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Monday, November 28, 2011

Mass changes: Massive to some

1884 Edition (Photo by JoJan)

Once upon a time, the Catholic Mass was strictly a Latin affair.  After a priestly rendering of “The Lord be with you,” the congregation would predictably reply:  Et cum spiritu tuo.  The literal-English translation of this Latin response  
would be the following:  And with your spirit.  But for decades, English speakers have instead been answering:  And also with you.  Why so?

According to Tim Padgett in his article Heat-Seeking Missal? Fight on Liturgy Divides Catholics – although you can’t blame it on the bossa nova, you sure can point a finger or two at the “Kumbaya crowd.”  Back in the 60s, these “hand-holding, guitar strumming” worshippers wanted a more “accessible vernacular.”  One that lent itself easily to Central Park chants and Greenwich Village anthems…  Let’s face it – “And with your spirit” just didn’t seem hip enough at the time.

After four-plus decades of such liberalism, some Catholics were more than ready to leap back to the future.  There was an outcry for a more literal translation of the original Latin.  Thus, the Roman centurion’s 60s-version “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you” is now once again a more angst-ridden (and grammatically clumsier) “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.”

If the translation changes had remained merely linguistic, they might have been incrementally accepted with little to no fanfare.  However, words that attempt to describe the Holy Trinity rarely (if ever) can be divorced from their theological implications.  When Mass in English-speaking countries once again emphasized that Jesus was “incarnate” rather than “born” of the Virgin Mary” – and is “consubstantial” rather than “one in Being” with the Father – theological ripples were felt around the world.

Padgett dismisses these ripples as “petty semantics.”  Moreover, ripples such as these can (and have)become the stuff that Great Schisms are made of.  Should Catholics be concentrating upon the subtle differences between “consubstantial” and “one in Being” – or should they instead be focusing upon loving
God and one another?


Copyright November 28, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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