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Holy, Holy, Holy, Really?

Friends,

About forty years ago I had an intense and unforgettable dream. In it I was standing in the rear of a large crowd that was reverently chanting continuously, in a slow bass cadence,

“HOLY, HOLY, HOLY.” I could see the crowd was directing its chant toward someone moving deep within the crowd, whom I could not see, but kept attempting to catch a glimpse of. Finally he came into my sight with the chant “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY” resounding as far as the eye could see or the ear hear. Finally I was able to see the person for whom the chant was intended. It was Stalin!

Instantly I thought, “He’s not holy. He’s the opposite of holiness.” I started to yell that out loud, but stopped myself, fearing that this throng of people would turn on me and kill me if I expressed what I knew to be true, i.e., “He is not holy.” Finally in fear and trembling I decided that I had to say something because this was raw evil being coated in the mantle of the Holy and these people were falling for it hook, line and sinker. So at the top of my voice I asserted, “This is not holy!” I loudly declared it over and over and over again. To my surprise there was no reaction from the crowd. It did not attack me or argue with me or shush me up. It just kept on chanting, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, ” in the direction of Stalin.

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt cæli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis
.

The official Mass of the Roman Catholic Church is written and published in Latin. The  Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus above is the authorized Latin text of the Mass. All vernacular translations of the Sanctus and everything else in the Mass are made—poorly or well, accurately or inaccurately—from the official Latin text. All the Prefaces in the Mass and in the Eucharistic celebration of most Churches include the acclamation “Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus etc.” as noted above, in either the official Latin or in the Church’s authorized vernacular translation. The present official English translation approved by Pope John Paul II in 2010 reads:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

The Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, or Hymn of Victory as it is called in some Churches, is derived from a text in the Old Testament Book of Isaiah (6:3). In heaven the six-winged Seraphim worshiping and praising God ceaselessly cry out one to the other, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Sabaoth. All the earth is full of your glory.”  The second part of this prayer of praise, the Benedictus, is derived from the Gospel Matthew (21:9). On what will become known as the first Palm Sunday, Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on a colt and an ass—in order to symbolically fulfill the prophesy of Zechariah 9:9ff—while the crowd preceding Him spreads branches from trees before Him crying out, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.”

But, the Sanctus or Hymn of Victory did not find its way into the Roman Eucharistic celebration until the Fifth Century. From the beginning of Christianity and for centuries thereafter the Eucharist was celebrated without it.

-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

(To be continued)

Friends,

When the Mass appears in English in 1969, the Sanctus in the editio typica, the official Latin text, was inaccurately translated, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of power and might etc.”  The Latin text reads Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth. Sabaoth does not mean “power and might.” This “loose” translation was chosen because an exact translation of Sabaoth seemed extremely inappropriate or misleading, if not theologically wrong, in light of the revelation of God in the Lord Jesus Christ. Forty years later in 2010 that “looseness” in the translation of the Sanctus was partially eliminated by Pope John Paul II who authorized a new translation that reads, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.” “Hosts” is one of two English words that accurately translates the Hebrew word Sabaot, as found in the Sanctus and in Isaiah 6:3.

Over the pass seven years I inquired of ordinary Catholics what the word “hosts” in the Sanctus means. Perhaps about 40% thought that it meant the consecrated bread of the Mass, which Roman Catholics call the Host. Others thought it referred to all the angels or everyone and everything or A few thought it was Jesus and/or God as a host, i.e., the person who organizes and invites to a dinner, in this case the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharistic Meal, the Messianic Banquet. Some thought it meant God of the Sabbath (Saturday the day of rest). One person thought host in the Sanctus is Jesus as the host-body, that is, the divine-human body off of which the sinful human parasite lives, from which the perishing human parasite sustains its life. So on the popular level “hosts” as the translation of Sabaoth is ambivalent and prone to a multiplicity of interpretations only some of which are noted here—and only one of which is the translation of Sabaoth. Finally, there is also the situation which I encounter in my investigation of what the average Catholic thinks the word host in the Sanctus means, a situation that is probably much more extensive than any particular popular interpretation or mis-interpretation of the word. It is the situation where people simply recite the word automatically and unthinkingly in the context of a repetitive ritual. The meaning of the word in this case is unknown to the speaker who, however, in no way is bother by his or her lack of knowledge.

The average Christians confusion about the meaning of the word hosts employed in the  English translation of the Sanctus in most Churches is not the result of a lack of human intelligence among ordinary Christians. It is the result of the institutional Churches’ leaders choosing a word, i.e., hosts, to translate Sabaoth that has eight different meanings in the English language including a meaning that is the correct translation of Sabaoth, instead of choosing the one English word for the translation of Sabaoth whose meaning is exact, univocal, literal and precise. That word is “armies.”

Sabaoth, as in Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth, means armies. “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of armies,” is the unambiguous and accurate translation. One of the eight meanings of the English word host is army, as in  “But God threw Pharaoh’s host into the Red Sea, for His steadfast love endures forever”(Ps 136:15), “And the waters returned and covered all the host of Pharaoh who came in the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them”(Ex 14:28). So, hosts does mean armies and therefore is not an inaccurate translation of Sabaoth. It is, however, a liturgically and pastorally inept translation if one wishes to communicate clearly to ordinary people in what is suppose to be a liturgy, public worship service, for ordinary Catholics or Christians. What person today when speaking about the U.S., British and French armies refer to them as the host of the U.S. Britain and France? What purpose is served by this calculated ambiguity in word choice when translating Sabaoth in the Sanctus of Mass?

-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

(To be continued)

Friends,

An army is an organized military force trained and equipped to use violence on land to achieve an objective.

The New American Bible, the official Catholic Bible for the U.S., has an “Encyclopedic Dictionary and Biblical Reference Guide” at the back of the book. The definition of the word Sabaoth that is given is “host, armies, a title of majesty and honor given to God—Lord of Sabaoth—that is the Lord of host or armies.”

Rev. John L. McKenzie the renowned Catholic Biblical scholar writes in his Dictionary of the Bible (Imprimatur) under the word Sabaoth:

Sabaoth Cf. Hosts, Lord of. Hebrew saba, plural sba’ot, means an army ready for war and more precisely in Israelite military terminology the army drawn from the general population in contrast to the professional soldiers. Yahweh of host then means Yahweh of armies. The original phrase, which is rarer than “Yahweh of host,” is “Yahweh God of host.” The title in various forms occurs 284 times in the OT. Sabaoth became a substitute for the divine name.”

Joseph Klausner, the renowned Jewish Biblical scholar writes in his seminal work, Jesus of Nazareth, “There was yet another element in Jesus’ idea of God, which Judaism could not accept. Jesus tells his disciples to love their enemies, as well as their friends, since the Father in Heaven makes His sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and He sends his rain to both the righteous and the ungodly. With this Jesus introduces something new into the idea of God. But his teaching has not proved possible. As a sole and self-sufficient national code of teaching, Judaism could by no means agree with it, and such has been the case in Christianity from the time of Constantine to this present day.”

Joseph Klausner is correct. Jesus introduces a new idea into the Holy, “Love of enemies” rooted in God’s love of those who are at enmity with Him. Ipso facto He also introduced a new idea into the imitation of God and the doing of God’s will. This idea Klausner emphatically insist is incompatible with Judaism’s idea of the Holy. In fact, he maintains that Jesus’ new idea about God is not only unacceptable, but also a “dangerous fantasy.” This new idea about God that Jesus reveals clearly has no place in it for Yahweh Sabaoth, God of armies/hosts—and there is the eternal rub between Judaism and Jesus—but not between Judaism and Constantinian Christianity, as Joseph Klausner immediately points out.

-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

(To be continued)

Friends,

Jesus never calls God Yahweh Sabaoth, God of armies, Lord God of hosts. Jesus of course, knew Yahweh Sabaoth as a name commonly used by Jews for the Holy One. But He never uses it.  His designation for Yahweh is “Abba,”Father,” that is, “God is love” (agape). Yahweh Sabaoth is not the kind of God that the true God is, according to Jesus Christ. The true God is Abba, agape. When the apostles ask Jesus how to pray, he does not say, “Yahweh Sabaoth, or God of armies or Lord God of hosts who art in heaven, holy be your name.” He says “Our Father who art in heaven, holy be your name.” It is the name “Father” that Jesus wants His disciples to know is holy and to make holy among people, and not the name God of armies, Yahweh Sabaoth, God of hosts. The differences—theologically, spiritually, morally and pastorally— between a God of armies and “the Father in heaven who makes His sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and He sends his rain to both the righteous and the unrighteous,” are infinite and irreconcilable. To worship one as the Holy One is to see the worship of the other as false worship, doesn’t it? The imitation of one make impossible the imitation of the other as Klausner lays bare. The will of one cannot be the will of the other.

Armies by definition and regardless of whom they are composed or for whom they do their bloody work exist to destroy enemies by the use of the power of violence, not to love them as Jesus loves His enemies and as the Father loves those who are at enmity with Him. Armies with God on their side or with God as their leader—or with God as their ultimate weapon—are Holy if the kind of God that God is can be truthfully said to be Yahweh Sabaoth. But, if God is Abba, if God is “the Father of all,” if “God is love,” then one cannot truthfully proclaim, “Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth,” as is now done universally at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer of nearly all the Churches of Christianity.

The proper and right theological, liturgical and pastoral Gospel proclamation at the end of every Preface of every Mass and as an introduction to the truth of every Eucharistic narrative is,

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus caritas est,”

“Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Love…” (or Lord ‘God who is love’),

or

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus, Deus Pater omnium,”

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Father of all…”

-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

(To be continued)

Friends,

The God of Love not God of armies is the truth of Jesus. Deus caritas est and/or Deus Pater omnium not Yahweh Sabaoth is the explicitly stated Gospel truth about the kind of God God is. It is this Gospel proclamation of God that should be at the conclusion of each Preface, which introduces the passion, murder and resurrection Eucharistic narrative of Jesus and the reality it is intended to communicates. The glory of the Cross on which Jesus is murdered while loving His lethal enemies is not the glory of Yahweh Sabaoth, of the God of armies/host. It is the glory of the God of love. Neither holiness nor Christlike love come from the barrel of a gun and spewing death from the barrel of a gun is what armies are universally about. Sabaoth means armies. Hosts means armies.

-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

(To be continued)

Friends,

Changing the translation of Sabaoth, from the straightforward and the accurate word, “armies” to “hosts,” which is an archaic noun, long out of ordinary use for armies and with a variety of meanings, is an attempt to obfuscate by contrived ambiguity the irreconcilable contradiction that Klausner points out between Yahweh Sabaoth being part of the Jewish idea of the Holy One and Jesus’ presentation of Abba as excluding the idea of the “God of armies” being an authentic description of the Holy One. Changing the translation in English of Sabaoth from armies to host is also a way of trying to do what Joseph Klausner in his spiritual and scholarly integrity knew he could not in truth do, namely, equate or feign that there was no essential difference between Yahweh Sabaoth and Abba. Klausner was well aware that it was impossible in truth to integrate the Yahweh Sabaoth idea of God with the Abba idea of God. For Klausner Jesus is just wrong about the Holy One and that is that. For Jesus there is no notion in His heart or mind, in His words or deeds, of a God of armies, a warrior God, who will lead people in historical victories over their enemies. Unlike the Constantinian Churches of Christianity with their never ending frenetic efforts to have both just wars and Jesus’ idea of God, just executions and Jesus’ idea of God, just Inquisitions and Jesus’ idea of God and just abortions and Jesus’ idea of God, Klausner refuses to religiously buy into the Constantinian contradiction of loving your enemies as Jesus loves His enemies as consistent with  killing you enemies. He basically presents Constantinian Christians with the same personal and communal choice Elijah presented to the Jews almost three thousand years ago on Mount Carmel. Be truthful to yourself: If Yahweh Sabaoth is God follow Him; if Abba is God follow Him, but stop your witless hopping from one foot to another. You are deceiving yourself by thinking you can straddle an issue where mutually exclusive understandings of the Holy One and His salvific will are at stake.

-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

(To be continued)

Friends,

The Mass is a liturgy, indeed, a Divine Liturgy. The word liturgy is derived from the Latin word liturgia which means “public service,” public worship.” Liturgy, therefore, is a customary public worship performed by a religious group, according to its beliefs, customs and traditions. As a religious phenomenon, liturgy is a communal response to and participation in what is believed to be the holy by way of communal praise, thanksgiving, supplication and/or repentance. The Mass is a communal activity, hence its words must be intelligible to the ordinary people who compose the community. This is as it was in the beginning, is now and ever should be. As noted above the Hebrew Sabaoth and the English translation of it as hosts are non-intelligible or confusing or ambiguous or mis-directing words for the ordinary folks who compose English speaking Catholic or Christian Churches. And even more to the point, they are words that camouflage an erroneous presentation of the holy as revealed by Jesus, that is, the true God is not the God of armies. He is Father. The holy, proclaimed by and made flesh in Jesus, is infinitely removed from the business of armies, whose activities, regardless of where they exists or for whom they exist are motivated by enmity and are organized for the destruction of human beings.

The Mass, the Divine Liturgy, is meant to present, celebrate, participate in, give thanks for and praise the great truths and deeds of God revealed through, with and in Jesus Christ. One of these great of truths is God is Abba, Father, Love (agape). In the words and deed of Jesus there is no presentation or glorification of Yahweh Saboath, So why do Christians and their Churches, since the Fifth Century, keep attribute holiness—Holy, Holy, Holy—to what is not holy in the teaching and the example the Holy One Incarnate, Jesus, the Christ? Why introduce the Eucharistic Prayer with “Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth,” when the correct introduction to what every Eucharistic narrative is proclaiming is Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus Dominus Deus caritas est,” “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Love” (or Lord ‘God who is love’). God of Love not God of armies, Deus caritas est not Yahweh Sabaoth is the Gospel truth about God that should introduce the passion, murder and resurrection Eucharistic narrative of Jesus—which narrative and the reality it presents supremely glorify “God who is love.” The glory of the Cross on which Jesus is killed loving His lethal enemies is not the glory of the God of armies, but rather the glory of the God of love. Neither holiness nor Christlike love come from the barrel of a gun, and spewing death from the barrel of a gun or some other weapon is what armies are universally about.

-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

(To be continued)

Friends,

Why put Dominus Deus Sabaoth in the governing Latin text of the Mass. This is where this translation misfortune originates. The choice to hide in translation, via archaic nomenclature and known ambiguity, the meaning of Sabaoth behind the word hosts, arises from the official Latin editio typica use of the Hebrew word Sabaoth. If the  governing Latin text read Dominus Deus caritas est or Dominum Deus Pater omnium, all ambiguity, possible misdirection, misinterpretation in translation would cease. What salvific purpose is served by Yahweh Sabaoth being in the Eucharistic liturgy? How is the “supreme law of the Church which is the salvation of souls,” served by Yahweh Sabaoth being in the Eucharistic celebration. Do people need to know that God is love or that God is the God of armies? Do people need to hear the Good News that God is their Father or the unremitting ancient destructive propaganda that God is the God of armies? The word Eucharist is derived from the Greek word eukharistia, which means thanksgiving. Is it Yahweh Sabaoth, God of armies/hosts, who is being thanked through, with and in Jesus by the Christian community in the Eucharist, or is it Abba, God who is love?

So now, as a human being with conscience that morally mandates that you choose truth rather than falsehood, right rather than wrong, you must decide before God who you are going to praise, glorify, thank and pray to by what you say or sing at the Sanctus of the Eucharist. Will you say or sing “Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth,” “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of armies/hosts?” Or, will you say or sing “Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus Dominus Deus caritas est,” “Holy, Holy Holy Lord God of love?” Who does Jesus want you to praise and glorify? Who does your heart desire to praise and to glorify?

Fact: In what armies do, in what Stalin did, there is not a scintilla of the HOLY as revealed by Jesus, the Christ.

-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

(To be continued or not in your mind, your heart, your voice, your choice at every Eucharist.)