A few minutes well spent on “ineffable, consubstantial….”

From a reader:

I teach the Confirmation class at my parish and this past class I asked them what the following words meant: ineffable, consubstantial, incarnate, inviolate, oblation, ignominy, precursor, suffused and unvanquished (these were Bishop Trautman’s words he was afraid we didn’t know or could not learn). My class is 12 kids in 8th and 9th grades ranging very widely in their knowledge of things Catholic.  I presented each word and asked what they meant.  They were close on several words (unvanquished, ineffable precursor and incarnate) and easily understood the rest with a short explanation.  I intend to go over these words with them taking no more than 5 minutes each week.  Maybe the difference is that I know and believe in these kids ability to grasp the things of God and the language that goes with it.

As I wrote here:

Words such as "ineffable" point to the nature of a mystery. 

If a priest, deacon, or lay catechist could spend two minutes to explain what the word "ineffable" means that would be two minutes well spent on the people of God. 

Too much to ask?


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. baymedlevel says:

    Two minutes of explanation. A lifetime of understanding. Not to much to ask for.

  2. Henry Edwards says:

    Father Z: Words such as “ineffable” point to the nature of a mystery.

    This is a key point. I wonder Bishop Trautman’s emphasis on specific words that bother him doesn’t tend to trivialize his underlying objection to the new translation. Which is the restoration of mystery to the liturgy. Might it be more effective strategy for him to make more explicitly the argument against mystery in the liturgy?

  3. Mariana says:

    When I was still a Lutheran I was as a teenager taught very thoroughly that “we” believe in consubstantiation and on no account in transubstantiation, so of course the two words had to be explained. Once you’ve had it explained to you you know what it means. What an idea, not to explain a concept, just because the word isn’t used every day by most! Of course I hadn’t heard the word before, but did it mean I couldn’t learn it?!

  4. Henry Edwards says:

    Father Z: The forbidden word appears twice in today’s 2nd LOH reading (for St. Martin de Tours) and its response. The British Divine Office supplies the following two translations:

    O virum ineffabilem
    The wonder of the man

    O virum ineffabilem
    Such a man exceeds all praise

    The U.S. LOH gives both places the following:

    O virum ineffabilem
    Here was a man words cannot describe

    I wonder (ineffably, of course) how you translated it as you said the Office of Readings this morning.

  5. Londiniensis says:

    — what? You mean actually teaching things to children instead of letting them “discover through self-actuated activity” while “finding themselves”? So … yesterday, so ILLIBERAL.

  6. Kimberly says:

    I am home schooling my grand-daughter this week, she is 9, and I taught her the word ineffable. No problem. If you teach it, they learn it. Simple.

  7. Agnes says:

    And it just so happens to be CCD night. I’ll discuss the mystery of the Annunciation and Mary’s *ineffable* joy… brought to silence after “be it done” until she went to Elizabeth in haste and proclaimed the Magnificat. Sometimes faith in action is done very quietly.

    in?ef?fa?ble??[in-ef-uh-buhl] –adjective
    1. incapable of being expressed or described in words; inexpressible: ineffable joy.
    2. not to be spoken because of its sacredness; unutterable: the ineffable name of the deity.

  8. Agnes says:

    Or sometimes we just have to blog all over the internet about it. Tsk tsk.

  9. It’s so simple. Isn’t the point of Catechesis, to teach/learn the faith?

    Our Bishop spoke to our Parish after Mass this past Sunday about the changes coming in the Missal. He spoke slowly and simply and made reference to “PRO MULTIS!” I almost lost it… becaue over the past few weeks the english “For many…” has appeared in the Gospel reading. When he explained that, and then explained that the changes are not being made SIMPLY to change, but because when the first translation came out, it was done in haste… this change is to clarify and “fix” the Missal. He said it more precise than I am explaining it… but not one parishoner raised their hand to question or express fear or concern (as they were on other things). And this is a pretty… interesting parish (bongos, cymbals, etc… at 1130 Mass).

    I think that when difficult or complex things are explained to people, they are willing to learn, and realize that they learning and expanding their faith.

  10. Tradster says:

    I’m amazed that so many seem to be taking Bp. Trautman at face value. It isn’t the words he’s fighting but the backward slide – albeit limited – of the missal into more sacred, less inclusive, non-pc traditionalism. He’s a typical liberal terrified of losing control.

  11. Agnes says:

    CCD update: Of course they got it. Right off the bat. My 3 first grade catechumens promised to give their public school teachers the definition of “ineffable” with examples. Can you imagine the look on the teachers’ faces? Wait until we tackle “transubstantiation”.

    I think we will do a “tough word of the week” – thanks for the idea, Fr. Z! :-)

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