WEDNESDAY, MARCH 9: Hot on the heels of Fat Tuesday’s last big hurrah, Western Christians slow things down as they officially enter the season of Lent today. On Ash Wednesday, more than 1 billion Christians around the world are expected to repent of sins, begin fasting disciplines and receive ashes on the forehead in the sign of a cross. It’s unclear how many Christians fully observe these Ash Wednesday rituals, but one thing is clear: The popularity of this tradtionally “Catholic” observance is growing among Protestants.
PLEASE JOIN US: ReadTheSpirit is launching a major online adventure during Lent, called Our Lent: Things We Carry. It’s a free 40-day series of devotional stories, starting today. Invite a friend!
What happens today? In many congregations, palm fronds—saved from last year’s Palm Sunday and, in many cases, folded into the shape of a cross—have been burned to produce the ashes for this observance. However, a large number of congregations now simplify this process by ordering pre-packaged palm ashes from religious-supply companies. Placing ashes on the head is an ancient custom, described in the Bible, and often was used to express mourning. By taking ashes, men and women expresses sorrow for their sins. They also are reminded that, one day, they will return to dust.
DEBUT: NEW AMERICAN BIBLE REVISED EDITION, A.K.A. NABRE
This year, a new contemporary Bible debuts!
Well, truth be told—it’s not an entirely new translation. Catholics have been using earlier versions of the New American Bible (NAB) for decades. This 2011 edition compiles a major new revision of the Old Testament translation with an earlier NAB version of the New Testament. That’s why, if you’re seeing news reports about this Bible today, the examples of changes come from the Old Testament.
Some changes sound funny. In a wise acknowledgment of terms to avoid from modern slang, the translators finally kicked the “booty” out of the Bible. Now, the “booty” reference becomes—what?
Can you guess?
It’s now “spoils of war,” which will avoid a few giggles in Sunday school classes.
Some changes are controversial. In Isaiah, a term that Catholics had been reading as predicting a “virgin” now becomes a “young woman.” Turns out, the original term didn’t necessarily specify what we would call a “virgin” today. Some traditional Catholics are not pleased with this change—however, the release of this new book does not change the texts read during Mass, so that change is somewhat softened.
Some changes go back to the tried and true. These translators have been praised for their pastoral sensitivity. The U.S. Catholic bishops themselves are approving the release of their work. And, in one case, the translators stepped back toward traditional wording. The world’s most famous Psalm, the Twenty-Third, was translated in an earlier NAB version as “even when I walk through a dark valley.” Today, the NABRE steps back to the far more popular wording: “the valley of the shadow of death.”
Get reading! The U.S. Catholic bishops decided that timing the release on Ash Wednesday 2011 might encourage more Catholics to open scriptures during Lent. You can order the full New American Bible Revised Edition from Amazon at a discount. Various publishing houses are authorized to print this new edition and some are labeling it simply, “Holy Bible,” on the front cover. Look for the words “New American Bible Revised Edition” or the letters “NABRE” to identify this new translation.