A review: chalices and dew

Why have I posted entries about "dew" in the writings of the Fathers of the Church?

There are many disputed points in the new draft translation the USCCB has now approved and is sending (with suggested adaptations and emendations) back to Rome for review and, if deemed opportune, a recognitio (old ICEL was of saying "okeydokey").  While I think the most important issue is how to render pro multis ("for many, for the many, for the multitude") the choice of "dew" in the draft, rejected by the bishops, merits attention. 

Brief review.

Bishop Donald W. Trautman was elected to the chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Liturgy (BCL) after a floor nomination by Bishop John Kinney of St. Cloud.  He had been once before chair of the BCL.  He had been a long-standing proponent of "dynamic equivalence" and "inclusive language".  His election following the floor nomination was considered by many watchers as a declaration on war on the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) and on the norms for translation promulgated in Liturgiam authenticam (LA).  Bishop Trautman was an outspoken critic of LA.

After his election to the chair of the BCL, Bishop Trautman argued in various fora against the norms in LA and suggested resisting them.  His position has essentially two prongs.  First, people should directly understand what the texts mean.  Second, the texts should be in language commonly spoken.  This partially explains why His Excellency was set against the norms of LA which specifically state that liturgical language whould not be to similar to everyday speech and should adhere as strictly as possible to the original Latin texts. 

This review brings into focus the comments made by His Excellency after the vote just taken in Los Angeles. 


Bishop Trautman told the National Catholic Register that he and about half of the nation’s bishops believe the proposed text contains too many complicated words, as well as sentences and phrases that are too long. The words “precious chalice,” for example, replace the word “cup” during the consecration prayers.

“To me, ‘precious chalice’ says something gold with diamonds all around it,” Bishop Trautman said. “Jesus used a drinking cup at the last supper, not a precious chalice.”

Bishop Trautman said he’s so concerned about ICEL’s new text that he would like to see “substantial changes” through amendments that will be proposed by his committee and individual bishops in Los Angeles.

“I stand in favor of many amendments,” Bishop Trautman said. “I want as many amendments as possible in order to make this translation proclaimable and understandable. We’re not talking about hundreds of amendments, but we’re talking about a substantial amount to improve the texts to make them conform to the wishes of Vatican II.”

Hold on there!  I just occured to me that it was a command, not a "wish" of Vatican II that Latin should be retained as the language of Holy Mass and that the vernacular might be used occasionally.  It was a command, not a "wish" of Vatican II that no changes be made unless for the true good of the Catholic people.  It was a command, not a "wish" of Vatican II that… well… you get the idea. 

More from His Excellency Bishop Trautman. 

Bishop Trautman argued that “a higher document” than Liturgiam Authenticam, namely, Vatican II’s Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy, says to simplify the Mass. He cited Paragraph 21, which states: “In this reform, both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things they signify; the Christian people, so far as possible, should be enabled to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community.”

Hmmm…  Didn’t Vatican II reaffirm the authority of the Roman Pontiff?  The Roman Pontiff has extended his own authority to the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments.  In other words, the Congregation acts with the Holy Father’s will.  That Congregation issued norms for translation, also according to the explicit will of the Roman Pontiff.  The norms are binding.  Vatican II affirms the authority of the Pope do do these things.  Right?  Morever, we are back to our old friend "active participation".  I have spilled a lot of electrons on this topic already.  Suffice to say that I decline to agree with His Excellency about the meaning of "active participation".  I believe the Church’s liturgical documents on matter also disagree.  But I digress….

I am not the only one who hesitates to get on board with His Excellency’s vision, however:


Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver said he agrees that Vatican II trumps any document that derives from it. “But I would also say the Holy See has a much clearer perspective on how to interpret Vatican II than any individual bishop or any bishops’ conference,” he said in an interview. “We shouldn’t confuse our own reading of the council with its accurate interpretation. That work belongs to the Holy See.”


Now we get to the "dew" controversy.  I quote from the article:

Among the texts Bishop Trautman hopes to amend is the commission’s proposed rephrasing of “let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ,” in Eucharistic Prayer II. The commission wants the text to read: ‘therefore make holy these gifts, we pray, by the dew of your Spirit.”

“It’s a literal translation, and it doesn’t mean anything to Americans,” Bishop Trautman said.
“The ‘dew’ of your Spirit — what does that mean?”

This is clearly a burning question.  This blog has already posted some comments on "dew" from the Fathers of the Church, as in the case of Ambrose and dew and the Holy Spirit

I might be a good idea to continue in this project.  I we have a hard time understanding was dew is as a symbol of God’s power at work, then let’s dig into the Fathers for some insight. 

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  1. Fr. Earl Frazier says:

    I see nothing wrong with a “literal” translation of the Novus Ordo into English. As for Bishop Trautman’s concerns, TEACH what it means by “precious chalice” (vessel contains the Blood of Christ, thus making it precious), etc. You cannot “dumb down” the Mass because of a few who think people are too “simple-minded” to follow and understand what is going on. EDUCATE those who may not understand, TEACH those who are ignorant of what it means. Just don’t destroy the sacredness of the Mass.

  2. Father,

    What DISCIPLINARY authority does SC have? I understand its doctrinal statements are guaranteed, but is anyone bound by its other statements (eg- Latin to be preserved, no changes unless good of Church truly requires them)? They can’t bind a pope, right? I mean, Paul VI promulgated liturgical disciplines that conflict with the “demands” of SC. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think SC just expresses the wishes of the Council Fathers, because they had no power to enforce their “demands”. Paul VI, who signed off on SC (right?), could have given it effect, but he chose not to do so. To the extent that SC was binding discipline, its authority was short-lived and has been replaced by other documents. Some may think it would be prudent to re-instate the demands of SC as the liturgical disciplinary norms of the Church (I’d prefer the reinstatement of the pre-1952 norms, but that’s another matter), but is it required? SC may have been trump, but that was several hands ago.

    That’s how I understand things. What say you?

  3. Boko: You raise an interesting point. Those who are the first to state that the Council was a PASTORAL Council and not a DOCTRINAL Council want to use the Council as a DISCIPLINARY Council.

    Sacrosanctum Concilium is an Apostolic Constitution. It has the weight of the Council and of the Roman Pontiff. It did indeed mandate several things, as a matter of fact, regarding a reform of the liturgy. It did NOT mandate that the vernacular HAD TO BE USED. It stated that it COULD be used. It mandated that Latin was TO BE RETAINED. The Council know where says that Mass was to be celebrated in English. It does not say that the translations that MIGHT OCCASIONALLY be used had to be simplistic or dynamically equivalent.

    Furthermore, Liturgiam authenticam is one of several documents concerning the PROPER IMPLEMENTATION of Sacrosanctum Concilium. The authority behind these documents are the Congregation and the ROMAN PONTIFF who orders there promulgation.

    So, consider the present ecclesiatical totem pole of liturgical authority here, with our Lord Jesus Christ just above the very top, followed by the Pope. Just below the Pope is the Congregation. After that there are some pretty fuzzy entities. We have to say that the local bishops are there somewhere. In some matters the guys at the top allow a group of bishops to make some decisions, but not really in any way separately from their own authority. This is the fuzzy side of the totem pole, mostly not visible unless you walk around the back and shine your light on it. And, on that side, somewhere near the bottom come the committees on liturgy set up by the conferences which themselves have only as much authority as the guys upstairs say they have about specific questions they think they might be able to handle.

    Well… enough of that.

  4. Maureen says:

    I guess we’re supposed to keep the Precious Blood in a cheap chalice.

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