Words of consecration, Catholics & gays


The essay “All In? Salvation & the Language of the Liturgy,” by Rev. Toan Joseph Do (December 19, 2008), took me back to discussions of biblical and liturgical topics following Vatican II. The late biblical scholar Barnabas Ahern surprised me when he said most bishops at the council did not know that the words of Eucharistic consecration in the Roman Catholic Mass are not the exact words of Jesus in the New Testament. Do’s excellent article makes that clear.

It is disconcerting to see the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments trying to substitute the literal translation “for many,” which comes from Scripture and the Latin Missal, for the current translation “for all.” Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, seventy-six, has been replaced as head of the Vatican liturgical office by the Spaniard Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, sixty-three. But the die is cast. The question is whether English-speaking Catholics will understand “for many” to mean “for all.”

Joachim Jeremias’s books The Servant of God and The Eucharistic Words of Jesus show that the “for all/for many” Eucharistic words in the New Testament come from the fourth servant song of Isaiah 53:11–12. Jeremias thought that Jesus understood his own mission in...

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