Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Well-Spring of all Holiness

Throughout the coming year we will be hearing much about the revised translation of the Mass whether by way of instruction or complaint. I imagine it will be implemented, feel awkward then grow to be second nature within a few months. On the other hand, since I still expect to hear the words “our Pope John Paul” during the Eucharistic prayer even though Benedict has been in office for over five years, it might take me that long to stop responding, “And also with you” instead of “And with your spirit.”

I am not a Latin or liturgy scholar, but I do hope that in the new translation there will be a change to the second and third Eucharistic prayers. I would hope that they find a better word than “fountain” for the phrase, “the fountain of all holiness”.

Again, I am no Latin scholar, but I suspect the word translated in English as “fountain” is the Latin word, fons. It literally means a source of water, like a spring bubbling up from the earth to feed a river. It is evocative of nourishing streams such as those celebrated in the Psalms. Psalm 1 compares the just man to a tree planted by a flowing river. Psalm 42 likens our yearning for God to a deer which longs for running streams. The word, fons, evokes the visions of Ezekiel and John in Revelations in which water is seen flowing from the Temple. It is reminiscent of Jesus’ promise to the Samaritan woman in the gospel of John that the water he will give will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

On the other hand, the word “fountain” in American English refers to a decorative object, the watery centerpiece of a park into which children throw pennies or texting strollers tumble unawares.

Therefore, I would suggest that the word “fountain” be replaced with “source” or “well-spring”.

Let’s try them out:

Lord, you are holy indeed, the source of all holiness....

Lord, you are holy indeed, the well-spring of all holiness....

Either would be a more faithful translation of the Latin and certainly more poetic and evocative than “fountain.”

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