The Words of Confession Updated


If you received the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Ash Wednesday you may have noticed the priest said something slightly different. The USCCB’s Committee on Divine Worship introduced two changes in the words leading up to absolution. The old translation read: “… sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace…” The new translation reads: “… poured out the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God grant you pardon and peace…” This is not the first time that our translations have changed. On February 4, 2021, the same USCCB committee omitted the word “one” before “God” in the collect prayers. Interestingly, that change took place on Ash Wednesday too.
So why the change? Is this just liturgical and linguistical nitpicking? Not at all. It is part of a larger effort to ensure that we accurately translate English texts from Latin. The fact that this is such a small change should be encouraging for us: namely, that translators did a good job right from the beginning and only a small tweak was needed. Also, this new translation gives priests and laity alike an opportunity to reflect again on the importance of the Sacrament of Confession. The phrase “poured out” evokes the total gift of the Spirit in light of Christ’s blood poured out for us on the Cross. Finally, the verb “give” in some senses implies a conditioned or partial gift. The verb “grant” (from the Latin tribuo) more accurately reflects God’s unconditioned and complete offer of forgiveness. While use of this formula is permitted on Ash Wednesday, it will be mandatory beginning on Divine Mercy Sunday.