Friday, May 13, 2011

Preparing for the new Roman Missal

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Part of the rich legacy that we have inherited from the now Blessed John Paul II is a new Roman Missal, a text he issued in the Jubilee Year of 2000, but not released until 2002.

The Roman Missal is the red book that the priest or bishop uses at his chair and at the altar in which he finds the prayers for that particular liturgy. More often, we hear it called the “sacramentary.”

Of course, the official language of the 2002 Missal was Latin and so an English language translation was needed for the celebration of the Mass in the vernacular. That process took eight years of intense work, but received final approval in April 2010. We will begin to use this historic text on the first Sunday of Advent of this year.

Words will change

While the Mass itself is not changing — that is, the structure of the Mass as we have known it since the Second Vatican Council is not being modified — the words of the Mass will be changing, and in significant ways.

This new translation has been guided by a new standard of rules that sets out to provide a more exact rendering of the original Latin text. The text that we currently use was translated in 1974, and while the translation has served us well for many years, the church in her wisdom has determined that a revised translation is necessary, correcting and clarifying those points of the 1974 translation that perhaps were not as clear as they need to be, or that did not do adequate justice to the beauty or power of the original Latin texts.

We will also notice in the new translation a different “register,” a term used to describe the kind of speech in a particular setting. The new translation is written in a more formal register, highlighting the dignity and importance of the sacred liturgy and the One to whom we speak.

For example, contrast this prayer of the 1974 translation,

“Father,
your love never fails.
Hear our call.
Keep us from danger,
and provide for all our needs.”

with the 2010 version,

“O God,
whose providence never fails in its design,
Keep from us, we humbly beseech you,
all that might harm us
and grant all that works for our good.”

This is but one example of many in which a more elevated style of speech will be found in the newly translated text.

To be sure, the difference in the style of the language will, at first, be challenging for all of us. I believe that the changes will be most challenging for us priests, who have over the years memorized many of the prayers, especially the Eucharistic Prayer. I know this is the case with my own life.

To meet this challenge, we must keep in mind that these changes are meant to help us better celebrate the sacred mysteries of the Eucharist and thus lead us to a deeper union with God.

The purpose of the change in translation is not arbitrary, but has rather been undertaken so as to promote the devotion and prayer of the People of God.

As we read in “Liturgiam Authen­ticam,” the Vatican’s most recent document on inculturation and the translation of liturgical texts:

“By means of words of praise and adoration that foster reverence and gratitude in the face of God’s majesty, his power, his mercy and his transcendent nature, the translations will respond to the hunger and thirst for the living God that is experienced by the people of our own time” (no. 25).

In preparing for the new texts, we should also keep in mind that the sacred liturgy is one of the primary sources of expressing, and maintaining, the unity of the church.

We worship in the same way to communicate the fact that we are united in discipleship. Thus, rubrics and liturgical rules are not just about being fussy or nitpicky. Rather, obedience to the texts and rules of the liturgy help us stay unified as church, both on the local and universal level.

So you see, there is much more involved in the reception of the new translation than just a matter of which words we use. This reality touches on the core of our union as the Body of Christ.

Personally, I see the new missal as a great opportunity to stop and re-examine our understanding of the Mass so as to renew and deepen our appreciation for the mysteries that it contains.

To help us all in our efforts of catechesis and reception, I have asked the archdiocesan Office of Worship to begin a series of articles in The Catholic Spirit on the new Roman Missal, as well as to offer resources (many of which are online) to our parishes — resources that will help them prepare for the changes.

I urge pastors, deacons, catechists, teachers, worship committees, musicians, cantors and parish staff members to enter into this time of preparation with enthusiasm and with a positive spirit.

God love you!

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