16 February 2010

The Cup of Salvation

Having received the Most Sacred Body, and meditated for a few moments, one genuflects and rises, saying:
What reward shall I give unto YHWH for all the benefits that he hath done unto me? I will receive the Cup of Salvation and call upon the Name of YHWH.
At a very early point in Christian history, these words were appropriated to the Cup of the Lord's Blood; in the 'Anamnesis' of the Roman Canon the priest offers Calicem salutis perpetuae (I am by no means convinced of the correctness of the assumption that the form given by S Ambrose - Calicem vitae aeternae - is earlier). Perhaps the author of the psalm had in mind the (fourth) Cup "of Blessing" in the Passover Meal; a rabbinic commentary on the psalm says: "I will elevate the chalice of salvation; that is, when I keep festival and rejoicings, I will lift up a cup of wine, I will give thanks to Him over it in the presence of many, and will make mention of the salvation wherewith He has saved me." And the probability is that this psalm (116:10ff/115) was part of the Hallel said by the Lord and His disciples on Maundy Thursday Night; in the Western Rite it is part of Vespers on Maundy Thursdsay and Good Friday.

I will offer unto thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving and will call upon the Name of YHWH; I will pay my vows unto YHWH in the sight of all His people; in the courts of the House of YHWH, even in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem.
Anglican committees, when composing Eucharistic Prayers that Protestants will not object to, get a lot of headway out of phrases like "Sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving", which Protestants probably consider means "Sacrifice consisting of no more than praise and thanksgiving". The phrase in the Hebrew Bible, of course, means a sacrifice, consisting, like all sacrifice, of material oblata, which are offfered for a thanksgiving. One presumably thinks here of the Levitical thank-offering of fine flour; which means that this psalm, having mentioned the Chalice, has now alluded to the two Eucharistic Elements.

The same psalm was running through the mind of whoever composed the prayer Memento, probably originally said by the Deacon and referring to the elements which the offerentes had brought up to the Altar: "who offer unto thee this sacrifice of Praise ... who render their vows ...". These phrases have been integral to Eucharistic discourse from the Night before the Lord's Death until now.

I do not know if I have irritated anyone by introducing a reminder of the Tetragrammaton into Coverdale's translation. My purpose is to emphasise that we are Jews who ...

I think this post has gone on long enough. I hope to finish it tomorrow.


Michael McDonough said...

Fr. H,

Would it be relevant, toward the end of this post, to comment on the Name of "Jesus", in the light of your present theme?

In this day of translations into English, I am reminded how the Anglo-Saxons translated the Gospels into "Anglish", and where they found the Latin "Iesus", rendered it everywhere "se Haelend", i.e., the Savior, to such an extent that the name, Jesus, cannot be found in lexicons of the ancient tongue.

Fr John Hunwicke SSC, said...


ADALBERT said...

About the Tetragram, I believe the use of not pronouncing the name of God is a corruption.

First : many jewish names bear a trace of it, and nobody started to say IsaYHWHadonai instead of Isayah, or YermiYHWHadonai instead of Yermiyahu (same with Yeh-shouah, Yoh-hanan, etc). This proves that the Hebrews used to call their God by the name He made Himself known.

Second : why would have He made so many efforts to tell Moses His real name, if everybody was forbidden to use it (except once a year, yes...) ? The third commandment says not to misuse the name of God, not to hide it completly, doesn't it ?

Regarding the Tradition of saying "the Lord" instead of "Yahweh", I do not dare to contest it. But in private prayers, I like to recall the principle : "in dubiis, libertas" !

Figulus said...


I barely flinched at the tetragrammaton, but only because you actually preserved it as a tetragrammaton and did not write it as that abominable neologism "yahweh".

Adalbert, I'm afraid I'm not very convinced of your evidence. YHWH sounds to me like a late Aramaic circumlocution to avoid saying the politically incorrect but popular "baal", which was liable to promote synchretism. I suspect that many, though not all, of the theophoric names of scripture originally bore "baal": Isabaal, Jerembaal, etc. Replacing the triliteral "baal" with the tetragrammaton was a little clumsy, however, and never caught on completely. A bit like politically correct speech in our own day actually. At any rate, Adona was a much better choice for the liturgy, or at least more popular. By the time it caught on, though, the scriptures had become immutable.

Actually, I'm not so sure how much I believe of what I just wrote, but at least it's not less plausible than the theory that every Jew used to pronounce JHVH, but without any record of any gentile actually ever hearing him pronounce it. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob truly seems to be the God of circumlocutions.

At any rate, no Christian ever spoke it apart from eccentric medieval Hermeticists and groovy sixties hymn-writers. Meanwhile, the true origin of the four letter Aramaic "he is" remains a mystery, and it's well that it should.

Joshua said...

And of course, at the Consecration the Mass-priest dares to say et hunc præclarem calicem, which, while dramatically identifying the chalice being used with the Holy Grail, also alludes to the royal Psalmist's prophetic words: et calix meus inebrians quam præclarus est!.

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