A Catholic Monthly Magazine

‘Father’ and ‘Lord’ in the new English Eucharistic Prayers

Fr Merv Duffy sm

by Fr Merv Duffy sm

A fellow priest alerted me to a difference he noted in the new translation of the Eucharistic Prayers. He has a great love for the way Jesus begins his prayers with “Abba”, the familial term for “Father”. This is one of the great novelties associated with Jesus. He relates to God the Father in an intimate confident and loving manner. Moreover this is something that he invited his disciples to imitate in a slightly different fashion. St Paul explains it like this: Jesus, as the natural son of the Father, through the power of the Spirit enables his disciples, as adopted children, to also call God “Father”.

We can call God “Father” through our Baptism into Jesus. Conscious of this and aware that the Eucharistic Prayer is the central prayer of the Mass and directed to the Father in the Son, my attentive priest friend was startled that the new texts are addressing God as “Father” less frequently.

Taking the third Eucharistic Prayer as an example, below is the old translation, the Latin, and the new for the opening lines of some parts of the prayer:

1970’s translation

Mass of Paul VI New Translation
Thanksgiving Father, you are holy indeed...

Father,calling to mind the death your Son endured for our salvation, ...

You are indeed Holy, O Lord, ...

Epiclesis And so, Father, we bring you these gifts Súpplices ergo te, Dómine ... Therefore, O Lord, we humbly implore you

Father, calling to mind the death your Son endured for our salvation, ...
Mémores ígitur, Dómine, eiúsdem Fílii tui salutíferæ passiónis...

Therefore, O  Lord, we celebrate the memorial of the saving Passion of your Son ..

The first point to notice is that my confrere is right: The new translation uses “Lord” on these three occasions where the old translation used “Father”.

The second point to observe is that both groups of translators were working off the same Latin text and that the word they were translating was “Dominus” rather than “Pater”, the new translation is more accurate.

The problem is that “Lord” is ambiguous for Christians – we call all three persons of the Trinity “Lord” – particularly the Father and the Son. The earlier translators were providing an interpretive translation, by using “Father” they were making it clear for us which member of the Trinity this prayer is offered to.

The changes of the new translation sometimes reveal new insights and sometimes obscure what is going on. This change from Father to Lord is a mixture of both. It is more accurate and arguably enables a more respectful and reverent tone, but it loses the clarity and beauty of addressing God as “Father”.

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