26/10/08 – The Name of God in Liturgy

You may have read recently that the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments released a directive on using the name of God in the liturgy.  Essentially, we have been asked to discontinue any use of the Hebrew name that translates to “YHWH”, which we may know to be “Yahweh” or “Jehovah”.

Throughout the Jewish tradition, this name has never been spoken aloud.  One reason for the directive is the desire to show respect to our ancestors in faith.  While it appears in the sacred scriptures, those who proclaim them will always substitute the name of God (also called the tetragrammaton) with names such as “Adonai”, “Lord”, or “Abba”.  Whenever you see a bible refer use “the LORD” (with LORD in capital letters), the publisher has made the substitution.

One bible, however, did not make this substitution.  The Jerusalem Bible translation retained the name, as is, whenever the original Hebrew texts made use of it.  So there are some songs composed in the 1970’s, and still used today, that use the name; as their lyrics were drawn from Jerusalem Bible texts.  You Are Near and Sing A New Song by Dan Schutte are just two examples.

The official texts of the Catholic liturgy do not make use of the name of God in this manner, and therefore no changes need to be made.  The music publishers, however, have sought to bring the small number of songs affected into line with this directive. You may notice in the near future that some words in one or two well-known hymns need to change slightly, including “O Lord, I know you are near…” and “Lord, you are the God of my salvation…”  Any such changes are being done out of a desire to show the upmost respect and reverence both to God, and to the long-standing traditions of the Christian and Jewish faiths.

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