Saturday, 16 July 2011

For Many - For All (part one)

One of the most obvious changes in the corrected translation of Holy Mass is the words for the consecration on the Precious Blood. It used to be: "Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me." The corrected translation is: "Take this, all of you and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me." I want to talk about the parts in bold: old translation - for all; new corrected - for many. It seems that this means a different thing, and as it is about getting to Heaven we need to understand what is going on.

But before we get anywhere near to the last forty years, we need to go back a little before that. In fact, we need to go back a few thousand years to Our Lord. Let it be understood, first of all, that we are concerned with the means of salvation, and so we do not mess about with it. It is just too important. So we must first ask what words Our Lord used when He changed bread and wine into His Body and Blood. We have the accounts in the Gospels:

Matthew 26:28 "which is poured out for many" Greek πολλων - Many
Mark 14:24 "which is poured out for many" Greek πολλων - Many (same)
I Corinthians 11:25 makes no mention of 'all' or 'many'.

And we know all that the earliest documents containing the words of consecration use 'for many' in Greek, or as we have it in Latin 'pro multis'. 'Pro omnibus' - for all, has never been used in any words of consecration. And it is not now used in any official text. The Latin text, even of the Ordinary Form, uses 'pro multis'. No other traditions with their own rites (prayers for changing bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ) be it Syriac, Greek, Slavonic, Armenian, or any of the other Slavonic languages use a term which could be translated as 'for all', they all use 'for many'. These date from the time of Christ and have been preserved unchanged.

So we have to assume that this is the meaning of the words that were used by Christ. We have always used them, and everyone has always used them. They are the most important words in the whole world. So we must first ask ourselves. why did we ever say 'for all'?
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