Change from “one God” to “God” – corrected to omit “one”

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Russian Jewelled Icon of Christ Pantocrator
Russian Jewelled Icon of Christ Pantocrator

The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales has made a change to the conclusion of the collects in the English Mass, following advice from Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum Filium tuum,
qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus,
per omnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.

The Latin words “Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum” have been, till now, translated as “one God, for ever and ever”. Note that the word “one” is not present in the Latin.

Usually when we reference the Trinity, we say “one God”, and the words would be connected to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Here, however, the word “God” refers to Jesus Christ, not to the Trinity, even though the prayer is addressing the Father and references the Holy Spirit. Rather, the wording refers to the Son’s role as priest-mediator. The wording was a defence against Arianism, which denied that Jesus was truly God. The bishops’ conference states that it “is a Christological, anti-Arian affirmation, and not directly Trinitarian in this context”.

That means it doesn’t quite make sense to say “one God” here … and that’s why there is no “unus” in the Latin.

Shield of the Trinity
Shield of the Trinity

Cardinal Sarah criticised this flaw in the English texts in May, and the bishops followed up with the correction on 9 November, effective today (29 Nov, first Sunday of Advent), with Advent and Christmas being the most suitable time (intentionally or otherwise on the part of the bishops) for this change.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference* has followed suit, with the same implementation date.

Whether the change will make it into our version is unclear.

Not everyone is thrilled. Fr Zuhlsdorf** has reacted badly to it, and seems to not have read the reasons behind it or the reports/decrees issued about it. Pray Tell*** approves but thinks it’s a bit off to be introducing changes like this when there are currently bigger problems such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps a bit unfair – they still have their usual work to do, and they aren’t stopped from doing it; for the laity I don’t think the timing matters that much.

Further reading:

English Bishops Adjust Liturgical Translation Of A Part Of Mass – The Southern Cross

Per Omnia Saecula Saeculorum – City Father

*Change to prayers during Mass due in November – Diocese of Parramatta, Australia

**Liturgical tweaking: rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic – Fr Z

***Possible Changes to Collect Conclusions? – Pray Tell

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