Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Holding fast to hand on

I was recently struck by the very active sense of tradition in the new translation of the Eucharistic Prayer I - the Roman Canon. Consider the old translation here:

"We offer them for your holy catholic Church, watch over it, Lord, and guide it; grant it peace and unity throughout the world. We offer them for Benedict, our Pope, for N. our bishop, and all who hold and teach the catholic faith that comes to us from the apostles."

The new translation of the same part goes thus:

"...which we offer you firstly for your holy catholic Church. Be pleased to grant her peace, to guard, unite and govern her throughout the whole world together with your servant Benedict our Pope and N. our Bishop, and all those who, holding to the truth, hand on the catholic and apostolic faith."

I do not think that there is anything glaringly wrong with the old version and there is certainly nothing amiss with praying for "all who hold and teach the catholic faith that comes to us from the apostles" but in the new translation it is made quite clear that the faith- the "catholic and apostolic faith"- is something which is "handed on" by those who "hold... to the truth".
In other words the faith is seen as not just something vaguely floating down to us "from the apostles" but something particular and almost concrete and, as such, dependent upon those intermediate persons- i.e. between the apostles and ourselves- actually holding (on to) the truth.

To speak in these terms is to recognise both the active nature of tradition in the Church- "handed on" being the literal meaning of "tradition"- and the particularity of the faith. That the truth is, necessarily, conceived as something to be "held to" for the purpose of the handing on of the faith is also remarkable. Indeed it is a ringing declaration of the fact that the catholic and apostolic faith is something altogether different from what most people in contemporary society would conceive of as "a faith"- namely belief in a set of more or less improbable fancies. Rather is it anchored in the truth.


  1. Excellent post. Canon gave us Eucharistic prayer 4 at morning Mass yesterday. I must say it was very powerful.
    The New Translation cannot be hurried, and so the words become more meaningful.
    Blessings and prayers,

  2. Ann,
    Thank you. I have been so smitten with so much of the new translation that I am surprised that few others seem to share my enthusiasm. I am glad to learn of at least one other soul affected by it!