Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gospel For Today

If you only have one saying of Jesus memorized, it is probably the one found in today's Gospel account (Mt 22:34-40).  In response to the question of which commandment is the greatest, Jesus says:

You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and first commandment.  The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.

It is worth pointing out that at the root of these two commandments is the fact that you should love yourself.  It is easy enough to focus on loving your neighbor (which we need to focus on), but forget that step one is to love yourself.  It is impossible to give love to others unless you believe that you are also worthy of love.

You are a person created by God!  He created you in His image, and gifted you with an immortal soul.  He desires to share in your company for all eternity and to be in close, intimate relationship with you.  God loves you!  And He knows what He is doing.  So if you want to love the things that God loves, you can begin by loving yourself.  

God created mankind as fundamentally good.  Human nature is ordered toward God, and the things of God -- love, goodness, purity, perfection.  We are wounded by Original Sin, it is true.  We are fallen.  Our human nature has been perverted and corrupted.  We are not what we could be.  But we are still fundamentally good and worthy of love.

This is something that we believe differently as Catholics than many of our Protestant neighbors.  Many Protestants will follow the traditions of Martin Luther, who spoke of the redeemed person as a "snow covered dung hill."  The one saved by Christ is made white and pure on the outside, but the inside is still... well, a pile of dung.

That is now how Catholics view mankind.  We are wounded, we are weak, and we need saving.  All that is true.  But we are saved by cooperating with God's grace to grow ever more holy.  Our sins are not covered, they are forgiven!  We are not made to appear holy before God, we are made holy.  Because God loves us, and wants to restore us to that state of perfection and joy for which He made us.

So love yourself.  God does.

And then, knowing how special and precious we are in the eyes of God, we begin to realize just how special and precious our neighbors are to Him.  And because we love Him, and we love those things He loves, our neighbors become special and precious in our sight, as well.  We can truly begin to love our neighbors as ourselves.  

We keep the second commandment best when we do so in the spirit of the first; when we love God with all our heart, mind and soul.  In other words, when we love God with our whole selves.  When we love someone truly, we begin to love the things they love.  My wife's favorite color is blue.  It is not my favorite color.  But over the years I have acquired many blue things because when I see them I am reminded of my wife, and it makes me happy.  Peas are far from my favorite vegetable, but they are one of my wife's favorites.  I would probably never prepare them for myself, but when I see them on my plate it makes me smile because I know she loves them.  And yes, I clean my plate.  I have come to like peas not for their own sake, but because my wife likes them so much.

These are silly examples, but they illustrate a very important principle.  If we are in love with God, we will also love the things He loves -- which includes our neighbors and our selves.

St. Augustine once spoke of the moral code this way:  "Love God, then do as you will."  This is not to say that so long as you love God you can behave any way you want and all is good.  No.  It means that if you truly love God you will only desire to do those things which are pleasing to Him, and you would have no desire to do anything to offend Him.

St. Thomas Aquinas once said that we offend God when we act against our own good.  Loving someone means desiring their good.  So it all goes back to love.  Loving God.  Loving our neighbors as God loves them.  Loving ourselves as God loves us.  

Please join us for our celebration of Holy Mass this evening at 7:30 at the Catholic Student Center.  And remember if you can to come early and take advantage of our first "Apologetics 101" class tonight at 6:30 at the Center.  We will start tonight with some basic principles and guidelines to help you talk about and explain the Catholic faith with your non-Catholic friends and classmates.

God bless, and enjoy your Sunday!

WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mea culpa!

Next let’s look at the Penitential Act. We looked at Form B before. Now I want to look at Form A. Here we have the English translation currently in use, followed by the original Latin text, and finally the new translation going into effect this Advent. I have highlighted the differences.
I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord, our God. 
Confíteor Deo omnipoténti et vobis, fratres, quia peccávi nimis congitatióne, verbo, ópere et omission: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Ideo precor beátam Maríam semper Vírginem, omnes Angelos et Sanctos, et vos, fratres, oráre pro me ad Dóminum Deum nostrum. 
I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
The first change we notice is the addition of the word “greatly.” We will now be saying, “I have greatly sinned.” But the most notable change is the restoration of the three-fold self-accusation. In the Latin we say mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. This is a very familiar phrase in our culture. I know even non-Catholics who, when admitting a mistake, use the phrase mea culpa. That three-fold repetition of our admission of guilt is something that was part of the rhythm of our Catholic liturgy for centuries, which is one reason why that phrase has now become part of our cultural heritage. In our current English translation, we were robbed of that rhythm.

Also, in literature – and this is true of poetic and narrative literature, as well as for Sacred Scripture and prayer – when something is repeated it is meant to give it emphasis. As a literature student in college I was taught that repetitions such as this were not accidental. The author, by repeating a word or a phrase, is trying to underscore something of great importance to the theme of his or her work.

The liturgy is very much akin to literature, borrowing heavily as it does on the Scriptures, that divine literary genre. As any translator of great literature should know, it is important to preserve any literary devices used by the author in the original. That emphasis on our personal culpability was there in the three-fold repetition of the original liturgical text. It has been missing from our current translation. The English major in me is happy to see it restored. And the faithful Catholic in me will surely benefit from being reminded as I pray the liturgy just who is at fault for my sins.

"And with your spirit..."

As we progress in our examination of the third edition of the Roman Missal, with its new English translation of the Mass we will begin using this Advent, we now move on to what we’ve all been waiting for – what of our people’s parts of the Mass is going to change?

We start with the familiar greeting from the priest, “The Lord be with you,” to which we reply, “and also with you.” That’s going to change, and I’m afraid it means the death knell for that old joke where the priest is fumbling around trying to get his microphone to work, and says, “There is something wrong with this microphone,” and the whole congregation replies, “And also with you.”

So what’s going to change? Here is the Latin side by side with the new translation.
Priest: Dominus vobíscum.           Priest: The Lord be with you.
People: Et cum spíritu tuo.           People: And with your spirit.

So why the change to “and with your spirit?” Well, let’s look at the Latin original. It says et cum spíritu tuo. You don’t have to be a Latin scholar to figure out what’s going on. Even if you just know a few Latin phrases you probably know that et means “and” and cum means “with.” You’ve got tuo there which if you know a bit of Spanish you can figure means “you” or “your.” And then spíritu looks almost just like our English word “spirit.” So it’s all right there in the original. It’s not a particularly complex phrase to translate. “And with your spirit.”

More importantly, it gives us a sense of just who it is we are addressing as Mass begins. The priest is greeting us with “The Lord be with you.” And when we respond, we are not responding directly to the priest, as a man. Rather we make a point of responding to his spirit – the spirit of Christ which is operating through the priest as he celebrates the Mass. Remember, with any Sacrament, it is not the priest himself who confers it, but rather God working through His minister. Here we are reminded of that truth of our faith, right at the beginning of the liturgy.

I want to point out here again that the Latin texts I am quoting from are from the second edition of the Missal, currently in use. This does not represent a change in the official Latin text of the Mass itself. This is simply a more faithful translation of the Latin text we’ve always had.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Eucharistic Prayer I

Next in our examination of the forthcoming third edition of the Roman Missal, to be introduced this Advent, we will look at the Institution Narrative from Eucharistic Prayer I, also called the Roman Canon. First is the current translation we are all familiar with. Beneath that is the Latin – I want to point out this is the Latin from the second edition of the Roman Missal, currently in effect. And finally is the new translation from the third edition we will be receiving this Advent.

Current Translation
The day before he suffered he took bread in his sacred hands and looking up to heaven, to you, his almighty Father, he gave you thanks and praise. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said:
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 TH ENEW AND EVERLASTING COVENANT. IT WILL BE SHED FOR YOU AND FOR ALL SO THAT SINS MAY BE FORGIVEN. DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME. 
Latin Original
Qui, pridie quam paterétur, accépit panem in sanctas ac venerábiles manus suas, et elevates óculis in caelum ad te Deum Patrem suum omnipoténtem, tibi grátias agens benedíxit, fregit, dedítgue discípulis suis, dicens: ACCÍPITE ET MANDUCÁTE EX HOC OMNES: HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEUM, QUOD PRO VOBIS TRADÉTUR.
Símili modo, postquam cenátum est, accípiens et hunc praeclárum cálicem in sanctas ac venerábiles manus suas, item tibi grátias agens benedíxit, dedítque discípulis suis, dicens: ACCÍPITE ET BÍBITE EX EO OMNES: HIC EST ENIM CALIX SÁNGUINIS MEI, NOVI ET AETÉRNI TESTAMÉNTI, QUI PRO VOBIS ET PRO MULTIS EFFUNDÉTUR IN REMISSIÓNEM PECCATÓRUM. HOC FÁCITE IN MEAN COMMEMORATIÓNEM. 
New Translation
On the day before he was to suffer he took bread in his holy and venerable hands, and with eyes raised to heaven to you, O God, his almighty Father, giving you thanks he said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying: TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND EAT OF IT: FOR THIS IS MY BODY WHICH WILL BE GIVEN UP FOR YOU.
In a similar way, when supper was ended, he took this precious chalice in his holy and venerable hands, and once more giving you thanks, he said the blessing and gave the chalice to his disciples, saying: TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND DRINK FROM IT: FOR THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD, THE BLOOD OF THE NEW AND ETERNAL COVENANT, WHICH WILL BE POURED OUT FOR YOU AND FOR MANY FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME.

The first thing you may notice at a glance is that the new translation is a bit longer. There are certain elements of the original which have been missing from our current translation, and just to point them out to you, I’ve highlighted some phrases in the new translation, and the corresponding Latin text, which are completely absent from what we have now.

And again, I want to underscore that the Latin we are looking at is the normative text in effect now. This is the definitive and official text of the ordinary form of the Roman Rite. The part that jumps right out at me is the phrase “holy and venerable hands” which occurs twice to describe the hands of Christ as He instituted the Eucharist. It’s there in the Latin: sanctas ac venerabiles manus. What a wonderful phrase describing the saving hands of our Saviour, about to offer Himself up for us! Why has it been missing from our English Mass all these years? I’m thankful it is being restored.

In a similar way, we will now be referring to the vessel that Christ used to institute the Sacrament of His Blood at the Last Supper as a “precious chalice” rather than simply a “cup.” How befitting it is to be able to hear this more exalted language used to describe some of the most vital elements of our faith, things which indeed should be “precious” and “venerable” to us!

I have read that when the early translations of the Mass into English were being made in the 1970s, the emphasis was on making the language as simple and easy to understand as possible. I sympathize with the desire to make the liturgy accessible to the greatest number of people. However, it is a fine line between making the language “simple” and “talking down to” someone. I think the great majority of English speakers will readily understand the significance of phrases such as “holy and venerable,” and if they do not immediately, they will soon rise to the occasion. We should at least give them that opportunity!

Finally we must deal with the issue of “for all” v. “for many,” which is the change in the Roman Canon which has generated the most controversy. First of all we must make clear that the Church unequivocally teaches that Christ died for all men, without exception. “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer” (Council of Quiercy, 853, qtd. in CCC 605). So why the change from “all” to “many,” then?

First, it is a better translation of the Latin pro multis, which has always been the official text. So in that respect it is not truly a change but a more accurate rendition of what the prayer has always said. So the question then is why does it say “for many” in the original Latin? And the answer is because it is Scriptural. Christ Himself said plainly that He would “give His life as a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:28, cf. Rom. 5:18-19). The Catechism teaches that this phrase is not meant to be limiting, but rather to highlight the contrast between the large multitude of humanity with the unique and singular person of Jesus Christ, who dies to save us (CCC 605).

Whose line is it anyway?

What I’d like to do now is begin looking at some of the parts of the Ordinary of the Mass, the parts of the Mass that do not usually change from week to week (except for those in which we are given the choice between multiple options, or special considerations for liturgical seasons such as Lent or Advent). And I want to look at the old and the new translation together with the Latin original. Let me emphasize one thing here. The Latin I will be giving you is not from the Third Edition of the Roman Missal. It is taken from the edition of the Roman Missal currently in use. This, I think, will underscore the fact that most of the changes we will notice with the new Missal won’t necessarily be due to the fact that it is a newer and more updated edition, but will due to the fact that we are now receiving a better and more accurate translation of the Latin, which is after all the definitive and official text. So let’s look first at the Penitential Act, Form B.

Current translation
Priest: Lord, we have sinned against you: Lord, have mercy.
People: Lord, have mercy.
Priest: Show us your mercy and love.
People: And grant us your salvation. 
Latin Original
Priest: Miserére nostri, Dómine.
People: Quia peccávimus tibi.
Priest: Osténde nobis, Dómine, misrericórdiam tuam.
People: Et salutáre tuum nobis. 
New translation
Priest: Have mercy on us, O Lord.
People: For we have sinned against you.
Priest: Show us, O Lord, your mercy.
People: And grant us your salvation

Let’s focus on the original Latin and see what we can make of it. I don’t think you have to be a Latin scholar to recognize at least some of the words. I’m certainly no expert, but I’m familiar with some of the Latin we use in the Church, largely through singing chant. Since Latin is the official language of the Church, I think it behooves us, as Catholics, to be familiar with at least some common Latin words and phrases that we use in our prayers.

For example, I recognize the word Miserére as meaning “have mercy” because we sing that in the Lamb of God. We sing miserere nobis, which means “have mercy on us.” And Dómine I recognize as the word for “Lord” from any number of prayers. So I can tell in the first line that the priest says “Have Mercy on us, Lord.” And that’s confirmed by what we see in the new translation below it.

But if we look at our current translation, the priest is saying more than that. In addition, he is saying, “Lord, we have sinned against you.” Where is that in the original text?

Let’s keep looking at the Latin. In the original, the people respond by saying Quia peccavimus tibi. So maybe our Latin is not so hot and we don’t know what that means. But we know in the current translation, in we say “Lord, have mercy.” Well, we just looked at the words for “Lord” and “mercy.” Neither words are in the part we are supposed to be saying in Latin. So what does that Latin mean?

Again, I’m no Latin scholar, but the word peccávimus here looks familiar. I’ve sung the Hail Mary in Latin enough times to be familiar with the word pecatoribus. In the Hail Mary in Latin, we pray ora pro nobis peccatoribus, which means “pray for us sinners.” So I can guess that peccávimus might have something to do with sin. And tibi I recognize as some form of “you.”

Let’s see how this is translated in the new third edition. We respond with “For we have sinned against you.” Based on our rudimentary guesses above we came pretty close. And now we see where that phrase from the priest’s part in the current translation came from. The past translators took that phrase from the people and gave it to the priest.

But isn’t that rather a fundamental change, beyond what simple translation calls for? Doesn’t that seem like editorial decisions were being made about the text that went beyond the scope of translation? It would be like translating Shakespeare’s plays into Spanish but along the way giving some of Hamlet’s lines to Ophelia!
This underscores why it was so important that the new translation, which goes into effect this Advent, was made according to strict guidelines. How many of the faithful would have guessed that words which the Church originally intended them to say during this Penitential Rite had been taken from their mouths by a committee of translators and placed into the mouth of the priest?

The new Third Edition of the Roman Missal corrects this, and addresses many other aspects of the former translation that have been seen by many as less than ideal. We’ll continue to look at the new translation in detail as we continue.