Saturday, 7 May 2011

Become one Body one Spirit in Christ: Behold the Lamb of God

It is a little while since I posted anything from the DVD resource Become One Body One Spirit in Christ, the resource prepared to support the introduction of the new English translation of the Roman Missal.

If you follow the path Receiving this English translation to Changes to the Roman Missal Text and then to the section on the Rite of Communion, you will find the part of the resource that treats of the invitation to the people to come to Communion.

The currently used text reads:
This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.
The revised translation coming into use in Autumn 2011 reads:
Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.
This is not by any means the only example, but it is a very good example of two things about the new translations. The first thing is what one might call a "spirit of faithfulness" to the Liturgical text as it is received in the original Latin, rather than a sense that it has been re-written from the original. This is reflected in both the closeness of the translation to the original text, and in the way in which the rhythm/structure of the original is reproduced. The second thing is the way in which the new translation makes transparent the Scriptural reference contained in the text. As the DVD resource points out, the first sentence is taken from the encounter of John the Baptist who points out Jesus as the Lamb of God (Jn 1:29) and the second from the account of the marriage feast of the Lamb in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 19:9).

Each of these Scriptural references allows the faithful to "enter into" the moment in which they are called to receive Holy Communion (or to make a spiritual communion if they are not able to recieve sacramentally). The first invites us to look on the Sacred Host as Jesus, in just the same way that John the Baptist invites us to look upon Jesus in the biblical text. It also highlights for us the salvific significance of receiving the Eucharist, which receiving washes away our sins (this being the sign value of Holy Communion received under both kinds). The second invites us to see the moment of Holy Communion as being a moment when we are taken into that communion and feast of the Lamb that, represented in the celebration here on earth, takes place in heaven. The commentary on the DVD suggests that it should also make us reflect on the possibility that not all are called to take part in the supper of the Lamb. This can be seen as a "negative" - there are some who will not be called to the supper of the Lamb - or it can be seen as a "positive". As a "positive", it leads us to reflect on the notion of "election", of our being chosen by the Father in the Son, a choosing which has its ecclesial component and its individual component. A passage from Francois Mauriac which appeared in Magnificat as the "Meditation of the Day" for 13th May 2011, reflecting on the Gospel reading from John 6:52-59, captures something of this:
[There is a] mysterious mingling of conflicting feelings in the man who is about to receive Holy Communion: fear and confidence, open-heartedness and remorse, shame and love. The small Host which the sinner approaches throws an impartial and terrible light on irretrievable deeds: on that which he has done, on that which he should not have refrained from doing. No man knows himself if he has not looked at his soul in the light of the Host lifted above the ciborium ..
For the life of me, I cannot see any difficulty that the lay faithful will have in using the new translation (apart from the inevitable hiccups that will occur as they get used to the change). The line of catechesis indicated above is quite accessible and communicable - what is the purpose of the homily, after all - to the faithful.

But it will all go pear shaped, and its richness be undermined, if the priest in the parish feels able to continue his ad-libbed insertions, changes etc. The spirit of faithfulness intrinsic to the text itself will need to be put into practice, and the celebrating priest has a particular responsibility in this regard!

No comments: