Tuesday, March 20, 2012

...we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground.

Apart from the occasional slipups on the part of the celebrant (prevenient grace?) the choir (better learn those chant responses before Holy Week--and look out for the Showing of the Cross and the Lumen Christi!) and certain bad habits of some of the people (and also with your spirit), adapting to the new translation of the Mass seems to be going rather well. And how easily the change of diction has already elevated the entire atmosphere of the Mass!

However, there is one particular liturgical moment that does not seem to be going well. At a spoken Mass, such as many daily Masses, the first line of the Sanctus isn't making sense. In the old translation, it was spoken like this:

Holy, holy, holy Lord,/ God of power and might.
Now, it seems to be often spoken like this:

Holy, holy, holy Lord/ God of hosts.

We may be missing something important here, which perhaps the translation intended to resolve. In the older translation, the pause between Lord and God had a grammatical effect. "God of power and might" functioned grammatically as an apositive, effectively a description, of Lord.

In the new translation, it seems much clearer now that the words are meant to be invoked as a proper name, "Lord God of Hosts," "Adonai Elohim Zabaoth," as we read powerfully in the prophetic Books and the Psalms, or "Dominus Deus Sabaoth" in Latin, which also comes across, phonetically, as a name of power.

I think that in our spoken Masses, we can reclaim a liturgical sense of this revealed power by simply following the punctuation. The rhythm is like the passage from the Gettysburg Address quoted in the title of this post:

Holy,/ holy,/ holy Lord God of hosts.