|Arts & Entertainment|
|Breaking Open the Word|
|World & Nation|
|DCR Advertising Rates|
|DCR Submission Guidelines|
October 15, 2008
No ‘Yahweh’ in liturgies is no problem for the archdiocese, officials say
Vatican ruling prohibits use of term ‘Yahweh’ in liturgy
By Roxanne King
In June the Vatican issued a directive concerning the use of the term “Yahweh” in the liturgy, saying the term should not be used. The only areas American Catholics may see a change as a result of the directive is in songs or prayers, as liturgical texts do not use the term.
Carrying out the directive hasn’t been much of a problem in the Denver Archdiocese, according to John Miller, associate director of the archdiocese’s Office of Liturgy and music coordinator at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.
“Some music directors have just tried to avoid using liturgical hymns that have the sacred name in the song,” he said. “The well-known one is Dan Schutte’s hymn with the line ‘Yahweh, I know you are near.’”
Unfortunately, when the directive from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments was released on June 29, hymnals for 2009 had already been printed by Oregon Catholic Press, a nonprofit publisher of liturgical music, including Schutte’s “You Are Near.”
Schutte promised to change the song and asked that it not be used until he did so, requesting that people not revise the lyrics themselves as he didn’t want multiple versions of the song circulating. To change a song’s wording, noted Miller, is to infringe on copyright protections.
Schutte has revised the wording of “You Are Near” and the new version is available on the OCP Web site (ocp.org) along with a handful of other songs that have been revised.
“Some people might hem and haw and kick the dirt on such a thing but … it won’t affect our experience of God as we sing these songs in the liturgy,” said Miller. “It’s not getting rid of the songs; it’s trying to be more reverent in our speech with the name of God and observing the Second Commandment and it’s having consideration for our Jewish brothers and sisters who hold that word, specifically, in such sacred reverence.”
The directive is simply upholding the original and longstanding practice of the Church to not pronounce the Hebrew name of God and is enforcing a ruling made in the 2001 papal instruction “Liturgiam Authenticam,” which was also published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, said Scripture scholar Sister Mary Timothea Elliott, R.S.M.
“In that document, which is now seven years old, the directive was that ‘Yahweh’ not be used,” said Sister Elliott, who is a Scripture professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.
“But that hasn’t been fully implemented,” Sister Elliott said.
Jewish leaders had recently approached Pope Benedict XVI requesting that out of reverence for the name of God the practice of pronouncing it that had crept into the liturgy, discontinue.
“The Jewish people do not use this name, ever, out of respect,” Sister Elliott said. “They don’t even write it. And (English-speaking) Catholics and Christians did not use it until after Vatican II.”
“At the time the Jerusalem Bible was promulgated (1961 in French), Scripture scholars from all over the world objected to the articulation of ‘Yahweh’ because from the beginning of translations of the Scriptures, it was never rendered in any way except as ‘Lord,’” Sister Elliott said.
Jews traditionally substituted the word Adonai, which means “Lord,” whenever they came to the sacred tetragrammaton. The early Christians made similar substitutions when translating the Hebrew Scriptures, the religious sister said.
“The Greeks used the word Kyrios, which also means ‘Lord,’” Sister Elliot explained. “St. Jerome in the Latin Vulgate used Dominus. And in any other translation—modern translation since Vatican II—these four letters ‘YHWH’ are translated ‘LORD’ all in caps.”
When the English-language Lectionary, which contains the Scripture readings for Masses, was revised following Vatican II, originally three versions of the Scriptures were approved for inclusion, including the Jerusalem Bible, which contributed to the term being used. Today, only the New American Bible is approved for the Lectionary in the United States.
The Jerusalem Bible is still approved, however, for private study for Catholics, Sister Elliott said.
This year’s directive prohibiting use of the term “Yahweh” states: “In liturgical celebrations, in songs and prayers the name of God in the form of the tetragrammaton YHWH is neither to be used nor pronounced.
“For the translation of the biblical text in modern languages destined for the liturgical usage of the Church,” it continues, “what is already prescribed by No. 41 of the instruction ‘Liturgiam Authenticam’ is to be followed; that is, the divine tetragrammaton is to be rendered by the equivalent of Adonai/Kyrios: Lord, Signore, Seigneur, Herr, Señor, etc.”
The directive was released a year after Pope Benedict XVI asked the Pontifical Biblical Commission, a team of Scripture scholars, to research the matter subsequent to his being approached by Jewish leaders about it.
“I would encourage Catholics to receive this directive from the Vatican with faith and with gratitude for the clarification,” Sister Elliott said, adding that Catholics should be sensitive to the interreligious community.
“It’s not so much a matter of political correctness as it is reverence,” she said.
“We wouldn’t want people to misuse the name of Jesus,” he said. “It’s the same for our Jewish brothers and sisters. They hold God’s name as sacred.”