Saturday, 4 March 2017

Striving on the First Sunday of Lent

In the Post-communion of today's Mass we anglophones are bidden to pray that we may 'strive' to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God. That isn't what the the Latin says. It prays that we may 'be able' so to live. The English stresses human effort more than the Latin does.

The previous English translation was widely, and rightly, criticised for the same tendency. Many accused it of Pelagianism. The new translation has improved matters in this regard, but not entirely, as today's Post-communion shows.

Another instance of this tendency can be seen in the invitation to repentance at the beginning of Mass. We are asked to acknowledge our sins 'and so prepare ourselves' to celebrate the Sacred Mysteries. The Latin says merely 'that we may be ready' (ut apti simus) to celebrate - no mention of human effort there, but plenty of room for God's grace.


Pelagius was a Celt, and a high proportion of English-speaking Catholics have Celtic roots. Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that the shadow of his teaching should fall over our translation of the Mass.