17 September 2008

St Paul on Love/Charity

The first reading at Mass today is St Paul’s magnificent passage on love: 1 Cor:12-31-13:13. I have listened to this many times, often at weddings, usually read without any real conviction or sense of the magnificent poetry in it, even if the readers were persons of faith.

Without any doubt, the one occasion where I heard it delivered with conviction and genuine understanding of the text was when the then British prime minister, Tony Blair, read the passage at the funeral of Princess Diana, 6 September 1997. Tony Blair was the only prime minister in modern times in the UK who was a regular churchgoer.

When I heard Mr Blair reading St Paul I said to myself, ‘I’d like all who read at Mass to watch this'.

You’ll find the reading at 04:04 minutes into the video and it ends at 07:10. The text used is that of the Authorized Version (King James) but with the word ‘charity’ replaced by ‘love’. I can understand why, since ‘charity’ has changed its meaning and the expression ‘as cold as charity’ is still heard at times. But it has a better ring to it than ‘love’. The Vulgate uses ‘caritas’, not ‘amor’, which doesn’t mean quite the same.

The Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible is older than the Autorized Version. The Douay New Testament was published in 1582. the Old Testament followed in 1609-1610. The Autorized Version came out in 1611.

Here is the Authorized Version text of 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, without the change from 'charity' to 'love':

1Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

2And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

3And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

4Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

13And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

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