In the Gospel of Luke we are told about a Centurion who asks Jesus to heal his servant who is ill. The centurion says to Jesus, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my servant shall be healed” (Luke 7: 6-7). That line, with one minor adjustment, eventually made its way into the Mass. However, in the original translation from Latin to English the line became “I am not worthy to receive you, but only the say the word and I shall be healed.” It conveys the sense of the original line to a certain extent.
The words “I am not worthy to receive you” always made me think that I was literally saying, “I am not worthy to receive Communion, only say the word and I will be able to go to communion,” as if Jesus could instantly and magically make it okay for me to receive communion, no matter what.
The idea behind the original response was to be like the centurion and admit that I am a flawed human being who needs a lot of work. The household of the soul needs a good scrub, if you will, and one humbly admits that to Jesus and acknowledges that only He can heal all those things in our hearts that we struggle with, that make our spiritual household messy. In Spanish the response is “No soy digno que entras en mi casa, pero una palabra tuya bastara para sanarme”
or “I am not worthy to have you enter my home, but with one word from you I will be healed”. In Italian it is slightly different but conveys the same concept: “non sono digno di partecipare a la tua mensa, ma di soltanto una parola ed io saro salvato"
, which means, “I am not worthy to participate in your banquet, but if you say only one word I will be saved.” It’s a similar formal admission of human unworthiness, but uses the imagery surrounding the banquet of the Lord’s Supper.
With the new translation of the English mass we will begin saying, “Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”, bringing us back closer to what the Centurion said and reinforcing that the “roof” or the “home” is one’s soul.
Another minor change in wording comes earlier, during the preface to the Eucharistic Prayer, when the priest says, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God” and the congregation responds, “It is right to give Him thanks and praise.” With the new translation this changes to “It is right and just,” making it more formal and emphasizing that it is not merely a human notion that it is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord, it is the right thing to do. In the Latin based languages, this response is different from what we have been saying in English. In Italian the response is “e’cosa buona e giusta
” (“it is good and just”) and in Spanish the congregation replies “es justo y necessario
” (“It is right and necessary”). Both convey the sense that it is more than “good” to give thanks to God, but it is right, it is just and to fail to do it is a serious thing.
For more on these changes visit the Archdiocese of Ottawa website
and read reflections number 10 and 16 written by Fr. Geoff Kerslake. For parish and ministerial resources or to see the General Instruction for the new translation, visit the CCCB's Roman Missal site
Credit: CNS Photo Nancy Wiechec