Changes coming for some of the words we hear and say at Mass
Father Paul Turner was in Beaumont April 28 to speak to clergy and lay leaders on the upcoming changes to the Roman Missal, commonly called the sacramentary. While in town, ETC editor Karen Gilman talked to him about the changes. Father Paul Turner is pastor of St. Munchin Parish in Cameron, Mo., and its mission, St. Aloysius in Maysville. A priest of the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, he holds a doctorate in sacred theology from Sant’ Anselmo in Rome.
Q. What is the Roman Missal?
A. The Roman Missal is the official prayer book we use for Mass in the Catholic Church. Most people know it today by the name sacramentary. They see it at every Mass they go to. The priest reads from it at the altar and whenever a server holds it for him.
Q. How is the Roman Missal different than the missalette that the people use at church?
A. The missalette is an abbreviated version of the contents of the Roman Missal. The Roman Missal has no hymns in it which you might find in a missalette. But all texts of the Mass that the people say are all found within the Roman Missal. So the missalette has taken its words from the Missal.
Q. Why is the Roman Missal changing now?
A. There are two reasons why. One is that it is upgraded might be a way to say it. Like you would upgrade an app on your phone. The Missal is being updated with some new prayers and instructions. The other reason is that the Vatican has changed its philosophy for how prayers should be translated from Latin into English. Almost everything we say at Mass is originally a Latin text. The Vatican is looking a little more carefully now on how those words get translated into other languages.
Q. What are some of the major changes?
A. Some things that most everybody is going to experience would be the greeting. When the priest says “The Lord be with you,” their response will now be “And with your spirit.” They’re also going to see some changes to the Creed. For example, instead of saying “We believe,” they’ll start with “I believe.” There are a number of changes within the Gloria. Just enough to make people need to look at paper again. Parts of the Mass that they’ve got memorized they will now have to examine one more time and relearn.
Q. Why is going back to the Latin text going to be better?
A. A couple of things. First of all, those Latin texts were worked on for hundreds of years. A lot of people don’t realize this but, like when the priest says at the beginning of Mass Let us pray, and then starts in on a prayer, you are hearing an English translation of a prayer that might date to the sixth century. That prayer was worked on very hard in Latin to get it up into the shape that it is in. One reason that it’s important to go back to the Latin is to study again what it has to say and make sure that what we’re saying fits it. The other reason it’s important to go back to the Latin is that we are a universal church, and even thought Mass is celebrated in different languages around the world, we all use Latin as our common text, the text out of which all of these other translations were made. So, understandably, the Vatican would like that all of the different vernacular translations around the world would pretty much say the same thing. The way that you safeguard that is to have people keep looking back at the Latin and not copying from one another in the modern languages.
Q. Is this just turning back the clock to what we had before?
A. Not at all. All of the work that is being done pertains to the work that followed the Second Vatican Council. A lot of the prayers we say at Mass date to the early years of the Church, but the particular arrangement of them in the Mass that we know now has all been given to us since Vatican II. The retranslation is a look at that work. The post Vatican II Mass and the Latin that was in there is a retranslation of that. For example, Eucharistic Prayer III is a Eucharistic prayer that people would hear on a typical Sunday. That entire prayer was written after Vatican II but it was written in Latin so that all of the vernacular languages could translate. They knew from the beginning that it was going to be done in the vernacular languages, but it was composed in Latin. So that’s what this whole project is. It’s going back to that time period after the Council to look at those texts and translate them once again.
Q. What are some concerns people are voicing about the new Missal?
A. I think part of it is that we are so accustomed to doing it for 40 years that it’s hard to think about having to relearn things. That’s one concern. Another concern is that some prayers we are going to hear are more dense and the sentences are longer. It’s going to be more of a challenge for the priests to say them and for the people to understand them upon first hearing. There’s some concern about that that people won’t be able to grasp the meaning of what is being said. I would say that people can understand it. The longer sentences have been in use in other languages outside of English, and people have been able to follow them along just fine. It will cause an adjustment for us but I really think in time people will grasp how to listen to the prayers that are being said and be able to pray right along.
Q. Is the Mass itself changing?
A. No. No. There will be almost no change to the Mass itself. When you talk about say the gestures that are used, the postures, when we stand and sit, the processions, the vestments, the scripture readings, even most of the music that people sing, none of that is changing. That much is all staying the same. This is all about words. It’s a different translation of the words that we say and hear at every Mass from day to day.
Q. Do the upcoming changes only affect the Mass?
A. At the present time, yes. They only affect the Mass. But they will eventually affect the other sacraments and prayers that we say as a Church. The Mass is the most important one so the work has begun there. But once these changes are implemented I think you can expect to see similar changes coming in all of the other ceremonies that we use in the Catholic Church.
Q. When are they thinking these changes will go into effect?
A. No one knows for sure when we are going to see these but we are guessing it will be Advent of 2011. But that’s just a guess. We know that as of today, the committee that has been advising the congregation on this translation has completed its work. But now the congregation has to make its final decisions and then it will take a year for publishers to have the books ready. So we’re thinking it would be about a year and a half from now.
Q. If these changes are going to go into effect maybe Advent of next year, why are we talking about the changes now?
A. Because the changes that pertain to the order of Mass, that’s the part of the Mass that everyone deals with from day to day, those changes have been published about a year and a half ago. At that time the Congregation (Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments) asked us to begin catechesis on them so that we could understand what is changing and why. Right now we need some time to explain to people so that people can think about these things before we have to actually put them into practice.
Q. What kind of catechesis will be necessary for the people sitting in the pews?
A. I think people naturally have some very practical questions. Why did this one change? Why did that one change? We need to be ready with good answers for them. Sometimes we have to learn those. We need to learn more about the evolution of the Mass how it got to the place where it is today. So people will need a little time to figure all that out and put some words on to it.
I would encourage people to start to become familiar with the parts of the Mass that will change so that they all will be prepared for them and won’t be surprised when the day comes. If they have questions about why things are changing this would be a good time to ask those questions and to read up on some answers on what is coming and why.
Brief announcements for parish bulletins, newsletters, or websites
General Background on the Revised Missal
Full, conscious, and active participation
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium), the first document approved by the world’s Bishops gathered at the Second Vatican Council, serves as the blueprint for our liturgical renewal. It asserts that liturgy is a celebration of Christ’s paschal mystery. Our full, conscious and active participation in liturgy is vital since liturgy is the source and summit of our whole Christian life.
Why many vernacular languages (the languages people actually use) rather than one sacred language (Latin)?
After the Council, in the interests of enhancing the full participation of the entire assembly at worship, the Catholic Church authorized the use of the vernacular, the languages of the people for its liturgy. The results have been overwhelmingly positive. The vernacular has allowed the faithful to pray with greater understanding, to find deeper spiritual connections between the Tradition of the Church and their daily lives, and to formulate a voice and style of worship that fits the challenges and blessings of their day.
This “new” idea seemed to change centuries of liturgical tradition. But under the guidance of Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council actually restored an ancient practice of praying in the language of the people. To be sure, some in the Church – and outside it –lamented the loss of Latin from the liturgy, but the experience of Sunday worshipers in parish churches around the world has shown that the decision in favor of the vernacular was truly a gift of the Holy Spirit.
Why a new Missal now?
During his long pontificate, our late Holy Father, John Paul II, added many new saints to the Roman calendar. As a result, in the year 2000, he approved a third edition of the Roman Missal in Latin to include Mass texts for all these new saints. The Latin Missal is the source of the translations into all the vernacular languages.
A little later, the Vatican congregation that oversees the Liturgy, The Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, that had already been working on a revision of the guidelines for use in translating the liturgical books, issued a new guiding document, “Liturgiam Authenticam, On the Use of Vernacular Languages in the Publications of the Books of the Roman Liturgy.” After March 2001 all new translations of the Latin Roman Missal had to follow these revised guidelines for translation.
The English translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal reflects the new approach to translation—the technical name for which is “formal equivalence”—so as to make the English more accurately resemble the Latin. The desire is to provide a more beautiful and more exacting language of prayer. The goal, for those who pray as members of the Body of Christ, is that the prayer be “to the greater Glory of God (Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam)”.
It has taken several years to translate the Missal from the original Latin into English, and the date of its use varies among the English-speaking countries, but here in the United States, the first Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2011, is the date set by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for everyone to use the new edition of the Missal at Mass.
What’s different in the new Missal?
The most noticeable change in this new Mass book is in the wording of the prayer texts. The new translation more closely corresponds to the original Latin, is richer in imagery, and more closely aligned with its sources in Scripture. It tries to expresses more authentically the scriptural roots of many of the texts we use at Mass. As you hear and pray these new texts, enter into a spirit of prayer and lift your hearts to God. This is a rich opportunity for us to renew our sense of mystery and awe, to deepen our Eucharistic spirituality and to learn more about the Mass. For it is at the Mass, that we, the Body of Christ, are nourished in word and sacrament to build the kingdom of God.
Within the lifetime of many of us, we have celebrated Mass from three different versions of the Missal. The translations are somewhat different, but the “new” Mass is still the same Mass! Each version of the Missal helps us celebrate better.
Change is always difficult for us. We are comfortable with the ways we have, and any change challenges us to let go of the familiar. Most changes are good; they help us grow, bring us new insight, and enable us to be creative and responsive in new ways. When the changes to the Mass (especially the prayer texts and people’s responses) are implemented in November 2011, it can be a positive experience of liturgical prayer, encounter with Christ, and lead to a deeper appreciation of the sacred.
Why is it important to resemble the original Latin?
The Latin texts are the fruit of many centuries of theological reflection and pastoral experience. They carefully nuance the faith of the Church. Many of them are beautiful and eloquent. To use a vernacular that adheres more closely to the Latin will give a clearer voice to the Church’s faith and unite us more closely to the universal church that relies on the same Latin text as its source. It is hoped that the new translation will mark an improvement over the one currently in use, and that it will assist future generations of worshipers to lift mind and heart to God in prayer.
Different kinds of language
Our current English translation has been criticized for being too informal or too “conversational.” Just as we have different ways of conversing depending upon whom we are with, i.e., family, friends, co-workers, dignitaries, so too, we should have a special language in conversing with God. The new translation is meant to provide another means of expressing our formal communal worship of God from our personal or private conversation with God… some would say, a more sacred language.
Liturgy and Scripture
As well as the issue of translation, another reason for some of the changes in wording is to make more apparent the references to the words of Scripture that often provide the foundation for the phrasing found in many of our liturgical texts. In the current English version, the relationship between many of our liturgical words and the words of the Bible is sometimes easy to miss. This change in translation will help us be more aware of how our liturgical texts are rooted in the Scriptures and this can help draw us more deeply into the meaning of the words we pray.
An example may help make this clear. Just before communion, the priest holds up the Host and says in our current wording: “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world…” The scriptural episode that this wording echoes comes from the Gospel of John, where John the Baptist says of Jesus “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). So when this gospel passage is read during the liturgy, we hear not “This is the lamb of God …” but “Behold, the Lamb of God …”. The new Mass translation will bring the more formal word “behold” into this communion invitation, so as to echo more directly the phrasing of Gospel text itself.
Specific Changes in Wording in the Mass Texts
Change in the Words of Institution over the chalice
It will be shed for you and for all → It will be shed for you and for many …
This change in wording of the new Mass translation came from a specific request made by our Holy Father, Benedict XVI. He asked that in all the vernacular translations of the Roman Missal the words the priest says over the chalice should be “it will be shed for you and for many” instead of “it will be shed for you and for all” (or the equivalent in other languages). The translation “for many” is a more direct translation of the Latin “pro multis” and more clearly echoes the wording found in the descriptions of the Last Supper in the Gospels. Unfortunately, when we hear “many” we tend to think it implies “not all”. However, this is not the case with the scriptural usage, which goes originally back to Hebrew usage. The New American Bible comments that this use of “many”, found in a several places in the Gospels, is a Semitic form of expression which does not imply that some are excluded, but which is the equivalent of “all”.
Changes in wording in some of the people’s parts
And also with you → And with your spirit
The new wording of the response we make so often in the liturgy, “And with your spirit”, more directly translates the original Latin “Et cum spiritu tuo”. The new translation also serves to bring out more clearly that the Holy Spirit is at work in both priest and people (though in different ways) as we gather to celebrate Eucharist. Similar expressions recur with varying forms of words in St. Paul’s letters: e.g. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” Gal 6:18.
We believe in one God … → I believe in one God …
The new wording of the beginning of the Creed, “ I believe” is a more direct translation of the Latin “credo”. “I believe” also brings out more clearly the personal commitment involved in faith. Saying “I believe in God” is not just stating an idea or accepting a doctrine, it is an act of personal commitment. The Latin word credo itself derives from an expression meaning “I give my heart to.”
One in being with the Father → Consubstantial with the Father
Within the Creed, one of the changes is that we will say of the Lord Jesus that he is “consubstantial with the Father” instead of “one in being with the Father.” The term “consubstantial” comes from the word used in the Latin text of the Creed. This change in terminology does not at all indicate a change in meaning, but rather a more precise identification that Christ is of the same substance, nature, and essence as the Father…As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “…in the Father and with the Father, the Son is one and the same God.” #262 CCC
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of power and might → Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts
This change in wording goes to bringing out more clearly the allusions in the wording of our liturgy to the words of sacred scriptures. The expression “Lord of Hosts” is found throughout the Old Testament, referring to the heavenly angelic powers, as a way of indicating the majesty of God. The current translation, “Lord God of power and might,” is a paraphrase, attempting to express God’s transcendence in different words. But, remembering the line from the second verse of the Christmas carol, Silent Night, “Heavenly hosts sing alleluia”, the reference to “heavenly hosts” may not sound so strange after all.
Invitation to Communion
Happy are those who are called to his supper → Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb
As the angel told John to write: “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). It is a glorious celebration of all who are in Christ.
The supper of the lamb is an eschatological image (that is, relating to or dealing with or regarding the ultimate destiny of humankind and the world). It reminds us, that during the liturgy, we partake in the Heavenly Liturgy. It was John’s vision, in the Book of Revelation in which he saw the marriage supper of the lamb. It was here that Christ; the bridegroom takes His bride, the Church, to His Father’s house, for all eternity. We therefore, you and I, are invited and transported in time to the Supper of the Lamb.
Lord I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and I shall be healed) → Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
The new wording makes a more obvious reference to the episode in the Gospel where this prayer originates. Luke 7:1-11 narrates the episode of Jesus’ healing of a Roman centurion’s slave. While Jesus is on the way to the slave, the centurion sends friends to say to him “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof … but say the word and let my servant be healed.” Jesus marvels at the faith of one who is a pagan and not one of the chosen people. This is the faith we express as we prepare to receive the Lord in Holy Communion.