Why the new translation of the Mass?
Why change the translation of the Mass?
(Letter to Verne A. Kiular, continued)
The only major change in the responses left to talk about is the response, “Domine, non sum dignus...” (Lord I am not worthy) This is a direct quote from the New Testament: (Matt.8:8 ) “The
centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my
roof. Just say the word, and my servant will be healed.’”
have gone back to the centurion’s exact words instead of the words of
some dynamically equivalent translator, because the picture of the
humble centurion is an integral part of the Mass, an integral part of
the Christian life. Centurions were the commanders of one hundred
soldiers. They were the backbone of the Roman army. No one minded
losing a general or two, good riddance! They were usually incompetent
aristocrats. Centurions were another matter. They were indispensable.
sure you’ve heard the story. The slave boy of a Roman centurion had
fallen ill. The centurion knew all about Jesus. After all, he was in
charge of the garrison in Capernaum, the town where Jesus was staying
with Peter, Peter’s wife and her mother. The centurion also knew that
no orthodox Jew would enter the home of a Roman. An observant Jew
wouldn’t risk seeing the pagan idols which the Romans kept in their
homes. It was forbidden even to look at such things and Jesus was,
after all, a Rabbi.
A centurion, the backbone of the army of the
conquerors of the western world, a centurion, the pride of his unit,
the power of Rome in the flesh, a centurion, feared and possibly
despised by the conquered people of Capernaum and the district, a
centurion bowed before the Jewish rabbi with the rough carpenter’s
hands and said “LORD.”
The Romans were masters of all the world.
A crowned king was not allowed to enter the “pomerium” the sacred
boundary of the city of Rome, because the poorest Roman citizen was
better that the greatest king. Romans made and un-made kings. This man,
the pride of the proudest, bowed low and said “LORD” to the Jewish
peasant. Aware of the danger to Jesus’ reputation, this man, forgetting
his high station, said “I do not deserve to have you come under my
roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
are quoting that unnamed Roman every time we say “Lord, I am not worthy
that you should come under my roof.” I wonder what he would have
thought to know that 2,000 years later, long after the Roman forum had
crumbled to ruins, long after the names of emperors and senators and
the great of the world were forgotten, an age when men had learned to
fly, had walked on the moon and communicated over thousands of miles as
if by magic, I wonder what he would have thought to know that his words
to the Galilean rabbi would be remembered and repeated by billions of
people. I wonder.
We then say that my “soul shall be healed”
instead of “I shall be healed.” What’s the difference? Simply this: the
soul is a specific dimension of the self, and it’s the dimension that
most needs healing. When Mary, pregnant and unmarried was fleeing for
her life, she went bidden by an angel to see her cousin Elizabeth in
Ain Karim near Jerusalem.
Elizabeth had been acquainted with
shame all her life. She, the wife of a cohen, a priest, had never born
a child and the stupidity of the age deemed such a woman cursed by God.
In her old age she had conceived and her gossipy neighbors
decided that God must have lifted her shame. Mary went to her, the one
relative who might understand. Mary said “my soul (psyche) magnifies (megalunei) the Lord and my spirit (pneuma) rejoices in God my savior.”
soul, the psyche, is that part of the self that is self aware, the
locus of the emotional and intellectual faculties of the human person.
That’s what magnifies the Lord in our blessed Mother’s song of praise.
Inside you, you have a magnifying glass. If you magnify the problem,
the problem gets larger. If you magnify the Lord, the problem melts
away before the faithfulness, love and power of God. It’s up to you.
Will you focus on the problem, or on God’s power to save?
we can see are life’s difficulties, then it is our soul that needs
healing. We need to be able to see the truth that God is in all
and above all, that grace has brought us safe this far and grace will
lead us home. Jesus says, “The eye is the
lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full
of light, but if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of
darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that
The soul is the eye of
the inner man. Garbage in, as they say, garbage out! It is the sickness
of the soul that needs healing even more than the sickness of the body.
If our soul is blind to the love of God, we can’t begin to see and to
receive the miracles of His love. “Speak but the word and my soul shall
There is one more word to mention. It’s another Bible
quote, this time from St. John the Baptist “This is the Lamb of God” is
changed to the more accurate “Behold the Lamb of God”
(John 1:29) This is what John said to his disciples when he saw Jesus.
In effect, he was saying “Stop following me. This is the guy who you
should be following and studying.”
What’s the difference? What’s
so different about “Behold” and “This is?” Once again, there is a world
of difference. No one says “behold” anymore. That’s the problem. We
might say “look.” But “to behold” is different from “to look.” “To
look” is to see and turn away, assuming that you’ve seen all there is
to see in that brief moment of looking. To behold is to fix one’s gaze
until the whole reality has been taken in. We moderns get tired of
waiting ten seconds for our computers to boot up. Faster! Faster!
Hurry! There’s not a lot of beholding going on in the world we live in
and our lives slip away unnoticed. Our children grow up, our health
fails, our friends move away or die. We grow old and die, barely having
taken the time to live. We have to hurry and be on time for the
next....? Behold! The unchanging God appears before you in the
form of a piece of bread. Behold!
Have you ever been in
love? Perhaps you have married the love of your heart. Perhaps
once, when you were young and first married, on a clear and moonlit
night, the moonbeams filled the room where you two lay asleep, and you
awoke to see the gentle light play on her hair as it lay against the
pillow, her shoulders softly moving with each breath. You stared and
drank in the beauty of love. You beheld the beloved. You stared knowing
that a lifetime was not enough to see her completely, to take in her
beauty, to marvel at the gift of God that lay next to you in the
The Jewish high priest would remove the bread
that had been in the temple before the holy of holies and hold it up
before the assembly gathered in the temple precincts and says “Behold,
God’s love for you!” And so, at Mass, I hold up the Bread of Heaven,
the person of Jesus incarnate in the appearance of bread and wine. I
invite you to “Behold the Beloved!”
When I was little, heaven
seemed so boring. The nuns would try to tell us hyperactive
six-year-olds about the “beatific vision” We would get to stare at God
forever! Boy, did that sound boring. Now that I am an old man, and
understand that the most beautiful thing in the world is to stare at
one with whom you are totally in love, the words mean everything to me,
“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,
‘blessed’ (not just contented, amused and “happy”) are those who are
called to His supper!” Behold!
Here To Ask The Reverend Know-It-All A Question
Why the new translation of the Mass?