Photo: Felix Carroll
The introduction of a new English translation of the Roman Missal will take effect Nov. 27, the First Sunday of Advent. Changes in grammar, word order, and vocabulary are reflected throughout the new text.
A Page Turner
From the greeting through the dismissal at Mass, both parishioners and clergy in churches throughout the English-speaking world will soon be stepping into new linguistic terrain.
The result of years of painstaking work by language, biblical, and liturgical scholars will take effect Nov. 27, the First Sunday of Advent, with the introduction of a new English translation of the Roman Missal. Clergy throughout the Church, including the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, hail the new translation for its attentive adherence to the powerful meaning and beautiful imagery of the original Latin texts.
"It's an exciting opportunity," says Fr. Andy Davy, MIC, the parochial vicar of St. Mary Parish in Plano, Ill. "Through Mass, we have the opportunity to encounter Christ, so the closer we are — the more concise we are — to the actual words that Christ wants us to pray, the better we're able to worship God."
Along with other English-speaking parishes, St. Mary Parish has spent months preparing. They've held workshops, provided guidelines, and published articles in church bulletins explaining the changes and the reason for their implementation. Father Andy said the concerted catechetical efforts serve as a "preemptive measure" to reduce confusion, skepticism, and frustration for what amounts to the most significant changes in the Order of the Mass in more than 40 years.
"I think the biggest question was, 'Why do we need this?'" says Andrew Kuffel, a parishioner of St. Peter Parish in Kenosha, Wis., another Marian-administered parish. "So skepticism is our biggest obstacle. As the presentations go on and we explain the reasoning behind the updates, the skepticism has turned to acceptance.
"I think this period of preparation has given us an opportunity to reflect on what it means to be a Catholic and how central the Mass is in our faith," Andrew says. "This is why we come together. This is who we are."
Still, no one expects an easy transition. Changes in grammar, word order, and vocabulary are reflected throughout the new text, in the prescribed prayers, chants, and instructions that millions of Catholics know by heart.
For instance, the Nicene Creed will now begin with "I believe in one God, the Father almighty ..." rather than "We believe ... ."
"It's a simple change," says Fr. Andy, "but it's a powerful change. It's more personal, rather than with the generic 'We.' It's like Jesus looking at us and saying, 'Who do you say I am?'"
The new translation rediscovers poetic language lost under the current text. For instance, Psalm 133 is now reflected in Eucharistic Prayer II when instead of the priest saying, "Let Your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy ..." he will now say, "Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down Your Spirit upon them like the dewfall."
As parishioners will soon experience, the new translation encourages the nurturing of a more humble, sorrowful attitude toward God, acknowledging our dependence on His grace for our salvation.
For example, in the Confiteor (Penitential Act), instead of simply saying, "I have sinned through my own fault," we will now strike our breast three times while exclaiming
"Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault."
"This new translation [of the Confiteor] will help open us up to a deeper experience of The Divine Mercy by giving us words to not merely express an apology but to offer heartfelt contrition and sorrow for our sins," says Fr. Andy.
Confirmed by the Holy See in 2008 after being approved by the English-speaking Bishops, the new translation reflects Pope Benedict XVI's emphasis on a sacred encounter with the Lord in the liturgy. As the Holy Father says in his recent book Light of the World, "The point [of the liturgy] is to go out of and beyond ourselves, to give ourselves to [the Lord], and to let ourselves be touched by Him."
To that end, those who tend to recite the responses at Mass mechanically will soon find reason to look afresh at the Church's greatest prayer as a life-changing encounter with Christ.
"We can take for granted what is actually happening in Mass," says Fr. Andy. "Getting out of our comfort zone wakes us up. Even those growing pains of struggling at the beginning with some of the wording, that's okay, because we're rediscovering this great treasure of the Mass."