Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof …

I like the spirit of this, but … “I am not worthy to receive you” does seem preferable from a Strunk & White perspective.


  1. RM,

    Resolving the "multis" question in translation will also go a long way toward restoring sanity in the Church by moving one step to the right of the Unitarians…


  2. Rufus McCain says

    Thanks JOB. Once again your erudition sent me seeking info. I'm of two minds. The words of consecration in the current liturgy are: "This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant; it will be shed for you and for all." These words will be changed to "for you and for many" — because "many" is a more accurate translation of the Latin "multis." I don't mind being faithful to the Latin; but on the other hand, I don't see a theological problem with the "all" of current liturgy. Saying that Christ died for all or that God intends for all to be saved is not the same as saying that all will be saved or that all will accept the grace Christ offers. I can see a rationale for sneaking "all" into the liturgy that is consistent with Catholic teaching. Laying the stress on "many" — as if God is intentionally excluding some — feels a bit Calvinist to me.

  3. Matthew Lickona says

    Doesn't "that you should enter under my roof" have the advantage of Scriptural echo? That trumps Strunk & White in my book.

    And while I'm not in JOB's camp on the multis bit, "many" need not be seen as exclusionary, seeing as how it includes all who want to be included, no?

  4. Rufus,

    Well, the easy answer would be to say, pick your poison: would you rather be a Universalist Unitarian or a Hellbent Calvinist?

    But of course, that doesn't quite get at it – since these are both erroroneous positions between which, as usual, the Church has declared herself from the beginning the "via media."

    We are not Calvinist, because no one knows who is saved and who is not (except of course God and presumably the saints in heaven). For this reason, soul AND body must work out fear and trembling (token Kierkegaardian reference there) in this life.

    And we are not Universalists because it is clear from scripture that all are NOT saved (vide Our Lord's words in Matthew 7:14 "How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it!").

    Besides restoring what our Holy Father calls the "hermeneutics of continuity" with the unbroken tradition of the Chruch, I think the "multis" translated as "many" is also a healthy wake up call for Catholics who don't preach or hear being preached the reality of hell. It also confronts us with the reality of the human will – that it CAN reject grace – that indeed our default position in relation to God is not salvation.

    That said, of course, it all sounds better in the orignal Latin, anyway – but that's another discussion altogether…


  5. Matthew,

    Camp? I'm hoping my only camp is the Catholic Church.

    And doesn't the "inclusionary" sense of "multis" in fact beg the "exclusionary" question – if you're not wanting to be included, what happens then?

    Again, it's Church teaching methinks: our relationship needle with God is not stuck on "Salvation." We need the sacraments like a fish needs water or Lance Armstrong needs a bicycle….

    What does T.S. Eliot say – man is defined as much by his capability for damnation as he is for salvation? Something to that effect, anyway.

    As for Scriptural resonance,I think Matthew's right – and here we do get to pick our poison:

    Douay Rheims (the Bible of Edmund Campion)

    And the centurion making answer, said: Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed.

    Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition (The Bible of Fulton Sheen)

    And the centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed.

    New American Bible (The cash cow of the USCCB):

    The Centurion said in reply, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed."


  6. Matthew Lickona says

    By "camp," all I meant was that I'm not waiting for the Church to change that particular bit of the liturgy. Yes, hell preserves human freedom. Yes, if some are included, then some are excluded. Yes, I can't think about this question long without crying.

  7. Rufus McCain says

    OK, yes, I'll accept "enter under my roof" — the Centurion didn't have Strunk & White at hand. I've got a big red AWK in the margin of my Bible, but I'll go with it.

    The problem with reintroducing "many" is that we've grown accustomed to "all." I can accept that "many" doesn't imply that the offer isn't in fact open to ALL, but changing it back to "many" is going to hit at a visceral level now as a sort of retraction. "Well, we've been saying the offer is open to ALL, but really it's not, God is actually a stingy fellow and grace comes with a lot of strings attached and hoops to jump through." I'm not saying that's what multis implies, but by changing it back, that's the effect. Had we not been hearing "all" for the past forty years, it might be different.

  8. Rufus McCain says

    I'm just kidding about the AWK, by the way. I'm sure the Centurion spoke the language just fine. It's just going to feel funny to revert from the current pared-down language (which I think still echoes the biblical passage just fine) to the longer and somewhat clunkier sentence. Right now it fits a certain rhythm within the liturgy that feels right, like a nice pair of old shoes. It's going to take some getting used to. Also the Centurion is literally speaking of his literal roof, so reverting to the more concrete image when I'm used to a more abstract or open-ended "receive you" is going to take a bit of mental stretching.

  9. Matthew,

    "…I'm not waiting for the Church to change that particular bit of the liturgy."

    By which you mean that it was never a bump in the road for you? Never something that got you grumbling at the new Mass? Because it's my understanding that the Church IS changing that paritcular bit of the liturgy – rectifying a bad translation of "multis" – and about time.


    You hit the nail on the head when it comes to the problems of screwing around with the liturgy (which even Benedict XVI bemoans by the way).

    The group in charge of this new translation has bent over backwards to be senstive to the liturgical tradition [big fat SIC here!] of the last 40 years or so – precisely the same sensitivity missing from the liberals who gutted the old Mass/liturgical culture with abandon (cloak and dagger tales of radical pastors pillaging their own parish churches, ripping out communion rails and reredos in the dead of night, should be the cautionary tales in every child's catechism).

    But for those who don't wish to weather the storm of upheaval Yet Again, there's always the calm port known as the Mass According to the Rite of 1962 – otherwise known as the Extraordinary Form….

    Otherwise known as "the Mass of the Ages."


  10. Rufus McCain says

    I drove home at lunch and on the return trip to work, a Led Zeppelin song came on the radio, as if to comment on the multis issue:

    Over The Hills And Far Away

    Hey, lady – you got the love I need
    Maybe – more than enough
    Oh, darling, darling, walk a while with me
    Ooh, you've got so much, so much

    Many have I loved – many times been bitten
    Many times I've gazed along the open road

    Many times I've lied – many times I've listened
    Many times I've wondered how much there is to know

    Many dreams come true, and some have silver linings
    I live for my dream, and a pocketful of gold

    Mellow is the man who knows what he's been missing
    Many many men can't see the open road

    Many is a word that only leaves you guessing
    Guessing 'bout a thing you really ought to know
    You really ought to know
    I really ought to know

    Appropriately, moreover, the song is from the album Houses of the Holy. Freaky deaky.

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