Translation Service

Translation Service

This week I stayed a few nights in a rented house in Selbyville DE. The town has a very different vibe to Bethany Beach. It’s a lot quieter, especially at this time of year. In the morning, more people are heading out to work, so I am guessing it has a smaller retirement age population. It also boasts a large number of Mexican restaurants. 

I’m a relative newcomer to Mexican food. In the UK, the main immigrant restaurants are Indian. They tend to be family businesses, which means that they can keep the cost of labor down and provide a reasonably priced meal for the hungry. Indian cuisine is so well established in the UK that the most well known Indian dish in the world – Chicken Tikka Masala – is actually a British-Indian invention.

Last Monday evening I was hungry and ventured into Selbyville in search of food. I stopped at La Michoacana restaurant, in Church St, where outside is a small caravan selling drinks. Inside the caravan is a large statue of the Virgin Mary. The lady serving told me that this wasn’t the restaurant, which was around the corner. When I entered, I lifted my eyes to the large menu board, which was entirely in Spanish.

I continued to the counter and looked across to where the food was being cooked. Flat bread filled with meat and cheese was slowly browning on the hot plate. Beside me a man waited patiently for his order, as I thought about what I wanted to eat. When at last the serving girl came up, I found there was a problem. As we exchanged blank stares, I realized she didn’t speak a word of English, while I didn’t speak a word of Spanish. 

Fortunately, the man beside me at the counter offered to translate. My ignorance regarding Mexican food soon became apparent, but he patiently took me through the options, and eventually I placed my order. I can’t exactly remember what it was I ordered, but it was like home made pita bread stuffed with beef, with green sauce and a salad on the side. It was very tasty. 

Afterwards it occurred to me that my experience on entering the restaurant was not unlike a person coming to church for the first time. Our church language, expressed in the liturgy, includes the Collect, the Gloria and the Creed. What would a newcomer make of it all? Without a patient translator, not very much. The role of “mediators” in church – by which I mean, baptized members who can explain what we do and why – is essential for putting newcomers at ease and teaching the articles of our faith. 

The mediating role is a priestly one, and traditionally the priest is there to represent God to the people and the people to God. But our vocation as Christians requires everyone, at times, to assume this role, as “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9).

Through the helpful intervention of the man at the counter, I was guided in my desire to be fed, and likewise, we are to guide our brothers and sisters who have their own questions about the faith. Hence the importance of learning about the faith, and cultivating a prayer life, and attending church regularly. Our coming to church is not only about preparing us for the kingdom of God, but is equipping us to help those whom God has sent to us, to walk alongside us on the path of faith.

May your journey be blessed with many companions,

Father David

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