Saturday, 26 February 2011

Become One Body One Spirit in Christ: Institution Narrative/Consecration

It has been interesting to look at what the DVD resource has to say about the changes in the translation of the words that are called either the "institution narrative" or the "consecration". In the video clip describing the Liturgy of the Eucharist (in the "Celebrating the Liturgy" section of the DVD), I was interested to hear both terms being used. A quick read of the Catechism of the Catholic Church reveals a similar dual use, and also shows that, from the point of view of the teaching of the Catholic Church, the two ways of speaking cannot be played off against each other as if they represent different theological approaches ("dynamic" and "static" approaches as some would characterise them):
1353 ...In the institution narrative, the power of the words and the action of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, make sacramentally present under the species of bread and wine Christ's body and blood, his sacrifice offered on the cross once for all....

1377 The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ
The "Explore the Text" tab in the "Celebrating the Eucharist" section of the DVD takes you through the texts and provides explanations of changes made compared to the previous translation. There is a video clip to explain changes to the translation of the words of the institution narrative. The speaker points out that the Latin text has always been "pro vobis et pro multis" - "for you and for many" - and this has always been the case. A change in the English translation does not therefore indicate any change in Eucharistic theology. The video clip points out the origins in Sacred Scripture of the "pro multis" - the accounts of the last supper in Matthew 26:28 and in Mark 14:24 (Luke's account is "for you") - and its reference to Isaiah 53:12, where the suffering servant carries the sins of many. In being more faithful to the original Latin text, the new translation is also offering an opportunity for a richer Biblical understanding of these words.

Within the context of words addressed to the community of Israel, as the speaker in the DVD points out and a writer such as Hans Urs von Balthasar concurs, the sense of "for many" is a move from a gift offered only, or firstly, to Israel to a gift that is offered to all. It's import is in favour of the universal nature of redemption/salvation offered in Christ:
.... the formula of vicarious representation ("for you", "for many", ie for all), which derives from the Songs of the Servant of the Lord (Is. 53:12) and denotes the gift of self that the One makes for the people (or here: for all), a gift of self that was first known and made, not by the Servant of the Lord, but already by others before him, especially by the Moses of Deuteronomy ... ["The Mass: A Sacrifice of the Church?" in Explorations in Theology vol.III; and also in the chapter "Going to the Cross: Good Friday" in Mysterium Paschale]
There can be no doubt that the sacrifice offered "for many" is offered for all, though it can also be added that a redemption that is accessible to all may not in the event be accessed by all, as a result of sin. This would be the position, for example, of Frank Sheed, towards the end of chapter 19 of Theology and Sanity:
Christ died for all. "But though he died for all, yet not all receive the benefit of his death, but those only unto whom the merit of His passion is communicated" (Council of Trent VI:2). Salvation depends upon our recieving the supernatural life by which we become sons of God and having ths life in our souls when we die.
The use by Frank Sheed of the phrase "Christ died for all" indicates that, for a writer who wishes to make the point that he does, the translation of "pro multis" as "for all" would not actually make any difference to the point that he makes. The translation "for many" might express a nuance that he develops, but that nuance would still be there in the translation "for all".

It would be quite wrong in my view to suggest that the change in translation from "for all" to "for many" does represent any theological restricting of the reach of the salvific work of Jesus Christ; the contrast of "many" and "few" is, in the context of the Scriptural origin of the texts, a quite incorrect contrast to draw. The correct, and most illuminating, contrast is that intrinsic to the text itself  - that between "for you" and "for many" - demonstrating as it does the move towards the universal.

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