When the translation isn’t about you

When the translation isn’t about you

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf links to and fisks a newspaper op-ed bemoaning the vote by the US bishops on the new translation of the Mass. In particular, the writer dislikes the change to the words, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the words and I shall be healed.” Read the whole thing, but it boils down to ignorance of Scripture and a self-centered approach to worship.

If I could point to the single biggest reason why so few Catholics go to Mass and why so many of the rest endure it, rather than joyfully enter into it, this would be why: Because we—and by this I include so many conservatives and Traditionalists as well—are more concerned about what the Mass does for us and we fail to see the point that we go to Mass to offer our worship to God. Just look at the words from the op-ed writer’s column:

Mass is the starting point for my week. A renewal that I participate in. The words, the music, the people – they ground me. … There is one point in every Mass that is pivotal to me. It is when my heart opens and I feel myself at the feet of God, praying for his mercy. … Tears form in my eyes every time I say these words. Every time. … My world could be upside down, as awful as anything, but when I say those words in anticipation of Communion, I feel the hand of God in my life. I feel his forgiveness. I feel his love. And now? Now, the church wants to change these words to, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.” My roof? Where is the emotion in that? Where is the feeling? What does it even mean?

And there you have it. Me. I. My. We act like teens who take our Father for granted even as we demand money for the mall and keys to the car. It’s all about our needs even as we fail to offer him the love He deserves just because He is.

This is why so many people say they don’t go to Mass: Because they don’t “get anything out of it.” The fact that you get anything out of Mass is secondary. The Mass is there for you to put something in: Your worship and sacrifice. Neither is the Mass our own private playground that must appeal to our aesthetics. A priest celebrating the Mass on the hood of Hummvee with one other soldier in a desert wasteland is offering as sublime a Mass as the highest of high Tridentine Masses.

In the end, it’s just not about you.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
12 comments
  • Actually I don’t have to admit that. I think it expresses the point quite well because it draws from a very significant moment in the Gospel and provides context for the response we are making.

  • “many of the problems of our Faith, built on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, are not caused by the priest, the music chosen, or the lector, but by the narcissistic approach to religion even Catholics have developed in our ego-driven society.”

    It’s not either/or. In fact the music in the typical parish is all an indulgence in narcissism. There is a pervasive failure on the part of those responsible – “the priest” – to resist the culture on this point rather than to capitulate to narcissism and religious enthusiasm. This capitulation is facilitated by the mentality that the liturgy is to be crafted to meet the felt needs of people and a mass that gives people who do not think with the mind of the church too much leeway to do the wrong thing.

  • It couldn’t be, of course, that the New Order mass itself is the reason for the emphasis on ‘what do I get out of it’ when in days of yore it was “lowly and sinful as I am, I am here to worship God.”  For years we have heard ‘you are co-celebrants,’ the ‘priest and the people,’ we are community, yada yada.  All you kids out there (under 60) go to a Latin Mass sometime and see the difference.  Instead of being turned off because ‘the priest has his back to us’ you might look at it the way we did – we are all (priest and congregation) facing Christ on the Altar.  And pardon us if we old-timers don’t have any sympathy over two years to get used to “and with your spirit” instead of ‘and also with you’ when we literally overnight gave up the Mass of the Ages for Kumbyah and guitars.

  • Attendance at the Tridentine Mass is not an immunization from the “all about me” tendency. I know a few Traditionalists for whom the old Mass is an opportunity to revel in aesthetics and the emotional high to the detriment of actual worship and focus on God first.

    There is a reason a reform was needed. The reform we got may not have been the one we needed, but one was necessary.

  • Dom – Perhaps.  But the current reform concocted by a ‘theologian’-liturgist (Bugnini) who was revealed as a Mason and his band of six Protestants leaves much to be desired.

  • c matt wrote: “it comes from the words of the Roman centorian(sp?) when he asked Jesus to heal his servant, and took Jesus at His word without need of further assurance – quite an act of faith. “

    Actually, the scripture verse (Mt 8:8) reads, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.”  The older liturgical text and the proposed return to it are not faithful to the words of the centurion but, rather, change the original and substitute “soul” for “servant.”  A better rendering for the liturgy might have been, “and your servant(s) will be healed.”

  • orthodox:

    Dom already addressed that concern when he said: “The reform we got may not have been the one we needed…” Then again, this conversation wouldn’t be complete without paying lip service to a Masonic conspiracy, would it? Bugnini was inexperienced as a liturgist (the records I found show he was ordained in 1938, but didn’t begin liturgical studies until after the war), but rose from being a parish priest outside of Rome to a position of influence in a relatively short time.

    Assuming the damage were considerable, it is not beyond repair.

  • I’m a little disappointed.

    I was bothered by the change because I didn’t know how to connect to it. Now, I plan to go find out more about it, but this conversation here bothers me.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily narcisistic to want to have ways to connect to the Liturgy of the Mass. I know, I know we are all bothered by the lack of respect that has been with us since the 70’s and the tendancy to make Liturgy sweet and non-threatening which does nothing for the souls in attendance.

    However, words ARE powerful. We DO need a way to connect to the Mass. It IS all about God-but it’s not a one way street either. He wants us to connect to him. He wants us to experience his healing of our wretched souls.  Emotions themself are not the problem. It is a problem when they are the starting point, but not when they are part of the mix. 

    I love that line of the Mass because I am so wretched. Before the glory and mercy of God I am utterly unworthy. Yet the God of the Universe reaches down to us in the Sacrament of the Alter. He comes to us! It DOES center on him, but I don’t think that means it ends with him either.

    I’m probably going to get yelled at here. No matter. I’m open to learning. I want to know how to respond to God’s movement in this change of phrase. It does begin with God. I just want to be able to return to him whatever the expectation is.

  • Actually, the scripture verse (Mt 8:8) reads, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” The older liturgical text and the proposed return to it are not faithful to the words of the centurion but, rather, change the original and substitute “soul” for “servant.” A better rendering for the liturgy might have been, “and your servant(s) will be healed.”

    Yeah but Father, your proposal isn’t faithful to the words of the centurion either. He was talking about his servant, not about himself (which I assume you mean by your better rendering) nor about himself and his servant (and friends and family and so on) which your parenthetical pluralization suggests.

    I do like the idea of being the Lord’s servant, asking for healing in mind, body, and soul. For example, in receiving the Sacrament of the Sick.

    But to receive the Lord sacramentally, isn’t it imperative that the soul is what needs healing?

    Brigid:

    Okay but you have to admit that the translation “under my roof” may work in Italian and French but it is lousy (and in some ways laughable) English for the worship of God…

    I not only do not admit this but on behalf of my parents and grandparents I resent it.

    Although I do think that “and also with you” is worth a titter or two.

  • “servants will be healed”, Aplman? 

    That’d leave out a whole lot of people because a lot of people aren’t there as servants, pure and simple.  If they were, they’d stop with the yakkity yak, the “let’s control the laypeople,” the “wanna be a movie star” performances and the buttview lowrisers.  They’d stop trying to be the bosses.  They’d show up to worship.  What a concept!

    At least the way the original Latin has it everyone with a soul would be included just by following along in a state of grace.

    You should be more inclusive.  Just sayin.

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