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.

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