Tuesday, December 15, 2009

OED on the new translation of the Mass

With all the controversy over the new translation of the Mass, something's been bothering me for a while. I have a confession to make. . . I don't actually know the definition of ineffable. Ineffable is THE example to use when you're talking about the new translation, whether you're saying "Why would we want to use a word like ineffable during the Mass?" or "Why do these critics think we're so stupid we don't know what ineffable means?" And I do kind of know what ineffable means. . . but I couldn't define it for you.

So I finally - after all these many months - decided to learn just exactly what ineffable means. And I figured I might as well learn the meanings of all those other words that are coming to a church near you. So I went to the America article "What if we said 'Wait'?" by Fr. Michael G. Ryan that appeared last week, to great consternation, among those excited by the change. I picked out the words he offered as among the most troublesome.
When the uninformed heard a few examples (“and with your spirit”; “consubstantial with the Father”; “incarnate of the Virgin Mary”; “oblation of our service”; “send down your Spirit like the dewfall”; “He took the precious chalice”; “serene and kindly countenance,” for starters), the reaction was somewhere between disbelief and indignation.
And I looked them up. The full Oxford English Dictionary isn't available for free online, but the Compact Oxford English Dictionary is, and its 145,000 words, phrases, and definitions should suit for our purposes. (In shame, I admit I have no idea where my dictionary is.)

ineffable -adjective 1 too great or extreme to be expressed in words. 2 too sacred to be uttered.

incarnate -adjective, often after a noun 1 (of a deity or spirit) embodied in flesh; in human form. 2 represented in the ultimate or most typical form: capitalism incarnate.
-verb 1 embody or represent (a deity or spirit) in human form. 2 be the living embodiment of (a quality).

oblation -noun 1 a thing presented or offered to a god 2 (Christian Church) the presentation of bread and wine to God in the Eucharist

countenance -noun 1 a person's face or facial expression 2 (formal) support or approval
-verb 1 admit as acceptable or possible

And admittedly, consubstantial wasn't in there. But it was in the Yahoo! Education Reference section's dictionary, via the American Heritage Dictionary:

consubstantial -adjective 1 of the same substance, nature, or essence.

That was easy!

As for and with your spirit, I said it just this weekend, when I was at a Lessons and Carols service at an Anglican Church. Actually, I even said, "And with thy spirit," which wasn't normal for them - they only use that phraseology on special occasions, according to my boyfriend, whose alma mater we were visiting. I survived.

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