Declaration on the meaning of translations of sacramental formulae S.C.D.F., insauratio Liturgica, 25 January 1974
The liturgical reform which has been carried out in accordance with the Constitution of the Second Vatican Council has made certain changes in the essential formulae of the sacramental rites. These new expressions, like the other ones, have had to be translated into modern languages in such a way that the original sense finds expression in the idiom proper to each language. This has given rise to certain difficulties, which have come to light now that the translations have been sent by episcopal, conferences to the Holy See for approve. In these circumstances, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith again calls attention to the necessity that the essential formulae of the sacramental rites render faithfully the original sense of the Latin “typical text.” With that in mind it declares:
When a vernacular translation of a sacramental formula is submitted to the Holy See for approval, it examines it carefully. When it is satisfied that it expresses the meaning, intended by the Church, it approves and confirms it, stipulating, however, that it must be understood in accordance with the mind of the Church as expressed in the original Latin text.
Holiness, Pope Paul VI, in the audience granted to the Cardinal Prefect on the 25th day of January, 1974, gave his approval.
AAS 66-661; Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, declaration, 25 January, 1974. Annotations in Notitiae, 10 (1974), 396-397.
Catechism of the Council of Trent
“The form of the consecration of the wine, the other element of this Sacrament is, for the reasons assigned with regard to the bread, necessary to be accurately known, and clearly understood by the priest. It is firmly to be believed that the form of consecrating the chalice is comprehended in these words: “This is the chalice of My Blood of the new and eternal testament: the mystery of faith: which shall be shed for you and for many to the remission of sins.” These words are for the most part taken from Scripture. Some of them, however, have been preserved in the Church by apostolic tradition. The words “this is the chalice” are taken from Saint Luke (22:20), and are also mentioned by the Apostle. (I Corinthians 11:25) The words that immediately follow, “of My Blood, or My Blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for you, and for many to the remission of sins,” are taken in part from Saint Luke, and in part from Saint Matthew. (Matthew 26:28)
“The additional words, “for you and for many,” are taken, some from Saint Matthew and some from Saint Luke, and under the guidance of the Spirit of God, combined together by the Catholic Church. They serve emphatically to designate the fruit and advantage of His Passion, we believe that the Redeemer shed His Blood, for the salvation of all men; but looking to the advantages, which mankind derive from its efficacy, we find, at once, that they are not extended to the whole, but to a large proportion of the human race. When, therefore, our Lord said: “for you”, He meant either those who were present, of those whom He had chosen from among the Jews, amongst whom were, with the exception of Judas, all His disciples with whom He then conversed; but when He adds, “for many” He would include the remainder of the elect from amongst the Jews and Gentiles. With great propriety therefore, were the words, for all omitted, because here the fruit of the Passion is alone spoken of, and to the elect only did His Passion bring the fruit of salvation.
January 1970 Notice From Rome
In some vernacular versions the words of the formula for the consecration of the wine pro multis are translated in the following way: in English for all men; in Spanish por todos and in Italian per tutti.
The following is asked:
a) Is there a good reason, and if there is, what is it, for deciding on such a variation?
b) Whether the doctrine regarding this matter handed down through the Roman Catechism ordered by Decree of the Council of Trent and edited by Saint Pius V is to be held outdated?
c) Whether the versions of the above mentioned biblical text are to be held less appropriate?
d) Whether in the approval given to this vernacular variation in the liturgical text something less correct crept in, and which now requires correction or amending?
Response: The above variation is fully justified:
a) According to exegetes, the Aramaic word which in Latin is translated pro multis, means pro omnibus: the multitude for whom Christ died is unbounded, which is the same as saying: Christ died for all. Saint Augustine will help recall this: “You see what He hath given; find out then what He bought. The Blood of Christ was the price. What is equal to this? What, but the whole world? What, but all nations? They are very ungrateful for their price, or very proud, who say that the price is so small that it bought the Africans only; or that they are so great, as that it was given for them alone.” (Enarr. In Ps. 95, n. 5)
b) In no way is the doctrine of the Roman Catechism to be held outdated: the distinction that the death of Christ was sufficient for all, efficacious only for many, still holds its value.
c) In the approval given to this vernacular variation in the liturgical text, nothing less than correct has crept in, which would require correction or amendment.
May 1970 Notice from Rome
A response was already given in Notitiae, n. 50 (January 1970), pp. 39-40, to the difficulty that in the vernacular interpretations of the words of the consecration of the wine pro omnibus was used in place of pro multis. Since, however, some uneasiness seems to persist, it seemed that the matter should be addressed again a little more extensively from an exegetical point of view.
In that response, one reads: According to exegetes the Aramaic word, which in Latin is translated pro multis, means pro omnibus. This assertion should be expressed a little more cautiously. To be exact: In the Hebrew (Aramaic) language there is one word for omnes and another for multi. The word multi then, strictly speaking, does not mean omnes.
But because the word multi in different ways in our Western languages does not exclude the whole, it can and does in fact connote it, where the context or subject matter suggests or requires it. It is not easy to offer clear examples of this phenomenon. Here are some:
In 3 Esdras [Ezra] 8:3 we read: “Many have been created, but only a few shall be saved.” It is clear that all have been created. But here the interest is not in the whole, but in the opposite of few. Hence, many is used, when it truth it means all.
In the Qumram text Hodayot IV, 28, 29, both words many and all are found in a synonymous parallel (two parallel verses in which the same thing is said twice): “You have worked wonders among the many on account of your glory that you might make known to all your great works.”
Moreover, in Qumram many (with or without the article) came to be a technical term (almost a name) for the community of all the full fledged members, and thus just in the rule of the sect it occurs in around 30 places.
We come now to the texts of the New Testament with which we are particularly concerned: Romans 5:12,15. Here the comparative argumentation from the minor premise to the major is set up between the universality of Adam’s sin and the universality of Christ’s grace: Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned (after the insertion of verses 13 and 14, the comparison continues) But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. Let us note: all those of the first part become the many (with an article) of the second part. Just as sin affects all, or rather much more, so also grace is destined for all.
Mark 10:45 = Matthew 20:28 has Jesus’ words: “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” That for many ambiguous in itself, in fact is to be understood as for all, proven by what we read in 1 Timothy 2:6: “Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.”
But even if we didn’t have this authoritative interpretation, that for many’ nonetheless should certainly be understood as for all because the coming of Jesus (“He came in order to give…”) is explicitly carried out for the purpose which can abundantly be shown to have as its object the whole world, i.e. the human race as a whole.
John 1:29: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
John 3:16,17: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him…may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
1 John 2:2: “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”
1 John 4:14: “And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.”
1 Timothy 4:10: “…We have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”
These texts, however, have the Eucharist itself in view:
John 6:33: “For the bread of God is that which comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world.”
John 6:51: “The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Given all this, it can indeed rightly be asked, not so much what the words pro multis in the consecration mean, but rather given all this evidence, why pro omnibus is not explicitly said.
In response, it seems that
1) in the primitive Palestinian Church, considering both their soteriology and their Semitic mind set, there was no misunderstanding that had to be avoided by employing the formula pro omnibus. They could freely keep the traditional pro multis because those Christians sensed and marveled at the beauty of that original formula pro multis.
2) pro multis seems to have been used by Jesus himself, because evoking the memory of Chapter 53 of Isaiah about the Servant of Yahweh who sacrifices himself, it is suggested that Jesus would fulfill what was predicted about the Servant of Yahweh. The main text is Isaiah 53:11b-12: “The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death…; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Therefore the formula pro multis instead of pro omnibus in our texts (Mark 10:45 = Matthew 20:28; Mark 14:24 = Matthew 26:28) seems to be due to the desired allusion to the Servant of Yahweh whose work Jesus carried out by his death.
This brings us now to another question: Why therefore in our liturgical version this venerable original pro multis should yield to the phrase pro omnibus? I respond: because of a certain accidental but true inconvenience: the phrase for many — as it is said — in our minds (not forewarned) excludes that universality of the redemptive work which for the Semitic mind could be and certainly was connoted in that phrase because of the theological context. However, the allusion to the theology of the Servant of Yahweh, however eloquent for the ancients, among us is clear only to the experts.
But if on the other hand it is said that the phrase for all also has its own inconvenience, because for some it might suggest that all will actually be saved, the danger of such an erroneous understanding is estimated to hardly exist among Catholics.
Besides, the change which the words of the consecration underwent was not unique nor the first. For the traditional Latin text already combines the Lucan text pro vobis with the phrase of Mark and Matthew pro multis. And that is not the first change. For already the liturgy of the early Church (Mark-Matthew) seems to have adjusted the saying over the chalice to the formula pronounced over the bread. For originally that formula of the chalice according to Paul (1 Corinthians 11:25) and Luke (22:20) was: “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” — a formula which was excellent perhaps in depth, but not really in clarity.
It is clear how the Church of the Apostles was not interested in preserving the very voice of the Lord even in the words of the consecration, certainly cited for the first time as such by Jesus himself.