The changes in the new Roman Missal will undoubtedly generate considerable attention from clergy and laity alike. Though the discussion to follow may not be as eye-catching or ear-catching as the changes themselves, this article aims to address six of what are likely to be the more controversial changes to be introduced in the new Roman Missal.
Probably the most noticeable change will be the response to the greeting, “The Lord be with you,” which restores the older phrase “And with your spirit” in place of the now-familiar “And also with you.” English is the only major language of European origin that does not mention the spirit in the current translation of this response. The new form, then, has both tradition and widespread use on its side. There are significant scriptural and theological reasons for the change as well.
This Christian use of “spirit” in both Greek and Latin was strange to the ancient world; one scholar has noted that “Nothing like it is known outside Christian writing.”1 “With your spirit” was long thought to be a Semitic idiom meaning nothing more than “with you.” The Hebrew word nephesh means soul or spirit, but can also mean self. But the Hebrew word behind “with your spirit” is not nephesh but rather another Hebrew term, ruah, which means breath or spirit. The Greek word for spirit, pneuma, is never used in the Old Testament to render nephesh, but only when translating ruah. Thus, it seems clear that the use of “spirit” in the Greek from which this liturgical form is derived, is not intended merely as a euphemism for “you” but bears some other special theological significance.
It is noteworthy that the phrase,
“And with your spirit”
is properly used only in response to an ordained minister. In those instances in the liturgy when a non-ordained member leads the assembly in prayer (e.g., a wake service, a Liturgy of the Word with Holy Communion service, the Liturgy of the Hours), they will never say “The Lord be with you” because, at least in part, they do not receive the response “And with your spirit.” The “spirit” mentioned here refers specifically to the spirit received in ordination. It is an affirmation by the assembly that the ordained minister has received the appropriate anointing with the spirit to make him the leader in sacramental ministry. The ordination prayer for a bishop asks God for the “spirit of leadership”; the ordination prayer for a priest asks for “the spirit of grace and of counsel of the priesthood”; and the ordination prayer for a deacon asks for “the spirit of grace and zeal.” Each rank of Holy Orders thus receives “spirit” in a specific way at ordination. This particular liturgical response to the ordained minister has a special beauty: it is less about the person of the priest than about the office of the priesthood, which is supported and guaranteed by the spirit bestowed in ordination. Early Church fathers such as John Chrysostom and Theodore of Mopsuestia support this interpretation.
Further, Gal 6:18, Phlm 4:23 and Phlm 25 all use “spirit” in a more general sense as addressed to the whole Church: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” But St. Paul is not referring here to the particular gifts of the Spirit possessed by each member of the local Church, because “spirit” is in the singular. Rather, he is referring to that gift of the Spirit which each local Church possesses corporately. In this sense, the ordained minister represents the whole Church in a way that the non-ordained does not. Hence, the laity may offer a blessing in their own name only, whereas the ordained may properly bless in the name of the Church — because of the “spirit” they have received in ordination.
In its original form, the Nicene Creed begins “We believe.” It was not written, however, to be recited during the Mass, but as a summary of faith and Scripture. An abbreviated version was used for baptisms. The catechumen would be asked, “Do you believe in God the Father, creator of heaven and earth?...in Jesus Christ?...in the Holy Spirit...?” and the responses would be given, “I believe.”
Thus, the initial use of the Creed in the liturgy was in the context of baptism, and thus employed the singular form, “I believe.” When, in the year 1014, it became normative at Rome to recite it at Mass, the Creed followed the form used in baptism, “Credo” meaning, “I believe.” In the centuries since then, additional reasons for using “I” instead of “we” have been put forth. St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologiae, IIa IIae 1, 9) says that the Church proclaims the Creed as a single person, made one by faith. Whereas the original baptismal context calls us to take personal responsibility for our faith by the use of the singular “I,” St. Thomas complements this idea in observing that the singular “I” also demonstrates the united, corporate nature of the Church. Each of us singly also speaks as the one Body of Christ in crying out, “I believe.”
Some of the prayers of the Mass do employ the first person plural, e.g., the Gloria: “we worship you, we give you thanks...,” the prayer at the Preparation of the Gifts: “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands ... for our good...,” the Preface dialogue: “Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord,” the Our Father, and the Lamb of God: “have mercy on us.” There are also a number of prayers that use the first person singular, e.g., the Confiteor: “I confess to almighty God,” and the prayer before Communion: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you...” — and now the Creed.
The emergent pattern seems to be that when we confess our sins and when we confess our faith, the Church wants us to use the “I.” When we otherwise say or sing prayers of praise or mercy, it is rather “we.” In a beautiful way, when a Catholic prays the Mass, we are both one and many: many parts, one body; many grains, one loaf; many minds, united in one faith, in the one mind of Christ.
A most unusual word will soon appear in the language of the Creed. The phrase
“consubstantial with the Father”
will replace the current “one in being with the Father.” The use of the term “consubstantial” has been carefully considered before being adopted. Admittedly, the term carries some complexities of meaning with it. But the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recommended its use with good reason.
The Greek text of the Nicene Creed used a revolutionary word for its day: homoousios — not a scriptural but a philosophical term. Arianism, the greatest heresy of that day, argued the Christ was not of the same substance of the Father, but only of a similar substance (homoiousios) and therefore was not equal to God. The Church Fathers wanted to be very precise in the language to be used for such a great mystery, and the debates at the time were long and often acrimonious. From the very beginning, the Latin Creed translated this Greek word as consubstantialem, for similar precise philosophical and theological reasons.
By breaking down the word con-sub-stantial, we can come to understand it a little better. The root word “substance” (sub=under; stans=standing) is a technical, philosophical term that refers to the most real part of a being (as opposed to the whole “being” of a thing, as the current translation has it). Literally, it refers to that which “stands under,” the base of a person or thing, that which is at the heart of someone or something. In the Eucharist, for example, we say that bread and wine are transubstantiated into the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. The form or appearance of the bread and wine remain the same, but their inner substance, the reality underneath the appearance, is changed. This is why we don’t say the bread and wine are just transformed, but “trans-substantiated.”
The other part of consubstantial is the prefix “con” — profound yet beautiful in its simplicity. It comes from the Latin preposition cum meaning “together with.” In the Creed, consubstantial means that Christ was of one substance with the Father, but it also implies one substance with our humanity. Christ alone might be spoken of as co-substantial, in reference to His two natures — human and divine — shared at once with the Father and with us. The current translation “one in being” does not bear this kind of multivalence. Also, most would assert that the current phrase is not as precise. The English word “being” has a broader meaning than the philosophical “substance.” When dealing with the Creed, however, it is important to be as precise as possible, and the Church believes strongly that the term “consubstantial” is a better choice in naming the Great Mystery that is the relationship of Jesus Christ to God the Father and to us, His adopted brothers and sisters.
In the current translation of the Roman Missal, the Eucharistic Prayer proceeds as follows: “Take this, all of you, and drink from it, this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant; it will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.”
In the new translation, the two words in bold have been changed — directly by Pope Benedict XVI — to “for many.” Though this may seem quite surprising for many, the Holy Father has expressed strong and sound reasons for this change.
1) The Synoptic Gospels (Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24) make specific reference to the “many” for whom the Lord is offering the Sacrifice, and this particular wording has been emphasized by some biblical scholars as a connection with the words of the prophet Isaiah regarding the Suffering Servant (53:11-12). The writers of the Gospel texts certainly had the vocabulary to have said “for all” (as occurs in other contexts, for example, Lk 12:41), but they did not do that here. Instead, the formula given in the institution narrative is “for many,” and the words have been faithfully translated thus in most modern versions of the Bible.
2) The Roman Rite in Latin has always said pro multis (for many) and never pro omnibus (for all) at the consecration of the chalice.
3) The anaphoras (Eucharistic Prayers) of the various Oriental Rites, whether in Greek, Syriac, Armenian, various Slavic languages, etc., employ the verbal equivalent of the Latin pro multis in their respective languages.
4) “For many” is a faithful translation of pro multis, whereas “for all” is rather an explanation or expansion of the sort that belongs properly to catechesis.
5) It is true that the formula “for all” certainly corresponds to a correct interpretation of the Lord’s intention expressed in the Scriptures. Even more, it is a dogma of faith that Christ died on the Cross for all men and women (cf. Jn 11:52; 2 Cor 5:14-15; Ti 2:11; 1 Jn 2:2). However, the expression “for many” is scriptural, historical, ecumenical, and has a solid theological interpretation: “for many” is a reminder that, while salvation is offered to all, there are some who do not accept it. Salvation is not imposed in a mechanical way, against one’s free will or voluntary participation. It is freely offered to all to accept in faith, and many do indeed accept it. Some do not. As for those who apparently reject the gift, the Church entrusts them to the mercy of God. But in doing so they have placed themselves outside the Church’s liturgical offering.
Christ’s death on the cross was certainly intended for all, but it can only help those who respond to it freely and willingly. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass may well be offered or intended for all, but it can be fruitful only for those who accept it. The Eucharistic Prayer thus refers to those who accept it, in whatever form that acceptance takes.
6) Lastly, in line with the 2001 Instruction on liturgical translations, Liturgiam Authenticam, translations should be more faithful to the actual prayer of the Church — the Latin text as given, and not as interpreted. It is intended and understood that further catechesis will explain that God our Savior, “wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Tm 2:4).
Given all of the reasons above, the hope of the Church is that when the faithful hear the words “for many” spoken over the chalice, they will be inspired to make a personal affirmation of their faith in, and desire for, the gift of salvation freely offered in Christ Jesus to the whole world.
One word can mean a great deal, especially in the liturgy. Instead of the word “cup” we will be using the word “chalice”: “Take this all of you and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood....” More than a matter of mere style or reverence, there is theology and scripture behind this change. The Latin word for cup is poculum, and it refers to an individual drinking cup. The Protestant communion services where everyone is given a personal cup of wine or grape juice would be called a poculum and be fittingly translated as “cup.” But the Latin word both in the prayers and in the scriptural texts behind the prayers is calix. This is a cup with two handles on it. The handles denote a social dimension — that this vessel is meant to be shared.
In all the accounts of the Last Supper, Jesus tells the apostles to drink from the one calix. St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians says that the calix of blessing is a participation in the blood of Christ. The idea is that this one cup with handles, or chalice, would be passed from person to person and shared. This brings new meaning to Jesus’ words in the garden when he prays to the Father, “Let this chalice pass me by,” i.e., as it is being passed from person to person. Think, too, of the Gospel story of giving the “chalice” of water to the least one — meaning this cup with the two handles. This means that we’re making the poor person equal to all who are at the banquet. And finally, St. Augustine states that when we say “Amen” we say it not only to the host, but to the person in front of us and to the person behind us, i.e., as the chalice is passed on to each person. Unfortunately, most of our modern day chalices do not show this theology by having two handles, but the word itself can help to remind all of us of the communitarian dimension of the Eucharist. One word can make all the difference.
“Under My Roof”
In the original prayer of the Church, the assembly’s response just before Communion is a quotation from Luke 7:6-7. The new translation will be a more faithful rendering of the Scripture that underlies this prayer. It calls to mind the faith, humility and reverence of the centurion in Luke’s Gospel who sought the healing power of Jesus, but felt unworthy to have Jesus come under the roof of his house. Christians who approach the altar are called to have the same faith, humility and reverence in preparing to receive the holy Eucharist under the “roof” of their body. Just as the roof is the external shelter for what is most important to us as social beings — our family — so too is our body the “roof” or external shelter for that which is most precious to us as individuals — our soul.
It is important for Catholics to realize how thoroughly scriptural are the prayers and actions of the Mass — indeed, the same can be asserted in regard to all Catholic liturgy. The new translation does well to ensure that the underlying scriptural texts and theological meanings stand forth more strongly, even at the cost of what may initially appear to be a slightly odd turn of phrase. When the new translations begin to be used, and this word or that phrase strikes an odd note on the ear, rather than becoming frustrated with another “ideological change,” let’s get curious about, and interested in, the Scripture and theology that certainly underlie the change. TP
1 Paulinus Milner, “Et Cum Spitiu Tuo,” in Studies in Pastoral Liturgy, vol. 3. ed. by Placid Murray, O.S.B. Dublin: The Furrow Trust, 1967. p. 202.
FATHER MERZ is a priest of the Diocese of Jefferson City in Missouri. He received a License in Sacred Liturgy from the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy in Rome in 1999 and is currently working to complete the Doctorate. He is the Vice-Rector and Dean of Students at Conception Seminary College, teaching Liturgy and Latin. In 2007, he was named chair of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission for his diocese.