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