What Does the Prayer Really Say? The Roman Canon / 1st Eucharistic Prayer – 12: “Simili modo” part 4
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2004
PART 4 of a 4 part article on the words of consecration of the Precious Blood, focusing on the pro multis issue.
Last week, WDTPRS said we must move away from “for all” as a translation of pro multis. It is not heresy (as some claim), but it makes the Church’s teaching fuzzy for those who hear it if they are not fully catechized. The translation “for all” might fly if the faithful were well-instructed, but they sadly are not. Therefore, the nebulous sound of “for all” gives people an impression very different from what the Church teaches about the application of the fruits of the Sacrifice Christ made for all. We need a phrase which gives the impression of vast numbers of the saved while leaving it clear that not all are certainly going to be saved. I chose “for/on behalf of multitudes”.
I return now to a point I made before. Translations of the Mass of the Latin Rite are to be made from the Missale Romanum which is in Latin. The Missale Romanum is in Latin – not Greek – not Aramaic. Scripture has immense importance in preparing translations of Mass texts, but we are not Protestants: Scripture is not the only source of revelation Catholics refer to. The Church made the decision to join different Biblical accounts of the Last Supper together and use specific carefully considered language for the consecration. A Council explained the theology clearly and explicitly on this very point. Those facts have weight.
His Eminence Joseph Card. Ratzinger confronts this in God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, The Heart of Life (Ignatius Press, 2003). His Eminence makes three points (pp. 37-8, n. 10): 1) Jesus died to save all and to deny that is not in any way a Christian attitude, 2) God lovingly leaves people free to reject salvation and some do, and 3):
“The fact that in Hebrew the expression “many” would mean the same thing as “all” is not relevant to the question under consideration inasmuch as it is a question of translating, not a Hebrew text here, but a Latin text (from the Roman Liturgy), which is directly related to a Greek text (the New Testament). The institution narratives in the New Testament are by no means simply a translation (still less, a mistaken translation) of Isaiah; rather, they constitute an independent source”.
What Card. Ratzinger did here is cut loose the raft of emotion and conjecture lashed to the pier built by Lutheran scholar Joachim Jeremias, upon which ICEL justified rendering “for many” as “for all”. Remember that Jeremias and then Fr. Max Zerwick, SJ (in Notitiae in 1970) used Aramaic and Isaiah 53 arguments for their change to “for all.” Whether Jeremias was right or wrong (and I think his argument was at best tenuous) is entirely beside the point now. First, we are not Protestants who approach doctrine from a standpoint of sola Scriptura … Scripture alone. Second, we are not historical-critics when we approach the consecration of the Mass, we are believing Catholics. Third, the Missale Romanum and the Tradition and teachings of the Church have their own value, a value not to be abandoned in the face of conjecture and the vagaries of historical-critical Scripture scholarship or the concerns of non-Catholics. Fourth, the Missale Romanum is in Latin. This is a key point which every reader of WDTPRS must understand.
The Church today, as in every age, will have new insights into the meaning of the Lord Jesus’ Sacrifice. New insights must be in harmony with and deepen the previously defined and clear teachings in our Tradition and Magisterium, not confuse them. Look at it this way: if the Pope or a new Council chose to explain a new emphasis using a document of sufficient weight and authority, and if the Holy See then changed the Latin of the Missale Romanum to say “pro vobis et pro universis”, then there would be a linguistic justification for saying “for all” as an accurate translation of the Missale Romanum. But the Church cannot change the Latin from pro multis to pro universis. That would explicitly contradict the Church’s teaching as expressed in Latin by the Council of Trent (cf. Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part II, 4). Such a change would contradict doctrine and not simply change emphasis about an aspect of that doctrine. Clear English must reflect the clarity of the Latin. What to do?
Dear readers, the last few weeks have been ponderous. But this is a matter of great concern for every one who has ever or will ever warm a pew in the coming decades. What will ICEL and the Holy See choose this time? “For many… for all”? The Congregation for Divine Worship’s document Liturgiam authenticam (LA) established norms for translations. From LA the working guidelines, the ratio translationis was developed. The ratio translationis says:
“Given the long history of the Roman Rite which developed in part around certain divisions in the practice of the faith, seen most acutely in liturgical and credal language, translators must show great care in expressing the mysteries of the faith as understood in the Catholic tradition. As a result, traditional Catholic expression is not ordinarily rendered through language which belongs to other faith communities.”
“For many” reflects defined Catholic doctrine. “For all” reflects the concerns of “other faith communities”. However, in working draft of the English language translation now in preparation in a footnote we find:
“The translation of pro multis as ‘for all’ has been retained in the proposed text as a rendering of the original biblical text, even though it does not appear to be a literal translation.”
Now you have the background for the controversy. When it comes up in the press, and it will, you will know what is going on. In WDTPRS for the Simili modo section of the Roman Canon we examined with four week’s worth of columns the problems in the English translation of the consecration of the chalice involved with the word “take” and also at length the words “for all”. It is time to get this information into more people’s hands. Also, since these articles are designed to promote greater love through greater knowledge of our prayers of the Mass, I have aspired to change forever the way you hear the consecration formula. Fuzzy as it may be the phrase “for all” does not invalidate the Mass. Moreover, even if that less than clear translation is maintained in the future, you will now always be capable of hearing it in the right way.
After the supper was concluded, in a similar way taking into His holy and venerable hands also this noble chalice, in like manner giving thanks to You He blessed and He gave it to His disciples, saying: All of you receive and drink from this: for this is the chalice of my Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out abundantly on your behalf and on the behalf of multitudes for the remission of sins. Do this for my remembrance.