Originally, this was going to be about one particular phrase in the Consecration, but from numerous
"And with your spirit" - surely the most noticeable change at Mass for those of us in the pews. Friends have taken to 'keeping score' of how many they get right (I hit all 4 today, without using the card!). Fortunately, there is a very in-depth article about this phrase written by the late Fr Austin Milner OP, but to summarize - praying for the Lord to be with someone's spirit is entirely Biblical; St. Paul signs off his letters to the Galatians and Philippians, and to St. Timothy and Philemon in various ways, but always praying that the the Lord or His grace will be with their spirits. This greeting/prayer is unique in the ancient world to Christianity - "and with your spirit" is therefore one of the most Christian things you can say. So why "and with your spirit"? According to St. Albert the Great, St. John Chrysostom, and more ancient sources, the people of God are praying that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit which gives the graces of Christ's priesthood to mere men, may be with the priest's spirit (soul) as he performs the sacred actions. After all, receiving those priestly graces at ordination works no change in a man's body, but eternally changes his soul, so while he must perform the actions with his body, it is through his spirit that the Holy Spirit works. As Chrysostom puts it: "For he who is there is a man, it is God who works though him. Do not attend to the nature of the one you see, but understand the grace which is invisible. Nothing human takes place in this sacred sanctuary." Finally, in the majority of European translations of the Latin, they have kept this phrasing e.g. "et avec ton esprit" in French. We're all part of a universal i.e. catholic church, and as such, should all at least say the same prays, even if in different languages, right?
|The Triumph of Orthodoxy|
"Pray brethren" - the phrase which caused the outburst which is the title of this post: "It's a complete insult to half the population!" Undeniably, 'brethren' began as an alternative plural form of 'brother', and was used alongside 'sistren' in the middle ages, and even up to Shakespeare's time. From then on, 'brothers' began to take over as the plural form, and 'sistren' fell out of use completely. 'Brethren' became, by the start of 17th Century, an exclusively religious word, meaning "fellow members of a religious community" without distinction between the sexes e.g. the Plymouth Brethren, a non-denominational sect of 19th Century, comprised of both men and women. Therefore, when the priest says, "Pray brethren" he is undeniably talking to both men and women! What's more, a straw poll of a number of female friends, all under the age of 25, revealed that they were not in the least offended by the word. The man who raised the objection is well into his late 70's. Only the "spirit of Vatican II" generation cares about these things, while the "Second Vatican Council" generation (i.e. us) have a deeper understanding of the meaning, and more important things to worry about.
|hunc praeclarum calicem|
"But what about those Gospel accounts?" some might say. "They clearly say 'cup' in 1 Corinthians, Matthew, Mark, and Luke." Well, they say that in most English translations, though not in all. However, an important principle in the liturgy comes into focus because of this logical objection - the liturgy interprets Scripture, and is its own source of theology and teaching. The Church is the preserver and giver of both liturgy and Scripture, and we must remember that the liturgy is the elder of the two (1 Corinthians having been written around 20 years after the institution of the Eucharist). As such, the Church may legitimately emphasise something in liturgy which is implicit, but not necessarily explicit, in the Bible, something Pope Benedict alludes to regarding this exact phrase in this homily from Maundy Thursday [paragraph 7 - "The Roman Canon interprets this psalm..."]. So why "this precious chalice"?
When we say this phrase, we tend to stress "precious chalice" - for us this undoubtedly recalls images of the gold, silver, enamelled chalices we're used to seeing at Mass. The real meaning, though, is found in the only other common Catholic phrase with the word 'precious' in it - the Precious Blood. It is not the material the chalice is made from which makes it precious, but rather it's being made for and coming into contact with "His Most Precious Blood", as the Divine Praises put it. If a coffee cup has to be used for Holy Mass because nothing more suitable is available, it becomes a 'precious chalice' and should be treated as such, as Servant of God Dorothy Day ably demonstrated [search for the word 'chalice']. The words "precious chalice", then, are bound up with our belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. "Cup" just doesn't do it justice.
Yet if we neglect the first word in the phrase i.e. "this", we're also missing a key point. The Church wishes to make clear to us an incredible fact - "The sacrifice of Christ [on the Cross] and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice" [CCC 1367. Emphasis in original]. When the priest acts as Christ did, taking the chalice in his hands and saying His words, there is actually no difference between 'our' chalice and the Lord's chalice of nearly 2,000 years ago - both contain the same Precious Blood. In a very real way, we are 'transported' back to that upper room where Christ began the New Covenant at every Mass we go to. Or rather, that Passover with the Apostles is brought through time to us (the Catechism has a good explanation of the meaning of "memorial" as applied to the Mass in CCC 1362-1364].
When the promoters of the new translation claim that it has more spiritual and theological depth than the (soon-to-be) old translation, these few examples are what they are talking about. There'll be even more in the prayers said by the priest at various points in Mass as well. I hope this will help you to at least present these positive aspects of it to the understandably cautious and the downright recalcitrant alike!