Preparing for Changes
Following up on last week’s article, the second possibly confusing change in the Roman Missal concerns the priest’s repetition of Christ’s own words at consecration of the chalice. In the phrase “this is the cup of my blood… which will be shed for you and for all,´ the last word will be changed from “all” to “many” (in accord with the Latin term multis). When Pope Benedict explicitly requested this change in translation, confusion arose among some Catholics: they were afraid that such wording might create the false impression that the Church believed that Jesus did not die for all human beings. However, the change in translation was not because it was wrong to say that Jesus died “for all,” but because saying that he would die “for many” is a more faithful translation of what Jesus actually said. When quoting Jesus at the Last Supper, the Greek Bible and the earliest Greek and Latin Masses, the closes witnesses we have to Jesus’ own words, all clearly choose phrases that mean “for many,” and not “for all.”
It seems that Jesus chose to say “for many” at the Last Supper to show that he fulfills the role of the Suffering Servant as foretold by Isaiah: the one Servant who would take away the sins of “many,” and will justify “the many” by his vicarious suffering and death (53:11, 12). The “many” means here an indefinitely large multitude consisting of both Israel and many other nations (52: 13, 15).
The translation simply leaves open the (for us) innumerable throng of those who accept in faith the blood of Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. It would seem that at the Last Supper Christ said “for you and for many” instead of “for you and for all” to remind us that the Eucharist is a covenant meal, one which must be embraced by both the one offering and the one receiving. Entry into the New and Eternal Covenant belong to those who have freely accepted it. Christ has shed his blood for all, but his offering is effective only for those who in faith and love have drunk from it. The new (and original) phrase “shed for many” respects the secret counsel of God and leaves the exact number of the elect to God’s mercy.