Wednesday, November 18, 2020

UK Bishops Fix the Conclusions of the Mass Prayers

I have just learned from a priest friend that the English and Welsh bishops have decided to fix the conclusion of the English Mass Collects by removing the superfluous word “one” before the word “God.” (I say “superfluous” because it is completely absent from the Latin.) The conclusion will now read “Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.” The shorter conclusion used when the Son has already been mentioned earlier in the prayer is the same, beginning at the words “who lives”, while the conclusion addressed to the Son says “who live and reign with God the Father in the unity etc.” This was done in accordance with a directive issued in May by Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, to the presidents of the various Bishops’ Conferences that are members of ICEL. (Click image to enlarge.)

A note accompanying the decree by which this change is promulgated explains why it has been made.

“The addition of ‘one’ could be construed as mistaken or problematic. On the one hand, it could serve to undermine the statement of the unique dignity of the Son within the Trinity which the Latin formulae so strongly convey. On the other hand, it could be interpreted as saying that Jesus is ‘one God.’ Either or both of these interpretations is injurious to the faith of the Church. The ‘one’ risks suggesting that Jesus became a god independent of the Blessed Trinity and is one god among many. Contrary to the Arian heresy, Jesus Christ, who is God, did not become God. He is God from all eternity, and taking human flesh at his Incarnation, became man. According to the ‘lex orandi,’ what we pray needs to express what the Church believes, requiring that, in liturgical formulae, we uphold the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity.

It is clear from the Latin texts that the doxology emphasises the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, who as the Incarnate Son, intercedes on our behalf to the Father, the prayer being made ‘in the unity of the Holy Spirit.’ Thus, the Son’s role of priestly mediation is made clear. The doxological phrase was coined in Africa during the fourth century as a means to combat the Arian heresy. The reference of ‘Deus’ is intended Christologically.”

The note further observes that the standard translation in the Western European Romance languages and German have no equivalent of this added “one.” It remains for the other English-speaking Bishops’ Conferences to decide how to adjust the translations they use in accordance with this new directive; it seems like the best solution would be to just follow what the English and Welsh bishops have already done. It is also certainly an encouraging sign that the bishops are thinking closely and carefully about how to translate properly express the Church’s lex orandi in the vernacular.

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