Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Rest of Eucharistic Prayer III

So, we're just about done with the new translations of the Eucharistic Prayer. For variety sake I thought today I might offer the rest of Eucharistic Prayer III, and then tomorrow I'll do Prayer II.

Regarding Eucharistic Prayer III, I think what we find is for the most part what we've already seen. Generally, things follow the same formulation. Occasionally there's a choice of words that seems like it breaks things open anew, which is great.

And at other times there's a choice that seems (for now at least) distracting, if not unfortunate. It's a funny thing -- the changes being made don't emerge from a theological choice -- that is, it's not that the powers involved felt that we need to recast our image of God or of the Eucharist. But as we see, they have theological consequences.
Therefore, O Lord,
as we celebrate the memorial of the saving Passion of your Son,
his wondrous Resurrection and Ascension into heaven,
and as we look forward to his second coming,
we offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice.
What does it mean to "celebrate a memorial"? It's not exactly incoherent, but if we want the words of the prayer to impact people, our current "as we remember the saving Passion" seems quite a bit less of a roadblock.
Look, we pray, upon the oblation of your Church and,
recognizing the sacrificial Victim by whose death
you willed to reconcile us to yourself,
grant that we, who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son
and filled with his Holy Spirit, may become one body, one spirit in Christ.
Again, oblation -- what is that? Is this word choice an opportunity for some deeper nuance into what we're doing at the Eucharist? Or is it pretty much the same as saying "sacrifice", in which case, why not just say that, as it's a lot clearer to people.

Furthermore, do we really want to say that God willed the death of Jesus as a means for our redemption? A bit troubling, isn't it? Certainly it sparks in me the question of what sort of a God we're imagining here.

And there's a funny insularity to the new formulation, too; Jesus' personal decision to offer his life -- his uniquely human agency, his choice -- is sort of erased, subsumed into this larger act of God's will. Which makes the whole thing a bit more of a done deal, as though the human being Jesus didn't make a choice (and couldn't have chosen otherwise).

Our current direct petition to God that he see, i.e. pay attention and respond to Jesus' sacrifice seems a lot more on target. We want God to bring us together, and so we remind him of the free and loving offer that his Son and our brother Jesus made.

Interesting, too -- instead of saying "may we be filled with his Holy Spirit and become one", our new take asserts that we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Not sure it's a major point, but I don't know, it feels a wee bit presumptuous.
May he make of us an eternal offering to you,
so that we may obtain an inheritance with your elect,
especially with the most blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God,
with your blessed Apostles and glorious Martyrs
[with Saint N.: the Saint of the day or Patron Saint] and with all the Saints,
on whose constant intercession in your presence we rely for unfailing help.
Pretty close to our current translation. "Elect" puts emphasis for the saints' lives on God's choice; not bad, but again a funny sort of elision of their wills, their choices.
May this Sacrifice of our reconciliation, we pray, O Lord,
advance the peace and salvation of all the world.
Be pleased to confirm in faith and charity
your pilgrim Church on earth,
with your servant N. our Pope and N. our Bishop,*
the Order of Bishops, all the clergy,
and the entire people you have gained for your own.
Listen graciously to the prayers of this family,
whom you have summoned before you:
in your compassion, O merciful Father,
gather to yourself all your children
scattered throughout the earth.
The use of the term "charity" is interesting. We'll have to reclaim the Christian meaning of the word. "Mercy" might have made that task easier. But taking charity back might be a good thing, too.
To our departed brothers and sisters
and to all who were pleasing to you at their passing from this life,
give kind admittance to your kingdom.
There we hope to enjoy for ever the fullness of your glory
through Christ our Lord,
through whom you bestow on the world all that is good.
"To all who were pleasing to you at their passing from this life" -- and what about the rest? With "pleasing" are we making a point about people's sinfulness? Are some people not pleasing to God? In so many ways our faith is based on a belief that God is a God of second chances and perpetual mercy. You hate to recast language in such a way as to raise doubts about that belief or to narrow the catch of who God loves.

1 comment:

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