.- The Hebrew name for God is not to be used or pronounced in liturgical celebrations, songs and prayers, Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, has said in a letter addressed to the bishopsâ conferences of the world.
The letter concerns the use of the âTetragrammaton,â the name which uses the four Hebrew letters YHWH. In English the name is pronounced âYahweh.â
Cardinal Arinzeâs letter teaches that the Tetragrammaton is to be translated as the equivalent of the Hebrew title âAdonaiâ or the Greek title âKyrios.â He lists as examples five acceptable translations of the title in five European languages: Lord, Signore, Seigneur, Herr, and SeÃ±or.
Regarding translations in the liturgical context, the letter instructs, âAdonaiâ is to be translated in English as âLordâ and the Tetragrammaton YHWH is to be translated as âGod.â
âThe words of sacred Scripture contained in the Old and New Testament express truth which transcends the limits imposed by time and place,â the letter explains. âThey are the word of God expressed in human words, and by means of these words of life, the Holy Spirit introduces the faithful to knowledge of the truth whole and entire, and thus the word of Christ comes to dwell in the faithful in all its richness.â
Cardinal Arinze, citing the instruction Liturgiam Authenticam, explains that translators must use the âgreatest faithfulness and respectâ regarding the name of God.
He describes the YHWH as âan expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God,â which he says âwas held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced during the reading of sacred Scripture by means of the use of an alternate name: Adonai, which means Lord.â
This translation tradition has importance for understanding Christ, the cardinal explains, since the title âLordâ in fact âbecomes interchangeable between the God of Israel and the Messiah of the Christian faith.â
Cardinal Arinze particularly cites St. Paulâs writings in the Letter to the Philippians, in which he wrote: âGod has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every nameâ¦ every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.â
Bishop Arthur Serratelli, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Divine Worship, said in a note to U.S. Bishops that the instructions do not force any changes to âofficial liturgical textsâ but might result in âsome impact on the use of particular pieces of liturgical music in our country as well as in the composition of variable texts such as the general intercessions for the celebration of the Mass and the other sacraments.â
To fulfill the directive, songs with phrases such as âYahweh, I know you are nearâ will need to be modified.