~~Fr. Conrad Saldanha
The new and third edition of the English Roman Missal being used for the liturgical practices will soon be released. November, 27th 2011, the first Sunday in Advent is the day fixed for introducing the new Missal. Instructions and catechesis has already started in many Dioceses and parishes in India where this Missal is being introduced. After the English, there could be other Indian language translations which may follow. As informed by liturgists the Telugu translation is already way ahead in this great task.
The New Missal is credited with faithfulness to the original Latin Missal and also to the Holy Scriptures. It seeks to make participation in the Liturgy much more meaningful and prayerful. The earlier translations were simplified for better and easier participation. The emphasis was on participation rather than celebrating the mystery and thus entering into it. Whereas in the earlier version, there seems to have been participation and at the same time, moving out of the mystery, because everything remained a mystery.
So the new order of the mass has re-introduced certain concept such as “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault,” “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof; but only say the word, and I shall be healed,” and “for many.”
One such mystery that I want to reflect on and dwell upon with you, is the mystery of the last Supper and the words, Jesus used for consecration. The four versions which we have, three from the Gospels and one from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians tell us about the Words of consecration which Jesus spoke as he blessed the bread and wine which now becomes His body and blood. The New missal has brought in the change which is in keeping with the original Latin and the Holy Gospels. The Old missal used the words as follows: It will be shed for you and ‘for all’…..” , while the New Missal uses the term: “It will be shed for you and ‘for many’…..”.
For our reference, mentioned below are the three Gospels and the Pauline text concerning the last supper:
Matthew: “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (26:26-28)
Mark: “And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” (14:22-24)
Luke: “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (22:19-20)
St. Paul: “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor. 11:23-26)
From the reading of the above passages of Scripture, it is evident that none of the words of Jesus are in perfect harmony with the Eucharistic prayer which is used but rather in essence they are a collage and communicate the mind of Jesus. Though the new Eucharistic prayer of consecration which uses the term ‘for many’, does it all the more.
According to me, the current Eucharistic prayer would not make the Eucharistic presence in any way less and could have been validly used. But the mystery is always lost when we are not faithful to the words of Christ in all precision.
“Christ Jesus, died for all and to save all” is a true and valid argument ; but to conclude on the basis of this Gospel truth that all will be saved is being false to the teachings of Christ, the gospels and the whole tradition passed on by the Holy Apostles to us.
Whereas, unlike his salvation, Christ Jesus shed his blood for the many who would welcome his salvation. Those who welcome his salvation through faith, are then cleansed by the precious blood of the lamb, who came to take away the sin of the world. Hence the Blood was not shed for all but for his own; for those who accepted his salvation. Even if one claims that he shed his blood for all, the privilege to access, which is not purely dependent, on the individual who is receiving it, belongs to his chosen one. It is like the king who in his generosity and love for his subjects, keeps his door open for all, but the privilege to access his wealth is given to only a few of his chosen ones.
Though some may argue that the Lukan and Pauline text does not contain ‘the many’ but it does not contain ‘for all’ either. In fact the term ‘you’ is prominent in these two texts and it more closely qualifies ‘the many’ rather than the ‘for all’.
The interesting gap which we see in the Gospel of John seems to cover-up this vacuum in other ways. Even though John’s Gospel does not have the formulae of the prayer of consecration it nevertheless communicates an important fact of divine discrimination (read articles dated 1st and 9thApril in this blog site to understand in essence the meaning of Divine discrimination) in the Passover/Eucharistic narrative; “Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”(Jn. 13:1). Similarly, he commands them that they are to do the same not with everyone but with one another; “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”(Jn. 13:14). It is the same ‘many’ he prays for in his Eucharistic Discourse in John’s Gospel; “I do not pray for these only, but also for those (those: cannot mean all, but can mean either few or many; the latter holds good for many reasons) who believe in me through their word.” Jn. 17:20
This fact of our special privilege was well understood by even his Apostles who proclaimed this at every opportunity; “.. chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.”(1 Pt. 1:2) “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” Rev 1:5
One way to don on Christ’s mandate of reaching out is through the Blood of the New Covenant, in which they were commanded to do so often in remembrance of him. In the Old Testament, the priest did the work of cleansing and reaching out, though only external, through the sprinkling of the blood of the lamb slain and without blemish. In the O.T. we also see that only those Jews who participated became sharers of the covenant. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. In the new covenant the Church carries on this mission of Christ through the Holy Word and Sacraments, which includes the dispensing of the Body and blood of Christ which alone is able to save us and lead us to eternity. “ ….the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (Jn. 6:63). The mystery is that his blood is still being dispensed to those who are baptized and are sharers. This is not a once and for all affair. The eternal Jesus has poured it all for us, though once and for all yet it continues in a special way in the Sacramental ministry of the church. As we struggle through life, with death at work in us, we need the constant infusion of God’s life offered in us through the eternal blood of Jesus. “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Jn. 6:53-54 “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.” Jn. 6:56-57
How then can we ensure that we are among those privileged many? It is primarily through faith in Jesus we are received and accepted by God (“whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Rm. 3:25)). Through baptism we are made his adopted children. We are also cleansed and redeemed by the actions of Baptism of all that is dead in us, through the waters of Baptism and with the precious blood of Jesus. (1 Jn.5:6, 8; Jn. 19:34). Thus we also become privileged participants and sharers in the body and blood of Christ, the heavenly manna that is able to give us eternal life. This also enables and empowers us to do much in his name; “..and they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Rev 12:11
Prayer: Lord, may I value your special gifts and always seek them with reverence and awe as the one that is able to save me and all humanity.
Few Scripture texts which has relevance in the light of the above article and not mentioned in the same and could be of value for further reflection:
“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Heb 9:22
“Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood” Rm. 5:9
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.” Eph. 1:7
“..and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Col 1:20
“So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.” Heb 13:12
“You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” 1 Pt. 1:18-19
“..but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 Jn. 1:7
GOD, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of hinds and enables me to go upon the heights. Hab. 3:19 (Bible)