Great Vigil

The new paschal candle and new fire. The exultet. The extra readings recounting salvation history. Catechumens receiving the sacraments. Singing the Alleluia. Trying not to drip hot candle wax onto your hand. It must be the Easter Vigil!

I will be breaking up the readings from that Mass into three parts: Old Testament readings, Psalms, and New Testament readings. Luckily the Easter season stretches off into the future, as I will need every day of it to complete this series.

Based on the fruit of the previous comparisons, we will be focusing on comparing the Lectionary to the NAB. It has been established that the 1970 NAB Old Testament matches with the Lectionary in nearly every detail. Rather than transcribing the 1970 NAB text, I will summarize the differences or lack thereof in my commentary. Let’s go!

First Reading: Genesis 1:1-2:2

Lectionary text

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, 
the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, 
while a mighty wind swept over the waters.Then God said,
“Let there be light,” and there was light.
God saw how good the light was.
God then separated the light from the darkness.
God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.”
Thus evening came, and morning followed—the first day.

Then God said,
“Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters, 
to separate one body of water from the other.”
And so it happened:
God made the dome, 
and it separated the water above the dome from the water below it.
God called the dome “the sky.”
Evening came, and morning followed—the second day.

Then God said, 
“Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin, 
so that the dry land may appear.”
And so it happened:
the water under the sky was gathered into its basin, 
and the dry land appeared.
God called the dry land “the earth, ” 
and the basin of the water he called “the sea.”
God saw how good it was.
Then God said,
“Let the earth bring forth vegetation: 
every kind of plant that bears seed
and every kind of fruit tree on earth 
that bears fruit with its seed in it.”
And so it happened: 
the earth brought forth every kind of plant that bears seed 
and every kind of fruit tree on earth 
that bears fruit with its seed in it.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed—the third day.

Then God said:
“Let there be lights in the dome of the sky, 
to separate day from night.
Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years, 
and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky, 
to shed light upon the earth.”
And so it happened:
God made the two great lights, 
the greater one to govern the day, 
and the lesser one to govern the night; 
and he made the stars. 
God set them in the dome of the sky, 
to shed light upon the earth,
to govern the day and the night, 
and to separate the light from the darkness.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed—the fourth day.

Then God said, 
“Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures, 
and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky.”
And so it happened:God created the great sea monsters 
and all kinds of swimming creatures with which the water teems, 
and all kinds of winged birds.
God saw how good it was, and God blessed them, saying, 
“Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas; 
and let the birds multiply on the earth.”
Evening came, and morning followed—the fifth day.

Then God said, 
“Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures: 
cattle, creeping things, and wild animals of all kinds.”
And so it happened:
God made all kinds of wild animals, all kinds of cattle,
and all kinds of creeping things of the earth.
God saw how good it was.
Then God said: 
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, 
the birds of the air, and the cattle
and over all the wild animals 
and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.”
God created man in his image;
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, saying:
“Be fertile and multiply;
fill the earth and subdue it.
Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, 
and all the living things that move on the earth.”
God also said: 
“See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth 
and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; 
and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, 
and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground
I give all the green plants for food.”
And so it happened.
God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.
Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed.
Since on the seventh day God was finished
with the work he had been doing, 
he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.

NABRE

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth— and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters—

Then God said: Let there be light, and there was light. God saw that the light was good. God then separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” Evening came, and morning followed—the first day.

Then God said: Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters, to separate one body of water from the other. God made the dome, and it separated the water below the dome from the water above the dome. And so it happened. God called the dome “sky.” Evening came, and morning followed—the second day.

Then God said: Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin, so that the dry land may appear. And so it happened: the water under the sky was gathered into its basin, and the dry land appeared. God called the dry land “earth,” and the basin of water he called “sea.” God saw that it was good. Then God said: Let the earth bring forth vegetation: every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth that bears fruit with its seed in it. And so it happened: the earth brought forth vegetation: every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree that bears fruit with its seed in it. God saw that it was good. Evening came, and morning followed—the third day.

Then God said: Let there be lights in the dome of the sky, to separate day from night. Let them mark the seasons, the days and the years, and serve as lights in the dome of the sky, to illuminate the earth. And so it happened: God made the two great lights, the greater one to govern the day, and the lesser one to govern the night, and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky, to illuminate the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw that it was good. Evening came, and morning followed—the fourth day.

Then God said: Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures, and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky. God created the great sea monsters and all kinds of crawling living creatures with which the water teems, and all kinds of winged birds. God saw that it was good, and God blessed them, saying: Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas; and let the birds multiply on the earth. Evening came, and morning followed—the fifth day.

Then God said: Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature: tame animals, crawling things, and every kind of wild animal. And so it happened: God made every kind of wild animal, every kind of tame animal, and every kind of thing that crawls on the ground. God saw that it was good. Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth.

God created mankind in his image;
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth. God also said: See, I give you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the wild animals, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the earth, I give all the green plants for food. And so it happened. God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed. On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. 

Comments:

The only difference between the NAB text and the Lectionary text is in the poetic summary of God’s creation of humanity: it reads “in the divine image he created him,” rather than “in the image of God he created him.” In the case of the 1986 New Testament, the NAB revisers ended up incorporating many of the Lectionary edits into their finished work. Differences between the Lectionary and the 1970 NAB OT are so few that it is hard to tell if the NABRE revisers acted similarly. My guess is that those who assembled the Lectionary only intervened in the Old Testament text when the NAB was seriously out on a limb from the traditional understanding of a text, and that these were passages which required attention from the NABRE revisers anyway. That being said, there sits “a mighty wind” in the Lectionary, unedited. (In the Spanish language Lectionary, it reads “El espíritu de Dios”.) This mighty wind business doesn’t bother me too much, though I do sympathize with those who say that there are liturgical prayers that allude to the Spirit of God hovering over the water. In the printed edition of the Revised Grail Psalms that I own, there is a brilliant introductory essay by Abbot Gregory Polan which touches on the reason for having a “liturgical psalter”. I will resist the urge to quote it at length. Perhaps someone else in this little online community would like to write an essay about the essay (how’s that for postmodern?). In it, Polan makes the case for a Psalter which to some degree looks at the Psalms through the lens of the New Testament and the interpretation of the Psalter that is assumed during the liturgical celebration. I would argue that an entire biblical edition, if not translation is needed, not just a psalter. In that edition, the text would certainly read “Spirit of God.”

What does give me pause, though, is the odd syntax of the first few verses in the NABRE. Frankly, if this kind of rendering were deep in 2 Chronicles, and not in the highly footnoted Genesis 1, I would assume it was an error that made it through the editors. As it stands now, it feels like an unresolved dissonance. I have a bit of an absurd sense of humor, and so I imagined checking Revelation to make sure its last verse was a complete thought, just to ensure that the entire bible save its first and last verse wasn’t some kind of parenthetical side note which interrupted the thought of what exactly happened when that earth was without form and void. Yes, I realize that this is probably accurate to the Hebrew on one level, but it seems a perverse decision to render those verses that way in what is otherwise a translation which begs to be read aloud. It is a real head scratcher.

Otherwise, the NABRE is an improvement. It clears out some Elizabethan anachronisms like “luminaries”, “cattle”, and “creeping things.” The light treatment with inclusive language seems unobtrusive and even admirable. The poetic summary of God’s creation of humanity shows how the word “man” besides being more applicable to humanity in general, was not just a sort of “poetic singular” or collective noun but in constructions where it acts as plural third person as well. I don’t think many of us would use it in that way in speech anymore, but perhaps I’m wrong.

The original NAB had God seeing “how good it was” rather than “that it was good.” The NABRE has returned the text to something more traditional. I get the sense that there are some changes in understanding of Hebrew philology going on here. In the 1970 NAB, God is noting the degree of goodness. In the NABRE God is noting the categorical goodness.

Second Reading: Genesis 22:1-18:

Lectionary text

God put Abraham to the test.
He called to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am, ”  he replied.
Then God said:
“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love,
and go to the land of Moriah.
There you shall offer him up as a holocaust
on a height that I will point out to you.”
Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey,
took with him his son Isaac and two of his servants as well,
and with the wood that he had cut for the holocaust,
set out for the place of which God had told him.

On the third day Abraham got sight of the place from afar.
Then he said to his servants:
Both of you stay here with the donkey,
while the boy and I go on over yonder.
We will worship and then come back to you.”
Thereupon Abraham took the wood for the holocaust
and laid it on his son Isaac’s shoulders,
while he himself carried the fire and the knife.
As the two walked on together, Isaac spoke to his father Abraham:
“Father!” Isaac said.
Yes, son, ” he replied.
Isaac continued, “Here are the fire and the wood,
but where is the sheep for the holocaust?”
“Son,” Abraham answered,
“God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust.”
Then the two continued going forward.

When they came to the place of which God had told him,
Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it.
Next he tied up his son Isaac,
and put him on top of the wood on the altar.
Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
But the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven,
“Abraham, Abraham!”
“Here I am!” he answered.
“Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger.
“Do not do the least thing to him.
I know now how devoted you are to God,
since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”
As Abraham looked about,
he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket.
So he went and took the ram
and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.
Abraham named the site Yahweh-yireh;
hence people now say, “On the mountain the LORD will see.”

Again the LORD’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said:
“I swear by myself, declares the LORD,
that because you acted as you did
in not withholding from me your beloved son,
I will bless you abundantly
and make your descendants as countless
as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore;
your descendants shall take possession
of the gates of their enemies,
and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing
all this because you obeyed my command.”

NABRE

God put Abraham to the test and said to him: Abraham! “Here I am!” he replied. Then God said: Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you. Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey, took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac, and after cutting the wood for the burnt offering, set out for the place of which God had told him.

On the third day Abraham caught sight of the place from a distance. Abraham said to his servants: “Stay here with the donkey, while the boy and I go on over there. We will worship and then come back to you.” So Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two walked on together, Isaac spoke to his father Abraham. “Father!” he said. “Here I am,” he replied. Isaac continued, “Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” “My son,” Abraham answered, “God will provide the sheep for the burnt offering.” Then the two walked on together.

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Next he bound his son Isaac, and put him on top of the wood on the altar. Then Abraham reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” “Here I am,” he answered. “Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the angel. “Do not do the least thing to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you did not withhold from me your son, your only one.” Abraham looked up and saw a single ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named that place Yahweh-yireh; hence people today say, “On the mountain the LORD will provide.”

A second time the angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven and said: “I swear by my very self—oracle of the LORD—that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your son, your only one, I will bless you and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants will take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth will find blessing, because you obeyed my command.”

Comments:

There are some interesting differences between the NAB 1970 text and the Lectionary. Right off the bet, Abraham’s reply to God is not “Here I am!” but “ready!” When God calls him to stop him from slaughtering Isaac, Abraham’s response is “Yes, Lord.” In both of those places, the NABRE reflects the Lectionary and not the NAB.

I don’t remember where I was, or who the priest was, but one of the things said in a homily that has stuck with me longest was about this passage. The gist of it was that even Abraham, the man with the greatest intimacy with God of all the people of his generation, at least partially expected God to be like the other gods he had known. Some of these gods, the thinking was, went so far as to demand our children of us. God, however, in this grand narrative is saying to Abraham, “you think I’m like these idols, but I am not. You think you will sacrifice your son for love of me, but I will sacrifice MY son for love of you. You spoke in prophecy, Abraham. I truly will provide the sheep for the offering.”

Three stated examples of words used in the original NAB that had changed their meaning since the original translations of the OT were “cereal”, “booty”, and “holocaust”. Here you can see that the latter has been replaced by burnt offering. As someone with no knowledge of the biblical languages, the fact that I’m commenting on these matters at all is a bit presumptuous, but I think my years of close use of this text and my desire for good English usage give me just the right combination to speak “of things too sublime for me.” I see that Abraham’s verbal response to his son is now “here I am”, his traditional reply to God’s calling. Since this is very un-English, I can only conclude this is one of those places the NABRE got more literal. The new etymological explanation of Yahweh-yireh makes a whole lot more sense to me in the context—“On the mountain the Lord will provide”, rather than “On the mountain the Lord will see.”

Third Reading: Exodus 14:15-15:1

Lectionary text

The LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me?
Tell the Israelites to go forward.
And you, lift up your staff and, with hand outstretched over the sea,
split the sea in two,
that the Israelites may pass through it on dry land.
But I will make the Egyptians so obstinate
that they will go in after them.
Then I will receive glory through Pharaoh and all his army,
his chariots and charioteers.
The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD,
when I receive glory through Pharaoh
and his chariots and charioteers.”

The angel of God, who had been leading Israel’s camp,
now moved and went around behind them.
The column of cloud also, leaving the front,
took up its place behind them,
so that it came between the camp of the Egyptians
and that of Israel.
But the cloud now became dark, and thus the night passed without the rival camps coming any closer together all night long.Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea,
and the LORD swept the sea with a strong east wind throughout the night and so turned it into dry land.When the water was thus divided,
the Israelites marched into the midst of the sea on dry land,
with the water like a wall to their right and to their left.

The Egyptians followed in pursuit;
all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and charioteers went after them right into the midst of the sea. In the night watch just before dawn
the LORD cast through the column of the fiery cloud
upon the Egyptian force a glance that threw it into a panic;
and he so clogged their chariot wheels
that they could hardly drive.
With that the Egyptians sounded the retreat before Israel, because the LORD was fighting for them against the Egyptians.
Then the LORD told Moses, Stretch out your hand over the sea,
that the water may flow back upon the Egyptians,
upon their chariots and their charioteers.”
So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea,
and at dawn the sea flowed back to its normal depth.
The Egyptians were fleeing head on toward the sea,
when the LORD hurled them into its midst.
As the water flowed back,
it covered the chariots and the charioteers of Pharaoh’s whole army which had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not a single one of them escaped. But the Israelites had marched on dry land
through the midst of the sea,
with the water like a wall to their right and to their left.
Thus the LORD saved Israel on that day
from the power of the Egyptians.
When Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore
and beheld the great power that the LORD
had shown against the Egyptians,
they feared the LORD and believed in him and in his servant Moses.

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD:
I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant;
horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.

NABRE

Then the LORD said to Moses: Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to set out. And you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea, and split it in two, that the Israelites may pass through the sea on dry land. But I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them, and I will receive glory through Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD, when I receive glory through Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.

The angel of God, who had been leading Israel’s army, now moved and went around behind them. And the column of cloud, moving from in front of them, took up its place behind them, so that it came between the Egyptian army and that of Israel. And when it became dark, the cloud illumined the night; and so the rival camps did not come any closer together all night long. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD drove back the sea with a strong east wind all night long and turned the sea into dry ground. The waters were split, so that the Israelites entered into the midst of the sea on dry land, with the water as a wall to their right and to their left.

The Egyptians followed in pursuit after them—all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen—into the midst of the seaBut during the watch just before dawn, the LORD looked down from a column of fiery cloud upon the Egyptian army and threw it into a panic; and he so clogged their chariot wheels that they could drive only with difficulty. With that the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from Israel, because the LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.”

Then the LORD spoke to Moses: Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may flow back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and their horsemen. So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea returned to its normal flow. The Egyptians were fleeing head on toward it when the LORD cast the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. As the water flowed back, it covered the chariots and the horsemen. Of all Pharaoh’s army which had followed the Israelites into the sea, not even one escaped. But the Israelites had walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, with the water as a wall to their right and to their left. Thus the LORD saved Israel on that day from the power of Egypt. When Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore and saw the great power that the Lord had shown against Egypt, the people feared the LORD. They believed in the LORD and in Moses his servant.

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD:

I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant;
    horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.

Comments:

The NAB ’70 text and the Lectionary seem the same, unless I missed something small.

This is a reading featuring the description of what a cast of thousands is doing in relation to each other. The NABRE features details that change how I visualize these events. The NAB, being a touch more dynamic, did not feature as many conjectural emendations as, say, the NEB/REB. Those translations are quite happy to make an educated hypothesis of what a reading ought to be rather than leave an obscurity in the text. The NAB was more conservative than that in some of the infamously obscure verses of the books of Samuel, Job, and the minor prophets, but I think this reading is an example of them trying to make something unexpected and slightly confusing more understandable to the reader. In the NABRE, how did the cloud lighting up the night keep the two armies separated? I would think it would do the opposite. The Confraternity folks who translated this passage in the 50’s must have thought the same thing, because they pass no mention on the cloud lighting up the night, and understand that it was the darkness of the cloud that caused the Egyptian army’s sluggishness in pursuit. Or maybe they relied on the Septuagint here? Who knows. Maybe if they did an NAB version of “On Englishing the Bible” it would have been an unreadable committee work, and I’d be the only person interested, but it would be cool to know the process better. The Church doesn’t exactly want me to be interested in the process here. They want me to be interested in a type of the Church passing through death to life through water.

Fourth Reading: Isaiah 54:5-14

Lectionary text

The One who has become your husband is your Maker; his name is the LORD of hosts; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,
called God of all the earth.
The LORD calls you back,
like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,
a wife married in youth and then cast off,
says your God.
For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great tenderness I will take you back.
In an outburst of wrath, for a moment
I hid my face from you;
but with enduring love I take pity on you,
says the LORD, your redeemer.
This is for me like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah
should never again deluge the earth;
so I have sworn not to be angry with you,
or to rebuke you.
Though the mountains leave their place
and the hills be shaken,
my love shall never leave you
nor my covenant of peace be shaken,
says the LORD, who has mercy on you.
O afflicted one, storm-battered and unconsoled,
I lay your pavements in carnelians,
and your foundations in sapphires;
I will make your battlements of rubies,
your gates of carbuncles,
and all your walls of precious stones.
All your children shall be taught by the LORD,
and great shall be the peace of your children.
In justice shall you be established,
far from the fear of oppression,
where destruction cannot come near you.

NABRE

For your husband is your Maker; the LORD of hosts is his name, Your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,
    called God of all the earth.
The LORD calls you back,
    like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,
A wife married in youth and then cast off,
    says your God.
For a brief moment I abandoned you,
    but with great tenderness I will take you back.
In an outburst of wrath, for a moment
    I hid my face from you;
But with enduring love I take pity on you,
    says the LORD, your redeemer.
This is for me like the days of Noah:
As I swore then that the waters of Noah
    should never again flood the earth,
So I have sworn now not to be angry with you,
    or to rebuke you.
Though the mountains fall away
    and the hills be shaken,
My love shall never fall away from you
    nor my covenant of peace be shaken,
    says the LORD, who has mercy on you.
O afflicted one, storm-battered and unconsoled,
    I lay your pavements in carnelians,
    your foundations in sapphires;
I will make your battlements of rubies,
    your gates of jewels,
    and all your walls of precious stones.
All your children shall be taught by the LORD;
    great shall be the peace of your children.
In justice shall you be established,
    far from oppression, you shall not fear,
    from destruction, it cannot come near.

Comments:

The NAB ’70 text and the Lectionary are largely the same, except a new incipit so that it doesn’t feel like we are starting in the middle of a poem. The start of this passage in the 1970 NAB OT is much more like the NABRE.

If the once common internet commentariat who sputtered hatred out upon the NAB but admitted that the NABRE is better were to see this comparison, would they revise their opinion upward about the NAB? Or downward for the NABRE? Because in most of the books, the process of revision was very light. Each revision, though, seems to improve things here. “Carbunkle” is an odd word. I only know what it means due to hearing as a child the etymological legend about a nearby lake named “Carbunkle Pond”. I don’t like the way this word sounds. It is a collection of sounds that seems to me silly and not majestic. I will not miss it in the NABRE. Poetry was indeed a selling point of the original NAB, and the NABRE is just as good. As a side note, I read recently that the man behind the Revised Grail Psalms, Abbot Gregory Polan, worked on the NABRE revisions. That is a man who seems to know his way around written poetry.

Fifth Reading: Isaiah 55:1-11

Lectionary text

Thus says the LORD:
All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
come, without paying and without cost,drink wine and milk!
Why spend your money for what is not bread,
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.
I will renew with you the everlasting covenant,
the benefits assured to David.
As I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander of nations,
so shall you summon a nation you knew not,
and nations that knew you not shall run to you,
because of the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, who has glorified you.

Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call him while he is near.
Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
and the wicked man his thoughts;
let him turn to the LORD for mercy;
to our God, who is generous in forgiving.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.

For just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

NABRE

All you who are thirsty,
    come to the water!
You who have no money,
    come, buy grain and eat;
Come, buy grain without money,
    wine and milk without cost!
Why spend your money for what is not bread;
    your wages for what does not satisfy?
Only listen to me, and you shall eat well,
    you shall delight in rich fare.
Pay attention and come to me;
    listen, that you may have life.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
    the steadfast loyalty promised to David.
As I made him a witness to peoples,
    a leader and commander of peoples,
So shall you summon a nation you knew not,
    and a nation that knew you not shall run to you,
Because of the LORD, your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, who has glorified you.
Seek the LORD while he may be found,
    call upon him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their way,
    and sinners their thoughts;
Let them turn to the LORD to find mercy;
    to our God, who is generous in forgiving.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
    my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Yet just as from the heavens
    the rain and snow come down
And do not return there
    till they have watered the earth,
    making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to the one who sows
    and bread to the one who eats,
So shall my word be
    that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me empty,
    but shall do what pleases me,
    achieving the end for which I sent it.

Comments:

The Lectionary adds “Thus says the Lord” to the start of the reading. It is not present in the NAB, but lends important context. High flying poetry and the language of promise will make us assume it is God, but why chance it?

This section features a feature of the NABRE that I’m surprised doesn’t get talked about more: the use of “oracle of the Lord”, rather than “thus says the Lord” or similar constructions. My cynical theory is that many of the people on the internet who comment on translation are really just commenting on a couple of pet verses, the start of Genesis, and a couple places in the New Testament. (The writer gingerly steps off of his high horse and lowers himself to the ground. Or the earth if you read the NABRE.)

I used to have a strong dislike of seeing “oracle of the Lord”, but I’ve gotten used to it, and even like it! To me, it is used when God could easily say, “this isn’t just beautiful talk. This is a promise. You can take that to the bank!” It is a stamp of certification, in a way. I feel it that much more than “thus says the Lord.” “Oracle of the Lord” is alien, but it is way more contemporary than “thus says the Lord.” How would you even say that if you took away the slight archaism? “The Lord says this?” That would go down worse than “Look” for “behold”. Speaking only for myself, I’m glad translators are finally getting over this Tyndale hangover. But don’t take away “behold”! I like “behold.”

Sixth Reading: Baruch 3:9-15, 3:32-4:4

Lectionary text

Hear, O Israel, the commandments of life:
listen, and know prudence!
How is it, Israel,
that you are in the land of your foes,
grown old in a foreign land,
defiled with the dead,
accounted with those destined for the netherworld?
You have forsaken the fountain of wisdom!
Had you walked in the way of God,
you would have dwelt in enduring peace.
Learn where prudence is,
where strength, where understanding;
that you may know also
where are length of days, and life,
where light of the eyes, and peace.
Who has found the place of wisdom,
who has entered into her treasuries?

The One who knows all things knows her;
he has probed her by his knowledge
The One who established the earth for all time,
and filled it with four-footed beasts;
he who dismisses the light, and it departs,
calls it, and it obeys him trembling;
before whom the stars at their posts
shine and rejoice;
when he calls them, they answer, “Here we are!”
shining with joy for their Maker.
Such is our God;
no other is to be compared to him:
he has traced out the whole way of understanding,
and has given her to Jacob, his servant,
to Israel, his beloved son.

Since then she has appeared on earth,
and moved among people.
She is the book of the precepts of God,
the law that endures forever;
all who cling to her will live,
but those will die who forsake her.
Turn, O Jacob, and receive her:
walk by her light toward splendor.
Give not your glory to another,
your privileges to an alien race.
Blessed are we, O Israel;
for what pleases God is known to us!

NABRE

Hear, Israel, the commandments of life:
    listen, and know prudence!
How is it, Israel,
    that you are in the land of your foes,
    grown old in a foreign land,
Defiled with the dead,
    counted among those destined for Hades?
You have forsaken the fountain of wisdom!
    Had you walked in the way of God,
    you would have dwelt in enduring peace.
Learn where prudence is,
    where strength, where understanding;
That you may know also
    where are length of days, and life,
    where light of the eyes, and peace.
Who has found the place of wisdom?
    Who has entered into her treasuries?

But the one who knows all things knows her;
    he has probed her by his knowledge—
The one who established the earth for all time,
    and filled it with four-footed animals,
Who sends out the lightning, and it goes,
    calls it, and trembling it obeys him;
Before whom the stars at their posts
    shine and rejoice.
When he calls them, they answer, “Here we are!”
    shining with joy for their Maker.
Such is our God;
    no other is to be compared to him:
He has uncovered the whole way of understanding,
    and has given her to Jacob, his servant,
    to Israel, his beloved.
Thus she has appeared on earth,
    is at home with mortals.
She is the book of the precepts of God,
    the law that endures forever;
All who cling to her will live,
    but those will die who forsake her.
Turn, O Jacob, and receive her:
    walk by her light toward splendor.
Do not give your glory to another,
    your privileges to an alien nation.
Blessed are we, O Israel;
    for what pleases God is known to us!

Comments:

The Lectionary takes “He who knows all things knows her,” and replaces the pronoun with “The One”. This revision is more akin to the addition of an incipit, though, as the antecedent of that pronoun is in the section of Baruch’s text (verses 16 to 32 of the third chapter) which is not used in this reading. The only other revision I found was the word “man” replaced with “people” in “Since then she has appeared on earth and moved among people.”

This is more beautiful poetry, this time from the oft-forgotten deuterocanonical prophet. The NABRE doesn’t do much to the NAB 1970 text here. It flips around some clauses, adds a touch of inclusive language (“mortals” in the NABRE, compared with “people” in the NAB). It takes a gauzy, poetic image “he who dismisses the light” and sharpens it to “who sends out lightning”. Netherworld has indeed been altered to read “Hades” here! This use of the word Netherworld in the NAB to translate Sheol in the Hebrew and Hades in the Greek was one of its distinctive features, and one frequently cited by those who accused the NAB text, and the lectionary as well, with flabby English style and “spirit of Vatican II” sloppiness. This may be a hint that they could transliterate “Hades” in the upcoming NABRE 2025 New Testament.

Seventh Reading: Ezekiel 36:16-17A, 18-28

Lectionary text

The word of the LORD came to me, saying:
Son of man, when the house of Israel lived in their land,
they defiled it by their conduct and deeds.
Therefore I poured out my fury upon them
because of the blood that they poured out on the ground,
and because they defiled it with idols.
I scattered them among the nations,
dispersing them over foreign lands;
according to their conduct and deeds I judged them.
But when they came among the nations wherever they came,
they served to profane my holy name,
because it was said of them: “These are the people of the LORD,
yet they had to leave their land.”
So I have relented because of my holy name
which the house of Israel profaned
among the nations where they came.
Therefore say to the house of Israel: Thus says the Lord GOD:
Not for your sakes do I act, house of Israel,
but for the sake of my holy name,
which you profaned among the nations to which you came.
I will prove the holiness of my great name, profaned among the nations,
in whose midst you have profaned it.
Thus the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD,
when in their sight I prove my holiness through you.
For I will take you away from among the nations,
gather you from all the foreign lands,
and bring you back to your own land.
I will sprinkle clean water upon you
to cleanse you from all your impurities,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you,
taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes,
careful to observe my decrees.
You shall live in the land I gave your fathers;
you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

NABRE

The word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, when the house of Israel lived in its land, they defiled it with their behavior and their deeds.

So I poured out my fury upon them for the blood they poured out on the ground and for the idols with which they defiled it. I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through other lands; according to their behavior and their deeds I carried out judgment against them. But when they came to the nations, where they went, they desecrated my holy name, for people said of them: “These are the people of the LORD, yet they had to leave their land.” So I relented because of my holy name which the house of Israel desecrated among the nations to which they came. Therefore say to the house of Israel: Thus says the Lord GOD: Not for your sake do I act, house of Israel, but for the sake of my holy name, which you desecrated among the nations to which you came. But I will show the holiness of my great name, desecrated among the nations, in whose midst you desecrated it. Then the nations shall know that I am the LORD—oracle of the Lord GOD—when through you I show my holiness before their very eyes. I will take you away from among the nations, gather you from all the lands, and bring you back to your own soil. I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them. You will live in the land I gave to your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

Comments:

The Lectionary deletes the word “thus” from verse 16 and otherwise seems to leave the NAB ’70 OT as is.

There is more bolded text here than the last few readings. Why? This reading revolves around some vocabulary that gets used repeatedly, and the NABRE has changed some of those translations. “Conduct” has become “behavior”. “Profaned” has become “desecrated”. Most notably, though, they have changed it from “stony heart”/”natural heart” to “heart of stone”/”heart of flesh”. It is sounds better, it is more literal, and it is understandable. When a rendering can be made that checks all three of those boxes, it is a great change in my book. I’ve read some people say on message boards and comment boxes that they cringe at a NAB rendering at almost every Mass they attend. That makes me sad to hear, and I earnestly hope they were exaggerating. I care a lot about language and its elegant use, but I pray that I never am disgusted by something so small at the sacrifice of the Mass. I pray that especially because, for me at least, to be disgusted is to be distracted. There are two renderings from the lectionary that trip me up the most, though, and I suppose is the feeling which may lie behind those internet comments about being disgusted: “natural hearts” in this reading. It just sounds odd to me. If it was meant to be dynamic like natural speech is, you wouldn’t repeat the noun. You would say, “natural ones.” But of course liturgical language is elevated. I guess the old rendering seems to fall between two stools for me. It is neither elevated nor common. I firmly believe that each style of language can be done with great dignity. Both belong in our liturgy, but only if used with great dignity. Dignity is such a subjective concept! I’m sure there are people who love the phrase “natural hearts”. It brings to mind many good reflections: that Jesus’ work is the restoration of our natural relationship with God, the one we should’ve had from the beginning. Of course, would that reflection be possible in the original language?

The other thing that messes me up is in Psalm 145 (and perhaps other Psalms) when one line ends with “words” and the next ends with “works”. Verse 13 “The Lord is faithful in all his words / and holy in all his works”. There’s really nothing wrong with it. I just find it hard to say when it is early and I am tired.

God bless you and Happy Easter. Christ is truly risen.

One thought on “Comparing the NABRE with the Lectionary for Mass: Easter Vigil Old Testament Readings — Guest Post by Bob Short”

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