Sunday, 20 May 2012

Pro multis: Worried you might not be destined for heaven?

Surely the best evidence that the new translation of the Mass really is important for the salvation of souls is the ongoing angst from liberal heretics (I'm not going to use the word 'dissenters' in future, instead let's call it what it is: the word too often has positive connotations, calling to mind heroes who fought against Russian communism for example, and those who reject the teachings of the Church are no kind of hero!) about the change from 'for all' to 'for many' in the Eucharistic prayer.

David Timbs has a piece on this subject over at V2 Catholic, responding to the Pope's recent letter to the German bishops on this subject, so its worth rehearsing the arguments once again.

The offer of salvation vs its acceptance

At stake is the distinction between the offer of salvation, made possible by Christ's death, and its acceptance, which requires each of us individually to make a decision for Christ.

St Paul affirms, in 2 Corinthians 5:14 that Christ died for all, reopening the way to heaven.  He quickly goes on, however, in that chapter, to point out that our ministry is to extent Christ's offer of reconciliation to others, urging them to be reconciled to God.  Christ's death, in other words does not in itself save us; we have to accept the grace offered and use it to live worthily.

The sacrifice of the Mass, it is true, and a general redemptive dimension offered for the whole world.

But it is first and foremost offered for those physically present at the Mass, to the many down the ages who have said yes to Christ. 

The Eucharist is not open to anyone who happens to walk into a Church; it is to be received by those baptised and in a state of grace (and with the other correct dispositions and meeting the other requirements) only.

Those words 'for many', when said aloud, or when we read them in the missal, should indeed serve as a jolting reminder firstly to examine the state of our own soul, and secondly of our duty to evangelise, to extent the number of 'the many'.

No wonder heretics hate it: it plays on their conscience!

Qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum

The words 'for all' were inserted into the Eucharistic Prayer in 1973.  The arguments for its use are entirely speculative, based on historico-critical theories about the origins of the New Testament which are rapidly being discredited.

In particular:
  • the actual phrase in the Eucharistic prayer is a translation of the Gospel: it appears in the accounts of the Last Supper in Matthew 26:28 and Lk 22:20 (Mk 14:24 just as 'for you').

There is no ambiguity about the words used: the Greek is pollwn, which has the same meaning as the Latin multis, many.
  • the claim that this is a mistranslation depends on the argument that Our Lord was speaking in Aramaic. 
Firstly this is entirely speculative - most first century Jews were at least bilingual (most tomb inscriptions of the time were actually in Greek not Aramaic) and with at least a smattering of Hebrew; for many Greek was effectively the first language, not Aramiac. That's why there are so many direct quotes from the Septuagint in the Gospels.

Secondly, it runs counter to the notion that the Gospels are the inspired word of God, writing exactly what is necessary for our salvation, no more and no less.  Tradition suggests that St Mathew's Gospel may have been written in Hebrew (not Aramaic) originally; St Luke's though was written in Greek.

  • some argue that the original text was just 'for you' on the basis that St Paul's Eucharistic formula  (1 Cor 11: 23-26) and St Mark's reflect the earliest versions of the New Testament. 
In fact manuscript and other evidence suggests that St Matthew's Gospel was indeed first (as the tradition has always held), written between 30-40 AD. 

Regardless, it is not particularly obvious to me at least how the 'for you' formula advances the 'for all' case - quite the contrary, it is even more restrictive!
  • The use of the phrase 'pro multis' (rather than pro omnis or pro universis) reflects the constant liturgical tradition of the Church in the West.
Where Scripture is ambiguous, the rule is always to look to the tradition:  we are not fundamentalists, or people of the book, but rather must interpret Scripture in the light of the living traditon of the Church, the Apostolic Tradition handed down to us, safeguarded by the Church.

Not only does pro multis reflect the ancient texts of the Mass, its meaning of the phrase was clearly reaffirmed by the Catechism of the Council of Trent.

Can we just invent our own Church?

Mr Timbs argues that the Pope's intervention on the 'pro multis' issue represents an unwarranted intrusion of Rome into the rights of the local Church, and particularly of the right of bishops to do their own thing when it comes to the liturgy.

Yet the right of Rome to legislate when it comes to the liturgy is no recent innovation, but rather goes back to the earliest days of the Church!

The reality is that the normative version of the Mass is not the English or German in any particular translation, but rather the Latin.  And the Latin is quite clear.

I'm all for legitimate liturgical diversity - let the EF, the OF (including in Latin, ad orientem, etc), other Western and Eastern rites be encouraged once more.

And I do find it particularly ironic that the most 'liberal' bishops and their followers are typically the most opposed to legitimate diversity of rites.

But the message to them must be that if you want to invent your own liturgy, your own theology at odds with that of the Universal Church; if you want to resist the legitimate legislative function of the papacy, you are of course free to do so.  Just don't claim to be Catholic while doing so though, because what you are actually imposing is called protestantism.


Andrea said...

thanks for this post.

Of course Bl JPII had pan-salvation tendencies.

Rod said...

My PP uses "all" at the Consecration, but reading the Passion forgot to change it and said "many". Mk 14:24