One year ago today I didn’t feel too good. Those of you who know me know that I often refer to last year as the year of the Apocalypse. Yes, there were four horses and I hope that they ended up in a glue factory. The nags. While going through the cascading health problems I faced, I began to appreciate the predicament of those who deal with this stress every day of their lives. I am happy to say that the kidney stone of last year, the second challenge of my own Apocalypse, is but a painful memory. Something very good came out of the months of torture, but that will be a future post.
Today’s post is about clever editing. Unnecessary editing. Annoying editing. Editing that bores rather than engages.
If any of you reading this post are Roman Catholic and attend Mass regularly, you know that the Mass has recently been edited. I am not looking to debate the pros and cons of the Catholic Church here. Let’s leave that to another site. What I am referring to are the changes made by Pope Benedict XVI and his advisors that have returned a vital part of a celebration to the Middle Ages. I wonder how this came about, how the bishops in Rome decided to edit the Mass. Consider this scenario:
It is a lovely evening in Rome. The leaders of the Roman Catholic Church relax in the
Holy Father’s private apartment, admiring his new red shoes and drinking a sublime Barolo. After a few minutes of appreciative sipping, a trusted bishop speaks up.
“Your Eminence, you need a project to mark your Popedom.”
“I am convinced that several aspects of the Mass should be edited, beginning with the Nicene Creed.”
“I would like to suggest that we consider the use of the word ‘consubstantial’ in place of the phrase “one in being”. It is after all the original Greek word, and the Greeks have been so unhappy lately maybe this allusion to their theological brilliance will calm the current political situation.”
Another bishop speaks.
“You can’t use a big word like that. Americans don’t even know the difference between your and you’re. They don’t have dictionaries. They Google everything.”
“Americans don’t rule the world anymore, who cares what they think?”
The Pope speaks.
“Yes, I like this idea. I would like to change “and also with you” to something else so it’s a surprise at Christmas. That way everyone around you will know you haven’t been to church in a long time when you say the wrong thing.”
Another bishop clears his throat and speaks.
“We need to go back to Gregorian chants. The parishioners will have to concentrate harder to follow the lack of a tune.”
And so on.
Here is the definition of consubstantial: of the same substance or essence. Example: I am consubstantial with my morning coffee.
And here is the explanation and official reason why this edit occurred.
“Consubstantial” is an unusual word (“consubstantialem” in the Latin text) that will require some catechesis, but it is a crucial early theological term, asserting that the Son is of the “same substance” with the Father – meaning He equally shares the Father’s divinity as a Person of the Holy Trinity. Although it carries the same basic meaning as “one in being,” the more precise use of “consubstantial” is an acknowledgement of how the Greek equivalent of the word was so important for safeguarding orthodoxy in the early Church. In the Fourth Century, the description “homoousios” (“same substance”) was affirmed over “homoiousios” (“like substance”). The reality of who Christ is thus hinged upon a single letter!”
I would like to place the emphasis on “In the Fourth Century”.
I am not a theologian. If the goal was to make me look up the big word then the leaders of my church have achieved their purpose. But Gregorian chants? If they want to bore people to tears and make me feel like I am at a funeral, they have accomplished the mission. That edit is a sad regression.
How do you feel when someone edits literature you love? Did the edits discussed here achieve its purpose, or was it merely fodder for Stephen Colbert? I will let you decide. At least we all know a new word.