communion of the Saints

Do we read the Scriptures or a translation of the Scriptures?

Is reading a translation of the Bible actually reading the Bible? Is it still the same books, the same inspired word of God? What if it’s a poor translation, or a paraphrase?

Translation will always be an exercise in interpretation and co-creation. There is no simple mapping of one language to another, not least because each language lives in the distinct, though overlapping, worlds their speakers inhabit. To faithfully translate is not just to avoid any additions, but to attempt to be united with the author, while inhabiting another world. It is a faithful translation as long as it is a co-creation, and unfaithful as far as it is a separate creation added onto the first.

An image of a pipe is not a pipe, and a translation of a book is not that book. However, to see an image of a pipe is to see a pipe, and no one has ever seen a pipe except by seeing an image of a pipe. We see the pipe through the image, even if it’s just the image in our own eyes. Similarly, we can read a book through its translation. We might also add, that even writings in our own language need to be translated into our own minds. The words may be the same, but still the meaning must be found, and every word has a slightly different meaning to every reader.

When we read our translations of the Bible, we are not reading it on our own, and that’s a good thing, because we’re actually reading it with and through the communion of the saints. Not just the translators, but all those who influenced their reading of the scriptures, and all the faithful who have together shaped how we will read it too, both by their teaching and just by their use of the same words.

The words of scripture take on new meaning in this process (though without losing the previous meaning), as often happens when we re-encounter a piece of art, and something new is picked up, perhaps even something with new meaning in our new context. It grows in meaning with each new listener, each new day, each new context. Or rather, its divine and eternal meaning is unfolded ever more fully.

With the Holy Spirit guiding our translations and interpretations through the saints, we can happily view our translations as an extension and development of the scriptures themselves.

Not one of us has ever read the Bible on our own. We are always reading with our own context, with our society, with the society that produced our Bible (the Church), and with the society it was written in. The New Testament was written by the early Church, from a common faith, through Greek and Jewish ideas and cultures, and translated and interpreted through Roman, Latin, European ideas and cultures, and then through the ideas and cultures of the New World, and then again through the modern world, always undertaken by the Church in dialogue with the world.

God bless you!

One great thing about praying to the Saints

is that I don’t need to pray well, or pray right, or pray holily, because there’s someone else who I know can and will do it for me. My prayers don’t need to be anything special, because I’m not relying on myself.

This is how all prayer should be: trusting the One who hears our prayers, and not the one who says them, or how they are said. The annoying thing is, when I try to do this, all too often I try to pray well, by trying not to try–stupid, right? Hopefully, as I learn more of God’s goodness, I’ll look less and less to myself and more and more to God.

It’s a fantastic thing, knowing that you’re part of the communion of the saints, and that there’s a whole army of angels and saints who always have your back. We never walk alone. We always have others to rely on.

I think God gives us the saints like He gave us Jesus, because we tend towards fearing and hiding from God, not trusting His merciful love. Saints can understand me, so I can trust them not to judge me. God is even better than His saints, but He reveals this through them, letting them incarnate His mercy.

God bless you!

Am I not just adding to the noise?

Why do I bother writing, or even thinking, about matters so high above me, that already have so much said about them, by so many truly extraordinary minds? Am I not just adding to the noise?

No. I’m entering into, and adding to, the harmony of the whole. The things we speak about- the true, the good, and the beautiful- impart themselves to the mediums that bear them, and make prose into poetry and speech into song.

My voice might not be extraordinary, but it was made to sing. And it will not detract from the other, stronger, more beautiful voices, because we were always meant to rejoice in singing different parts of the same song. And not only is the whole made more beautiful with each voice added, but each one, in the mystery that is music, adds to the beauty of each other.

I began writing this thinking only about why it’s worth me bothering to write, when so many people more holy and more learned than me have already spoken on almost everything. By the end I realised I was actually writing about the communion of the Saints. I love it when a post doesn’t do what I planned for it!

God bless you all!