The Semantics of Easter

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2012/04/07 at 9:11 AM

Beginning in the 1960’s, a concerted effort was launched by influential clergy in the Vatican and their American allies to make radical changes in the Church. According to some, the changes have not enhanced the Church or the religious experience of the Catholic people.

The  most obvious was the complete overhaul of the Mass under the guidance of Archbishop Bugnini who worked in the Vatican. It was later discovered that he had been a secret member of the Masons, a group not well-disposed toward the Church. Bugnini’s goal, in his own words, was the make the Mass more acceptable to Protestants which is odd because Protestants do not even believe in the Mass in any form. The new Mass has been a subject of controversy ever since.

Another source of negative change were the  new Bible translations which too often actually altered the meaning of the original texts. One notable example concerns what used to be a familiar verse:”What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffers (allows) the loss of his SOUL.” This is a warning from Christ Himself that the salvation of the soul is one’s most important need and goal. The contemporary wording is: “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his LIFE?” Major difference. The idea that to become very wealthy and then die has no spiritual implications at all. To use a slang term…it’s a “tough break”, but little else. After all, everyone will “lose his life” at some time. The tragedy is not dying: it not being ready to die spiritually.

Another change for the worse is in the verse “My Father’s house is a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” The new reading is “My house is a house of prayer, but you have made it a place of business”. In the time of Christ, the Jews had to convert their Roman coins to Jewish coins for Temple use. Money-changing was, in itself, legitimate. However, the men were gouging the  Temple attendees by giving far less vale in Jewish money than for the Roman money they took in. Christ was not objecting to the business aspects, but to the almost extortionary exchange rates over which the people had no control.

An even more serious change occurs in the Easter narrative. It concerns to change from the active to the passive voice (Normally translations would not change the voice of verbs.) The active voice in grammar means that the subject of the sentence is doing something himself. Ex. The man opened he door. The passive voice means that the subject is being acted upon by someone/something else. The door was opened by the man. The door did not open itself. In my younger years, the Easter narrative always read: “Christ rose from the dead.”, “He is risen: which are in the active voice and means that Christ brought Himself back to life.

Nowadays the words are in the passive voice. Christ was raised from the dead.”God raised Him up.” The problem is that some might conclude that Christ did not raise Himself and had to be resurrected by some other power like Lazarus and widow’s son were raised by Christ.

If we begin to doubt the reality of the Resurrection, it will damage our faith and lead to doubt about other aspects of doctrine, especially ones we may not be much in favor of. Thus, it is very important that we understand that Christ as God brought Himself back to life. He did not need any help.

Is all this re-translation an effort to deny or denigrate the Person of Christ. I don’t know, but the history of the Church in U.S. Certainly suggests I might be so. If the faith of a Catholic is weakened or lost, there is no alternative. In the words of St. Peter, “Where shall we go, Lord, you have the words of eternal life.”

The Resurrection of Christ is the singular event in the history of mankind and of the Church. No has done it before or since. The Resurrection is a truly a historical event as any historical event you can name. It really happened and can be proved.

St. Paul tells us that if Christ did not rise from the dead, we are wasting our time with Christianity because, without the Resurrection, Christ is just another teacher of doctrine and morals, but no more significant than any other teacher.

In the Easter season, the Church often speaks of the “joy of Easter”. This joy is not a physical or emotional joy as it was at the first Easter. It is the happiness that arises in the mind because we KNOW that Christ rose from the dead as He said He would. It is the joy of confirmation that all that He said is true. It is the satisfaction of certitude that we are followers of the true God and our faith is not misplaced. It is the assurance that our efforts to lead a moral life amid a grossly immoral culture are not in vain.  It is the hope that the blessed eternity that Christ promised to those who are faithful will actually come to pas in due course.It is the consolation of knowing that our God who took on human flesh is still alive and always available to us.

Live accordingly.

“Resurrexit sicut dixit.”

“He has risen as He said.”



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