really Say? 4th Sunday In Ordinary Time
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2007
I had a lovely experience. I went for supper with a priest and 13 sisters visiting Rome. The Sister Servants of the Eternal Word told me they pray every day in their community for accurate translations of the liturgy. We owe them a debt of gratitude.
You will remember last week’s report about the meeting of liturgists in Toronto where His Excellency Donald W. Trautman, chair of the USCCB’s Committee on the Liturgy (BCL), lamented in his keynote speech that the new translations being prepared will be too hard for people to understand and that everyone should raise their prophetic voices in protest. Bishop Trautman says that if the priest says Christ died “for you and for many” (pro vobis et pro multis) during the consecration of the Precious Blood, people will become confused and maybe even LEAVE THE CHURCH! In his words, “the new texts will contribute to a greater number of departures from the Catholic Church.” This is because the new translations are going to be reeeeally harrrrrd. He thinks priests are not capable of explaining what really hard things mean.
As His Excellency put it during an interview last June with John L. Allen Jr. of the lefty National Catholic Reporter, “I don’t think we’ll convince people that ‘consubstantial,’ for example, is better than ‘one in being,’ which has been used for 35 years. People say that England has been using it for all these years, but I think our priests are stretched too thin already.” Translating this, American priests just aren’t up to the task. They have neither the time nor ability to explain hard words, like “consubstantial.” Apparently we should get some English priests to cross the pond to shed some light on the language for the backward Americans.
I checked with a few English priests about what they say in the Creed. On their scepter’d isle they proclaim Christ to be “of one being with the Father,” not “consubstantial.” Anyhow, Brits know English. But if they can’t come, we can take a page from the troops in Iraq and write to the chair of the BCL: Pleeze help us biship troutman! We need eezee tra…transz…tranzayshins…tr…eezeur wurdz!
Folks, “one in being with the Father” isn’t merely theologically wrong; it’s boring. Everything that exists is “one in being” with the Father, since they are all in being. An ashtray is one in being with the Father: They both have being, granted in different ways, but both have being. Only a divine Person can be of one “substance with” the Father (“con-substantial”). The Second Person was of one substance with the First Person, the Father, from all eternity. After the Annunciation and Incarnation the Son has been of one substance also with His Mother, and therefore with all humanity. So, “one in being” is easy and wrong. Worse yet, it’s boring, provoking nothing interesting in the mind. It will not fire up a person’s passion to learn more about what it might possibly mean in its strangeness. One English priest told me how when he was a child the word “consubstantial” in a hymn fascinated him. In the hymn Christ Was Made the Sure Foundation we sing:
Laud and honor to the Father,
laud and honor to the Son,
laud and honor to the Spirit,
ever Three, and ever One,
while unending ages run.
Child abuse! How on earth did people, a child, sing that hymn?
“Laud…consubstantial…coeternal….” Look at the hard words! Is it possible that precisely because they sang hymns like that, with engaging lyrics, and followed Holy Mass in their hand missals, by slavish but accurate translations, they came to understand words like “consubstantial” and phrases like “for you and for many” quite well?
The Holy See got it right with the proper translation of pro multis (after over 30 years). I think we will see a proper translation of consubstantialis Patri in the Creed. In the meantime, we must raise our voices in support of accurate translations and the norms expressed in Liturgiam authenticam (LA). I like in particular this paragraph:
53. Whenever a particular Latin term has a rich meaning that is difficult to render into a modern language (such as the words munus, famulus, consubstantialis, propitius, etc.) various solutions may be employed in the translations, whether the term be translated by a single vernacular word or by several, or by the coining of a new word, or perhaps by the adaptation or transcription of the same term into a language or alphabet that is different from the original text (cf. above, n. 21), or the use of an already existing word which may bear various meanings.
Nota bene: LA 53 speaks not only of munus but also of consubstantialis. During the USCCB meeting in June 2006, His Excellency Bishop Trautman tried to argue from LA 53 that “one in being with the Father” ought to be retained in the new translation. I read LA 53 to mean that whatever solution is chosen to render difficult terms into English, the solution should aim at something accurate rather than something merely convenient, even if that means choosing a Latin cognate (read: hard word). LA 21 says (my emphasis):
Especially in the translations intended for peoples recently brought to the Christian Faith, fidelity and exactness with respect to the original texts may themselves sometimes require that words already in current usage be employed in new ways, that new words or expressions be coined, that terms in the original text be transliterated or adapted to the pronunciation of the vernacular language,…
That sounds like “consubstantial” to me. Or am I wrong?
Post Communionem (2002 Missale Romanum):
Redemptionis nostrae munere vegetati, quaesumus, Domine,
ut hoc perpetuae salutis auxilio
fides semper vera proficiat.
This was the Postcommunio for “Sabbato in albis,” the Saturday during the Octave of Easter. It is also in the ancient Veronese Sacramentary in the month of July, though slightly different:…fides semper vera perficiat. Here we read perficio rather than proficio. The pre-Conciliar Missale Romanum has proficio, just like the Novus Ordo.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
you invigorate us with this help to our salvation.
By this eucharist give the true faith continued growth
throughout the world.
Lewis & Short, great resource that it is, tells us the late-Latin verb vegeto means “to arouse, enliven, quicken, animate, invigorate.” Albert Blaise produced a very useful work revised by Antoine Dumas, OSB, called Le vocabulaire latin des principaux thèmes liturgiques….The Latin Vocabulary of the Principal Themes of the Liturgy. This is what we call Blaise/Dumas in these articles. Blaise/Dumas examines vegeto, giving it the meaning “fortify” or “strengthen” when it is associated with the Eucharist. It provides examples of liturgical texts having also forms of munus and the verb auxilior. This is similar to today’s prayer.
Proficio has a range of meanings. Basically, it is “to go forward, advance, gain ground, make progress.” In different contexts it is also, “to grow, increase” and “to be useful, serviceable, advantageous, etc., to effect, accomplish; to help, tend, contribute, conduce.” Think of the English “proficient.” We could say in our prayer “that the true faith may always grow,” which would be in keeping with the imagery invoked in vegetati (“quickened, enlivened, strengthened”) or perhaps we might say “that the true faith may always advance,” which would hark to how we are pilgrims in this world. Perhaps “gain ground” captures both. I am reminded of how my (vegetative) oregano and thyme plants “gain ground” over their neighbors. They creep and spread and take more and more surface as they grow.
We frequently see munus in our Latin prayers. There is the munus which refers to the “duty” or “office,” and also the munus which is “gift.” In liturgical language it is often God’s gift of the Eucharist received. Munus was singled out in Liturgiam authenticam, as we saw above.
Having been quickened by the gift of our redemption,
we beseech You, O Lord, that true faith may always gain ground
by means of this support for eternal salvation.
We have in this prayer two closely related words, redemptio (redemption) and salus (salvation). God created man in a state of original justice. By the sin of our first parents, the entire human race fell into enslavement to the Enemy of the soul, the Devil. By His Sacrifice on the Cross, Christ, both Priest and Victim, took our place and bought us back. His Sacrifice satisfied the justice due to God for our sins. The Redeemer won back for us the friendship of God. The concept of redemption, therefore, includes both our initial fall and then the price Christ paid to restore us.
Salvation goes somewhat beyond redemption. Salvation is the freeing of the soul from sin and, in consequences, the attaining of Heaven as our proper end. For our salvation we must cooperate with God and depend on His love and the mercy. God will give light and graces sufficient for every soul, but the ordinary path to our salvation is through membership in the Church Christ founded, the Catholic Church.
Formal membership in the Catholic Church gives us so much more help for our salvation (salutis auxilium) than we would otherwise have in this perilous world, for now so much the dominion of the Enemy. Of such value is our visible membership in the Church that She teaches “extra Ecclesiam nulla salus…outside the Church there is no salvation.” Properly understood, this means that all whom God saves are saved through His Church. He who recognizes what (Who) the Church is, but refuses to become a member, chooses the path to perdition. Someone who, through no fault of his own, does not belong to the Church will not be damned to eternal Hell on account of his ignorance, unless his ignorance is willed and culpable. Those who are ignorant of the true Faith, as Blessed Pius IX taught (Allocutio of December 9, 1854), will not be held guilty in the eyes of God provided their ignorance is invincible (oops, hard word: can’t be won over by correct information, good arguments, examples of charity, etc.).
The Eucharist is for our redemption and for our salvation. It is simultaneously our freedom and our hope. It is the source and the summit of our entire Christian identity. And yet many receive the Eucharist improperly. Many do not receive because they are not in unity with the Catholic Church. What shall we do about this?
Our prayer today asks that vera fides, true Faith, advance by the Eucharist. It advances within us by our good reception of Communion. Nourished and strengthened with the Eucharist, we then go directly out of Mass to live our vocations in the world. The Eucharist then advances the true Faith not only within us, but also in the world we influence by and for true Faith.
St. Augustine of Hippo (+430) regularly attaches the adjective vera to terms like iustitia (justice), pietas (devotion), and of course fides so as to differentiate what Christians have and do from the ways of the world. Our faith must be true Faith, rooted in the Eucharist, shaped by the Church, manifested in action.
Strengthened by the gift of our redemption, O Lord,
we entreat You that, by this assistance for our eternal salvation,
the true faith may always flourish.