Take Away the Sin of the World

One of the changes in liturgy that I do not like since we have become Catholic is the change from "sin of the world" to "sins of the world."

To me the word "sin" in this context is already plural and adding the "s"  is almost as annoying as inclusive language.  Do not get me started on inclusive language.

When I saw the Catholic hymnal up here in Canada had changed the words of Good Christian men rejoice" to "Good Christians, all rejoice!"  I wanted to throw it.

So would someone erudite please explain to my why "sins" instead of the perfectly good word "sin" which is so much better for singing is now what we must say and is there any hope the international commission looking at Ordinariate liturgy can bring back "sin" instead of "sins"?  Christian, how about a poll?


In dust and ashes, I repent. "Sins" it is.

I will get used to it.

But, you all had fun in the comments section, no?

Author: Deborah Gyapong

Deborah Gyapong is a member of the Sodality of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (www.annunciationofthebvm.org) in Ottawa, a former parish of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (Traditional Anglican Communion) whose members were received individually and corporately into the Roman Catholic Church on April 15, 2012 by Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast at St. Patrick’s Basilica. Under the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, the community will celebrate an approved Anglican Use liturgy and hopes to soon join with other sodalities across Canada to form the Canadian Deanery of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter under Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary. As we wait for our priest(s) to be ordained as Catholic priests, God willing, Archbishop Prendergast will provide priests to celebrate our Sunday Eucharist according to the Anglican Use. Deborah is a journalist who covers religion and politics in Canada’s national capital, writing primarily for Roman Catholic newspapers since 2004. Her novel The Defilers, published in 2006, was not a best seller, alas. She spent 17 years at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in news and current affairs, including 12 years as a television producer.

40 thoughts on “Take Away the Sin of the World”

  1. It is singular in Latin: peccata mundi. In French: le péché du monde. In German: die Sünde der Welt. In Spanish: el pecado del mundi. In Esperanto: la pekojn de l'mondo.

    On the other hand it's plural in Italian: i peccati del mondo.

    + PAX et BONUM

  2. In all previous editions of the Prayer Book (before the 1959/62 in the case of Canada), the word used was "sins". There has been a great deal of debate during the past decades over which is more appropriate. Some argue that "sin" is a better word, since the real problem, in a sense, is not just individual acts of sin ("sins", as it were), but our sinfulness, our state of being apart from God, which then manifests itself in those individual acts. To be honest, like you, I have a personal preference for the word "sin" as opposed to "sins", because it captures something of the totality of the condition.

    However, just like other terms ("social justice" comes to mind), the word "sin" has often been abused in contemporary theological writing. There is a danger of focusing on "sin" as an overall state or condition of the world, at the expense of acknowledging the evil of particular sins. Some current writers will talk about "structures of sin" in society (injustice and oppression, for example), or will admit to the fallen condition of humanity, but will shy away from saying things that could be considered as judging personal moral culpability, say in sexual matters. Our real problem is our "sin", our rejection of God – not our "sins" (fornication, getting drunk).

    In other words, zooming out to consider sin in general, it was considered less threatening than having to acknowledge particular sins that we may have committed. This is the primary reason I think that we're seeing a move back to "sins" in the Roman Mass (including the Anglican Use).

    The other reason, quite simply, is that the Latin is plural.

    1. Thank you, Michael David.

      "Some argue that "sin" is a better word, since the real problem, in a sense, is not just individual acts of sin ("sins", as it were), but our sinfulness, our state of being apart from God, which then manifests itself in those individual acts. To be honest, like you, I have a personal preference for the word "sin" as opposed to "sins", because it captures something of the totality of the condition."

      Amen to that.

      Too bad that sense has been eclipsed by the "social justice" stuff.

      1. I think the point is to emphasize that Jesus takes away more than simply the communal generic sin of the world, but especially through the Sacrament of Penance, the personal sins that we have committed. In any event, prayer should not be an occasion for annoyance, I'd hope!

      2. Agreed. Too much emphasis on "Social Justice" ends up with Liberation Theology-esque sort of attitude. Too much in the world, and deprives the mystical, supernatural aspect of our religion.

        But that's why you guys are here! :)

        1. I mean to say you Ordinariate Catholics have so much to offer than this modernist nonsense. I have Catholics asking me "Well, why can't I be atheist and do the same thing?" And no one could answer because they discarded the transcendent Christ for the politically correct Jesus.

  3. I disagree with Deborah, and Henri is mistaken. The Latin noun "peccatum," sin, is a neuter noun of the second declension, and therefore the form "peccata" can only be either nominative or accusative plural, "sins." Where it occurs on the Roman Rite and its variant forms (Early Roman, Sarum, Tridentine and Novus Ordo), in the Great Doxology ("Gloria in excelsis Deo …") and the Agnus Dei, it is always in the form "… qui tollis peccata mundi …" ("Lamb of God, thou that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us"), and thus the plural, "sins." In the 1549 Prayer Book it is rendered "sinnes" in both the Great Doxology and the Agnus Dei (the latter of which was not included in subsequent Prayer Books), and in the 1552, 1559 and 1661 BCPs it is likewise "sins." I am pretty sure (although I can't lay hands on the text at the moment) that the Greek version of the Great Doxology, which is sung at the end of the Matins service, has "harmatiai," sins as well.

    In any case, since the Latin liturgical textual tradition is clear, the translation "the sin of the world," is both erroneous and abusive, and "ideological interpretation," to use Pope Benedict's term in his recent letter to the German bishops requiring the adoption of the German word for many ("vielen") rather than that for all ("alles") in the Words of Institution in the Mass Canon(s). "The sins of the world" has a clear meaning, the collectivity and totality of all the individual and collective sins committed by human beings, while "the sin of the world," which savours of Gnosticism, had no clear meaning, since "the world," the cosmos, does not and cannot "sin."

    Whatever reason can there be for any Church body or committee to reconsider restoring such an abusive translation, or, rather, mistranslation?

    1. I really like this response. If the Church's language refers to "sins," and not "sin," then the Church must want to communicate to the people the idea that the Lamb takes away our many sins, and not just the state of being in "sin," in other words, Original Sin.

    2. I agree with Mr. Tighe and add that, in some commentaries of the mistranslation for the 1970 Missal, it was alleged that the purpose, the aim, of the very ideological translators, was to emphasise a social 'structural' sin of inequality. This is not to say that the form *sin* cannot be a collective plural bearing other meanings of course.


    3. Perhaps the heart of the objection is not some perceived modernist heresy but a simple dislike of change, "even change for the better". How did people brought up on the Canadian BCP of 1919 feel when the 1959 book changed "Lord God of Sabaoth" to "Lord God of hosts" in the Te Deum? Not happy, if I know Anglicans.

  4. As has been pointed out, the Latin in the liturgy uses the plural form. But the phrase itself is of course a quote from John 1.29, where the Vulgate gives the singular, peccatum. (This accurately reflects the underlying Greek, tēn hamartian, which is again singular.) So at what point did the plural creep into the liturgical form?

    It seems that the Latin plural, peccata, actually predates Jerome's peccatum. Manuscripts of the Vetus Latina version(s) of the Bible, which were the standard before Jerome made his translation, use the plural. Presumably the liturgical text reflects the fact that the Agnus Dei was part of the liturgy well before St Jerome, and was already so well established that no-one ever tried to "update" it. (The same can be seen happening with other well-established basic liturgical texts, e.g. the Invitatory Psalm at Matins.) As such, this "mistranslation" (if such it be) probably connects us directly with the worship of the Catacombs.

    What it doesn't explain, though, is why the translators of the Vetus Latina chose to pluralise a term which is singular in the Greek which they were translating.

    1. The Agnus Dei was introduced into the Roman liturgy only during the pontificate of Sergius I (pope 687-701); the Great Doxology, however, which also contains the form "peccata" seems to have been composed by St. Nicetas, Bishop of Remisiana (in present-day Serbia), who died in 414, and about whom one of the few well-attested facts was that he was equally at home in Latin and Greek.

  5. Deborah,
    'Since we became Catholic': I thought you already were?
    And wait till the lectionary calls for 1 Corinthians: and you will enjoy the use of the phrase 'faith hope, love, these three, and the greatest of these is love……not the more closely defined 'charity' (caritas) that so many have come to treasure in the King James version.
    And I am sure that you will continue to find that these little changes make the adaptation to a new jursidiction difficult: but, I pray that in the long run, they will enhance and not restrict devotion to Our Saviour.

  6. I'm with you, Deborah. I'm sick of inclusive language and political correctness when it comes to the liturgy and prayer. Christianity is inclusive only one way: all are sinners in need of a Savior, but only repentant sinners can receive the benefits of His death, resurrection and ascension.

    1. Political Correctness, like Critical Theory are tools of Frankfurt School Cultural Marxism. Their ultimate purpose is to drive religion out, or marginalize them in society, so that morality is monopolized by atheists.

  7. One can't bring something back that was never there. Every liturgical book I've ever seen has had the plural – "sins". I never knew anyone thought otherwise to remove the "s". The removal of the plural is a modern idea, Mrs. Gyapong is apparently less familiar with traditional liturgical language. Like everyone else, I vote to keep "sins" as it is all I've ever known.

  8. Michael David and William Tighe are right here and hit the nail on the head.

    I can understand you Deborah, and others, that you refrain from every (seemingly unnecessary) changing, because that is in principle a good, Catholic attitude. But in the Roman Rite is the plural "peccata" (neutrum plural) and must be translated "sins" as argued above (although, see also above, in the Vulgata you find peccatum as well as in Greek if i remember correctly).

    But further more, as the aboved mentioned persons have said, it was "political correct" after the deforms of and after Vat. II and it was exactly the "Newspeak" (German: Neusprech) like "inclusive language" that translated "sin" because it was not modern to speak about personal sin and of the consequences of personal sins and sinning, like confession, penance, purgatory, hell, .. – so they used the impersonal, general term of "sin of the world" just to suggest it was the "bad world" that is guilty and responsible/accountable and not me and you personally. It is the "structures of sin" and the "world" but not we personally that sin and get guilty. So no need for personal confession etc.

    I can attest to it, at least here in Germany, because I myselfe studied theology at a German university (and philosophy and history) and also know many thaolgians, priests etc. so I know the debate.

    So it was exactly the opposite for us than for you or how you thought it would be: it was a changeing due to "political" or "theological" "correctness", like inclusive language. So exactly vice versa what you thought and critisized.

    And before the Vat.II-deforms it was in Germany (and I think in all countries, because before Vat. II the Catholics used to be very correct and carefull in translation etc.) of course "die Sünden" ("the sins").

    In all old prayerbooks you find that – correct – translation. So for houndreds of years you had the right translation "sins".

    After the Council they CHANGED it (so the "sin" was a change!) for the reasons given above (well, and of course accompanied by arguments like that of the Vulgata etc. – but the main purpose was the new, modern, "theoligical correct" thinking described above).

    And like "for all – for many" it is one thing that must be re-changed. Me like all traditional minded Catholics in Germany would rejoice if they would re-change it in German, as you might understand now.

    In CHRIST through Mary

  9. So "sins" is not at all "inclusive" language and "political correct" but vice versa: "sin" was the "political correct" (or call it "inclusive language") and modern(istical) change after the Sec. Vat. Council, at least in most of the European countries and languages, that had the correct translation "sins" for decades and centuries till then.

  10. My "St Augustine's Prayer Book" (OHC) has "O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world," which indicates what Anglo-Catholics were singing before the wholesale liturgical revisions. I remember attending Mass at a Catholic chapel about 20 years ago where an angry liberal man always used to proclaim "sin" (singular) very loudly, along with "May the Lord accept the sacrifice … for the praise and glory of God's name … and the good of all God's Church" (instead of "his"). His response to "The Body of Christ" at communion was "We are." In his mind, anyway, all of these things went together.

    But as regards hymnals and hymn translations, the RC's have no official hymnal. Purchases can be made accordingly. "The Catholic Hymn Book" (Gracewing) is completely unreconstructed.

  11. Leaving the S off "sins" is similar to speaking of "resurrection", "ascension", "eucharist", etc without the definite article, thus importing a certain fogginess into the language so that you are not committed to a clear statement. It is the equivalent to sprinkling your conversation with the word "like".

    1. As in the "We are Church" Catholic dissident group. Leaving out the definite article transforms "the Church," conceived in Catholic terms as an objective sacramental, if not institutional, entity, into a rather subjective "happening" or "event." (A reverse example would be adding a definite article to a word like "love." "I am in love" is one thing; "I am in the love" is another and incomprehensible think, unless one means that one is present at an Agape meal!)

  12. So Alice, Ioannes et al.,
    we are all in accordance that we hate modern"political correctness" and "newspeak" of the Frankfurt School and their Marxism-Feminism etc., so we are one re the principle.

    Only in the appliance some of you were mistaken/ did fail:

    Not the "sins" is "political correct-inclusive language-newspeak" but vice versa:

    "sins" is traditional, "sin" is the modernistical change and "newspeak".

  13. "When I saw the Catholic hymnal up here in Canada had changed the words of Good Christian men rejoice" to "Good Christians, all rejoice!" I wanted to throw it."

    Yes, Deborah – that is the best (and imho only) thing to do with this modernistical "newspeak"-texts. We have to resist this modernism.

    I can tell you in Germany the official Catholic song and prayer book, the "Gotteslob", is so horrible that it is imho also the only thing you can do with it. That´s for me reason enough (ok, there are of course other and better ones) that I avoid the N.O.M. because it is used there. Sadly some Summorum-pontif.-Mass-Centers and – priests also use it. But nobody that is traditional, really Catholic minded likes it.

    If you compare it with the pre-Vat.II prayer-books and hymnals, then you will see that they not only changed the "sins" into "sin" but also did many miss-translations (of course purposely, because they knew also the texts in the old books and changed them!) and changings.

    Some old song texts were totally changed – and always in a "political" (or better "theological" "correct" way, even in a way promoting heresy!). F.e. in many hymns/songs they omitted the the stanzas or lines that entailed the words "hell", "punishment", "devil", "fight" etc. or they changed it.

    The prayers – compared to the old ones – are horrible: vapidly, worldly, "political correct"…

    And a few years ago this bad book was made – no, not better, but worse: by introducing (more) inclusive language. They really changed the (yet changed or deformed) texts again (to deform them more and more)! In the old editions, you had to paste over the text with little labels, tags with the new – inclusive-language-styled – texts, in the recent editions they had changed the texts in the print itselfe!!

    Instead the old texts that had f.e. "brethern" you here now "siblings" or "faithful", "christians" …

    1. As one who not only attends, but plays the organ and chants the propers in a Mass according to the older books, I have to defend the Gotteslob. For one thing, it is the only book available in many parishes (including ours). Secondly, most of the traditional, i.e. more than 100 years old hymns have been left unchanged. Even when they introduced inclusive language a few years ago, they left those old hymns untouched. I agree with you insofar as most of the songs are unsingable or speak very loudly of the time they were composed (mid-seventies), but the remaining 10 percent are very beautiful and unreconstructed hymns.

  14. Unhappily we can argue all we want about the theological reasons why a word (or more) might be changed in a hymn, but the reason boils down to something very secular and mundane — money.

    The majority of hymns, such as Good Christian Men, Rejoice! are old enough to be out of copyright means anyone and everyone can use them freely. However if a music publisher changes the words or the harmonization, they can now copyright "their" version and get money from parishes buying their music issues, copying their music into parish bulletins or even performing it.

    It's crappy and it's wrong. The folks over at Chant Cafe, especially Jeff Tucker have long complained about this. f you are concerned about changes to traditional music and with getting good, not dumbed down, music back in our churches, you should look at what he's saying and how he suggests we deal with it.

    Keep Stitching, Janet

    1. Without doubting the financial motive of some editors, I would point out that hymn alteration is a continual process. I doubt that Mrs Gyapong has ever sung the 2nd verse of Wesley's "Love divine, all loves excelling" with its explicit reference to the "second rest" of Methodist perfectionism. It has been omitted in some hymnals since the 18th C. The 4th verse of Watts' "When I survey the wondrous Cross" was presumably deemed a bit too gory for the Canadian hymnal of 1938, and "without" was changed to "outside" a city wall in "There is a green hill far away" in the same hymnal to prevent any confusion, I assume. Picking an arbitrary point in one's personal experience and labeling all change thereafter as bad is a common human temptation but defending it can involve some misapprehension, as we discovered with"sins".

      1. But there is plain evidence that many changes are intented to be "political" resp. "theological" "correct". It´s not just "money" or a "continual process".

        As I mentioned the little labels that we in Germany had to paste up it was openly declared that it was for "inclusive language".

        Then we havé the examples I also mentioned: omission or alteration of those texts were the words "sin", "hell", "devil", "punishment" etc. occured.

        And then – intended – misstranslations like the "for all" etc. (also in songtexts – could give you many examples) – or modifications that leand clearly in a heretical, mondern interpretation.

        If you know the German backround compare f.e. the old versions of "Ein Haus voll Glorie", "Fest soll mein Taufbund", "Ave Maria zart", "Alles meinem Gott zu Ehren" with the new ones or the old translations of "Tantum ergo" or "Adoro te" with the new ones.

        There exists also academical literatur about this changes.

        Greetings from Germany

  15. I wonder if the omission of the s from 'sins' was perhaps a concession to the sensibilities of the musical part of the patrimony – which (with reason) dislikes 's' more than any other of God's consonants.

    1. V. From the tyranny of singing men and cantors, and all their detestable enormities …

      R. Good Lord, deliver us.

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