Let’s be honest: Amid an abysmal economy, millions of people out of work, anxiety about higher taxes and the uncertainties of health care reform, ever-mounting war casualties and costs, bitterly partisan politics ahead of mid-term elections, nuclear threats in Iran and North Korea and a host of other pressing news issues, the rollout a year from now of newly translated Mass texts hardly seems worth getting that excited about.
Here’s an example of what to expect starting in Advent 2011: In the Creed, instead of saying we believe in God, maker “of all that is seen and unseen,” we’ll be saying we believe in God, maker “of all things visible and invisible.”
True, there will be some changes that will strike Catholic American ears as more foreign. For instance, instead of replying to the priest, “And also with you,” we’ll be saying, “And with your spirit,” which hews more closely to the original Latin text and its translation in every other major language around the world. And as we report this week, another head-turning change awaiting us is revised music for the parts of the Mass (see story, Page 5).
Any passion generated about the switch thus far seems mostly to be among those who oppose it. Now that the change is inevitable, even those protests have died down.
But apathy about the new liturgical translations is a mistake. The new texts, and the year we have to prepare for them, is a real opportunity to renew and deepen our appreciation of the Eucharist as a vehicle of grace and spiritual nourishment passed down to us by Jesus Christ, some 2,000 years after the Last Supper, via the Church he instituted to bring us into union with him.
Forty years ago, the transition from Latin to English was hindered by a lack of communication and catechesis, making the experience more traumatic than it needed to be.
If early signs are correct, this time around will be much different (and of course won’t be anywhere near as dramatic in scope). The U.S. bishops’ conference already has rolled out multiple catechetical and informational resources, available at www.usccb.org/romanmissal. In addition to a preview of the new texts, the website includes explanations of the rationale behind the changes and how while “the style of worship will be more formal ... it will also be deeper theologically and more evocative emotionally and intellectually.”
Over the next year, OSV Newsweekly will be fleshing out what the changes will mean for Catholics in the pews. But a few initial observations are in order.
Partly through the use of non-pedestrian words (like “ineffable” and “consubstantial”) the new texts sharpen the sense that the liturgy is about the divine rather than simply about the worshipping community. (It will also prove a bit more challenging, at least initially.)
The texts also restore echoes of Scriptural texts that are lost in the current translation. A prime example is “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you.” The new text reads, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,” evoking the centurion’s words to Jesus (Mt 8:8). And it captures more of the poetry of the original Latin text. An example: “From east to west” has become “from the rising of the sun to its setting.”
The Mass is the Church’s most important prayer; in fact, the “source and summit of the Christian life,” as the Second Vatican Council says. Reacquainting ourselves with its elements, even if we get knocked out of our comfort zone on occasion, can only help us grow as Christians — and perhaps help put the rest of life’s pressing problems in proper perspective.
Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; John Norton, editor; Sarah Hayes, presentation editor