Monday, November 20, 2006

One Small Step for the Novus Ordo: "Pro Multis"

There's (mildly) heartening news out of the Vatican: 36 years after the issuance of the Missal of Pope Paul VI, the Papacy has decreed the Latin words "pro multis" should be translated correctly into the vernacular. This phrase from the Words of Institution (over the chalice (His Blood "shed for you and for many") is presently rendered "for all" in the English version of the Novus Ordo and many other languages (für alle; por todos; per tutti).
Critics of the current translation have argued, since it first appeared, that rendering pro multis as "for all" not only distorts the meaning of the Latin original, but also conveys the impression that all men are saved, regardless of their relationship with Christ and his Church. The more natural translation, "for many," more accurately suggests that while Christ's redemptive suffering makes salvation available to all, it does not follow that all men are saved.

Francis Cardinal Arinze instructed the world's bishops all new translations of the Mass must translate the Latin correctly...but they don't have to change the current mistranslations. He also stated his rationale for the insistence:
  • The Synoptic Gospels (Mt 26,28; Mk 14,24) make specific reference to “many” for whom the Lord is offering the Sacrifice, and this wording has been emphasized by some biblical scholars in connection with the words of the prophet Isaiah (53, 11-12). It would have been entirely possible in the Gospel texts to have said “for all” (for example, cf. Luke 12,41); instead, the formula given in the institution narrative is “for many”, and the words have been faithfully translated thus in most modern biblical versions.
  • The Roman Rite in Latin has always said pro multis and never pro omnibus in the consecration of the chalice.
  • The anaphoras of the various Oriental Rites, whether in Greek, Syriac, Armenian, the Slavic languages, etc., contain the verbal equivalent of the Latin pro multis in their respective languages.
  • “For many” is a faithful translation of pro multis, whereas “for all” is rather an explanation of the sort that belongs properly to catechesis.
  • The expression “for many”, while remaining open to the inclusion of each human person, is reflective also of the fact that this salvation is not brought about in some mechanistic way, without one’s willing or participation; rather, the believer is invited to accept in faith the gift that is being offered and to receive the supernatural life that is given to those who participate in this mystery, living it out in their lives as well so as to be numbered among the “many” to whom the text refers.
  • In line with the instruction Liturgiam Authenticam, effort should be made to be more faithful to the Latin texts in the typical editions.
As Roman Catholics hold that transsubtantiation takes place at the proper recitation of the Words of Institution, some traditionalists believe this mistranslation is one of a number of items that makes the present Mass invalid by RCC standards. (SSPX has broached the question.) It is good to see this concern addressed; we'll see how (or if) this is implemented. Here are a series of articles from The Wanderer on the phrase itself.

May the RCC go further to undoing the damage inflicted upon its spiritual life by Vatican II and the Novus Ordo Mass.

(Hat tip: York Forum.)


Blogger Alcuin said...

It's not entirely correct to say that "Roman Catholics hold that transsubtantiation takes place at the proper recitation of the Words of Institution." Most Roman Catholics probably do believe just that, but since the Vatican declared some years ago that the Anaphora of Addai and Mari is valid, it follows that the words of institution are not necessary for the Eucharist to be confected.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Eric John said...

So, perhaps, "many" liturgical mistakes will be corrected, but not "all"? Why not just correct the word? Scratching out a word from a Missal and writing a different one is hardly sacrilege. We Orthodox have to do it all the time if we don't have an Orthodox Western prayer book. (I'm fond of big Xs, myself. Take THAT Gregory VII, you'll not be accidentally commemorated by ME!)

9:03 PM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Eric - as always, a joy of a comment. And yes, it would've been simpler to just correct this...36 years ago. I'm with you; let the RCC break out the markers!

God bless,

2:47 AM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Hi Alcuin,

It is incontestable that the RCC made this its doctrine of transsubstantiation from the Middle Ages forward, and indeed the 1992 Catechism maintains, "In the institution narrative, the power of the words and the action of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, make sacramentally present under the species of bread and wine Christ's body and blood, his sacrifice offered on the cross once for all."

The adoption of the anaphora you mention has baffled and bewildered traditional Catholics all over. While many modern RCC theologians agree this is consonant with RCC theology, they say that about all sorts of things....

I am happy to read that some RCC theologians are moving toward the idea that the whole canon affects the transformation, which has a venerable history in the pre-Schism Church.

3:16 AM  

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