Steve Jobs, Consubstantial and the Mass

Apple’s board fired Steve Jobs in the 1970s.

He went on to a company that ultimately gave us Toy Story and many other computer animated blockbuster films and another company that created what became Mac OSX.

In the meantime, Apple made a lot of money selling the Macintosh, which Steve Jobs had master-minded. When other companies, particularly Microsoft, caught up with Apple’s early competitive advantage and passed it by, Apple began to founder.

I was forced to use an Apple computer for desktop publishing in the mid 1990s, and it was dreadful. I could not wait to get back to my pc. The old Mac OS couldn’t do the job anymore. It was buggy and out of date.

Apple brought Steve Jobs back by buying his operating system from him. At the same time, they put him back in the company loop.

This video is the announcement of this move to bring Steve Jobs back. It begins with a totally ham-handed presentation by the man who was running Apple into the ground at that time, followed by a presentation by Steve Jobs explaining the new operating system. Jobs’ presentation is followed by more ham-handedness that ends in dragging an obviously disgusted Jobs and his co-founder Steve Wozniak back on the stage for a final, underwhelming presentation.

It’s long, but it’s also a case study in the difference between pedestrian leadership and genius leadership. Jobs is clearly angry when he walks out on the stage. I would imagine he was embarrassed to be following such a bad act and angry about what Apple had devolved to.

How does this apply to the word “consubstantial” and the mass? It applies because Jesus deserves better than the pedestrian ugliness of the first presentation in this video. He deserves a liturgy that communicates clearly and is beautiful.

Making the mass ugly because of theological pretensions is a mistake. It is always a mistake. It is an everlasting mistake.

If you watch this video, you will see a dramatic demonstration of the power of simplicity in communication.

I keep hammering on the word consubstantial because it is so unforgivably ugly, awkward, unmelodius and downright insulting. It insults the laity with its high-handed obscurity, and it insults the mass, where heaven touches earth, with its ugliness.

I am not unhappy about or opposed to the changes in the liturgy. It doesn’t bother me one bit. Guarding the liturgy is one of the Church’s primary jobs. What bothers me is when the changes are a step down. The liturgy should be beautiful. It should soar and sing with our love for the God Who made us.

Consubstantial is like a brick on the prayer path of the mass that trips people and causes them to fall out of the rhythm of the worship and awe that leads them to the eucharist. People should not have to overcome the language of the mass. They should be uplifted by it.

My message to Church leadership as it is considering the new evangelization is to start speaking more directly and clearly. Talk to people instead of talking at them. You are communicating the greatest story ever told which tells the truth of the only Hope the world has ever had. Stop mumbling and talking to one another and speak out. Preach Christ.

Here’s the video.

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  • FW Ken

    Rebecca,

    I agree with you about “consubstantial”, but there is so much in the new translation that challenges us, and I think challenge it’s a good thing for a complacent people (like me). Anyway, it’s true that the new translation has some clunky spots, but it’s also true that the the old translation had some insipid spots..

    In a culture where sin is a “mistake” and we constantly hear things like “I’m not a bad person, I just make bad choices”, the Church gives us the threefold “through my fault”.

    The bland ” we believe” has become the challenge to a personal “I believe”.

    And we are being called to view the priest – and ourselves – in a new way when we say “and with your spirit”. He is not simply just another “you”, but a soul united to the Spirit of God.

    So the glass is more than half full for me – close to full, actually.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Are they planning liturgical changes? I hadn’t heard. I agree also on consubstantial. It’s the one change in the translation I remain displeased. It is an awkward word. English always sounds better with anglo-saxon rooted words. Latinate words, especially ones with several syllables, don’t sound right. Plus I always liked the orignal formulation: “one in being with the father.” Some considered that awkward phrasing, but I think it’s actually elegant.

    • FW Ken

      Manny,

      Without taking a side in the argument, here’s a short piece that explains why the word was returned to the Creed.

      http://www.romanmissalchanges.com/2011/01/what-consubstantial-with-father-means.html?m=1

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        Thanks Ken. I see now the phrase doesn’t say it exactly.

        • FW Ken

          It surprised me, too. I came up on the Anglican translation : “of one being with the Father”, which is also different from “one in being with the Father”. Obviously. I still “hear” the Anglican translation.

  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    And I continue to disagree.

  • vox borealis

    I have to say, Rebecca, you are (in my opinion) way off base with this. Consubstantial appears in only one place, the Creed, where it is used to expressed a very particular theological position, one that was debated fiercely and then specifically defined in early councils It is not a “pretension,” it is a belief. Is it a hard word? Yes. But that is because the theology is hard.

    Moreover, it is more *accurate* than the former circumlocution, “one in being with the father.” That seems on the face of it to make more sense in English, but what exactly does it mean? You would say it flows more smoothly, communicates more clearly? Does it? I would argue, rather, that its easiness actually masks its inaccuracy with respect to the theological position, and so actually subtly *miscommunicates.* Tell me, what does “one in being” mean?

    Lastly, is this one word at one place really such an obstacle to the liturgy? If it is sooo hard to understand, perhaps ask Father what it means, or study up on it, and suddenly the liturgy opens up even more profoundly. Better yet, is this into a perfect moment for Father to have some homilies on the Creed, actually talk about what we claim to believe. Maybe it’s actually a good thing that we are forced to stop and think about what we are saying, even if it’s because it doesn’t roll off the tongue so easily and without thought.

    Seriously, I find this “hammering” about consubstantial well below your usual standards. It strikes me as a bit adolescent (the thinking behind it, not you). We are Catholics; our beliefs *are* difficult—there’s a reason why there have been so many schisms and disagreements and the need for many councils to define and clarify theological positions). Every once and a while we can put on our big kid pants and deal with some “clunky”, Latinate, technical terms.

  • vox borealis

    As a follow-up, from the ever-reliable Catholic Encyclopedia:

    Gr. homoousion – from homos, same, and ousia, essence; Latin consubstantialem, of one essence or substance), the word used by the Council of Nicaea (325) to express the Divinity of Christ.

    The terms was coined specifically to deal with the Arian heresy, which (in simple terms) challenged that Christ was fully divine as well as fully man. Since it means “of the same [divine] substance” or “of the same [divine] essence” as God the Creator, “one in being” just doesn’t cut it.

    I’ll grant that the new translation could have put “of the same essence as the Father” rather than “Consubstantial with the father,” but the notion would still be highly complicated and difficult to understand *theologically* even if the speaker feels that he or she understands the individual words better. From my view, I much prefer the economy of consubstantial to various English circumlocutions, and moreover, I think it is probably preferable in the Creed to use technical language more rather than less…and then *educate* the laity.

    The nature of Christ is not an easy concept. The nature of the Trinity is not an easy concept. Theology is sometimes hard. Let’s confront that reality, rather than treat “John and Mary Catholic” as if they are too stupid to learn. And sometimes John and Mary Catholic need to be willing to be challenged intellectually, and not complain because a word here and there is too hard.

  • perpper

    All that for one word? We had a semester-long English class in 9th grade that focused on Latin and Greek roots. Thanks to Mrs. Turner (who I’m sure is in Heaven praying for everyone who struggles with English) and that class, I’ve never had a problem with that side of the English language. I’ve heard the same from my former classmates who I’m still in touch with. Our faith’s “official language” is Latin, after all. One word? Or is it that we aren’t taught our Latin connections … which IMO should be part of ongoing religious education … but that’s another subject.

  • AnneG

    Rebecca, are you kicking against the goad?

  • Michael Sadowski

    I have to weigh in here with those who find your vendetta against
    “consubstantial” perplexing. It is that word in English which is equivalent to
    the Greek “homoousios”—of the same substance/essence—the word the Council Fathers of Nicaea chose as the precise word best-suited to place in the Creed to slay the heresy of Arianism. This is critical, because as Fr. Faber reminds us—“Where this no hatred of heresy, there is no holiness.”—and “homoousios/consubstancial” became the shibboleth of orthodoxy opposed to heresy. To avoid using it became equivalent to denying it; to providing the imprecise soil in which the heresy could take root.

    The Council Fathers of Nicaea could have chosen to use the
    word “being,” but it was with good reason that they did not—“being” is not a
    genus and would not have provided the philosophical and theological precision
    necessary to defend orthodoxy. Yes this is involved, but this does not make it
    unimportant—the history of the Church bears testimony to this.

    And I must disagree on the esthetic point: far from lacking beauty, there is always beauty in the precision of expression of a divine truth—unlike imprecise and ambiguous phrasing no matter how saccharine the sound.

    In 1975, the late Bishop R. J. Dwyer of Portland, Oregon commented as follows:

    “…the inept, puerile, semi-literate English translation which has been foisted upon us by the ICEL—the International Commission for English in the Liturgy—a body of men possessed of all the worst characteristics of a self-perpetuating bureaucracy, which has done an immeasurable disservice to the entire English speaking world. The work has been marked by an almost complete lack of literary sense, a crass insensitivity to the poetry of language, and even worse by a most unscholarly freedom in the rendering of the texts, amounting at times, to actual misrepresentation.”

    After decades of this lamentable situation going unaddressed, some positive measures—long overdue as they may have been—have finally been taken to improve the unfortunate state to which Bishop Dwyer referred, and now you find cause for complaint?—for the step of providing an accurate translation? Please, put this vendetta to rest. It is a disservice.

  • AnneG

    Rebecca, I know this is old, but wanted to share. The term consubstantial came from the argument with the Arians, specifically out of the Council of Nicaea. From The. Great Heresies by Hillaire Belloc. I’m reading that book. Regards.

    • hamiltonr

      Thanks Anne.


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