Communication barriers remain difficult to overcome. As for myself, I have an extremely difficult time understanding people speaking English through Indian accent. It’s frustrating to ask them to repeat themselves more than once and then attempt to repeat back to them what I think I just heard. I am certain that it’s also frustrating for them as well. At university, I had the same problem with my African professors, which caused me to take Algebra I twice. I’ve studied Spanish, Japanese, and French, and still can remember a few words and numbers of each, but I’m nowhere near what you would call ‘fluent’. I’m probably like most people who feel most comfortable speaking and hearing their native language.
The theological question here is: How did God, who doesn’t leave His people confused, resolve the confusion He set in place at Babel. For, it has to be something more permanent than the gifts of speaking tongues we have witnessed after the New Covenant Pentecost (Cf. Acts 2:4), and a gift that is still with the people of God today.
To the contrary, what permanently resolved Babel was the Admirable Exchange; that is, the wonderful mystery of the Incarnation of Divine nature taking on human nature; of God becoming man, so that man might become like God. Through the Admirable Exchange, perfected in sacrifice on the Cross, Christ Jesus permanently took up and elevated human nature into the Divine so that there would never again be a broken bridge between God and man. For, Christ Jesus Himself becomes that bridge that heals the breach and barrier that separates these two natures, which are completely other.
In continuance of the question, we must consider the curse of Babel along the same lines as the curse brought upon Adam and Eve for their disobedience, in the sense that at the very moment God imposes a wound in a community or a person, He simultaneously prepares a way for that wound to be healed; otherwise He isn’t God; rather, He is merely a cruel sadist. More than that, the Sacrament of the Mass itself, being the fullest expression on earth of God plan for salvation, healing, and communion between the Divine and human, must demonstrate that it has healed our inability to communicate, otherwise, the Mass doesn’t reflect well on God.
It is true. When Christ Jesus took up the human nature into the Divine, He doesn’t just take up some parts or aspects of it. Rather, He took up the all of what makes us human – our soul, our emotions, our intellect, our memories, our capacities of self, and, yes, our language. In taking up the human language into the Divine, God finally gave His creatures the capacity to speak the truth. He gave man and woman the ability to express the reality of the Divine thing in our own words that had now become His words. God healed the curse of Babel through the Mass by demonstrating that the highest form of communication (communion) is not between man alone, but, rather the communication we were created for is in, which, and through God.
Through the incarnation, Jesus, the Divine logos, marries the Divine language with our human language, in speaking only what His Eternal Father gave Him to speak. Through this, His earthly ministry became an exchange of dialogue (from the Gk. dialogos; meaning through speak) with those who would hear Him. He became the par excellence example of the new human capacity to use our elevated language to be an ongoing source of healing for Babel. In commissioning us to teach the world all that He taught us (Cf Mt. 28:20), He was inspiring us to build the Church as the new Tower of Babel in a sense. That is, a place where our heal languages provokes us not to “build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens,” (Gen. 11:4) but, rather, a city of God and a Church that points to Heaven.
When Jesus took up human language and gave to it the capacity to express the truth of the Divine, He didn’t just take up His native earthly language. He didn’t just take up Hebrew or Aramaic. He didn’t just take up Greek, Latin, and Farsi. He didn’t just take up languages not commonly spoken at the time, such as Spanish and English. No, He took up all human languages spoken throughout all of existence, so that there would always be a way for humans to call on the name of Yeshua in any language and be heard.
In this way, the Novus Ordo Mass is the best example of the Admirable Exchange and the healing of Babel. The language used at the Mass is the common language of the people, and also a language that God has healed to speak of Him in truth and love. It is also the very same language that Christ Jesus elevated to the Divine so that families, communities, and nations could speak with each other in words that unite and bless. Therefore, the Novus Ordo Mass teaches us how to speak to each other in the vernacular outside of the Mass in a manner which gives glory to God.
An argument can legitimately be made that liturgies celebrate in only one language, as we see with the liturgical rites of the Tridentine, Byzantine, Antiochian, Melkite, Ruthian, and etc., also heal the curse of Babel by uniting the faithful in one tongue. The fact that there are so many of these singular language liturgies, but truly only ‘one’ Sacrifice of the Mass demonstrates how they these rites both heal the curse of Babel, as well as perpetuate it. They perpetuate the curse by creating a language-barrier for the Catholic who does not know or is not fluent in the language of that particular rite. In this way, they create a barrier through which communion and communication with God can be arduous.
As I have been expressing over the years through this series, there are any number of reasons to not like the liturgy of the post-Vatican II Mass, but as ugly and clumsy as the liturgy may be, as compared to the older rites of the East and West, Jesus Christ still finds it in His love and mercy to come to us in the Novus Ordo. That being true, we, therefore, have every reason to discover the beauty in this Mass that God deigns to lower Himself into for our sake. In the instant case, let us learn from the Mass how to speak to one another in love and truth in our own language.
4 PART SERIES ON ‘LOVING THE NOVUS ORDO MASS’:
- Loving the Novus Ordo Mass: Holy Things & Sacred Space
- Loving the Novus Ordo Mass: Presenting a Visible God
- Loving the Novus Ordo Mass: The Magnanimous Quad Presence of Christ Jesus
- Loving the Novus Ordo Mass: A True Dialogue of Persons
- Loving the Novus Ordo Mass: The Admirable Exchange Resolves Babel in the Mass