The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy ~ “noble simplicity”

We’re a series of reflections (this is the fourth) on the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.  This is in commemoration and celebration of the opening of the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago on October 11, 1962.  In our last section, we looked at some of the translations of the people’s parts like “consubstantiation” in the creed and “And with your Spirit.”

Today, we’re going to look at the priests’ parts ~ the Eucharistic Prayer, which are more problematic, though you might not notice them as much as we priests would.

We’ll start with the most important part – the Narrative of the Institution (the Consecration).

Unfortunately, they changed the word “cup” to “chalice”, as in “This is the chalice of my blood”, rather than “This is the cup of my blood.”

Father John R. Donohue, S.J. in an article entitled “Cup or Chalice? ~ The Large Implications of a Small Change has this to say:

In the Greek original of all the New Testament accounts of the Last Supper, after the blessing of the bread, Jesus takes a cup (poterion) and says “this is the new covenant of my blood (Luke).

He goes on to show how it was translated in to Latin and then in to English. But suffice it to say the Catholic Douay-Rheims translated the Latin calix as cup.

The introduction of the English word “chalice” at the most solemn moment of the liturgy not only obscures the biblical and historical image of Jesus that distances him from the disciples of his own day and of ours. In contemporary English a “chalice” is a liturgical vessel, and people are likely to think of gold or jewel-encrusted chalices found in museums or seen in artistic portrayals.  At the Last Supper, Jesus was a Jewish layman using drinking cups of the world around him, which were to bear the deepest mystery of his life.  “Chalice” obscures this transformation of the ordinary by the power of God and distances the celebration from the lives of the participants.

Donohue / Commonweal / June 2012

And they changed the following also:

It will be shed for all   

which will be shed for many:

What is unfortunate about that is this:

 You’re sitting in the congregation and you’re not too sure about how you’re measuring up. And you hear that.  “shed for many”. ”You might well think,  “Well, I guess I’m not included.” Or even worse – that there isn’t any hope for you – that you’re on the outside – that Jesus didn’t shed his blood for you and does not love you.

But if you hear “It will be shed for all,” if you’re really praying at that moment, you’ll be comforted and feel included; you won’t feel excluded or even worse – damned.

See how the choice of one word (above) can have a detrimental or a healing effect on people?  True, this is not in the scriptural accounts of the Last Supper, nor in the Latin.  Yet, those responsible for the 1970 translation saw the wisdom of what I am saying here.

Let’s compare excerpts of the Eucharistic Prayers that the priest says.


From Eucharistic Prayer I (Roman Canon)


Remember. Lord, your people,

Especially those for whom we now pray, . .

Remember all of us gathered here before you.

You know how we firmly we believe in you

and dedicate ourselves to you.

We offer you this sacrifice of praise

for ourselves and those who are dear to us.

We pray to you, our living and true God,

for our well being and redemption.  ~ 1970 translation


Remember, Lord, your servants N. and N.

and all gathered here,

whose faith and devotion are known to you.

For them, we offer you this sacrifice of praise

or they offer it for themselves

and all who are dear to them:

for the redemption of their souls,

in hope of health and well-being,

and paying their homage to you,

the eternal God, living and true.   ~ 2010 translation

Notice that there are different theologies operative here. The celebrant includes the people in his prayer in the 1970 translation.  The priest is praying in the midst of the people.  One could almost picture Jesus in the midst of his people. In the 2010 translation, the priest prays for the people as if the priest is in front of the people – the leader of a parade. Note that the language is more formal.  It seems to be a kind of Old Testament distance between priest and people and also between God and the people. In the 1970 translations, the language is familial or colloquial – the way Jesus spoke in prayer Cf. John 17).  He wanted us to have an intimacy with his Father.  Read the passages above again and see for yourself.

Father, accept this offering

from your whole family.

Grant us peace in this life,

save us from final damnation,

and count us among those whom you have chosen.


Therefore, Lord, we pray:

Graciously accept this oblation of our service,

that of your whole family;

order our days in peace,

and command that we be delivered from eternal damnation

and counted among the flock of those you have chosen.

Again, one is familial; the other, formal “command”.

Brief excerpts from Eucharistic Prayer III:

Look with favor on your Church’s offering,

and see the Victim whose death has reconciled us to himself.


Look, we pray, upon the oblation of your Church,

and, recognizing the sacrificial Victim by whose death

you willed to reconcile to yourself, grant . . .(4 + lines.)

The sentences of the 2010 translation follow the Latin and run on and are difficult to comprehend or control in speech.


May he make us an everlasting gift to you

and enable us to share in the inheritance of your saints,


May he make us an eternal offering to you

so that we may obtain an inheritance with your elect.

It is difficult for me to pray the new Roman missal, as it is for many priests.  This became evident at the convocation of priests I attended last June.  I notice at Sunday Mass, the priest normally uses Prayer II that is the simplest and shortest.

To conclude my study, I gave a couple of sentences from the 2010 translation to a friend of mine known for his competence in English grammar without telling him where they came from. This is what he had to say about this sentence:

“Surpass for the honor of your name, what you pledged to the Patriarchs, by reason of the faith, and through sacred adoption increase the children of your promise, so that what the Saints of old never doubted would come to pass your Church may now see in great part fulfilled.”

Too convoluted.  You have many subjects upon which you are treating in one sentence.  Can you break this up into smaller declarative sentences?

“so that what the Saints of old never doubted would come to pass your Church may now see in great part fulfilled.”

 I don’t understand this part.  It looks like a word or two is/are missing.

 so that what the Saints of old never doubted would come to pass and that your Church may now see in great part fulfilled.

 What if you omitted “that” from the entire sentence?

 so what the Saints of old never doubted would come to pass, your Church may now see in great part fulfilled.

 My friend didn’t know that this prayer came from the new translation of the liturgy.  When I told him, he said,

            “Domine, libera nos a malo.” . . . Lord, deliver us from evil. 

We’ll have our conclusion to this series on Monday.

With love,  

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

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