Thursday, February 3, 2011

New Translation Thursday: For Many

Welcome to this installment of "New Translation Thursday."

It has dawned cold and clear here in Salt Lake City.

Last night, the participants here at the Southwest Liturgical Conference were treated to a presentation on the New Tranlsation of The Roman Missal by Father Paul Turner.

One of the issues that Father Turner raised was the need for catechesis before, during, and following the implementation of the new translation. One of the issues that will need catechetical attention is the translation of pro vobis et pro multis in the institution narrative of the eucharistic prayers. Currently translated "for you and for all," the new translation is "for you and for many."

Two recent discussions about this change appear in America and on Pray Tell. These are well worth reading.

Father Turner tackled the issue by alerting us to the fact that in Matthew's Gospel, the English translation reads: "Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins." And, similarly in Mark, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many." The hearers of these words would have recognized an allusion to the Suffering Servant Song in Isaiah: "Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many" and "he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses."

Father Turner did a great job leading us through these explanations, catechizing us on the pro multis issue. I must admit, however, that I was thinking about the people in my own parish as Father Turner was speaking. I was thinking of Louie and Rochelle, Ellen, Virginia, Barbara, Miss Betty, and many others. I wondered how am going to handle the questions that will ultimately surface. For these people, the word "many" is a much more narrow descriptor than "all." And that is a plain and simple fact. Week in and week out, people will hear a word that may distance them from the fact that Jesus died and rose for all people, all those already born and who have died, all those living now, and all those yet to be born; not many of those already born and who have died, not many of those living now, not many of those yet to be born.

Will this word "many" become a moment of distraction each time it is proclaimed in the liturgy? I certainly hope not. I know of several priests who have told me that they will simply not say the word; they will continue to use the word "all." This is a sticky situation.

This is a very challenging catechetical moment. Much has been written about it and much will conitnue to be written about it.

This is one issue in the entire translation process about which many English-speakers simply scratch their heads and say, "What were they thinking?"

Your thoughts?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


jdonliturgy said...

Fr. Richard Fragomeni explained that there is a step in the history of the translation that is missing - something to do with the Greek, perhaps. (Unfortunately, I did not write the specifics down.) In short, he believes the proper English rendering should be "the many" - which is simply an indeterminate number - implying "the multitudes" or "all". You may wish to ask him.

FJH 3rd said...

"What were they thinking?" They were thinking that the new translation should be accurate. A good explanation at a parish workshop, and a follow-up article in the bulletin, should cover it.

A distraction? The phrase "for all" has been a distraction for me since I learned "What The Prayer Really Says." I have been "correcting" it in my head ever since!

Karl said...

You might mention that this is a reversion to the usage employed when the liturgy was first celebrated in English from 1965-70. So it's not "new".

Chironomo said...

Jerry, and I mean this seriously... how would you explain to these same people the passage in the catechism:

"Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it."336

I'm not being snarky here... but it is a pretty fundamental and basic Catholic teaching that not all are saved, and that communion with the Catholic Church is necessary for salvation. Given that, is it not maybe more confusing to proclaim Sunday after Sunday that Jesus' blood was shed for all? I understand the distinction that the offer of salvation is given to all, but it is not acheived by all. But if the issue is confusion...

Fr. Eric Augenstein said...

I was at the same talk with Fr. Paul Turner in Salt Lake City. In response to the often-asked question about whether the translation should be "the many," he pointed out that Greek has a word for "the," but this word was not included in the gospel accounts of the Last Supper. It's true that there is not a Latin word for "the," meaning "pro multis" could be translated as "for the many" if going strictly from the Latin, but going to the Greek of the New Testament, the only possibly translation is "for many." The simple fact is that this is what Jesus said, as recorded in the New Testament. It is difficult to justify changing the words we have from Jesus' own lips in favor of something that makes more sense to some people's theology. What were they thinking? Perhaps they were thinking that we should pray in the words Jesus gave us, while also helping people understand why Jesus said what he said.

Msgr. Andy Varga said...

Two points from the "many" talks that I have heard on the subject (I can't remember which speaker said it -- it my well have been Paul Turner):

First: there are two possible connotations to the word "many" depending on the context -- restrictive (i.e.: for many, but not all) or expansive (i.e. for you-here-present and for many-more-not-here), the latter being infinitely open as to the number.

Second: there are two complementary scriptural traditions that stand side by side: "many" as in Matthean-Marcan accounts of the Last Supper and "all" in Pauline-Johannine writings about those for whom Jesus offers himself. Since the Institution Narrative has a Last Supper context, the Matthean-Marcan version was chosen by the translators.

John Nolan said...

We're talking about one word in what's only a translation anyway. Even the Latin, which beats the vernacular hands down, cannot adequately convey the mystery, which is beyond mere language. Catechesis? Most younger generation Catholics are so badly catechized they don't know the meaning of the Mass in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I was also at Fr Turner's presentation in Salt Lake, and in general, quite taken with it, to the point of committing large parts to memory on the spot. Still, while I'm persuaded that "for many" is a reasonable translation of and hat tip to Mark and Matthew, I remain unconvinced that it communicates the deep Catholic belief that we dare to hope that all are saved.

And what Jerry didn't mention is that at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, in the central apse, was a crucifix surrounded by the words, "He died for all." Quite the commentary on the translation itself.

My personal solution? I haven't quite decided. For the moment, I'm considering a "slavishly literal" recitation of the texts and implementation of the rubrics for a full year, with adaptations to come in year 2. Of course that will be 2012 when we're all going to die anyway.