Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why change the translation of the Mass? pt 4

(Letter to Verne A. Kiular, continued)

Moving on to the Confession of Sin, or the confiteor. (Confiteor is a Latin word meaning “I confess.”) It is the Latin translation of the Greek word “homologeo” which means “I confess, I agree, I say the same thing.” In essence, we are agreeing with God’s judgment that I am a sinner.

Just a word about sin. The Greek word for sin is “hamartia.” It means “to miss the target,” and even more basically it means “to fail.” I remember hearing a great light of the television world say that she had never failed, she had just had a lot of learning experiences. Not me. I have failed, flat on my face-down in the mud-my own fault- failed. St. Paul tells us that all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

All of us have missed the mark, all of us have fallen short of our God given destiny. Everyone has the sense that we haven’t done what we should, or been the person, the friend, the spouse, the parent, the employee or the boss that we could have, should have been. The question is whose fault is it? We try to pin the blame on circumstances, on our spouse, on the kids, the dog ate my homework, I didn’t get your message, traffic was bad, it’s not my fault, like Adam trying to pin the blame on Eve and Eve trying to pin the blame on the snake. The Confiteor deals with the issue.

The current inaccurate translation says, “I have sinned... through my own fault,” the new better translation says, “I have greatly sinned....through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault!” (It is traditional to beat one’s breast at this point, though I imagine it isn’t required.)

Why mention whose fault it is the three times? That has meaning in itself. It is a custom we learned from the Jews, like so much of the good stuff we have, like Jesus and the Bible. When something is repeated three times, it’s a done deal. In Hebrew it’s called Khazakah. In a synagogue, so I’m told, if you sit in the same spot on Shabbas three times in row, that’s your seat. If someone else is in your spot when you come in, you look at them and they quietly move. Third time’s the charm. That’s why we say, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and “Lamb of God, Lamb of God, Lamb of God”. It makes things absolute.

This comes from the fact that there is no comparative or superlative in Hebrew. There is no “good, better, best.” In order to say “best” you can repeat the adjective, “good- good” or “slow-slow.” If you really want to make your point, you say “good-good-good” (tov, tov, tov). So it is that in the Latin liturgy we repeat things in threes. “When I say through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault!” I really mean it! The repetition in the original text means something and we are putting it back where it belongs.

On to the Gloria!

The Gloria is very different in the newer text. The phrase “and peace to his people on earth,” becomes “and on earth peace to people of good will.” God loves every human being, not just His people and not all people are His people. The old text seems to assume either that God is exclusive, or that all humanity belong to Him.

Once again we have Rahner’s anonymous Christian. The old version seems not to take free will into account. The new version emphasizes God’s love for all humanity and the sad fact that not all of humanity loves Him back. We are free to accept or reject Him and His grace, an idea that Luther, Calvin and Mohammad deny. (Calvin and Luther were the founders of Protestantism, Mohammad the founder of Islam. Jesus, the founder of Catholicism, believed in God’s universal love and in free will.)

“Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father” in the current version becomes “Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son.” Again a huge difference! Jesus ISN’T the only Son of the Father. The saints are sons and daughters of the Father, and you and I can become saints. The old version leaves out one of the central ideas of Christianity: ADOPTION! We are all destined to become sons and daughters of God, members of that Family which is God. Though, sadly, many never accept their amazing destiny. Jesus is the only son of God by nature, but He became man that we might become God, as St Irenaus of Lyon said it, around 180 AD (Not gods, like the Mormons teach. Being my private personal god would just be too much work as far as I’m concerned.) Once again, the dynamic equivalence people simplified the brains right out the translation.

Next, the current “we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory” becomes “We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory.” There’s a whole lot more going on in the second, more accurate version. The dynamic equivalent version of “blessing, adoring and glorifying” is condensed into one word: worship. One suspects that they don’t want to make such a fuss about God’s greatness.

How can a man bless God? I thought God blessed human beings, (and chihuahuas on the feast of St. Francis.) The word in Latin is benedicere, “to speak well of” or “to wish well.” The Greek word “eulogein” means the same thing. The Hebrew word for bless, “baruch” is fascinating. It is related to the word for “knee” and seems to imply “coming down.” We all know what the dynamic equivalent crowd thinks of kneeling. Don’t get me started!

When God blesses us, He lowers Himself for love of us. When we bless God, we bow before His sovereignty and glory. The word glory (doxa) in Greek may come from “shining or radiance.” It thus meant honor, reputation. It was used to translate the Hebrew word “Kabod” which meant heaviness or weight

(If one is irreverent, which the Rev. Know-it-all would never be, one might think of the Monty Python routine, “Oh Lord, you are so big. Gosh, we're all really impressed down here I can tell you!” Well, guess what? HE REALLY IS SO VERY BIG, AND YOU SHOULD DARN WELL BE IMPRESSED! Those wags at Monty Python may well be in for a bit of a shock as will be some dynamic equivalent types.)

Where was I? Oh yes, the whole list in the more accurate version implies bowing down before the radiance and grandeur of God. In modern American parlance “worship” implies singing inspiring songs at a lively worship service, followed by doughnuts, or perhaps coffee in the atrium of the worship center. In the Catholic sense, worship is nothing less than the glory of God manifested in the sacrifice of Calvary, not a well-padded tuchus in a well-padded theater chair in a mega church.

What about adore? I would suggest that there is no adoration like the dreamy gaze of two hormone-crazed adolescents staring into one another’s eyes on a park bench. To adore, is to fall in love. Unfortunately, we tend to fall in love in darkened restaurants and theaters by a light in which we would not purchase a used suit of clothing. Only God is worthy of adoration, and we would do well to fall in love with Him before we fall in love with some schlub who is probably going to squeeze the tooth-paste tube in the middle and to put on forty or fifty pounds in the two years after the wedding.

Next Week: I am far from done with this rant.

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