Thursday, December 1, 2011

Is the Change Back to Consubstantial To Announce Priests Are Still In Charge ?

I wanted to respond to article What writers can learn from the new translation of the Catholic Mass at Poynters.

The attempts to make the liturgy and the Bible more accessible to the faithful have a long and controversial history. English reformer
John Wycliffe resisted the Catholic hierarchy by overseeing and distributing a popular 14th century translation into English. In this and other such actions were sown the seeds of the Protestant Reformation, including Martin Luther’s own translation of the Bible into German.

Why shouldn’t people have direct access to the word of God? The honest answer is that a clerical caste saw as its primary mission to remain the sole arbiters of God’s meaning, forming a linguistic wall against misinterpretation, heresy, and heterodoxy.

I have no doubt that those translators who have given the faithful “consubstantial” believe it is closer than “one in being” to the theological truth of the Trinity. I’m not saying this is a distinction without a difference. But it may be a distinction that comes with a cost. Compared with the three little English words “one in being,” the long and Latinate “consubstantial” comes off as theological jargon.

Jargon is a little like slang in that it is used to set the members of a group apart through knowledge of a specialized language. The difference is a matter of connotation. We associate slang with lowlifes (such as criminals, dope-smoking musicians, and text-message-addicted teens), while we associate jargon with those in professions of official power and authority (lawyers, economists, politicians, consultants, educators, even journalists).

In that context, the word “consubstantial” reflects a kind of back story. It announces from the Vatican to English speaking Catholics that “priests are still in charge, that they remain the keepers of God’s mysteries, that they belong to a special language club into which the faithful may not enter.”...

First the article is wrong as to the timeline as to the changes. People were not saying "and the Lord be with you in 1962. However let me get to the part I have excerpted.

I have to say I don't get this logic and argument for many reasons. However here is the thing. Why is this writer assuming that Catholics or your average everyday person "gets" what "one in being" means and all that it implies . In fact a argument could be made that "one in being" is well too simplistic to be misleading as to this great mystery that is involved. As this piece argues:

..But with the introduction of the Pauline Mass in 1970, “consubstantial” was dropped from the Creed. In its place was the phrase, “one in being.” The substitution was made for simplicity’s sake. “One in being” seemed more understandable and accessible than “consubstantial.” Which to an extent it was.
But only to an extent. Which is why, when the new translation of the Roman Missal goes into effect next Advent, “consubstantial” will return to its traditional place in the Nicene Creed.
The reason for that switch is much the same as the reason homoousios trumped homoiousios in 325. It more accurately describes the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.
“‘One in being’ is vague and open to misinterpretation,” said Father Roy. “The Father is the source of all being. He is the sole Being whose essence is his existence, and he gives all of us our being and existence. So, to a certain extent, we’re all ‘one in being’ with the Father. That doesn’t say anything unique about Christ.”
Moreover, added Father Stravinskas, “Just because ‘one in being’ is three simple words in a row doesn’t mean that the average person understands what the phrase means.”
In fact, he continued, many don’t. The simplicity of the phrase is deceptive. It rolls off the tongue without ever forcing people to stop and think about what they’re saying.
But what they’re saying is something that has to be thought about — deeply thought about — to even remotely be understood.
“When people first hear they’ll be saying ‘consubstantial,’ their first response is, ‘I don’t know what that means. Why can’t we use a word I understand?’” said Father Hilgartner. “But we’re talking about a mystery that no one fully understands and that can’t be fully articulated. In some ways the use of the word helps us confront the mystery, to stand before the mystery.”
Paprocki agrees, seeing the word as a “catechetical moment” that can lead people to a deeper understanding of the Trinity.
“People in centuries past have given their lives defending these words,” he said. “Words are crucial. And this word, consubstantial, is crucial to helping us understand the relationship between the Father and the Son. If the word causes some head scratching, that’s OK, as long as that head scratching leads to people asking what the word means and why it’s important.”


Rick67 said...

In many ways the changes sound great. This specific change however may be unfortunate. Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky argues this strongly in _Being and Communion_. That the unity of God is not found in some "divine substance" the three persons share (more of a Greek concept) but rather in (and I'm summarizing too much here) relationship of Son and Holy Spirit to the *Father* - or to use other language in their *communion* with the Father. They are *persons*. And true being can only exist in communion. "It is communion which makes things 'be'. Nothing exists without it. Not even God". So "one in being" may be a far better formulation than "consubstantial" which (so Lossky argues) has more to do with Greek philosophical concepts than Christian truth. When I recite the Nicene Creed each morning on my walk to class (teaching adjunct at LSU) I am careful to say "one in being with the Father". Even many Orthodox prayer books don't get this quite right. Now I know we are talking Catholicism not Orthodoxy - but this may be a point on which the Orthodox might say to their Catholic brothers and sisters "you might want to think about this".

Anonymous said...

If there is one God, there must exist that entity which we can call God. It seems that if we were to define the oneness of God as only a relationship of three entities, God becomes abstract, as there really isn't God, but a circumstantial relationship of three 'gods'. I think that is what is key with the use of the word 'substance' or 'nature'. It maintains that God is a real entity and one entity in-and-of-himself, not a relationship made up of parts. Remember we can refer to each of the persons of the Trinity as whole and entirely God, so God is not something that comprises three parts. Also, Biblically, it is the Holy Spirit that characteristically is the person which comprises the unity of God between the Father and the Son. I don't recall any of the Church Fathers using the term relationship to define the oneness of God. 'Nature' or 'essence' has always been the language used. If God is "not found in some 'divine substance'" God is only and abstract idea.