Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Reverting To Higher Authority

Maranatha (either מרנא תא; maranâ' thâ' or מרן אתא; maran 'athâ' ) is an Aramaic phrase occurring once only in the whole of the New Testament. It is transliterated into Greek letters rather than translated. Transliteration is not the same as translation, which involves converting a message expressed in one language into a message with the same meaning in another language. Transliteration is mapping text from one system of writing into another. Source script may not correspond with the letters in a goal script. e.g. the Greek language is written in the 24-letter alphabet, which overlaps with, but differs from, the 26-letter version of the Roman alphabet on which English is based.

Found at the end of Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor 16:22), the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translates Maranatha as: "Our Lord, come!" but notes that it can also be translated as: "Our Lord has come". The New International Version (NIV) translates: "Come, O Lord". The New American Bible (NAB) carries the notation: "As understood here ("O Lord, come!"), it is a prayer for the early return of Christ".

If the Aramaic words are divided differently (Maran atha, "Our Lord has come"), it becomes a credal declaration. Much religious acrimony between Jews and Christians is traceable to differences in interpreting whether the Lord is coming, or has come.

So how could a Cambridge trained lawyer, graduating with Double Starred First Class Honours, end up mumbling a phrase which has no precise meaning to pursue peace of mind? Worse, the "devout Christian" who recommended him the chant also said, "you can take any other mantra, Buddhist Om Mi Tuo Fo, and keep repeating it". This has to be ecumenism stretched to absurd extremities - Laurence Freeman's "guru", Benedictine priest John Main, received his "christian mantra" from his Hindu teacher Swami Satayanda! It makes you wonder how the Chief Investment Officer of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation manages our sovereign funds - through analytical determination based on empirical data, or on a wing and a prayer.

Christians do chant. Chanting in the Gregorian style is attributed to Pope Gregor in similar way the tradition of monastic psalmody is attributed to King David. Singing the psalms at regular intervals throughout the day--a practice known as the "Divine Office"(Opus Dei)--furnishes the basic rhythm of the monastic day and the grounding for both daily work and contemplative prayer. Psalms are songs (that's what the word "psalm" means), found in the Bible, representing the sacred poetry of ancient Israel, 150 of them altogether. Many were originally intended for use at festivals and in synagogue worship, others are for private reflection and devotion. In Christian psalmody, you have to comprehend and understand the words, and stay close to the meaning of the text. Tender and comforting, the well-loved Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want," is not a undecipherable conjunction of sounds to soothe the weak minded. Used in the proper context, a tortured soul may find redemption yet.


  1. An accurate historical understanding of christian meditation. Maranatha is also a cry for God's justice!

  2. Boh kiew liao!

    Beyond redemption!

    Impossible to salvage.

    The rot is too deep,

    it is getting dippy.

  3. I never knew that meditation was ever practised in Christianity until LKY said so. I thought it was widely practised in Buddhism or Yoga.

    Or was it another case of pliagarism to call it one of their own practices ? Or it is concrete proof that he is going senile ?