The new translations of the Mass were something of the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for my husband and me, and that’s when we started actively exploring non-Catholic church communities. Although the inclusion of archaic, hard-to-pronounce, hard-to-understand English annoyed me, what troubled me (and many others) most was the change during the Eucharistic prayer, where Jesus, who once sacrificed himself “for you and for all” seems to have reconsidered his radical inclusiveness, and now gives himself “for you and for many.”
Last week, communion was offered at the UCC church we attend. When the minister presented the cup of wine, she pronounced it given, “For you and for many.”
My husband and I exchanged alarmed glances. I felt a moment of betrayal, of dismay. Why would she say such a thing?
Communion is only offered once a month at this church, so the rituals surrounding it are not ingrained in my psyche the way the Catholic ritual is. Still, I’m sure we would have noticed if this particular phrase, so troubling to us, had been used before. I wondered if it were an unconscious mistake. I wondered if, because Catholicism seems to hold the authority where Eucharist is concerned, other churches had followed suit when they changed the language surrounding their ritual. Perhaps, because it was World Communion Day, it felt important to be using the same language as other churches offering communion, to further the ideal of us all being “one church.”
Much was made of the change from all to many in the Mass in the CTA and other communities, and for good reason. All leaves no one out. Many does. It’s a tiny change with huge implications.
When Ivan expressed our concern over this change to his uncle who is a priest, the priest reassured us that, “Jesus came for all, but not everyone accepts him. That’s why the translation says ‘many’ instead of all.”
But if Jesus truly came for all, whether one accepts him or not is irrelevant to that statement. With the change, the implication is that he only came for those who would accept him, as if all the others were a lost cause.
That’s not the Jesus who would seek out a single lost sheep, rather than cut his losses and be grateful that the rest of the flock is intact. That’s not the the Jesus who asked forgiveness of those who crucified him, who were neither believers nor blameless. That’s not the Jesus I know. That’s not the Jesus I love.
And that’s why this word, this single word, troubles me endlessly, why it is enough to make me consider leaving any church that invokes it in place of “all.” Because it negates everything I know and love about Jesus. About his radical inclusiveness, about his love for taxpayer and tax collector alike, about his absolute non-discrimination policy, no exceptions. Many might be the best we humans can accomplish when it comes to loving our neighbors, but it’s not the best Jesus can do.
Others can become annoyed by the way I get hung up on words. “Oh, Lacey, it’s just one word.” “Oh, Lacey, you know that when we say ‘men’ at church, it really means everyone. It’s not a big deal.”
To which I say, it is a big deal, and our sacred story backs me up on this. Have we forgotten that John’s Gospel tells us that a Word is, in fact, God?
The words we use do matter. All of them.