The new translation of the Missal is a gift to the Church, bringing English-speaking Catholics back to a liturgy that is more unified linguistically with the rest of the Church while sharpening our theological language. Whatever the doomsayers are trying as insinuate, this is not "changing" the Mass but, rather, fixing it - getting it more in sync with the rest of the Catholic world.
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - At the Vigil Mass for the First Sunday of Advent history will be made in the Catholic Church in America. The Mass in English will be using the new Third Edition of the Roman Missal.
Many mainstream religion writers have tried to make the introduction of the new text a watershed moment in the Church where parishioners are going to walk out the doors over the drastic changes being made. Whether intentional or simply sensation-driven, such observations are far from accurate and completely miss the reason for the changes.
Camping at the doorstep of a few bishops who are critical of the new translation, they try to paint a horrific picture of what is going to take place. Beyond the standard attack on phrases like "And with your spirit," the finger is pointed at words like "consubstantial," "ineffable," "incarnate," "oblation," "ignominy" and "unvanquished."
"This is not the way we talk every day," they cry out.
This is true and much to the point. The new Mass text is not trying to take the liturgy to the picnic table in the backyard but to the Upper Room for the Last Supper.
As a Catholic, I take such criticism as an insult. In a sense the critics are saying, "We need to keep the liturgy dumbed down. Today the church is filled with ignorant people."
To the critics we should cry out, "I've got a dictionary!" If we need to find out what a words means we can look it up. We will be able, with an informed mind then, to encounter a liturgy that intends to more accurately take us into the presence of our Lord.
Throughout history the Church has always reminded us "lex orandi, lex credendi est," which means "the way we worship is the way we believe." Liturgy is not about talking with your neighbor over the fence but talking to and about God. This demands theological language that accurately expresses the fullness of the Christian faith.
The phrase "lex vivendi" is sometimes added to this, which implies that the end result will see seen in the way we live.
If we wanted to perpetuate the idea of a vernacular liturgy, in a next edition, when the priest says, "The Lord be with you," we could respond, "Back at ya!" or "Way!!" Much more up-to-date than "and also with you." Not only would we be contemporary but we would have drifted even farther from the true meaning of this liturgical exchange.
The new Missal is a gift to the Church, bringing English-speaking Catholics back to a liturgy that is more unified linguistically with the rest of the Church while sharpening our theological language.
Whatever the doomsayers are trying as insinuate, this is not "changing" the Mass but, rather, fixing it - getting it more in sync with the rest of the Catholic world.
For example, this will be the first time in 40 years, the Church will be in greater unity for worship.
The English Mass, as with Spanish, French, Italian or any other language, is a translation of the Latin Mass, the Missale Romanum. The previous English translation used a technique called "dynamic equivalence," which captures the overall meaning of a phrase in modern usage rather than translating the actual words. The problem with this is that the essential meaning of the text can be lost.
Let me give you an example of how dynamic equivalence can work using a Biblical text of the Annunciation - "Hail Mary Full of Grace, the Lord is with you." Translators, using this technique, could come back with "Hello lucky lady! God likes you."
In the Mass, the response in Latin, as well as other languages has always been "And with your spirit." Numerous articles have been written recently explaining why those words are important.
Now, the English-speaking world will be able to join with everyone else in saying the exact same thing. For the first-time in decades the Church will be in step with each other; there will be greater unity in our worship, not just with "And with your spirit," but in so many other places.
The same will be true with the creed. From its very origin, the creed has always begun, "I believe." The English-speaking Church, however, has said, "We believe." Beginning on the First Sunday of Advent we will join with everyone else and proclaim, "I believe." The "we" of the creed is still present because we are saying it together but the "I" indicates a personal ownership and embrace of the faith. I believe!
There are many other areas we could cover in terms of Biblical accuracy, etc. These points have been so well covered in other stories that there is no necessity to repeat them here.
The most important thing for Catholics this weekend is how we enter into the Mass not how much more do we need to know about it. All the catechesis in the world is not going to make a difference if the heart is not prepared to embrace it.
The mainstream media is hoping we will enter the Mass with anger and resentment that the big bad church has taken away something we like. Such feelings, kindled by the fact that things will seem different, can lead to a disastrous conclusion.
No doubt some reporters will even be staked out in front of churches, ready to pounce on the horror stories they can pull out of parishioners.
As a convert to the faith, I find the intent to initiate some hysteria somewhat comical. While I was raised in the Anglican tradition, I spent some years as a Wesleyan Methodist pastor before returning to my Anglican roots.
As Evangelicals, we prided ourselves in not being bound to a standard liturgical practice that dominated us from week-to-week. We could change things up to keep the people engaged. We could move things around; nothing was sacred - or at least I thought so until I tried moving the sermon to a different part of the worship service.
Part of my return to the liturgical-sacramental world came through a book by C.S. Lewis entitled, "Letters to Malcolm Chiefly on Prayer." In the first chapter - which was on liturgy - Lewis reminded his colleague, "our Lord said 'Feed my sheep,' not 'Experiment on my rats.'"
Following those words of admonition to the Apostle Peter, the Church has always deemed it critical to provide a liturgy that would feed not be an experiment. It was also understood that the term liturgy meant "the work of the people" not the work FOR the people. The Mass is not done for us but through us - His priest and His people - the laity.
Years ago I remember hearing a teacher say, "If this were a theater, the priest would be the actor, God would be the prompter and we would be the audience. But this is worship. The priest and people are the actors, the liturgy is the prompter and God is the audience."
The liturgy of the Mass involves our rituals, ceremonies and words that form the whole of our devotion to the Lord who is saving us. We enter into a drama that is unfolding before us; a drama of salvation history where the Lord dwells among His people and shares His words with them. He then confirms His words through His actions, offering salvation to the world through His Body and Blood.
It's all about the heart. We are worshiping our God.
Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online and the CEO/Associate Publisher for the Northern Virginia Local Edition of Catholic Online (http://virginia.catholic.org). He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church.
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