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30th March 2011

Greetings from Rusape!

Another month almost passed. The heat at the beginning of last week was oppressive. It was building up for the rains, which came at midday on Wednesday. We had four great afternoons of rain, which will have done the late maize crop a power of good. I did some preparation work on retreat material, Anger and Conflict Resolution, which I have in early May in Harare. I had a head cold at the same time. Phone contact was made with the people in Dzvairo on Friday. The roads were impassable due to the heavy rain. In a sense, I was relieved as I did not feel up to driving in such difficult conditions with a lingering head cold. Saturday was restful. It poured rain in the afternoon. I was so happy not to be out at the outstation. The quadrangle at St. Simon?s was almost overflowing with water. I had an easy Sunday with Eucharist only at Padua. The dirt road was much improved since my visit to Fatima six weeks ago. The church was packed. The people in great mood even if the rains had not been kind to them. Much withered maize was in evidence.

There was a bad outbreak of malaria in the Nyanga area, Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe, over the past couple of weeks. Hopefully, it doesn?t reach here.

The Moriarty Report on the allotting of a phone license to a guy with strong political affiliations has been published. The Tribunal cost millions of Euro. The law fraternity, barristers and lawyers, had a bonanza. While costing the taxpayer a lot of money, the Tribunals have named and shamed politicians and big business people. Some have even gone to prison

I was glad to read in the Irish Times that the Irish bishops are introducing the new Roman Missal at the end of November, 27th, on the first Sunday of Advent. Most of the changes affect the celebrant. There are minimal changes in the responses of the people. It is difficult to imagine that it took nine years to agree on a translation from the original Latin. Cardinal Pell, AB of Sydney, who chaired the committee, is quite a scholar but is a hardliner in theology. He would not be in favour of using inclusive language in the liturgy. However, on recently downloading and reading the post synodal apostolic exhortation on ?The Word of the Lord?, September 2010, I was surprised to see that inclusive language was used e.g. ?the unseen God from the fullness of his love, addresses men and women as his friends, and lives among them, in order to invite and receive them into his own company?.

The people of Japan live with the uncertainty of nuclear leaks from day to day, while the people in Libya must be looking forward to the end of the evil regime of Gadaffi. It may be slow in coming.

Only the remnants of my head cold remain. After taking it easy last week, I?m back to my daily walk schedule, morning and late afternoon. I played some mixed golf on Monday but felt good after the outing.

Love and best wishes.

Reading into the wealth of theological vocabulary the liturgy has to offer


RITE AND REASON: The new Missal texts are good

IN RECENT weeks I have been involved in explaining changes to the Roman Missal to various groups. I welcome this opportunity to explain the context of some of the changes.

The text of the Mass that is currently in use has served the church well. Many priests and people have used no other translation and, understandably, are attached to the rhythm and content of the Missal and many are unsettled by the prospect of change. However, for the congregation, there will not be many changes in the new text.

The decision of the Vatican Council to use the vernacular in the liturgy ushered in a new era: given that modern languages change, both in meaning or connotation, it is inevitable that liturgical texts will have to change from time to time.

In the past 40 years the limitations of the present text became apparent. During the work on the new translation I was often surprised that significant elements of the Latin text were simply not rendered in English. For example, the invocation of the Holy Spirit (epiclesis) before the words of institution of the Eucharist reads as follows:

Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

The original Latin text includes the phrase ? Spiritus tui rore sanctifica ?, literally, ?bless by the dew of your Spirit?. ?Dew? is a metaphor with strong resonances in the Bible.

Dew was and is important in Palestine because it is at its maximum during the almost rainless four months of summer. Therefore, it is a vital source of water in a land and at a time when water is very scarce indeed.

As a figure of speech, it represents abundant fruitfulness ( Gen 27:28 ), refreshment and renewal ( Ps 110:3; Hos 14:5 ), what is beyond human power (Mic 5:7 ) and a silent coming ( 2 Sam 17:12 ).

But perhaps the most interesting and evocative use of ?dew? comes in Isaiah 26:16: ?Your dead shall live, their bodies shall arise. O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is dew of light and the earth will give birth to those long dead.?

?Your? dew here refers to God, not to the dwellers in the dust. The image seems to foreshadow the resurrection of the dead, with the dew of God?s light seeping into the darkness of the underworld.

This is why it is such a deeply biblical image of the Holy Spirit (?who raised Jesus from the dead?). With its combination of gentleness and power, the image fits well with the working of the Spirit involved at the epiclesis.

The proposed translation of this text is: Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall.

The Irish translation currently in use managed to convey the sense of the Latin text both accurately and in beautiful Irish: Naomhaigh, mar sin, na bronntanais seo le dr?cht do Spioraid . . .

Restoring the reference to ?dew? is not just about accuracy; it releases the Scriptural resonances of a potent image into the imagination and faith of those who will pray this text.

The challenge faced by the translators of the new text was to produce a text that was faithful to the original Latin and, at the same time, was suitable for worship today.

Many issues have been raised in recent weeks about elements of the proposed new text. Since last year the Church in Ireland has undertaken a programme of catechetical preparation to assist priests and parishes to adapt to the changes.

I believe that the new texts are good; they represent a development; they capture more of the wealth of theological vocabulary and, therefore, help us enter more fully into the riches of the liturgy itself.