We all see rumblings from time-to-time about a change to the English-langue text of the Our Father. This speculation is partly attributed to the Holy Father who in explaining the Lord's Prayer in 2017 made the point that it is not right to say that God leads man into temptation. Rather, we should say something like, "let us not fall into temptation."

Ne nos inducas in temptationem. Four years of high school and about year's worth of college Latin (although that final year was dedicated to mainly love poetry), that phrase in English translates roughly to "lead us not into temptation." My high school Latin teacher (God Bless, Dr. Lipovsky) reminded us often "translate ideas not words". With the verb inducas meaning "lead into", I really find the traditional translation to this phrase adequate.

Precision in Translation Isn't the Point

I don't want to see us change the translation. My opinion is amateur, and it's rather uniformed by a deeper study into the Greek, let alone a consideration of Jesus' words in the original Aramaic. Most of us are probably in the same spot.

From many years of teaching catechesis, I do know that this particular petition is the most complicated to explain. That doesn't make it the most important: the first two words, Pater Noster, hold that position. Nor does it make it the hardest petition to live: that's a tie between thy will be done and forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive others.

Lead us not into temptation usually requires the most work to explain precisely because the simple rephrasing of it makes us wonder, "why would God ever lead us to do something which is precsisely offensive to Him, sin." To adequately explain the petition requires cracking open the myriad of resources the Church offers: in the Catechism, in commentaries of the Sacred Scriptures, and in the Church fathers, especially Augustine.

The lack of precision in meaning is a function of, not a design flaw in, the petition itself. It forces us to seek understanding in the wisdom of the Magisterium.

I agree with the Holy Father that indeed, the petition is not, in and of itself, self-explanatory. That's ok. Our Catholic faith is one of teaching handed on to us. Almost 2000 years of Tradition means there's a deep and abiding context of divinely inspired human wisdom to explore the mysteries of the faith. Nothing in the faith is self-evidently understandable. We require the community of the Church to grow in the gift of faith.

Keeping Things the Same

A few years back, when the English translation to liturgical prayers was updated, I appreciated the better phrasing accurately reflecting the Latin text. The update was appropriate, even though I would have wished we had lifted more text directly from the Anglican use, with an English more beautiful.

Sometimes, however, conserving a tradition, a particular phrasing, on balance, makes more sense, even if there is something better to be had. In the case of the Our Father, we have centuries of use of this line in the English language. That counts for a great deal. 

A little while back, I was at a dinner with some Protestant friends. Before the meal, we prayed the Lord's Prayer together (of course, with the Protestant addition of "thine is the kingdom, power, and glory..."). But we prayed together, as children of the same Father, even as we are separated because of our view of our Mother, the holy Church. There was a true kinship in being able to pray the same prayer together. Prayer reflects belief and in a time when we need to seek more unity, not less, with our fellow Christians, I can't imagine suddenly learning and praying a different version of the Our Father. 

With the number of Protestant sects in the English speaking world, this concern might actually be unique to the English language version of the Our Father. It's a concern that, quite frankly, should be taken seriously, especially since any change in translation seems a matter of practical catechicts and not of theological confusion. I hope the Holy Father considers this point-of-view, among others, before making any changes. 



Mattias A. Caro is the Executive Editor of Ethika Politika.