Mike Aquilina

From the Rising of the Sun to Its Setting

Tuesday June 20th 2006, 7:47 am

True to his word, Kevin has moved on in his cycle of translations. From the Greek of St. Clement’s Epistle to the Corinthians he’s proceeded to the Hebrew of the biblical Prophet Malachi. In doing so, he tripped a wire in this office.

I’ve long been fascinated by the ways in which the early Fathers used the oracle of Malachi 1:11: “For from the rising of the sun and to its setting, great is My name among the nations, and in every place incense is brought for My name, … has said THE LORD of Hosts.” Catholics will recognize the line from the third eucharistic prayer, which was composed in the generation after the Second Vatican Council: “so that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of Your name.” But its liturgical pedigree goes back to the origins of Christianity. The oracle appears in the rites of the Didache (dating perhaps from 48 A.D.) and in several other early liturgies. The Fathers consistently apply the prophecy to the sacrifice of the Mass, which would already, in their day, be offered “from the rising of the sun to its setting” — a phrase that evokes both time and space, always and everywhere.

The eucharistic interpretation of Malachi 1:11 appears in the works of Justin, Irenaeus, Origen, Eusebius, Augustine, and John Chrysostom. If memory serves, Justin Martyr cites the passage three times in his Dialogue with Trypho (also translated on Biblicalia). Justin’s use leads me to believe that the eucharistic interpretation of Malachi’s oracle was very important to the earliest Christians — and hotly disputed by the early rabbis. I bring up these issues in my book The Mass of the Early Christians, which I hope you’ll buy and enjoy.

I must end this post by tipping my hat to Julie at Happy Catholic, who triggered these thoughts with her post on the new revisions of the Mass translations. Immediately after I read Julie’s post, Kevin wondered (in an email to me) what he might translate next for Biblicalia. Without hesitation, I suggested Malachi. Without hesitation, Kevin complied. Thank God for the blogosphere. From the rising of the sun to its setting, indeed!