Liturgical Words

Over on Fr. Z’s blog there has been an interesting conversation going on about two little Latin words that are used in the Liturgy of the Roman Church during the consecration. I first have to give a shout out to Fr. Z for having such a wonderful Blog. I have learned many things from his blog and he has a wonderful section on the Patristic sense of the Rosary prayers that it is just great.
The two words are “pro multis” and this has gone all the way to Rome to be fixed. It seems in the present form of the English version of the Roman Liturgy the words have been translated to mean “for all” The argument is this. With the present words “for all” it not only distorts the original Latin meaning of the phrase but there is also the theological implication that all men are saved regardless of the relationship that they have with Christ. Fr. Z makes the point, and I agree that the words “for many” more clearly state theologically what is going on. Fr. Z makes his point this way: “The more natural translation, ‘for many,’ more accurately suggests that while Christ’s redemptive suffering makes salvation available to all, it does not follow that all men are saved.” Okay sowhat’ss the big deal. Well I remember one professor I had in seminary that told us that the language of theology is veryprecisee and if we use the wrong words we can easily slip into heresy. Man I don’t want to that.
So this got me thinking about what words do we Orthodox use in the Divine Liturgy. You would think I would have these words memorized, but I wanted to check all the same. Now the words we arereferringg too hereoccure during the consecration of the cup and we say the following: “Drink this all of you! This is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins!” So it would appear that we use the proper words. I have checked several English translations and they all say the same thing.
Now not being a language scholar I called upon Fr. Greg and asked him what it says in Greek. his response was the following. The literal translation from the Greek, the original language of the Liturgy, is “for the many” and in English we have dropped the article “the” and just use the words “for many”.
So why is all of this important. Like I said, we need to use veryprecisee language in theology other wise we can lead people down the wrong road. I mean if your giving direction and tell some one that you just turn down the street, and there are two ways to go, the person could and would get lost. Perhaps they would guess correctly and take the right turn, but why leave that to chance. The same is true with theology.
The Vatican has decried that all new translation of the Liturgy into English must make this change. So over the next few years these words will find themselves working their way back into the Liturgy. I am sure no one will notice, but I think we will be better off for it in the long run.
Just my two cents worth.


  1. I am going to take back my the “the”-for many is a better reading. I think we need to put in a phone call to Fr. Calivas on this one-the ultimate authority. In fact, I am going to do just that!

  2. Excellent, let me know what he says it would be interesting to see what he comes up with. You are correct that removing the “the” makes more sense.

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