Words help us believe

At the heart of the question of "why do we need new translations" is the simple truth that words have power, beyond the simple acts of speaking them and hearing them; they have the capacity to form us, to uplift us, to draw us into higher truths.

Think for a moment of your own use of words in different relationships. The words you might speak to your own mother will reflect your relationship with her, as much as your words with a coworker while on the job will reflect that relationship. Likewise, the way you speak will be different when speaking to a person whom you deeply love, than with a group of people to whom you simply need to communicate information or address a point of view.

The same principles are true when we think of our relationship with God. Certainly, each and every one of us is encouraged to pray "from the heart," speaking words to God as we might be so moved. Yet, in the more formal setting of the liturgy of the Church, wherein we not only speak onto God, but above all we open ourselves to him in seeking a deeper encounter with his living presence, our words are not chosen lightly. Some words, such as those meant to convey the real circumstances in the lives of the people, as used in the General Intercessions (or what is also called "The Prayer of the Faithful") will be more expressive of real needs. Other words, such as those prayed by the priest during the Consecration, are meant as a proper representation of the words that Jesus himself, the Son of God, expressed in his instituting of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. In each and every part of the Mass, by no means do we offer words only for their own sake; each word is spoken for a specific purpose and with a particular meaning.

Might we also consider God's Word, by which we think not only of the Bible itself, but more fittingly of Jesus Christ himself, who is "the Word made flesh [who] dwelt among us" (John 1:14). The Word made flesh, in "speaking" to us, offers us not merely teaching and encouragement, but the life of God himself, who is love. The power of the Word made flesh is found in his self-sacrificing love, by which sin and death are conquered. Jesus Christ "speaks" to us in the most eloquent and sincere way possible: by humbly giving himself up for our sake out of love for us. Such is the power of the Word of God, made flesh.

As love is the motive of Jesus Christ's saving work, so too our response to Jesus' offering of self, of which we are privileged to partake at each and every Mass, ought to be words of true love. In applying this truth to the new translation, we once more return to our relationships with other persons. Just as your words to your mother would not be those in addressing a co-worker on the job, so too the language we use to address God ought to be all together unique. Taking it further, to be in communication with God is to communicate with the Creator, to whom we owe our whole existence. Hence, why would we not want to approach He who made us and loves us, even onto death, with the most noble, humble, and meaningful of words? Likewise, it is more than proper that these words ought to convey God himself in the most powerful and awe-inspiring way as is His nature -- so that our own faith in Him and our desire to encounter Him in all of His beauty in heaven may only increase.

In implementing the new translation, such understanding of the power of words is truly invited. In answering "why" we need these new translations, might we keep this reflection of the power of words in mind, aware that words have the power to uplift and inspire, and above all, to love -- and that God himself is worthy of the most noble, majestic, and loving words that we could ever hope to speak.

Father Hastings is Director of the Office of Liturgy and Worship of the Diocese of Duluth and pastor of St. Rose Parish in Proctor, MN.