Less than 100 Days

Less than 100 days to go! We are now into the double digits of days before the new Roman Missal goes viral. You Tube and Facebook cannot hold a candle to the number of people who will see, hear and experience the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal. If a good day for You Tube is a million hits, the Roman Catholic Church will have a fantastic day. There are over 60 million Roman Catholics in the USA. If the average Mass attendance rate is 20%, then 12 million Roman Catholics will be introduced to the new Roman Missal at weekend Masses on November 26-27. 

It would be fun to do a website to catch the feelings, reactions, excitement, disappointment and dismay from the masses (meaning both masses of people and Masses of celebration). I wonder how many will attend that day and not even realize there is anything different. I would imagine the helpful pew cards we have all ordered and the fact that the presider’s eyes will be glued to the new Missal (as if it is his first Mass) might be a hint that something is different, but for some parishioners it is not now or even then on their radar screens. 

The same day we begin the new Roman Missal is the beginning of Advent. The apocalyptic and eschatological Scripture readings leading to Advent might be good backdrop for this adventure: catastrophic for some; glory for others. Maybe we should light a candle for each week as we get closer? Most of us have probably purchased the new Missal by now. The days of looking at the presiding prayers just prior to Mass are over until familiarization sets in. I will need to keep my office edition handy to review the prayers as I get used to the rhythm, etc. Just looking at the first Eucharistic prayer and its difference, does make me realize that this will be a new day! 

• Here is what we have been praying: 

We come to you, Father, with praise and thanksgiving, through Jesus Christ your Son. Through him we ask you to accept and bless + these gifts we offer you in sacrifice. We offer them for your holy Catholic Church. 

• Here is what we will soon pray: 

To you, therefore, most merciful Father, we make humble prayer and petition through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord: That you accept and bless + these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices which we offer you firstly for your holy Catholic Church. 

Some are worried about the complexity of the translations as discussed in the article “It Doesn’t Sing” from the Commonweal website (7/15/2011): 

The subject of the sentence is now buried in the phrase after the dative ’‘to you,‘’ the conjunction ”therefore,“ the superlative adjective “most merciful” and a noun in apposition, “Father.” The new translation is wordy. In place of “these gifts,” we offer “these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices.” Having offered these gifts, offerings, holy and unblemished sacrifices firstly for the Church, you might be thinking there is a secondly coming along in a paragraph or two. If so, you would be wrong. There is no secondly. So what does firstly mean in this context? It’s not clear that it means anything at all. Different words, same prayer? Both are translations of the same Latin text, yet the results are quite different. Change the words and you change the prayer. 

Now this one particular translation may be more complex than most, but the point is made that priests (we hope) are not going to be reading the prayers of the day for the first time standing at the presider’s chair. The new wording is not contemporary spoken American English. Maybe a lens to help accept the awkward flow can be best explained by Pope Paul VI when the Church went to the vernacular nearly 50 years ago: 

The vernacular now taking its place in the liturgy ought to be within the grasp of all, even children and the uneducated. But, as you well know, the language should always be worthy of the noble realities it signifies, set apart from the everyday speech of the street and the marketplace, so that it will affect the spirit and enkindle the heart with love of God. 

The new words of our prayer may take us to a new world of prayer. 

The new Roman Missal lives up to this mandate of the Church: 

In order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the sacred liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself. For the liturgy is made up of immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it. In this restoration, both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify; the Christian people, so far as possible, should be enabled to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community. 

For those who think that the new Missal is from the “Restorationists” who want to reverse the ecclesiastical, theological and ecumenical advances of Vatican II, that quote is from Vatican II (Constitution of Sacred Liturgy, No. 21). The new Roman Missal is an indication that the liturgical reform started in Vatican II is still unfolding. 

Since the U.S. bishops at their June meeting gave permission for the Mass settings to begin, some parishes may be getting a head start or at least practicing them to familiarize themselves with a Mass setting or two. I have chosen, as planned for our fall preparation in the parishes, not to use them as the Mass settings until Advent, but to rehearse them during the fall months. One clever idea I heard is to have the musicians play the melodies in the places throughout the Mass when you need filler or a music interlude. The tune is heard subliminally, teaching the settings almost unconsciously. 

The titles of some of the settings are appropriate for the new venture we are entering with the new Missal. As I read the titles, the follow reflections come to mind: 

• Mass of Wisdom: Wisdom is a gift of the Spirit, so we are reminded to take a deeper look into ourselves and the place where God dwells within us. The knowledge gained from wisdom may have us understanding our God just a little better or differently. The language of liturgy is supposed to be ‘‘apart from the marketplace.’’ 

• Mass of Charity and Love: We are all familiar with the hymn, “Where Charity and Love Prevail” — ‘‘there God is ever found.’’ It is hoped that parishioners will grant some of that charity and love to their priests and the priests to them as we take on a spirit of patience with one another. 

• Mass of Grace: even with all our mistakes, we need to remember, grace is imparted in spite of ourselves and because of ourselves. Grace was imparted when the Church went to “unity of language” at the Council of Trent when Latin became the language of liturgy. Grace was imparted when the Church went to “unity of Sacrament” at the Second Vatican Council when the vernacular became the language of liturgy. Grace will be imparted now too. 

We may not agree with all or some of the newness in the new Roman Missal. We do, though, need to keep focused on what is essential and perpetual. As the General Instruction of the Roman Missal states (No. 16) “The celebration of the Mass. . .is the center of the whole Christian life for the Church both universal and local as well as for each of the faithful individually.” We are reminded that the Mass is not about any one of us; it is bigger than any of us, as it the source and summit. TP

Father Carrion is the pastor of Holy Cross, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Mt. Mary, Star of the Sea in Baltimore, Md., and is the director of the Deacon Formation Program for the Archdiocese.