Monday, November 29, 2010

O Lord, I am not worthy...

What the centurion said to Jesus, we too will say when the new English translation of the Roman Missal is put into liturgical use next Advent.  There are two reasons that the centurion responded to Jesus' offer to "come and heal" his servant. (cf. Matt. 8:5-13)

On the one hand, Jesus’ going to his house was unnecessary: Jesus, having authority, need only say the word to heal the centurion’s servant. (Personally, I wish the liturgical response in the Latin and in the English were: "and your servant shall be healed.")  On the other, Jesus’ going to his house would have complicated matters: it was unlawful for Him to do so, and He would have been considered ritually impure because of it. (cf. Acts 10:28)

I think the response of the centurion on our lips is a fitting reaction on our part to the Lord’s “condescending love”: “Lord, You needn’t go through all that trouble, You needn’t get mixed up with me. You’re powerful enough to do it from where You are.” Or, as St. Peter exclaimed, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8)

And yet Christ invites us to Him. (cf. Matt. 11:28) And so there is a meeting (at the very edge of the sanctuary and the nave, if a Communion rail is employed) where we come to Jesus, and He comes to us. He does for us what He did not do for the centurion, and I am most grateful for it. He “goes through the trouble” of coming under my roof (which I understand to be the roof of my mortal frame, the roof of this temple of the Holy Spirit) and “risks” impurity to associate with me in such a sacramental way.

That’s why this newer, closer translation of this is meaningful to me, and I hope it’s meaningful to others as well.

I wonder: if the “yoking” language of Matt. 11:28-30 were employed in the Latin liturgy, if it would need to be “interpreted” by an English translation. I think modern — or at least non-agricultural — man sorely misunderstands the imagery of the yoke, especially as employed by Jesus. But does this misunderstanding require interpreting away the scriptural words and replacing them with a modern idiom? Can’t we have both the scriptural words and a true comprehension of them?

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