29th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2011

October 16, 2011
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort, Springfield, Va.

“Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,
and to God what belongs to God.”
As many times as we’ve heard this text,
perhaps its never been more apropos than today,
as we approach state elections in just 3 weeks away,
and as next years national elections are the topic of daily headlines.
Some try to use this text to tell the Church to mind it’s own business
and keep its nose out of public debate, especially out of elections
Others, however, use it to defend the Church’s involvement in politics.
So what is the meaning of the dichotomy between Caesar and God
that Christ lays out?

Like anything in the word of God, like God himself,
this text has multiple layers and multiple facets.
First, Jesus is talking about relationship between the Church and the state.
Historically, the Old Testament reveals that in the case of Israel
God intended there to be no real distinction.
When God established Israel as a great nation
he made Moses it’s absolute ruler, as well as prophet and priest:
a true theocracy.
And it would continue as a theocracy for 700 years
until Israel was conquered and ruled for another 700 years
by a series of foreign pagan kings.

Which brings us to today’s Gospel.
Here we see 2 groups who were deeply involved
in the political struggles of Israel.
The Herodians who were the “pro-Caesar” Jews
and had no interest at all in a return to a religious monarchy
And the Pharisees, devout Jews who longed for the coming of the Messiah
who would reestablishing the Jewish religious state.
And into their midst walks Jesus, who seems to be the messiah,
which is why the Herodians feared him.
But he’s not the kind of messiah the Pharisees were hoping for,
which is why they feared him.

And so they joined forces to force Jesus to take sides,
so that one or the other can have him arrested and executed.

But he does not take sides.
He simply says:
“Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,
and to God what belongs to God.”

He’s is not terribly concerned about the state or creating an earthly kingdom,
but about the conversion of individual hearts and lives.
So in this short and pithy saying he rejects both
the wall of separation
and the religious monarchy.

But he also means something more.
Remember what he says later to Pontius Pilate:
“You would have no power over me
unless it had been given you from above.”
Or what St. Paul’s writes 20 years:
“there is no authority except from God
…Therefore he who resists the authorities
resists what God has appointed.”
And then remember the words from today’s 1st reading from Isaiah,
as God says to Cyrus the Persian,
one of the foreign pagan king who ruled over Israel:
“For the sake ….of Israel…
I have called you by your name, giving you a title,
though you knew me not.”
But then he adds: “I am the LORD and there is no other.”

Now we see more clearly what Jesus meant:
civil authorities have their own proper authority,
but in the end that and all legitimate authority comes from God.

Now, some people today might say that teaching is un-American.
But to me it seems to echo in the words of our nation’s founding document:
“We hold these Truths to be self-evident,
that all Men ….are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable rights…
That to secure these Rights,
Governments are instituted among Men.”

Here the founder’s base our nation’s whole existence on God—the Creator—
and hold that our government exists only
to protect what God has given to man.
This seems to be very close to what Jesus told the Herodians.

Now, it is true that over the centuries the Church has often
become more involved in secular government than Christ
would seem to have preferred:
after the first 300 years of the state persecuting the Church,
we began to see various levels of blurring of the lines
between Church and state
—on the part of both the Church and the state.
In it’s defense we can say, truthfully, that the Church’s efforts
were often well intentioned.
Still, we have to admit that many of the motives of some Churchmen
were not so pure, nor were the results always happy.
And we also see that the more closely the church directly involved itself
with the state or in grasping secular power as it’s own,
the more likely it was to be involved in calamities.

Eventually people rejected the interweaving of the state and religion.
And this rejection came most radically
in the form of 2 great 18th century revolutions.

In one of these revolutions—the French Revolution—
the revolutionaries tried to eradicate the Church altogether,
killing or exiling 10’s of 1000’s of Frenchmen
who simply wanted to practice their Catholic faith.
In the end this was not a separation of Church and state
but merely a new example of the old problem:
a new state persecuting the Church.

But the other revolution was very different.
That was the American revolution.
It did not seek to banish God or Christ, or Christians or Churches
from it’s shores.
In fact the founding fathers saw religion
not only as a fundament human right,
but also as essential to the success of the American experiment.
They believed that the only way America could have
a moral and just government was if it had a moral and just people.
And they believed that religion was essential for this to happen.
As George Washington himself wrote in his Farewell Address:
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity,
religion and morality are indispensable supports….”
And he flatly rejected the idea that
“Morality can be maintained without religion.”

And here we come back to Jesus’ teaching about Caesar and God.
Yes, the government has a legitimate autonomy from the Church.
But no government can ever usurp God’s authority,
whether by suppressing the rights God has given to the people,
or by redefining good as evil, or truth and lies.

Granted, Churchmen have sometimes failed to recognize
the legitimate authority of the secular governments,
and so many times had to hang their heads in shame.
But when Churchmen have simply stuck
to teaching the justice and morality passed on to us by Christ
–of reminding Caesar exactly what it is that belongs to God–
they have fulfilled their God-given mission
and advanced the good of all mankind.

Of course, some today continue to vehemently disagree
even with this limited form of “interference” by the Church.
They say if religious people follow their Churches’
moral teaching when they vote
then Churches will wind up controlling the state.
And they ask, how can there be religious freedom
if we impose one denomination’s morals on the whole society?

The thing is, some basic moral principles transcend denominational teaching
—they are not merely the teaching of “the Church” but
part of what philosophers call the “Natural Law,”
or what the Declaration of Independence calls
“the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”
These are moral principles that are so basic that any rational human being
should figure them out all on their own
without a priest or minister teaching them.
For example, any rational thinking person can figure out
that it’s wrong to rape or to intentionally kill innocent people.

Unfortunately, though, all to often we don’t think rationally
—we let our passions, like hatred or greed, lead us in our actions.
And sometimes we just don’t have time to sit and think things through,
as if we were all professional philosophers.
So it’s important for someone—like the Church–to call us to task,
to think,
and to obey “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”—the Natural Law.

Because without that
governments will inevitably enact laws
that are contrary to both human reason
and the good that our creator intended:
all we will have is codified injustice.
For example, they might enact and enforce laws
that deny the natural God-given
right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”;
or the God-given freedom of religion or speech.
Clearly, no merely “Human Law” can be “good” or just or even binding
if it contravenes “Natural Law.”

And so we see a 2nd facet of Christ’s saying today:
we must obey Caesar only as long as
Caesar is consistent with the truth that God imprints
in the hearts and reason of all men, religious or not.
Even if man needs to be reminded of these truths
through the efforts of the Catholic Church,
or amateur philosophers like the founders of our great nation.

But how do we apply Christ’s teaching about Caesar and God in 2011?
In today’s Gospel the Herodians come to Jesus with flattering words:
“we know that you are a truthful man
and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion.”
But Jesus does not respond so sweetly.
Instead he calls them what they are: “hypocrites,”
because
they don’t really want the truth from Jesus;
and they don’t really want him to “teach” them “the way of God”;
and while they call themselves “Jews”
they have chosen to render to Caesar
what belongs to God alone.

Today millions of Catholics do the same thing.
For 38 years Human Law has established a false right to kill unborn babies.
And for 38 years Catholics have gone to the polls and voted for candidates
who defend, support and encourage this abomination.

Like the Herodians 2000 years ago, these so called “Catholics”
choose opinion over truth.
They know the Church teaches infallibly that
abortion is always a grave moral evil.
And they know that the popes have made it clear
that unlike any other issue today,
except same-sex marriage,
abortion is non-negotiable in the political realm.
But even give all that, millions of Catholics still give more credit
to public opinion polls, or to the opinion of the media or a political party,
than to the truth taught by the Church.
They say “I know the Church teaches abortion is wrong…But I think ….”
They can think what ever they want, but they can’t say “I’m a good Catholic”
if they reject Catholic teaching.
A person who does that is called, like the Herodians, a hypocrite.

But it’s not just the teaching of the Church that condemns abortion
—it’s the Natural Law itself.
Every rational human being should know that
there is absolutely no principle more fundamental in the Natural Law
than the absolute right to life of the innocent.
What good is a right to health insurance or economic security or anything else
if there is no right to life?
Any candidate who says he stands for justice
but then refuses to protect this most foundational right
that candidate, like the Herodians,
has given Caesar authority over the things of God
and, like them, is nothing less than a hypocrite.

And, frankly, a Catholic who supports or votes for that candidate
is an even worse hypocrite.
Because while Jesus calls the Herodians “hypocrites” once in today’s Gospel,
in the very next chapter of Matthew Christ turns on the Pharisees
and calls them hypocrites 6 times.
They’re worse than the Herodians
because they should know better than to play games with God’s law.
Catholics who support pro-abortion politicians should also know better.
And they should listen to the warning Christ reserves for Pharisees:
“”Woe to you, …Pharisees, hypocrites!
…You serpents, you brood of vipers,
how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?”

Finally, some say,
“Father, I understand all that…but with the economy the way it is….
I have to vote for a candidate who will fix things.”
I am very sympathetic to the pain, confusion and fear
the economy is causing people.
But remember, in today’s Gospel,
what does Jesus have in his hand that he says belongs to Caesar?
A Roman coin: money.
This reveals a 3rd facet of this text:
Jesus doesn’t care a whole lot about money
—it’s part of the world, not part of God.

Who was it that gave you all you have
—the money and the skills and the breaks to have it all?
Was it Caesar, or was it God?
Try as it might, can the government Caesar stop stock market crashes?
It can’t even balance its own books,
how can we expect it to really “fix” all of our economic problems?
And at night is it Caesar you pray to
or do you pray to God
to bring us back from the precipice?
Remember what Jesus says elsewhere:
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap
…Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’
….But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things shall be yours as well.”

In the coming days, weeks and months, we face some very important decisions.
But when you make those decisions, ask yourself:
when the day of judgment comes
what will you say to Christ, the true king of the world?
Will you have to explain why you joined the other bad Catholics
who were willing to render unto Caesar what really belonged to God;
who were more concerned with Human Laws, personal opinions,
parties ideology, or even their bank accounts,
than with the most simple and fundament demands of justice?
What will you say to Christ?
And what will Christ say to you?
Let us pray that it will not be those 2 terrible words
he once spoke to the Herodians and Pharisee’s:
“you hypocrite.”

October 16, 2011

NEW TRANSLATION OF THE MASS, continued. Today we’ll take a look at the changes to the Creed, or Profession of Faith.

The Creed is actually called the “Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.” Its original form was approved by Council of Nicaea in 325AD, the first ecumenical council of the Church. Recall that for most of the first three centuries of the Church it was illegal to be a Christian, and thousands were martyred for the faith. This persecution caused there to be very poor communication between the Christians around the world, which inevitably led to confusion in doctrines from place to place. So, when the Emperor Constantine ended the persecution in 321, the bishops then came together in council to discuss and clarify our common or “Catholic” (“universal”) beliefs. The main result was the precisely worded “Nicene Creed,” which listed the most fundamental articles of faith. In 381 the Council of Constantinople adopted several key clarifications to counter certain “Arian” heresies. The Creed has remained unchanged since then, except for the clarification called the “Filioque” added by Pope Benedict VIII (1014-15).

This then, is an absolutely uniquely important treasure of our faith, with the original Greek words carefully chosen by the ancient fathers, and equally carefully translated immediately into Latin. Martyrs have died for refusing to deny these words. So you can see why a correct and precise translation into English is so critical.

For the most part the changes to the Creed in the new translation (NT) are rather few. So instead of going through line by line I will first point out one general change, and then move on to explain other key words and phrases that have changed.

“One general change” reverberates throughout the NT, and will be, perhaps, the change most difficult to adjust to, in no small part because it is reflected in the very first word of the NT. While the old translation (OT) began, “We believe,” the NT begins, “I believe,” reflecting the actual and literal Latin “Credo” (rather than “Credimus”), and emphasizing that while we hold the doctrines of the Creed as one common faith together, faith is something each individual must profess for salvation. This shift from the plural voice to the singular voice permeates the prayer and necessitates changes in several other places.

That opening line also has one other change, at the very end, where it expresses our belief that the one God is maker of, as the OT says, “all that is seen and unseen,” and as the NT translates more accurately: “all things visible and invisible.” This article is not about whether we accidentally see or don’t see some things, but that some things are seeable and some are not seeable: i.e., “visible and invisible.” This refers, for example, to angels and demons (who are spirits), and alludes to the words St. Paul writes about Jesus in Col. 1:15-16:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers …”

The next changes in translation comes in very next line:

Latin: Et in unum Dóminum Iesum Christum, Fílium Dei unigénitum, et ex Patre natum, ante ómnia sæcula.
OT: We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father,
NT: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all
ages.

The NT more accurately translates the Latin, while the OT reflected some confusing and unnecessary re-ordering and editing of the Latin.

The most important change in the text comes next, just a few lines down, as the Latin speaks of Jesus as, “consubstantiálem Patri.” The OT translated this as “one in Being with the Father,” while the NT more precisely says, “consubstantial with the Father.” This change was specifically required by Liturgiam Authenticam 56, because of the importance of this dogma. Unfortunately, while the expression “one in being” is not incorrect, it is theologically vague, whereas the term “consubstantiálem” (and the underlying Greek “homoousious”) was coined by the early Church to have a very precise theological meaning; that is, the Father and Son share the same nature, literally share the same substance, the divine nature. As the Catechism (262) teaches: “with the Father the Son is one and the same God.”

Another critical change comes several lines later, as we profess our faith about Jesus:

Latin: Et incarnátus est de Spíritu Sancto ex María Vírgine…
OT: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary…. NT: and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary….

The Latin here is not concerned with Jesus being born, but with the fact that he was incarnated—that he literally he took on flesh. The article is looking not at Christmas, but nine months earlier at the Incarnation when the eternal God the Son took to himself a human nature, body and soul: God “became man.” (Note, the phrase “the power of” is nowhere in the Latin, and so is omitted in the NT).

The Creed goes on to say that Jesus “rose again on the third day.” This happened, as the Latin says, “secúndum Scriptúras,” which the OT rendered as “in fulfillment of the Scriptures,” but the NT more accurately renders: “in accordance with the Scriptures.” The NT brings out a subtle but important point intended in the Latin but missed in the OT: the word “fulfillment” in the OT refers back to the Old Testament prophesies, whereas “secundum”/”in-accordance” refers to both the Old Testament prophesies and the New Testament eyewitness accounts: to those who deny that Jesus really physically rose from the dead, the Creed says, “he did in fact rise just like the Gospels say.”

As the Creed moves on to speak about the Holy Spirit it makes a small but important change in translating the word “adoratur” from “worshipped” to the more exact “adored.” While lost in common parlance, “worship” is, by definition, something that can be given to both God and creatures (British refer to certain public officials as “your worship”). But “adoration” is a form of worship that can be given to God alone, and is theologically distinguishable from other forms of worship of God (e.g., supplication, confession), as a humble recognition of God’s transcendence.

The Creed goes on to say “Confíteor unum baptísma,” rendered in the OT as “We acknowledge one baptism,” and in the NT as “I confess one baptism.” The NT reminds us that the faith is not something we simply recognize, but rather something we confess, or publicly make our own.

Finally, we conclude with a statement of our faith in “the resurrection of the dead.” The Latin “exspecto,” translated as “we look for” in the OT, is better translated in the NT as “I look forward to.” We are not merely watching, but rather joyfully anticipating “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

October 9, 2011

NEW TRANSLATION OF THE ROMAN MISSAL, continued. The last few weeks we’ve discussed the new translations of the Holy, Holy, the Mystery of Faith and the Gloria, which we have already begun to sing at Mass. This week we’ll begin to discuss the remainder of the changes that will be introduced on November 27, in particular the prayers of the Introductory Rites.

Some of these changes were mandated by specific provisions of the Vatican’s 2001 instruction on translation, Liturgiam authenticam [LA]. In particular, LA 56:

Certain expressions that belong to the heritage…of the ancient Church…are to be respected by a translation that is as literal as possible, as for example the words of the people’s response Et cum spiritu tuo, or the expression mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa in the Act of Penance of the Order of Mass.

Of all the changes in the new translation, the most difficult for the people to get used to will be the change in a response repeated throughout the Mass, literally from beginning to end. Whenever the priest says, “The Lord be with you” (or “peace be with you”), it has become second nature for us to respond, “And also with you.” In the NT, however, this response will change to, “And with your Spirit,” which, following the mandate of LA 56, is a word-for-word translation of the Latin, “Et cum spirtu tuo.” This brings the English translation into accord with the Mass translations in the other major languages (e.g., Spanish: “y con tu espiritu,” French: “et avec votre esprit,” etc.).

The OT reflects the view of some that the exchange “The Lord be with you…And with your Spirit” is more or less a simple friendly exchange of greetings. Others, however, including the renowned theologians Fr. Joseph Jungmann and Cardinal Yves Congar, point out that the tradition sees this exchange as a form of prayer. The priest calls on the Lord to be with the people, and then the people respond by invoking the Holy Spirit to enliven the special graces given to the priest at ordination (his “spirit”) so that he may perform his special priestly sacramental duties well and fully in the Mass. Because of this, from the earliest days of the Church the liturgical response, “et cum spiritu tuo” was only said to a bishop, priest or deacon.

Of course, besides the greeting “Dominus vobiscum”/“The Lord be with you,” the Roman Missal provides the priest with two alternative greetings, which we should consider briefly. The first alternative is taken directly from 2 Cor. 13:13[14], and was well translated in the OT as: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” The only difference in the NT is changing the word “fellowship” to “communion.” This seems to reflect the thought of both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who maintain that the word “koinonia” in the original Greek Scriptures is better translated as “communion,” signifying a relationship of true unity/union, rather than “fellowship” which implies merely a type of friendship.

The second alternative greeting, however, shows significant differences between the OT and the NT, as the NT uses a word for word literal translation of the Latin, which directly quotes St. Paul’s greeting in Rom 1:7 and 1 Cor. 1:3.

Latin: Grátia vobis et pax a Deo Patre nostro et Dómino Iesu Christo.
OT: The grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. NT: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Immediately after the opening greeting and response, the priest introduces the penitential rite:
Latin: Fratres, agnoscámus peccáta nostra, ut apti simus ad sacra mystéria celebránda. OT: My brothers and sisters, to prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries, let
us call to mind our sins.

NT: Brethren (or brothers and sisters), let us acknowledge our sins, and so prepare
ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.

While at first the changes here seem only to be in word order, one key difference should be noted: “agnoscamus” is more properly translated as “acknowledge” rather than “call to mind.” The difference is important: we not only think about our sins, we make it publicly known that we are sinners. The invitation is not to simple internal reflection, but to public confession.

Note that in the OT three different forms of the invitation by the priest were provided, and the priest was instructed to use “these or similar words,” so that he could change the words if he chose to. These options are not in the Latin, and so not in the NT.

Although the penitential rite may take various forms, the one most commonly used at St. Raymond’s is the ancient “Confiteor,” or “I confess.” Several changes are made to the words of this public confession, but the most dramatic is found in the following:

Latin: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa.
OT: through my own fault.
NT: through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault

It is striking how the OT reduced the three “mea culpas” to one, and how the NT corrects this, according the specific mandate of LA 56 (see above). This omission in the OT seems to have been an application of Vatican II’s call to reduce “useless repetitions” in the liturgy (see last week’s column). However, this principle applies to the Pope (and his collaborators) as he composes/selects the prayers to be included in the Latin Missal, and it is not the role of translators to second guess the Pope’s judgment (see LA 20).

Moreover, not all repetition is “useless.” Consider two examples: 1) “Lord [Christ] have mercy” (“Kyrie eleison”), and 2) “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” Both of these use the triple repetition to emphasize God’s infinite mercy. The thrice repeated “through my fault” in the Confiteor emphasizes our sinfulness, and so forms a parallel and connection to these two subsequent threefold pleas for God’s mercy. [Note also: 1) any triple repetition in the Mass is always an allusion to the Trinity, and not to be considered “useless,” and 2) the triple “mea culpa” reminds us of Christ’s triple forgiveness of St. Peter’s triple denial].

Note also the OT’s omission of the phrase “my most grievous fault,” (“mea máxima culpa”). We also see a similar omission earlier in the prayer where “peccávi nimis” (“I have greatly sinned “) is translated in the OT as “I have sinned.” There seems to be a clear trend in the OT of downplaying the gravity of our guilt. Fortunately, this is corrected in the NT.

Besides the Confiteor, there are two other optional forms for the Penitential Rite. The first of these (“Lord, we have sinned against you…”) has been substantially reworded in NT to conform to the Latin, but for brevity’s sake I will forego further discussion here. The second alternative (“You were sent to heal the contrite…”) remains mostly unchanged.

Next week…The Creed.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2011: “Respect Life Sunday”

October 2, 2011
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort, Springfield, Va.

The first Sunday of October, has, for years,
been designated by the Catholic Bishops in America
as “Respect Life Sunday.”
So, as I have for the last 16 years,
today I will preach on the topic of respecting life:
specifically on the evil of abortion.

But I gotta tell you, part of me wonders: Why? What good does it do?
After all these years of 1000’s of priests, bishops and Popes,
proclaiming the Gospel of Life
so many Catholics still don’t understand
that abortion is destroying not only
the lives of millions of unborn babies, and their mothers,
but also mankind’s fundamental respect for all aspects human life.

Sometimes I feel a bit like those servants we read about in today’s Gospel:
“he sent his servants to the tenants ….
But … one they beat,
another they killed,
and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants….but they treated them in the same way.”

Now, it’s true, no one has stoned or killed me
or any other priest I know for preaching pro-life.
True: but they’ve done worse:
they continue to either support or to vote for those who support
the killing of the most innocent human beings in abortion.

Why don’t Catholics get it?
The last few years one particular reason seems to stand out.
It seems that sometimes we allow the term “pro-life” or “respect-life”
to have a mixed or ambiguous meaning
that winds up confusing Catholics
regarding the fundamental issues and priorities involved.

So let’s clarify something: what does it mean to “respect life”?

Now, as Christians, we are called to respect the life of all human beings
because each is created in the image of God,
and shares a unique dignity and life given by God himself.
But it doesn’t take a Christian or even a religious person to see this:
every rational human being should understand
that the life of every human being demands respect.

But how far do the demands of respect go?
Does respect for human life demand that if someone attacks me,
I can’t defend myself,
even if they’re trying to kill me?
What about if they’re trying to kill my children?

Does it mean countries can’t go to war for a grave reason,
even if their attacked or fight to liberate the oppressed?
Does it mean that we can never punish a criminal,
or deny immigration to an alien?
Going even further, does it mean you can’t provide for yourself or your family
before you provide for a stranger?

“Respect” is a big word, and respect for human life is very demanding.
But there are limitations.
Common sense, and the Church, teach us that there is
a certain hierarchy and order in human life, and so in the ways of respect.
For example:
we place duty to family ahead of duty to strangers,
we respect individual responsibility and free will,
and we recognize that some human choices don’t deserve respect
because they are contrary to human dignity.

Now, it can be very confusing to figure out all the various duties and demands
of respecting human life.
But to begin to do this we need to keep in mind the fundamentals
—the most basic and important principles
set the priority and order of everything that follows.

So what is the most fundamental demand of respecting human life?
It’s not to hard to figure out on our own, but again God helps us by commanding:
“thou shall not kill.”
If we look carefully at Scripture
we discover that this has pretty basic common sense meaning:
one can never ever intentionally and directly
kill an innocent human being.
This is the most fundamental principle of respecting human life.
And so it is absolute and without exception.

And as we sort of move away from situations
where this fundamental principle directly applies
we see that all the other demands of respect for life
come from it and relate back to it,
even as they become more subtle,
allowing for different non-absolute responses.

So, for example, the first step away might be the case of self-defense.
If someone is trying to kill you he is not innocent,
so the principle in it’s most absolute form does not apply.
You still have to respect the person’s non-innocent life,
but not at the cost of your own innocent life:
you can fight back, even taking his life to save yours.

Or take another step.
You’re driving at a normal speed
and suddenly someone rushes into the road and you hit him.
Respect for life requires you to try not to hit him
—but if it’s unavoidable,
if you unintentionally hit him, you have not failed to respect his life.

Walk way down that road now.
Say a man comes to you demanding money for food.
You know he’s healthy and employable, but he’s lazy and chosen not to work.
If you refuse his request for help do you fail to respect life?
He was not innocent, and you did not intend for him to starve.
So respect for his life did not require that you help him.
In fact, you could reasonably argue that respect required you to scold him,
to have more respect for himself: “go get a job.”
As St. Paul says elsewhere: “If any one will not work, let him not eat.”

The point is: we begin with the fundamental rule and that orders all the rest.
And the flipside of this is equally important:
if we don’t observe the fundamental rule,
none of the rest have any order or make any sense.

Elsewhere in Scripture Jesus talks about:
“a foolish man who built his house upon the sand;
the rain fell, and the floods came, and …that house, …fell.”
And in today’s Gospel Jesus reminds us:
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”
The cornerstone of respecting human life
is the absolute right to life of innocent human beings.
Pull that cornerstone out, and like a house built on sand in a flood,
the whole house will fall.

If we don’t understand that duty to protect innocent human life,
what would make us think we’re required us to feed the hungry,
even when they truly cannot help themselves?
How do we know that one nation may not attack another without a just cause?
All of our high-minded ideals of justice and duty and respect
are nonsense, if not grounded in the most simple, basic and fundamental
principle of respect for innocent life.

And so we come to abortion, which is unarguably the killing of
the most innocent and defenseless of human beings.
And talk about abortion obviously has public and even political ramifications,
especially just one month before state elections,
and we get deeper into next year’s national elections.

Some people argue that there are more important issues at stake than abortion.
But what can be more important than the systematic promotion
of the abuse of most fundamental moral principle,
attacking the most fundamentally innocent?
1.4 million abortions a year, more than 50 million in 38 years,
and millions more to come?

Or they say that even if abortion is the most important single issue,
lots of other smaller issues combine to outweigh it.
Some people say they show their respect for life by working for
the end of the death penalty,
health care for the uninsured,
prosperity for the poor and middle classes,
and for the rights of immigrants.
Let’s set aside the fact that good people—even Good Catholics—
can disagree about each of these issues and others like them;
for example, the Church teaches that sometimes
the death penalty is allowed and even necessary.
But what sense do these lesser issues make
and how can we understand the right way to approach them,
if our understanding of them is not founded upon the issue:
absolute respect for the right to life of innocent human beings?
And how can we trust someone to promote and value these subsidiary issues,
when he rejects the cornerstone issue ?
It’s like putting up the windows or the doors of a house
before you lay the foundation
—they’ll either blow away in the wind
or some dishonest person will come and walk off with them.

For example, how can we trust a politician
with making the right decision about health care rights
—a decision that embodies a true respect for life—
when the politician can’t understand that a baby’s right to health care
exists only when it has life,
that health without life is literally meaningless.

Some argue that we need to fix our immigration policy:
some say we need to crack down and seal the borders,
others say we need to open the borders and end alleged discrimination.
Good Catholics can disagree with on this issue,
and question each other’s judgments,
but why would we think politicians
who enthusiastically embrace unquestionably unjust attacks
on the most defenseless and innocent members
of our own society—the unborn—
would avoid unjustly harming immigrants in the future?
It’s like voting for a member of the Klan
because he claims to support minority voting rights.

Some even argue that the current economic crisis requires us
to ignore abortion in order to fix our fiscal house
–and I agree that our fiscal problems are hugely important.
But how do you begin to count the cost of millions of aborted innocents?
How do you weigh on a scale
10’s of millions of babies against trillions of dollars of debt?
Would you take a trillion dollars to kill your neighbor’s child?
Sounds a bit like Judas accepting 30 pieces of silver
For betraying the perfectly innocent one.
“What does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”

And in a certain sense, it doesn’t matter if it’s 1.4 million babies or only 1 baby:
anyone who’s moral system,
whose sense of respecting human life,
promotes and defends the death of even one innocent human life
in order to achieve some perceived good of many others
is a fool and a reprobate.
This logic is nothing new:
Caiaphas, the high priest who condemned Jesus to death, once said:
“it is better that one man should die for the people,
than the whole nation perish.”
One wonders if Caiaphas was in the group of “chief priests”
that Jesus was talking to in today’s Gospel.

Speaking of priests,
some of you may be tired of priests preaching about abortion.
Friends, frankly, I agree with you.
But remember how Jesus chastised the Jewish priests for their failures:
for rejecting the prophets—and him!
So as long as human life is so fundamentally disrespected by so many Catholics
that they fail to rise up with all other like-minded pro-life Americans,
and crush the plague of abortion in this country,
God himself will continue to send his servants, his priests,
and they must do their best to try to collect what is due Him:
respect for the truth, and respect for human life.

But priests are not the only servants he sends.
Each of you is also his servant.
So act like it, and go out into the world you live in
and proclaim the Gospel of Life.
Demand, with charity and clarity,
that human life be respected, especially in the most fundamental way:
respect for the life of the innocent and defenseless unborn.
And make that demand known wherever God sends you
—at home, at work, at school, at play,
and in the voting booth.

Friends, Christ is the cornerstone of our faith and of our life itself.
And he has taught us to recognize that common sense dictates
we must respect every human being
as having a unique dignity and life given by God himself.
And he has taught us that the cornerstone of that respect for life
is respect for the right to life of the most innocent and defenseless among us.
If we would not reject Christ the cornerstone,
let us not reject this cornerstone of respect for human life.

October 2, 2011

NEW TRANSLATION OF THE ROMAN MISSAL, continued. Last week we discussed the new translation of the Mystery of Faith (formerly called the Memorial Acclamation) (last week’s column is available on the parish website). This week’s column I’d like to discuss the changes to the Gloria, which we will begin to sing on at Sunday Masses on October 8-9.

The changes to this prayer are substantial, since the old 1973 translation was very flawed, especially by the standards of outlined in the Vatican’s 2001 instruction on translation, Liturgiam authenticam [LA].

The Gloria begins with the angelic Christmas acclamation to the shepherds. Although the original Greek Scripture text is difficult to translate, the text in the Latin has been the translation in liturgical use since at least the 3rd century, and the new English translation is faithful to it:

Latin: Glória in excélsis Deo et in terra pax homínibus bonæ voluntátis.
Old Translation: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.
New Translation: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.

While the first phrase (Glória in excélsis Deo) of the old translation [OT] agrees with the biblical text, the second part does not, no matter what “version” of the Bible you use; nor does it agree to the Latin at all. The OT refers to “his people,” which would properly apply only to Christians and Jews, while the Latin and the new translation [NT] refers to “people of good will,” extending the angels’ greeting to any human being on earth who is open to hear the good news, indicating that Christ has come to save all mankind, if they will simple hear and follow the Gospel.

The next part of the Glory is a short litany of praise.

Latin: [1] Laudámus te, [2] benedícimus te, [3] adorámus te, [4] glorificámus te, [5]
grátias ágimus tibi propter magnam glóriam tuam,
OT: [1] we worship you, [2] we give you thanks, [3] we praise you for your glory.
NT: [1] We praise you, [2] we bless you, [3] we adore you, [4] we glorify you, [5] we give you thanks for your great glory,

Besides the fact that the OT did not at all accurately translate the simple Latin into English, we also see one of the key problems in the OT that is prevalent in this prayer: omissions. Notice how the five phrases of the Latin and the NT are shortened into just three in the OT. I believe this comes from the effort of the translators of the OT to apply a principle enunciated by Vatican II (SC 34): “The rites…should be short, clear, and free from useless repetitions.” But, as LA 20 points out, applying that principle is the job of the “composers” of the rites (i.e., the Pope and his assistants), not the translators of what is composed:

The Latin liturgical texts …are themselves the fruit of the liturgical renewal, just recently brought forth [i.e., the reforms of Vatican II]….[T]he original [Latin] text…must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions…

The Pope has already applied the principles of Vatican II when he decided what should be in the Latin, and by omitting words or phrases from those prayers translators place their judgment above the Pope’s.
We should also note the last words, “magnam glóriam tuam,” are well translated in the NT as “your great glory,” but the OT omits the magnam/great. This is an example of lowering of the sense of sacred so characteristic of the OT: the prayer is extolling God’s glory, “Glory to God”, and yet the OT can’t afford to call it “great.”

The next part presents only a very small much change:

Latin: Dómine Deus, Rex cæléstis, Deus Pater omnípotens. OT: Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father,
NT: Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father.

But notice, in the Latin and NT this phrase follows the above litany of praise, whereas the OT moved it to proceed the litany. Perhaps there was a sensible reason for this, but I have never understood it. Some argue that it was moved to the beginning to clarify who object of the litany was, i.e., God the Father; but that is to change the prayer, not to translate— it presumes to correct the Pope and centuries of Catholics before him.

The next part has only a slight, but very doctrinally important change:

Latin: Dómine Fili unigénite, Iesu Christe, OT: Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, NT: Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son,

The OT is at best doctrinally “confusing” in calling Jesus the “only Son” of the Father, since all the baptized are sons and daughters of the Father. But as the Latin and NT point out, Jesus is the only “begotten” Son of the Father, while the baptized become sons and daughters by being united to Christ in baptism, sharing in His unique sonship.

The changes in the next part are again due to the OT’s omission of texts: 16 words in the English! (See the underlined text).

Latin: Dómine Deus, Agnus Dei, Fílius Patris,
qui tollis peccáta mundi, miserére nobis;
qui tollis peccáta mundi, súscipe deprecatiónem nostram. Qui sedes ad déxteram Patris, miserére nobis.
OT: Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer.

NT: Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.

Notice how the omitted phrases are repetitions of phrases or concepts. Again, this was an apparent attempt to apply Vatican II’s principle of reducing “useless repetitions,” which was not the translators job presumptuously implies an error in the Pope’s Latin text.

But notice, Vatican II called for reduction in “useless repetition,” but sometimes repetition is a useful tool for emphasizing important points, or for poetic grace. For example, here we repeat “you take away the sins of the world” and “have mercy on us” to emphasize (among other things) both Christ’s action toward us and our petition to Him.

Notice also the change from the OT’s “sin of the world” to the NT’s “sins of the world,” accurately translating the Latin “peccata,” but also making an important theological point: Christ does not take away simply “sin” in general, but all sins of all the individual persons in the world through all time.

The rest of the Gloria is without change.

To be continued….

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

September 25, 2011

We continue our discussion of the new translation of the Roman Missal. Today we will examine the new translation of the Mystery of Faith (formerly called the Memorial Acclamation) which we will begin to chant at next Sunday’s Masses (except 7am and 7pm).

First, let’s review some applicable principles of translation outlined in the Vatican’s 2001 instruction on translation, Liturgiam authenticam [LA].

 LA required “rendering the original texts faithfully and accurately …translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions… and without paraphrases or glosses.”
 “The Latin liturgical texts …, while drawing on centuries of …transmitting the faith of the Church …are themselves the fruit of the liturgical renewal…. [T]he translation of the liturgical texts of the Roman Liturgy is not …a work of creative innovation…” In short, the Latin prayers were carefully composed—don’t add or change anything.

 “The manner of translating the liturgical books should foster a correspondence between the biblical text itself and the liturgical texts of ecclesiastical composition which contain biblical words or allusions.” In short, when the Latin quotes or alludes to Scripture, the translation should reflect this.

Before considering how these principles help us to understand the new translation of “The Mystery of Faith,” let’s take a moment to consider the purpose and meaning of this part of the ritual. The term “Mystery of faith” (Mysterium fidei), emphasizes that the Eucharist, in as much as it is truly the miraculous re-presentation of both the sacrifice of the Cross and the Resurrection, is truly the central mystery of our faith. As Bd. John Paul II wrote in his 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia:

“When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and “the work of our redemption is carried out”…. [EE 11]. “Christ’s passover includes not only his passion and death, but also his resurrection….The Eucharistic Sacrifice makes present not only the mystery of the Saviour’s passion and death, but also the mystery of the resurrection which crowned his sacrifice.” [EE 14]

In proclaiming the “Mystery of Faith” immediately after the consecration we proclaim not only our faith in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but in awe and adoration we also acknowledge the profundity of what has happened: we are in the presence of and taken up into that eternal act that redeems the world.

Moving into a review of the new translation, we note how the “new” text makes clear that the priest and the people both make this proclamation, but each in their own specific way. The priest does not do so merely as an individual Christian, as the rest of the assembly does, but rather, as the one who has offered the sacrifice standing in persona Christi. We see this very clearly in a careful consideration of the proclamation/acclamation the priest says immediately after the consecration:

Latin: “Mysterium Fidei.”
Old 1973 translation: “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.” New 2011 translation: “The mystery of faith.”

Notice, the old 1973 translation adds the phrase “Let us proclaim…” which substantially changes the meaning of what the priest is saying/doing, making it an invitation for the people to join the priest in reciting one of several optional “versions” of “the mystery of faith” (e.g., “Christ has died…,” “Lord by your cross and resurrection…, etc.). But the Latin and in the new 2011 translation do not include this invitation; rather, the priest makes his own proclamation, said in persona Christi, acknowledging that this (the Eucharist) is “the mystery of faith.” This reflects the ancient practice (now suppressed) of placing the phrase “mystery of faith” within the actual words of consecration, so that in the consecration the priest, speaking in persona Christi, would say (in Latin), “This is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant: the mystery of faith…”

In response to the priest’s proclamation, the people make their own proclamation of the “mystery of faith,” this one with more descriptive words expressive of the reality of the salvific nature of Lord’s death and resurrection made present on the altar. [Note: it would seem reasonable for the priest join in the people’s response to assist them in 1) knowing which option to use, and 2) encourage them to make the acclamation.]

Now let’s consider the new translations of each of the optional proclamations/acclamations of the people.

Option 1

Latin: “Mortem tuam annuntiámus, Dómine, et tuam resurrectiónem confitemur, donec vénias.”
Old: “Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory.”
New: “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.

The new translation is an excellent translation of the Latin, while the old translation is more a “paraphrase” of the Latin, and also inserts us into the proclamation by adding “our death…our life.” Moreover, the new translation more clearly follows the Latin in drawing on St. Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor 11:26 that in the Eucharist “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

Option 2

Latin: “Quotiescúmque manducámus panem hunc et cálicem bíbimus, mortem tuam annuntiámus, Dómine, donec vénias.”
Old: “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory.”
New: “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.”

Here, both the old and new translations are very similar. Even so, the old translation added the words “Jesus” and “in glory,” which are not in the original Latin, and tend to distract from the almost direct correlation to 1 Cor 11:26.

Option 3

Latin: “Salvátor mundi, salva nos, qui per crucem et resurrectiónem tuam liberásti nos.” Old: “Lord, by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free. You are the Savior of
the World.”
New: “Save us, Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection, you have set us
free.”

Here we see that while the old translation kept much of the overall sense of the Latin text, it is essentially a paraphrase. However we also see how the old leaves out the invocation “Save us” (“salva nos”) that is unique to this option, and so an important omission.

Option 4.

The old translation included a 4th option, the very popular, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” This text, however, is completely “a work of creative innovation” and has no parallel in the Latin original, and so has been omitted from the English Missal.

To be continued…

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2011

September 18, 2011
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort, Springfield, Va.

What is the meaning of life and death?
Every culture, and every age seems to make its own attempt
to answer these questions.
In our time and our culture we find a lot of people seeing life in terms of
“quality of life” and “length of life.”
The huge swings in the stock market and the other bad economic news
we keep hearing reminds us how many of us
tend to see life all to often in terms of money and “success.”
But one of the great things about being Christian
is that we don’t have to worry about those things,
because we know the meaning of life and death
–as St. Paul tells us today in the second reading:
“To me, life is Christ, and death is gain.”

This beautiful passage of St. Paul puts the whole Christian perspective on
the meaning of life and death in a nutshell.
While the secular world approaches life looking for its meaning and purpose
in quality or longevity, or “success” or riches.
Christians look at life and see it as something which has meaning
only to the extent its lived as a life with Christ.
As God tells the Prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading:
“my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.”
The world looks at death and sees only the end of life
–perceiving it as either something to be feared and avoided,
or perhaps as a way out of a life that “lacks quality”
or has gone on “too long” or become unsuccessful
But Christians look at death and see the perfection of living life with Christ.

The fundamental truth of the Christian perspective is that life centers on Christ.
We are called to live with him to share in his divine life
every moment in this world.
And we believe that life isn’t meant to end with death
–its meant only to change, to be perfected by sharing in divine life forever.
Thus, St. Paul says: ” life is Christ, and death is gain.”

Life in this world isn’t bad or something to be despised.
Life in this world is good
–but only if its lived with the understanding that its ultimate purpose
is to allow us to grow closer in love to Christ
–realizing that this love is only perfected
when we are in perfect unity with Christ
in the world we enter after death.

This is what St. Paul means when he says:
“If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me…
necessary for your benefit.”
Life is only truly good, truly beautiful, truly “successful” and even truly “fun”
only when its lived in a manner
that’s fruitful for the Lord:
when it is lived in a way that brings about
the will and the love of the Lord in the world.
In short, when it produces, in us and those around us, “holiness.”

But when life in the flesh is over, perfection of this life, and of this holiness
comes for those who have been fruitful, or productive [for Christ]
–those who have labored to live a holy life.
In today’s Gospel, Our Lord reminds us
that its not how long you work for holiness,
but the fact that you do in fact work for holiness
–work for Christ in your life and in the life of the world around you.
When we do this,
he will reward us with a full days wages
when our time on earth has ended.
Notice–a full days wages, where nothing is lacking in our reward,
where all our labor is brought to perfection, completeness,
and fullness in Christ.

So death is nothing to fear, if we have worked hard for the Lord in life.
And life is nothing to be avoided or despised or deliberately terminated
–it is to be lived and enjoyed in the context of working for holiness.

When I was a brand new priest, 15 years ago, part of my first assignment
was as part-time Catholic Chaplain at Alexandria Hospital.
So, several times a week,
I’d take communion,
and give the sacrament of anointing, hear confession, and pray
with the sick and the dying.
I quickly discovered, as any priest will tell you, that its in places like that,
in hospitals and nursing homes and in the homes of the homebound,
that you really see the meaning of life and death,
and Christian productivity yielding the fruit of holiness
and the rewards of eternal life.
In places like that, where people can’t even get out of bed
to go to the bathroom by themselves,
much less enjoy what most people consider a quality lifestyle.
There, where life is not fun by any human understanding.
Where money and worldly success has little use
in the face of loneliness, pain and looming eternity.
There the mystery of Christian life and death take on concrete shape.

There’s one woman I used to visited in the hospital
who in many ways personifies all this.
You may have heard me talk about her before,
because she was truly remarkable.
She was dying a very painful death from cancer.
She couldn’t get out of bed, she could barely move to drink water from a straw.
She had tubes running in and out of her body
—she was at the complete mercy of her caregivers.
And yet she knew that her life still had meaning and purpose.
She had followed the instruction of the Lord that we read in today’s first reading:
“Seek the LORD while he may be found.”
She sought him even by her sick bed—her death bed.
And finding him there she clung to him tightly,
and placed Jesus Christ right in the middle of her life,
accepting her circumstance and seeking ways every day
to fruitfully labor for the Lord
–to produce holiness in this world.

And she succeeded.
Everyday, she became more and more deeply aware
of her complete dependence on God and his grace,
and of his many gifts to her both in her past life
and even her life in the hospital
–especially the great gift of his consoling love.
And she saw her life as producing holiness in the lives of those around her
–like the nurse who began to pray with her every day,
and the other nurse who, after years away from the Church,
started to go to Mass again.
Or like the priests that came to bring her the sacraments
–who she instructed in the ways of Christian living and dying
as they saw her understanding her life of suffering
as fruitful labor to bring the holiness of Christ into this world.
She was not afraid to live—because she saw it as bringing her closer to Christ.
Nor was she afraid to die, because she has great faith and hope
that it would perfect her closeness to Christ.
She understood what St. Paul tells us today:
“Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.
… I do not know which I shall choose.
I am caught between the two.”

Many people are afraid to die–and they try all sorts of things
to avoid death or even thinking about death.
Many others are afraid to live
–at least live in a way that is difficult or painful
or a failure in the eyes of the world.
So they seek ways to end life
–either slowly in destructive habits, like drugs or alcohol
or sexual promiscuity or self-absorbed lifestyles,
–or quickly in self inflicted death.
We see it all around us
—maybe from time to time we ourselves,
in large ways or small,
fall into this way of thinking.
We succumb to the thinking and the ways of the world,
and forget that
“[God’s] thoughts are not [our] thoughts,
nor are [His] ways [our] ways.”

But for the Christian, this perspective is unacceptable
–because in the life in the flesh we live for Christ,
and in our life after death, we live with him forever.

Is Christ at the center of your understanding of life?
Are you afraid to live, knowing–as a Christian—
that living should be a life with Christ,
and maybe you have to change some things in your life to do that?
Are you afraid to die, knowing–as a Christian—
that perfect and eternal life awaits only those
who have worked for the Lord in this world,
and maybe that doesn’t very accurately describe
what you’ve been doing?

If you are afraid, don’t be.
It’s not too late to live for Christ and go to work for Him.
Because, as today’s Gospel reminds us,
whether we come to work for the Lord
at the dawn or the evening of the day,
as a child or as a senior citizen,
it’s never too late
—as long as the sun has not set on this earthly life of ours.

As we enter now into the mystery of the life and death of Christ,
this mystery of the Mass and Holy Eucharist,
let us pray, now and always,
that we may put aside our worldly ways of thinking and living
and begin to let God’s thoughts become our thoughts
and His ways become our ways.
So that the words of the apostle Paul may truly become our own:
“To me, life is Christ, and death is gain.”

September 18, 2011

Today we begin the gradual introduction the new translation of the Mass at all those Masses with singing (all but 7am and 7pm). We begin with singing the “Holy, Holy,” which has only a minor change in wording (see last week’s bulletin, available on the website), but in the next few weeks the changes to the “Mystery of Faith” and the “Gloria” will prove much more challenging. Please make every effort to learn the new prayers and chants.

BACKGROUND OF THE NEW TRANSLATIONS. Many of you have been asking why the new translation of the Mass is necessary—why not leave well enough alone? Let me try to briefly answer that.

Most of you know that the “original source” book for the Mass is the Latin Missale Romanum. Since 1964 this Latin Missal has been translated into the native tongues (“vernacular”) of the various countries throughout the world by the Bishops of those countries. The English translation is entrusted to the International Commission for English in the Liturgy, “ICEL,” composed of bishops and “experts” from the English speaking countries. In 1973 the current English translation was fully implemented throughout the dioceses of the English speaking world.

To many it was readily apparent that there were many important deficiencies in the 1973 translation: “something was lost in translation.” Eventually these deficiencies drew the attention of Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI). This became very clear in 1997 when the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) rejected the ICEL proposed (and U.S. Bishops’ approved) new translation of the “Rite of Ordination,” criticizing it for “failure to adhere faithfully to the Latin …and to convey accurately in English its contents, … the translation is not without doctrinal problems.”

In the year 2000 Pope John Paul promulgated a new edition of the Latin Missale Romanum, with some new prayers, feasts and instructions for the celebration of Mass. In 2001 the CDW, in cooperation with Ratzinger and with the explicit approval of the Pope, issued a new instruction with norms for translating the Missal. That instruction, Liturgiam authenticam, was the equivalent to a liturgical earthquake, as it not only laid down new norms but also ended the substantial debate over translations and completely restructured the translation process, organization and personnel.

To more clearly see the problems of the old translation, and to help identify the importance of the new translation, let’s consider some of the key provisions of Liturgiam authenticam (LA).
The key problem in the 1973 translation was the use of translating principle called “dynamic equivalency” which seeks to convey the underlying meanings of phrases without emphasis on the exact/precise meaning of the words translated, allowing for a certain creativity and innovation, as well as vague paraphrasing. This was profoundly problematic on various levels, and so LA 20 addressed this, noting the problems, prohibiting this approach, and replacing it with what is sometimes called “formal equivalency”:

The Latin liturgical texts of the Roman Rite, while drawing on centuries of ecclesial experience in transmitting the faith of the Church received from the Fathers, are themselves the fruit of the liturgical renewal, just recently brought forth. In order that such a rich patrimony may be preserved and passed on through the centuries, it is to be kept in mind from the beginning that the translation of the liturgical texts of the Roman Liturgy is not so much a work of creative innovation as it is of rendering the original texts faithfully and accurately into the vernacular language. While it is permissible to arrange the wording, the syntax and the style in such a way as to prepare a flowing vernacular text suitable to the rhythm of popular prayer, the original text, insofar as possible, must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses. Any adaptation to the characteristics or the nature of the various vernacular languages is to be sober and discreet.

Another problem addressed in LA 32 was sort of the “dumbing” down of the language, which would often reflect an overly narrow context or ideological interpretation. (Sometimes you will notice a prayer in the 1973 translation that seems stuck in the pop language of the 1960s).

The translation should not restrict the full sense of the original text within narrower limits. To be avoided on this account are expressions characteristic of commercial publicity, political or ideological programs, passing fashions, and those which are subject to regional variations or ambiguities in meaning. Academic style manuals or similar works, since they sometimes give way to such tendencies, are not to be considered standards for liturgical translation. On the other hand, works that are commonly considered “classics” in a given vernacular language may prove useful in providing a suitable standard for its vocabulary and usage.

In a similar way, the 1973 translation often omitted language that in the Latin had clear connection to Scripture or to theological or pious language of the church’s ancient tradition (see last week’s column’s discussion of the “Holy, Holy”), thus robbing the translation of its context. So LA 39 provides:

Characteristic of the orations of the Roman liturgical tradition as well as of the other Catholic Rites is a coherent system of words and patterns of speech, consecrated by the books of Sacred Scripture and by ecclesial tradition, especially the writings of the Fathers of the Church. For this reason the manner of translating the liturgical books should foster a correspondence between the biblical text itself and the liturgical texts of ecclesiastical composition which contain biblical words or allusions. In the translation of such texts, the translator would best be guided by the manner of expression that is characteristic of the version of the Sacred Scriptures approved for liturgical use in the territories for which the translation is being prepared.

This is only scratching the surface of the topic, and I plan to expand on all this as I discuss the individual prayers in the coming weeks. But I hope this introduction helps you to understand a little better why so many, including Popes John Paul and Benedict, saw the need for a radical change in the translations.

I know all change can be challenging. But be patient and open to the Holy Spirit’s movement of the Church in this direction, and as times goes on I’m sure you’ll be grateful for the changes as they bear fruit in a more profound participation in the mysteries of our faith.

Webpage on the new translation. For more information on the new translation go to the parish website, http://www.straymonds.org/ , and click New Translation of the Roman Missal. In particular, there you will find a link to the full text of Liturgiam authenticam, as well as links to listen to audio recordings of the various new sung Mass parts (“Holy, Holy,” “Gloria,” etc.).

ACTION ALERT: FREEDOM OF RELIGION. In today’s bulletin you will find an insert regarding the federal government’s new proposed regulations implementing part of the “2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”—what some call “Obamacare.” These proposed regulations are problematic in many ways. In particular they require almost all private health care plans to provide contraception (including abortifacients) and sterilization services to employees, with only minimal and largely meaningless “conscience clause” protection for churches that hold such “services” to gravely immoral.

I urge you to take immediate action against this unprecedented assault on religious freedom. See the insert, and our website (“Respect Life” page), for more information on these terrible regulations.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2011

Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort, Springfield, Va.

“We will never forget.”
Where were you 10 years ago today, September 11, 2001? Where were you when you found out that an airplane
had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center? Or that a second plane had crashed into the South Tower? Or that a third plane had crashed into the Pentagon? Or that a fourth plane that had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania? Or that the Twin Towers had collapsed to the ground? Where were you? Have you forgotten?
Except for some who were too young, or perhaps not yet immigrated to America, I don’t think any of us will ever forget.
I was just coming back to my room after saying 8:30 Mass at St. Andrew’s in Centerville when I passed the opened door of my pastor’s room and heard the cable news reporting on the first crash
into the World Trade Center. And as I came in to his room to see what was going on, at 9:02 a.m., I saw the second plane crash into the second tower. And then we heard news about the third crash, this time just miles away at the Pentagon.
Where were you?
For most of us, I think, it’s seared into our memories.
Maybe some of you were at the Pentagon that day,

or worried about dear friends or family members you knew were there.
Words can not express, nor can we innumerate, the rush of emotions that overwhelmed us that day. But three do stand out: grief, anger, and fear.
We grieved as we knew that in those buildings there were 10s of 1000s, of husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers,
who had simply gone to work that clear crisp morning, like so many of the rest of us, and as on so many other days.
And now they were trapped 70 stories up in the sky, or under huge piles of wreckage, or already consumed by the raging flames or fiery crash.
And so we grieved.

And we were angry.
Some cowardly enemy had attacked us, unprovoked, without real warning.
They had dared to attack the very heart of our brave military,

while they were on a peacetime footing, their defenses down. They had attacked the innocent civilian population
in the heart of our nation’s largest city. And they seemed to have plans for even more attacks on civilians that day. So we were angry.
And there was fear.
Fear of the unknown—we are free and open society and our enemies were aggressively exploiting that: we were completely vulnerable to almost any kind of terror attack.
Where would they strike next?
The Capital?
The White House?
The Sears Tower in Chicago?
The Mall of America in Minnesota?
We had no idea, and so we were engulfed by fear.

But in the middle of all those emotions, something else came to the forefront.

As surprising as the attacks were, almost equally surprising was another response common to almost all Americans:
a dramatic national turning toward God in prayer.
Even by the media, as we heard reporters and anchors repeatedly asking for prayers and saying things like, “please, God,” or “they’re in our prayers.”
And what an amazing sight that evening, as hundreds of members of Congress gathered on the front steps of the Capitol and spontaneously broke out singing “God bless America”.
God and prayer were our most secure hope, and the whole country seemed to understand that.
And in our weakness we became strong, with our faith in God’s omnipotent care.
And in the days that followed 9/11 that faith remained everywhere you looked.
Millions joined in through TV as thousands packed the National Cathedral in Washington and Yankee Stadium in New York for one purpose: to pray to Almighty God.
And across the nation, especially right here in northern Virginia, churches everywhere were packed, as people awoke to the reality of their own mortality
and dependence on God,
and His tremendous love for us.

America turned to God, and in Him our grief was eased with divine consolation and hope, our anger controlled and purified by His charity and wisdom, and our fear transformed by His courage and strength.
“We will never forget.”
That was what we said that the day.
But a lot of things have happened since then.
And as the years pass, and events unfold,

it seems like some of us have forgotten much more than we should.
But we must never do that. We must never forget that we have enemies who have and are still actively trying to harm our nation. We must never forget that 3000 people were killed in the 9/11/01 attacks,
and that thousands of Americans have died,
10’s of thousands have been wounded,
and millions have been and are deployed to

(including many of you) to defend us from future attacks. We must never forget.
Most especially, we must never forget about God, and how on that day, and every day since, He alone was and is our strength and shield when all human efforts fail, when enemies surround us,
or life overwhelms us. That He is always there to give us His consolation and hope, charity and wisdom, courage and strength.
But today all too many seem to have forgotten all that. Why is it that only 12 days after the terrorist attacks 10s of thousands of New Yorkers could gather in Yankee Stadium for a prayer service led by various clerics and politicians, but 10 years after the attacks the politicians will not allow even one cleric
to pray at the Ground Zero memorial?
Sometimes it seems that some folks are embarrassed by America’s turning to God on 9/11. Worse than that, over the last 10 years many have tried to blame God, or rather faith in God, for 9/11 and its aftermath. They say, it’s religious faith in God that caused the divisions and antipathy that led to the 9/11 attack. And more and more they say that we need to learn from that and remove God and religion from public life.
They say we need to get beyond religious differences.
That we must get rid of any notions that God is on our side, or that Christianity is in any way superior to Islam.
And they say we must be tolerant of and even encourage public expressions of Muslim piety, while at the same time they continue to work to mock and remove Christian piety and symbols in art, the media, and public places.
In the end, sometimes it seems that if they cannot rid America or the West of God, at least they will use this as an opportunity
to ridicule and diminish Christianity.
They want us to forget, that on 9/11 the vast majority of Americans turned to Jesus Christ for hope and strength. They want us to forget that Jesus told us, and we believe: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” They want us to believe the religion of Muhammad is just as “good” as the religion of Jesus Christ.
But the thing is, that’s just not true.
Do NOT misunderstand me: There are many good and kind Muslims in the world.
There are even many good things about the religion of Islam.
But in the end, Islam is fatally flawed, and Christianity is the one true faith.

Even if you set aside the fundamental difference between the two, on the one hand, that Christians believe that Jesus is God, and “no one comes to the Father except through” Him,
and on the other, that Muslims believe that Jesus is only a prophet, and that Muhammad is the greatest prophet, and only his teachings can lead us to God. And even if, for the sake of argument, we assume that the two religions hold the same moral teachings about love and forgiveness and peace and violence, –I don’t believe that for one second, but let’s just allow that for the sake of argument. Even so…Islam still has at least this basic flaw: its founder.
When members of these two religions, Christianity and Islam, try to live by their religion’s teachings in their day to day lives they inevitably have to understand those teachings in the light of the example of their founder—either Jesus or Mohammed.
So think about these fundamentally different examples they give us. Muhammad began his religion by commanding his armed followers to conquer his enemies;
Jesus’ began His religion
by commanding His apostles to lay down their arms
as He personally surrendered to His enemies.

Muhammad’s hands carried a sword to execute his enemies; Jesus’ hands carried the Cross and were eventually nailed to the cross as His enemies executed Him. Muhammad cursed his enemies; Jesus cried out “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
In short, Muhammad, whatever else he was, was a man of violence and terror, while Christ was the Prince of Peace.
Now, some say, both Christians and Muslims
do many horrible things in the name of God. Perhaps. But the thing is, in the light of the life of Christ,
when Christians feel compelled to resort to violence,
perhaps in self defense or in protection of others,
we always know we must ask ourselves:
what would the Crucified Christ, the Prince of Peace,
have to say about this?

In the light of His life and death on the cross the teachings of Christ take on a unique and specific context, and so set a completely higher standard
than anything found in the platitudes of other religions.
So that when Jesus tells us: “Love your enemies, …bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you….”
we see Him on the cross not only blessing and praying for those who curse and abuse Him, but laying down His life to save them, because He loves them.
Or when Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? and Jesus answers, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times,” we see Him whipped, spat upon, cursed, crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross, gasping for breath, bleeding to death
—how many ways and times did they offend that day? Surely much more than “77 times.” And we hear Him say: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Yes, Christians sin.
Yes, we all too often ignore the teachings of Christ.
But thank God we have the teachings of Christ and the life of Christ

that lead us to see ourselves for the sinners we are, and to hold ourselves to the higher standard of Jesus Himself.
And you know, I think that is what has made American the great country it is. Whether people like to admit it our not, our founding fathers counted on the Christian faith and Christian morals to enable the people to justly govern themselves.
And in my opinion, that’s what has helped our country
become the greatest nation on earth. Yes we go to war, but we do not enslave our enemies once conquered. When we defeated the Germans and Japanese in World War II
we didn’t enslave them or colonize them:
we freed them and paid to rebuild their countries.

And the same is true in the current war on terror. Within 18 months of American troops toppling Sadaam Hussein the Iraqi people elected their own government.
And how many American lives have been sacrificed and how many 10s of billions of American dollars have we spent to protect and rebuild the new free Iraq?
To me this is the effect of the Christian moral ethos, deeply rooted in the soul of our nation, making us always ready to love our enemy,
and eager forgive all who offend us. And I think too, it’s why sometimes we forget, even though we promised to “never forget.” Americans want to forgive and forget, and get on with life in peace.
But we must never forget. Because, while we must love and forgive our enemies, we must also love and protect our families, our neighbors, our country. And even as we must bless and pray for those who curse and abuse us, we must also bless those who fight to defend us, and pray for those who have died at the hand of our enemies.
Today, we remember and pray for souls of all those who died in the 9/11 attacks, and in the War on Terror. And we remember and pray for all who have sacrificed so much to protect our liberty and safety. And we remember that our nation still has enemies who wish to harm us, and so we pray for the safety of our nation.
And in all those prayers we remember that God was our strength and hope in 2001, and has been these 10 years since. And that God’s name is Jesus Christ, our teacher, our example, and our savior.
Only by remembering that, by keeping Jesus Christ in center of our lives at all times, can we be, at one and the same time, both strong in confronting our enemies,
and forgiving of all the harm the do us.
For all this, for those who died, for those who serve, and for our faith in Christ, let us pray, that “We will never forget.”

September 11, 2011

Where were you 10 years ago today, September 11, 2001? Where were you found out that an airplane had crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center? Or that a second plane had crashed into the south tower? Or that a third plane had crashed into the Pentagon? Or that a fourth plane was headed toward the White House or Capital, but had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania? Or when you heard the Twin Towers had collapsed to the ground? Where were you?

I was just coming back from saying 8:30 Mass at St. Andrew’s when I passed the opened door of my pastor’s room and heard the cable news reporting on the first crash. As I came in to his room to see what was going on, at 9:02 a.m., I saw the second crash. I spent a good part of the next hour in front of the television watching in disbelief, anger and grief. And then we heard news about the third crash, this time just miles away at the Pentagon. I left the television, heading over to the school, knowing that some of our dear children might now be orphans.

Where were you? For most of us, I think, it’s seared into our memories. Maybe some of you were at the Pentagon that day. I know many of you had dear friends or family members there.

What a terrible day. Words can’t express the rush of emotions, not the least of which was fear. Fear of the unknown—we are free and open society and our enemies were aggressively exploiting that: we were completely vulnerable to almost any kind of terror attack.

But in the middle of all those emotions, something else came to the forefront. As surprising as the attacks were, almost equally surprising was the general response of almost all Americans: a dramatic national turning toward God in prayer. Even by the media, as we heard reporters and anchors saying over and over things like, “please, God,” or “they’re in our prayers.” And what an amazing sight that evening, as hundreds of members of Congress sang “God bless America” on the front steps of the Capitol. God and prayer were our most secure hope, and the whole country seemed to understand that.

“We will never forget.” That was the motto of the day. A lot of things have happened since then. A lot more people have died because of that day— over 6000 of our military men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan alone. And it seems like some of us have forgotten. But we mustn’t do that. We must never forget that we have enemies who want to destroy our country, and our faith, and that they have and are capable of coming here and killing us. We must never forget that 3000 thousand people were killed in
the 9/11/01 attacks, and that thousands of Americans have died, 10’s of thousands have been wounded, and millions have been deployed to war (including many of you) to defend us from future attacks. We must never forget.

And above all, we must never forget that God is our only sure and certain hope. He alone is our strength and shield when all human efforts fail, when enemies surround us, or life overwhelms us. He is always there to love us, uphold us, protect us and give us peace.

Today, we remember and pray for souls of all those who died in the 9/11 attacks, and in the War on Terror. And we remember and pray for all who have sacrificed to protect our liberty and safety. And we even remember and pray for our enemies, as Christ commanded us to. And we remember that God alone is our hope and sure security. Let us pray, that WE WILL NEVER FORGET.

NEXT WEEK, NEW PRAYERS BEGIN. Next weekend we will begin the gradual transition to the new translation of the Mass by singing the new “Holy, Holy” (the Sanctus). All are asked to try to get to Mass 10 minutes early to hear and practice this new sung version—both a new melody and new words. Note: This does not apply to the 7pm and 7am Masses that have no music.

Over the next few weeks we will introduce the new Mystery of Faith and the Gloria, but we begin with the Holy, Holy because the new melody is very familiar to most of us and the change in wording is very slight. In fact, the only change is replacing 3 words with one word. Compare the first lines of the “old” and “new,” and the Latin original:

Old: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might.
New: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.
Latin: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.

The Latin word being translated is “Sabaoth,” which is a transliteration of the Hebrew “Tsaba,” a word repeated through the Old Testament, and almost always translated as “hosts,” referring to the great armies of angels that serve the Lord. The entire phrase is taken almost directly from the Isaiah 6:3:
“I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim [angels] were stationed above;…One cried out to the other:

“Holy, holy, holy* is the LORD of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!”

At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke. (Isaiah 6:1-4)

In the Mass this prayer is sung just as we enter into the most holy part of the ritual, the Eucharistic Prayer. It reminds us that we too are about to enter into the heavenly temple as Christ descends to the altar at the consecration.

Besides being a totally incorrect and inadequate translation of the word “sabaoth,” the old translation of “power and might” separates us from this important Biblical text from Isaiah. While some argue that this is so small a change it was unnecessary, words have meaning, and by changing one word we go from thinking “God is powerful and mighty,” to “God is Lord of the army of angels who serve and worship Him in the heavenly temple, where we are about to enter and serve and worship Him in union with them.”

Some also argue, that nobody uses the word “hosts” in today’s commonly spoken English. True, but remember 1) using unusual words reminds us that we are doing something unusual and different—we are worshiping God (the word “holy” actually means “completely different” or “set apart”); and 2) this is the word used in almost all translation of Scripture and for centuries of English speaking peoples.

Here in this one word we see several principles behind the new translation, including: accuracy in word and meaning, Scriptural and historical context, rich theological nuance, and the necessity of a common sacred language.

Webpage on the new translation. For more information on the new translation I invite you to go to the parish website, http://www.straymonds.org/ , and click New Translation of the Roman Missal. This will lead you to a webpage with all sorts of helpful resources. In particular, at the bottom of that page you will find links to listen to audio recordings of the various new sung Mass parts—I highly encourage you to listen to these, and practice them on your own, so that we can all join in singing with the angels our praise to God in His holy temple.