Friday, April 6, 2018
So much of the work of evangelism is the matter of translation. All my life i have read the scriptures, not in Aramaic, or Hebrew, or Greek, or Latin, but in English, at first in the English of Britain in the early 1600s, later in the Americanized English of the 1950s, and still later in the vernacular of our modern times. As a Jesuit missionary and as most missionaries of our times, I must translate the Gospel not only into the vernacular tongue but also in the vernacular of the culture. All preaching, if done effectively, is about translating the Gospel for the immediacy of the times, the culture and the circumstance. Though the Gospel does not change, its translation must adapt.
While the American Gospel adapted to rugged individualism and agrarian imagery,the Gospel in these hills of jade is adapted to communal endeavor and ancestral imagery. The story is the same but the sound of the syntax is different … at least, in these later years when the Lord helped us to discern the difference between colonialism and evangelism.
This process of translation never ceases, it must not rest lest the Gospel become imprisoned in the nostalgic past. So may tell me … “I love the old hymns!” And I respond …”No, you love the hymns that were once new in years past. The truly old hymns would be in Hebrew and most all the psalms. This is one of the reasons why mainline churches in America began to decline starting in the sixties (now fifty-some years ago). We clung to the past; we retreated into the past; we turned a great share of the American Church as a preservation of history rather than a heritage that still creating “new wood”. And because the “new, green wood” ceased to be accommodated, the great oak began to die.
We stopped translating the Gospel, not all of us but many of us. We began to speak in an ancient tongue that turned a blind ear to new inspiration. We desperate tried to preserve the former understandings and in so doing, we silently told God to stop Creating and Revealing. As science and other disciplines rapidly expanded our knowledge of how the universe and the human psyche work ..we sought to find our security in a changing world by living in the world of lesser knowledge, sometimes a world of superstition.
And so … with the reluctance of so many of the mainline Church … God called and is now calling for new missionaries into the world of present understandings and the needs of the time. The River of Life flows on … and too many got our of that river so that might settle in a time now past.
In His Service Always,
Fr. Charitas de la Cruz