Saturday, November 26, 2011

What's in a word?

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the news that tomorrow, Advent Sunday, our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters will worship using the reformed Roman Missal. Now we Anglican Communion members are not strangers to liturgical reform (most of it ghastly) but this official policy from the other bank of the Tiber is more than interesting.

Returning to the original text of the (apparently previously hastily translated) Latin mass is the major sales pitch of the Vatican. OK. Good intention. And some of the product is, in the opinion of one who detests much of the bland Anglican rites, quite excellent. In particular, the response to the priestly greeting:

The Lord be with you.

Is now.

And with your spirit.

To me this is a far more attractive response than the bland 1970s line that we have suffered to this day:

And also with you.

And I know that there are rumours of rumours about the substitution of “consubstantial” for “of one being” (with the Father) but to be honest, as one of the tradition that still insists on singing “Lights abode, celestial Salem” I simply defer. But within this revised Eucharistic canon I have one huge objection.

In the re-translated prayer of consecration the Lord now takes the chalice. Not the cup or the cup of wine, but the chalice. Linguistically this is acceptable, and to satisfy purists, correct. The word we use in English has a Latin root: calicem. Parallel in Greek is kalyx. In common usage in Europe, primarily through old and middle French, the word continued. Its meaning. A drinking cup. Nothing more, nothing less.

The problem with literally bringing calicem into the modern mass revision is that for at least 1700 years it has culturally referred to a special, even bejeweled cup. Historical baggage. Certainly not the type and style of cup that lies at the root of the Eucharist, and which the Lord took in his hand that holy Thursday.

Drink this, all of you…

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