Tuesday, November 13, 2012

New Translation Tuesday: "Things"

"New Translation Tuesday" greetings to all.

No doubt you have read the study done by the good folks at U.S. Catholic. I was grateful that this study was undertaken. But there definitely needs to be something done in a much more scientific way; wondering if the U.S. Bishops have any plans to undertake such a study. You may remember in the late 1990's, the bishops commissioned a study on the effectiveness of the RCIA in the United States, which eventually was published in a document called Journey to the Fullness of Life.

It would seem that a study on the effectiveness of the new translation would be a good thing, but perhaps we need to wait a bit longer; give the new translation more time to take hold.

This past Sunday's Collect got me thinking and doing some research after having heard it.

Almighty and merciful God,

by whose gift your faithful offer you
right and praiseworthy service,
grant, we pray,
that we may hasten without stumbling
to receive the things you have promised.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

It was the term "things" that caught my attention. Now that we have been using these prayers and I am beginning to settle into them somewhat, I started to think that this word is used quite a bit throughout the Missal. After a cursory search through the prayers, my hunch was confirmed. I had a conversation with a friend after Mass on Sunday, explaining that the term just seems too vague for me. "Things" doesn't seem to be a strong enough term to describe what God has promised. When we hear the phrase "the things of heaven," I am left with the question: "What does that mean?"

So, believe it or not, I have been spending time looking at the various meanings of the word "things." Merriam-Webster lists ten possible definitions, including the following:

1a : a matter of concern : affair (many things to do) b plural : state of affairs in general or within a specified or implied sphere (things are improving) c : a particular state of affairs : situation (look at this thing another way) d : event, circumstance (that shooting was a terrible thing)

2a : deed, act, accomplishment (do great things) b : a product of work or activity (likes to build things) c : the aim of effort or activity (the thing is to get well)

3a : a separate and distinct individual quality, fact, idea, or usually entity b : the concrete entity as distinguished from its appearances c : a spatial entity d : an inanimate object distinguished from a living being

4a plural : possessions, effects (pack your things) b : whatever may be possessed or owned or be the object of a right c : an article of clothing (not a thing to wear) d plural : equipment or utensils especially for a particular purpose (bring the tea things)

5: an object or entity not precisely designated or capable of being designated (use this thing)

6a : detail, point (checks every little thing) b : a material or substance of a specified kind (avoid fatty things)

7a : a spoken or written observation or point b : idea, notion (says the first thing he thinks of) c : a piece of news or information (couldn't get a thing out of him)

8: individual (not a living thing in sight)

9: the proper or fashionable way of behaving, talking, or dressing —used with the

10a : a mild obsession or phobia (has a thing about driving); also : the object of such an obsession or phobia b : something (as an activity) that makes a strong appeal to the individual : forte, specialty (letting students do their own thing)

MERRIAM-WEBSTER ONLINE (www.Merriam-Webster.com) copyright © 2012 by Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.

After doing this bit of research, my head was spinning. But it did help me to do this searching. When I think about "the things of heaven" or "the things you [God] have promised," my initial reaction was that the word "thing" is just too vague. I wondered if there was a word that would be more appropriate, something like "truths," or "realities," or "wonders," or "inestimable signs."

I guess my research taught me that "things" is a word that can encompass all the alternate solutions I came up with. It still strikes me, however, as a banal term because, in every-day usage, the word, at least to me, sounds like it is referring to "stuff," like the "stuff" on my desk, or the "stuff" in my house. Reminds me of the popular "Getting Things Done" movement.

Anyone else been struck by the word "things?" Help me (and others) out here, please.

Thanks for listening to my meandering thoughts today.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Diana Macalintal said...

I was curious, so I checked the same text from the 2008 Grey Book proposal. I had to double-check that I was looking at the same OT Sunday collect. I'm still confused.

Almighty and merciful God,
graciously banish all that would harm us,
so that, unhindered both in mind and body,
we may pursue with minds set free
the things that are yours.
Through our Lord . . .

Anonymous said...

I had the same reaction as you, Jerry. I have been thinking a lot about it, but I did not do the dictionary research you did... I have been practicing the text out loud, and trying in my mind to imagine the things of God...


Anonymous said...

I looked at the 1973 Missal:
"Almighty and merciful God,
drive from us whatever things are harmful
and make us ready in both body and mind to accomplish your will in perfect freedom."

I could explain things that are harmful easier than things of God.