Singin’ those Catholic liturgical blues

As the old saying goes, if you want to blow up a church all you really need to do is change the hymnal. You could say that, and much more, about efforts to change the texts at the heart of life in all liturgical churches.

This brings us to the recent changes in the English-language Mass that will soon reach Catholic pews. The Washington Post recently offered an A1 feature story about this complex and dense subject that left several GetReligion readers scratching their heads. Why is that?

Well, I must admit that I do sense the presence of a journalistic spirit that is brooding over this story, an expert voice that has soaked into the text between the lines. I was left asking WWFTJRD?

Let’s walk through the top section of this story, paying special attention to the attribution phrases. Thus, the lede:

English-speaking Catholics are bracing for the biggest changes to their Mass since the 1960s, a shift some leaders warn could cause “ritual whiplash.”

Note the presence of the vague “some leaders” sort-of attribution. There will be more like unto it.

The overhaul, which will become mandatory Nov. 27, is aimed at unifying the more than 1 billion Catholics worldwide with a translation that is as close as possible to the original Latin version. It allows for less independence and diversity of interpretation in a church that in recent decades has tried to retain more control over how Catholicism is defined.

Frankly, I am not sure how the English-language Mass is supposed to unify global Catholicism. We can assume that this refers to the wider effort to translate the Vatican II Latin Mass into a variety of languages. Also, all — repeat “all” — translations shape or even limit the ability of worshipers to self determine the meaning of the words. The same was true of the less literal translation that has been used for several decades.

Recent popes have emphasized orthodoxy and hierarchy, particularly in the West, where religious identity is increasingly fluid. Catholic hospitals and schools have been required to more clearly espouse church teachings, and Pope Benedict XVI has stressed the sole truth of Catholicism over other faiths, even declining this month to pray with Hindus, Jews and others at an interreligious event.

Many statements of facts with no attributions. I am sure people on left and right would describe these issues differently. The word “even” jumps out in the second sentence.

The new translation changes the majority of sentences in the Mass. The prayers and call-and-response dialogue between the priest and the congregation are different, transforming the dialogue that Catholics under 40 have used in church their entire lives. Some leaders warn that the shift could cause “ritual whiplash” among those accustomed to a worship script so familiar that most recite it from memory.

Note the return of “some leaders.” No attributions at all at this point in the story? Folks, someone is doing the talking. Meanwhile, a Catholic reader underlined another crucial point: “Actually, no, the prayers are the same. The translation, and hence the words, are different.”

Let’s move on.

Reaction to the changes has been intense, in some ways fueling a Catholic culture war that began when the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s imposed far more sweeping changes designed to open up and modernize the church. Some traditionalists say the new translation of the ritual is richer and — because it’s less conversational — more mysterious and spiritual.

In many ways, the key to the whole story is that first phrase: “Reaction to the changes has been intense.” I would agree, but it’s crucial to note WHERE the reaction has been so intense. After all, readers should note that the changes have not actually gone into effect yet in the pews.

Thus, where have these strong reactions come from? Perhaps the reactions come from the unidentified voices that shaped the entire top of this story, those authoritative voices that apparently cannot be named — one must assume to protect them from the Vatican. Thus, it’s safe to say that many of the voices must be critics of the changes who reside in (a) Catholic academia, mainly seminaries or (b) a variety of Catholic leadership or staff positions, perhaps in major dioceses in the Washington, D.C., area.

At this point in the story, some key voices finally emerge on the record. Catholic readers on the left and right will not be surprised at the strong response from this bishop in particular:

Erie, Pa., Bishop Donald Trautman says that such words as “consubstantial” and “chalice” and a Jesus “born ineffably of the inviolate Virgin” won’t help Catholics get closer to God.

“We have to keep in mind these are prayer texts being used by priests at a Mass,” he said. “People should be able to understand them when they are heard.”

After this, readers return into the land of unattributed information, including some interesting examples of changes in the Mass that the nameless leaders expect to cause trouble. I am sure voices on the pro-Vatican side could respond with examples of passages in which great beauty has been added in the new translation, but their voices are missing. Here is another hint at sourcing:

A poll of Catholics done early this summer by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate showed that 77 percent of respondents were unaware of a forthcoming new translation. Catholic dioceses and schools began preparations a few months ago, running workshops and podcasts and updating Web sites to lay out what’s happening and why.

And where is this research center, in the great yin-yang debate of Catholic academia in Washington? That would, of course, be Georgetown University.

I could go on and on. But here is another example of the methodology.

Still, church officials say they expect serious confusion when those Catholics who aren’t connected with Catholic institutions and attend church only on big holidays, show up for Christmas. The Rev. Michael Wilson of Our Lady Star of the Sea in Solomons, Md., said he will offer this advice next month to his congregants: “Okay, folks: Everyone take a deep breath.”

Note that the verbal knife in the first sentence has no attribution — it merely comes from unnamed “church officials (not to be confused with unnamed “church leaders”). The calm voice in the second sentence comes from a person with a name.

The story continues, riding a wave of phrases such as the “thinking that came out of Vatican II,” “traditionalists worried,” “has seen much debate” and multiple uses of the tried and true, “several priests.”

I am sure that there will be additional stories in the future. Please help the GetReligionistas look for the good and the bad in the mainstream coverage (or guides to resources and experts who can help reporters find facts and opinions on both sides of the story).

Let me stress that the goal in the comments pages is not to argue about the details of the liturgical changes or the alleged conspiracies behind them (or the translations used in previous decades). Focus on the details in this Post story, especially the sources that are quoted. In other words, stick to the journalism.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • SouthCoast

    “call-and-response”???? What the hay???? It’s liturgy, oh, wise and learned member of the press, not a chain gang or an OWS drum circle!! Sheesh… (Btw, I am fully in favor of the return of “And with your (thy) spirit” in the place of the current “Hey, you, too!”.)

  • Dan Crawford

    Bishop Trautman’s criticisms deserved a greater hearing than they received. His critics were content not to address what he said but to attack him personally and hint that perhaps he was tainted with heretical liberalism and a secret contempt for authority. But he is correct: consubstantial and ineffable inviolability are not part of the vocabulary of ordinary lay Catholics and quite a few clergy. Though one can appreciate the Vatican’s concern about the Eucharistic celebration in many Catholic Churches, the “new” translations are clunky and awkward and terribly wordy. If there was to be a revision, it required something better than that which is about to imposed. The Vatican might have been encouraged to seek the counsel of other liturgical churches with a rich English heritage. But that, of course, would have been consorting with schismatics and heretics. It might, however, led to better musical settings for the psalms, and theologically richer hymns. Plus ca change, plus ca meme.

  • Martha

    SouthCoast, I am presuming that (in the spirit of Bishop Trautman), the Post thought “versicle” would be too hard for the ordinary idiots in the pews to understand :-)

    Ritual whiplash, hmmm? Oh, those poor little Catholics under forty, my heart bleeds for them, having to switch to another English translation! Listen, matey, I’ve lived through Latin to first English translation to second English translation to this version, and I wouldn’t bet against seeing Latin coming back again in the heel of the hunt. If the toughest thing any of us ever face in our spiritual lives is a new Mass translation, we’ll be getting off easily.

  • tmatt


    And what does your comment have to do with the journalism in this article?


    Same to you.

  • SouthCoast

    “consubstantial and ineffable inviolability are not part of the vocabulary of ordinary lay Catholics ” Unfortunately, due to inept catechesis over recent decades past, the concepts behind the words are also not understood by entirely too many ordinary lay Catholics. Their inclusion in the revision may be a recognition of this state of affairs: after scratching their heads, the laity may actually make an attempt to understand the theology behind them. (Wondering if there will be a sudden upsurge on Google searches for “consubstantial”.)

  • tmatt


    And what does YOUR comment have to do with the journalism issues? I think there is a link there, but you need to make it.

  • tmatt

    Do I know how to kill a comments thread or not?

    Come on people, look at how this article is sourced and comment on it. Who should have been interviewed? Why? Are there actual mistakes in the Post piece that I missed?

  • Asshur

    The article was exactly with what one would expect on the matter by one of the big “liberal” media. In itself it is absolutely nothing new.
    I would have been down in awe, if the article would have explained why the actual translation was thought flawed (it would have helped to understand the new one), and how (and tried the why) the “usual suspects” rallied against the latter …
    As a foreigner i would also be interested in exploring the “american peculiarity” of this debate

    (BTW. for a non native the soon to be obsolete translation is the oddest in the three or four languages i’ve attended with some regularity)

  • Ann Rodgers

    Although I thought this story spent too much space trying to draw parallels to unrelated issues (perhaps the reporter was trying to convince her editors that liturgy was politically relevant)some of the questions you raise about it are also rather jaundiced. Whatever it means that CARA, the Center for Applied Research on the Apostolate, is located at Georgetown U, it is the official research arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. That hardly makes it a representative of the Catholic left.

  • Pete

    The connection you allude to, tmatt, might be this: Bishop Trautman should have been asked about why the average layman need not know these specific words if they remain pretty prevalent in Catholic teaching. Who are they intended for?

    “We have to keep in mind these are prayer texts being used by priests at a Mass,”

    Is the bishop implying that these are terms to be used only in personal prayer? Only by theologians? Or that the Catholic Church today is just dumb and cannot possibly have their vocabulary expanded through use? I don’t know, that’s something along the lines of what I would have followed up with.

  • tmatt


    I’ll concede you that point on CURA.

    However I still sense a certain spirit in this. Think WWFTJRD?

    However, the lack of CUA voices is interesting, in light of the emphasis on liturgical matters.

  • R.S.Newark

    Regarding the latinate Mass, Am I incorrect when my mind tells me that a Latin Mass may be celebrated for the asking in conference with the local Pastor?

  • Dan Crawford


    My comment had to do with journalism. Bp Trautman’s comments were not given much play in either Catholic or secular newspapers (Ann Rodger’s article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was the exception). And there was certainly very little dialogue in Catholic media sources about the changes. That the media sources you cite did a fairly poor job with the topic only underscores my assertion that Trautman’s criticisms deserved an airing and a response.

  • C. Wingate

    BAbout the two changes they specifically mention: the two cases are quite different about what’s going on. The second case is easy: for whatever reason, the old translation deviated from scripture at that point. The first leads into a nasty thicket: “and also with you” represents a compromise worked out with a lot of other denominations, who had their own reasons for not translating the Latin at all. Perhaps it is too much to ask for an explanation of what was going on here, but in any case we don’t get it. “Consubstantial” is another case of this: the new “translation” represents abandonment of the ICET text shared with other churches. Is “consubstantial” a better translation of the Greek than “of one being”? (Yes, I meant to say “Greek” there.) There’s an ecumenical angle to all of this that tends to pass reporters by.

    Three other points: first, to a great degree this is a report looking for something to fret about. The reality is that probably a dozens if not a few hundred Episcopal parishes switch back and forth between rites over the course of the year, and the result is not world-ending confusion; more typically there’s a lot of mumbling for the first few Sundays of Rite I until everyone gets their gears shifted. People will get used to new words pretty quickly. Second, the book issue is way out of touch. I haven’t seen a missal in a Catholic pew since, well, I don’t remember ever seeing one. Disposable missalettes have been the norm, as I understand it, for a very long time, and they will simply come off the presses with new words. Finally, something they don’t mention at all is that a lot of service music will go by the wayside. From what I recollect, the new Sanctus translation is not all that different (the text doesn’t afford much leeway), but the whole structure of the Gloria text is different from the ICET version, so if it is sung, it’ll require new music. And that’s not unimportant in this, because all those ’70s-’80s-’90s mass settings that attract such calumny from certain corners will go by the wayside.

  • Bill

    I am genuinely touched by the concern the WaPo has for us unlettered Catholic peasants. Especially out here in rural barbarian country, we might not understand them big new fancy words. Good thing they told us in time to put airbags in the pews to reduce whiplash.

    Like Martha, I’ve been to this rodeo before. For a while, mass will resemble a badly rehearsed high school play, but people will get used to it. I doubt it will be anything like the switch to English. I think it’s an interesting topic, but I’d like to know more about the whys and whats. And perhaps the Post can cover drone bombings in a different story.

  • Martha

    tmatt, the journalism point is that the change from the Tridentine form of the Mass to the Novus Ordo was a much, much greater change than a new English-language version of the liturgy that is more faithful to the Latin, in accordance with other vernacular Mass translations not in English that are more literal translations.

    Catholicism is global, and this new translation (which is actually more of an older translation, in that it harks back to the first English translation, e.g. in the adaptation of the Centurion’s request to the prayer before the distribution of the Eucharist, what in Protestant liturgical traditions is known as the Prayer of Humble Access: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you”) reflects that reality, which is that many of the innovations post-Vatican II were localised and went to an extreme not inteneded or foreseen by the Council fathers.

    Also, the quote from Bishop Trautman about the language being incomprehensible to the ‘man in the street’ clashes somewhat with the mantra of the past thirty years or so that this generation of lay Catholics is the best-educated in the faith, most involved, understands what’s going on – all down to the Mass being in the vernacular and the greater involvement of the laity in the versicle-and-responses prayers of the Mass.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Since there was so little attribution to most comments allegedly made by others one can presume that we are reading the comments of the reporter for the most part.
    It certainly gives away how some in the media (along with some liberal bishops) think the general public are just too
    stupid to learn the deeper doctrinal or spiritual meaning of words that are more than one syllable.
    I guess Americans and modern Catholics are far stupider today than they were back when the Mass was in Latin and most Catholics understood what was transpiring with a little effort.

  • kyle

    Who should have been interviewed? Why? Are there actual mistakes in the Post piece that I missed?

    Well, one thing I’d like to know is what the reporter meant by “less independence and diversity of interpretation.” Does she mean that because the texts are more precise there will be less opportunity for people to practice a kind of mental reservation as they recite the creed? that celebrants will be less prone to improvise? what, exactly?

    With regard to unifying, what I assume is meant is twofold: 1) it brings the English translation more into harmony with those of other languages and 2) it means there will, for the first time, be a single English translation in use across the English-speaking world.

    Of course the underlying narrative is all too familiar: Vatican II came along to modernize and make everything improvised, casual and free flowing in the liturgy, and now conservative popes are steadily reigning all that back. But in point of fact that’s only one point of view on what Vatican II meant. The last two popes (themselves participants in Vatican II) praise it and present themselves as implementing it, but they mean something different than some Catholics who are favored sources of the Washington Post. And it’s not at all clear that there is any break about any of this between Benedict XVI and Blessed John Paul II or between either and Paul VI and John Paul I. Or Blessed John XIII for that matter.

    With the number of Catholics unaware of the new translation, it’s always worth asking what population of Catholics that’s referring to: people who go to Mass regularly? people who go rarely? people who were baptized Catholic but never go to Mass at all? Given that a large number of self-identified Catholics are in that non-practicing category, saying that a large majority don’t know about this change may be highly misleading. I strongly suspect that number is vastly different among those who are going to be encountering the actual texts regularly.

    Who else should have been interviewed or included? Well, how about the pope? He gave some comments about the new translation recently to Australian bishops on their ad limina visit. How about the bishops who assisted in this process over the last 10 years — you know, the ones whose views on this were shared by the overwhelming majority of American bishops when they approved this translation? How about the cardinal archbishop of Washington, D.C.? How about one of those “traditionalists” (there’s that word again) who are thrilled to have a more faithful rendering of the liturgy of the church? Why does that matter to them?

    It also might have been worth noting that there are lots of people who found the changes in the liturgy after Vatican II terribly hard to bear, and some of them left the church, either dramatically or quietly. Might some of them come back?

  • Steve

    The reporter’s lede gives the game away: “brace”. You only do that before the onslaught of something unpleasant. The rest of the article is lopsided in favor of those who are upset over this, but that’s no surprise, given the first sentence.

    I worked with the press for several years during the AIDS crisis and learned that it was the rare journalistic bird indeed who did not think that conflict was the fundamental content of every story they wrote.

    As a non-journalistic aside, for which I will likely be reprimanded, I note that the same people who press hard for greater lay involvement in Church power as a recognition of their adult and empowered status are usually the very same ones who think that a few new vocabulary words will stun the peasantry in the pews into confusion and oppression.

  • tioedong

    I am always annoyed when the press equates American English speaking Catholics with the entire church.
    I attend a Tagalog mass here in the Philippines, and even in the US a lot of the masses are in Spanish.

  • JohnnyZoom

    I would like to know this. We have been told that recent popes have emphasized orthodoxy and hierarchy. Now just which popes did not emphasize those things?

    There ain’t no such animal, that is a straw man that would make Ray Bolger blush. Rather they are fitting the story into the template of victim/villain/ hero. That is a shame because the real issues with correcting the translation are either quite interesting (‘visible and invisible’ are broader and more powerful than ‘seen and unseen’), or slam-dunk improvements (the only thing ‘controversial’ about reverting to ‘for many’ is how ‘pro multis’ could have been translated as if it really said ‘pro omnis’. )

  • Bill

    JohnnyZoom wrote: “(the only thing ‘controversial’ about reverting to ‘for many’ is how ‘pro multis’ could have been translated as if it really said ‘pro omnis’. )”

    That struck me, too. That makes a huge difference. Will there be more changes in translation like this?

  • Karl

    I think it may have been better to translate the Latin dynamically using terminology from the 1928 BCP or a traditional Lutheran service book, since Anglicans and Lutherans have an organically developed liturgy in English (perhaps Mollie could weigh in). Trautman has valid concerns, but the story should have noted that the Vatican intends that parishes address the issues by catechizing parishioners about the words. I think the revision is better than what we’ve been using.

    An article like this would have been a good opportunity to honestly discuss different opinions orthodox Catholics have about the translation. Instead, it gave a vague criticism from faceless “liberals” (It also seems to imply that people who oppose Church teaching are not the ones (re-)defining Catholicism).

    Hopefully the Vatican will mandate doctrinal hymnal revision committees soon. :-)

  • Steve

    Re: “pro omnis”. Can’t help myself. The correct Latin would be “pro omnibus” or “pro cunctis”.

  • Lori Pieper

    There is one annoying if minor error here:

    The overhaul, which will become mandatory Nov. 27, is aimed at unifying the more than 1 billion Catholics worldwide with a translation that is as close as possible to the original Latin version.

    True, there are some 1.3 billion Catholics in the world, but not all are going to be affected by this change, sine not all of them belong to the Latin rite. There are Eastern rite Catholics, who don’t use Latin, and celebrate in various languages, including English, but whose liturgies are quite different and aren’t undergoing these changes. At the very least, this sentence gives a misleading picture of how much diversity there really is, and will continue to be, in Catholic liturgy.

    Now, I take it since I commented on the actual journalism, this post is now legitimate. So may I be allowed something more personal?

    I was too young in the 1960′s for the changes in the liturgy to traumatize me, in fact I enjoyed them, because I could finally figure out what was going on at Mass and we got to have some cool guitar songs. I have a greater appreciation for Latin and everything that it means now, especially since I learned the history of the liturgy as part of my medieval historians’ training and in fact have transcribed and translated medieval Latin texts.

    All the same, put me down as rather unimpressed by the new translation. There are errors that are fortunately being corrected, and yes, even a kind of bias in the 1970 translations toward a “happy all the time” religion with less emphasis on sin (as in the severe curtailing of same in the Confiteor) is also being corrected. But to my mind, that is the only real superiority the translation possesses. It’s awkward and clunky in language — I wish I could convince people that mere archaism or Latinate phrasing doesn’t automatically make something more poetic — and words like “consubstantial” in today’s uncatechized climate are going to leave people alienated or confused. Unless the catechesis is going to get better real fast.

    It isn’t just the text of the Ordinary of the Mass itself, but the many specific prayers for various feasts that will have changes, some clarifying doctrine, which the story doesn’t go into. In the end, I guess I will welcome the translation because it is attempting to restore some of the meaning to the liturgy that was generally lost — if only it could have been done in a more graceful fashion.

    I think the story as a whole treated the subject in a superficial way without dealing too much with the differing world views and views of the faith between the two camps. This is quite typical. What is most annoying though, is another typical attitude: the author’s emphasis on “The Vatican, aiming at rigid hierarchy and conformity is fording everyone into one and the same mode.” Which as I said, isn’t really what’s happening if you look at the Church as a whole.

  • Hector_St_Clare

    Re: I think it may have been better to translate the Latin dynamically using terminology from the 1928 BCP or a traditional Lutheran service book, since Anglicans and Lutherans have an organically developed liturgy in English (perhaps Mollie could weigh in).

    Actually, the new translation is in some places closer to the traditional language Anglican liturgy, which you can still find in Anglo-Catholic and/or liturgically conservative Episcopal parishes. I can’t speak for the Lutherans, of course.

  • tmatt

    Spiking waves of comments that are about the glories or horrors of various Catholic liturgies.

    Journalism, folks.

  • C. Wingate

    re 27: Hector, that’s why I kept mentioning the ICET. The language used for some of the most common parts of the rite–the Gloria, the Sanctus, the Sursum Corda–was all worked out in a common version (one couldn’t justly call the ICET version of the last a translation) so that for example Richard Proulx’s setting was used in many churches because they all used the same words. The new translation is closer to the old Anglican version much of the time because the old Anglican version was a similarly close translation of the Latin, but there are substantial differences in (for example) the Gloria. The climate of liturgical reform is utterly different now, not just because large parts of Christendom have gotten over the early 1960s “start from scratch” textual aesthetick, but also because liturgical reform in those days was heavily ecumenical, and now it isn’t at all ecumenical.

    While I’m at it, three other notes: First, Bp. Trautman is widely perceived as the current English liturgy’s chief defender. He’s not just any random bishop, and he probably should have been better identified. Second, one of the other passages quoted as different has a Protestant-Catholic significance: in the passage quoted from the institution narrative, the old “inaccurate” translation is actually a considerably truer rendition of the passage from 1st Corinthians than the new “accurate” version. One might expect a knowledgeable reporter to catch that, although overall this quickly turns into something that’s too large for a newspaper story. Third, the other big historical issue that is completely missed is that the Latin that is being translated is not the old familiar-to-some Tridentine Latin of the 1940s and before. The wording of the story can be interpreted otherwise, but the fact is that the Latin itself is substantially different in a lot of passages from the pre-Vat-II rite. In that wise this is not a traditionalist move, even though it might superficially seem that it is.

  • Karl

    Like the Womenpriests issue, the beginning of the article seems to presume that you don’t have to accept the Catechism to be a “Catholic.”

    It would have been helpful if it explained the history of attempts to encourage “actual participation” in the liturgy through hand-missals through use of the vernacular.

    The article’s description of the “for many” change shows a lack of understanding of Catholic theology. The new translation uses the phrase “for many” because that’s in the Latin (which comes from Matthew 26:28). The Catholic Church will not start teaching limited atonement (i.e., that Jesus’s death did not atone for the sins of the reprobate in any way). The article leaves this unexplained to an un-catechized (or poorly catechized) audience.

  • Jack

    English speaking Melkite Catholics (Byzantines from the Middle East) have been involved in a revision–more like minor tweaking–of the English liturgical texts.

    The biggest verbal changes have been “Theotokos” for “Mother of God” and “essence” for “substance” including in the Creed (one in essence).

    There were a few weeks of stumbling, but that was it.

  • Lori Pieper

    Jack, that’s very interesting. Is this a really recent change? Is it being done to be more in conformity with other Eastern Churches, back to the roots, or for some other reason?

    Back in 2007 I attended a Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, a Byzantine liturgy, in English celebrated by the eparch of Pittsburgh, a Franciscan. They used Theotokos for the Blessed Virgin. I wonder now whether it too was a change from what they’d done before. I’m sure St. John C. would have felt right at home with it :-)

  • Lori Pieper

    I suppose that I should have tied this in to the article too. It does make it very clear that there is diversity and different problems, different changes in the different rites in each case.

  • Fr. Martin Farrell,op

    The cynical side of me would like to suggest that the various “Trautmanesque” objections are really a very transparent attempt to conceal another agenda which has more to do with anger over a clearer definition of doctrine and liturgical oversight and usage than the inability of the faithful to adapt to a more elevated form of speech.

    Who are we kidding? EVERYDAY something new happens to language, and PARTICULARLY those under 40 adapt admirably. Just look at the development of abbreviations used–not just in texting–in daily speech. IMHO

    Fr. Martin Farrell, op

  • Steve

    Fr. Farrell’s point. Yes.

    And again, is it not the very same people who demand that the laity be treated as adults who assume that they are stupid sheep who can’t learn new (or in this case, old) words? Make up your mind.

  • Jack

    Lori, I can’t speak for other English versions–alas, there is no common English version for the Byzantine Churches, Catholic or Orthodox, in the USA.

    But it does seem that the Ruthenians and Melkites chanted to “Theotokos” about the same time. Some Orthodox jurisdictions have tried calching the term as “Birthgiver of God,” after the analogies of Slavonic, Romanian, and Arabic, but that sings awkwardly (two adjacent accented syllables, with three in a 5 syallable phrase).

    “Theotokos” is a word accepted as definitive by an Ecumenical Council.

    I would have preferred “ages of ages” instead of “for ever and ever,” as being a more literal translation of the Greek “tous aionos ton aionon” (compare with the Latin “in secula seculorum”), but the latter was chosen as corresponding to how the phrase is rendered in most English Bibles.

    FWIW, most Orthodox versions prefer “Theotokos” and “ages of ages”.

  • sharon d.

    Hopefully on-topic, as a point of journalistic accuracy … but what the heck was this?

    “Pope Benedict XVI has stressed the sole truth of Catholicism over other faiths, even declining this month to pray with Hindus, Jews and others at an interreligious event.”

    Could a reader possibly guess from this tendentious description that the “interreligious event” was *hosted* by the Pope? And that the Hindus, Jews, etc. were invited by him to the event? The article makes it sound as if he showed up at somebody else’s service just to spit in the face of other religions.

  • Lori Pieper

    Jack, thanks for that information.

  • Hector

    Re: I would have preferred “ages of ages” instead of “for ever and ever,”

    Alternative (and poetic) form in English: “world without end”.