As you have heard in the Pastoral Letter, there are going to be some changes coming in this year, as the whole English speaking world will be using a New Translation of the Missal from September. This will mean that most of the words we use at Mass will change—both the priest’s words and our responses. Over the next few months, there will be a series of newsletter articles explaining the changes—why a new translation is needed, what the rationale is behind it, and giving us the opportunity to become familiar with the new responses before they begin in September. It is important to emphasise that the Mass will not be changing, but the words we use will be. Let’s take this as an opportunity to be renewed in our participation in the Mass by the words we hear, say and sing.
As mentioned last week, the words we use at Mass will be changing from this September. Sometimes we can forget where these words come from. Some people will vividly remember when Mass was celebrated in Latin throughout the world: when modern languages (the vernacular) began to be used in the late 1960s, the Latin texts of Mass still existed, as they do to this day. All our modern language versions of the Mass are translations of the Latin original; wherever you attend Mass throughout the world, it is the same celebration, even if it is in a different language. What is happening this year is a new version of our English translation of the Mass, which will bring it closer to the Latin original and therefore to other modern translations. More on this next week!
Back when Mass was first celebrated in English in the 1970s, the first translation of the Latin Missal was done in rather a hurry—many people have commented in the intervening years that it is not a very faithful translation, and that some phrases have lost a lot of their poetry and scriptural links. A good example of this is the response “Et cum spiritu tuo”, which our current translation gives as “And also with you”. Starting in September, we will all be using the new translation “And with your spirit”, which is much closer to the original Latin, and closer too to other modern language translations in the Church. We will see many similar examples in the New Translation, where we will discover richer meanings and phrases – recovering words and images that we have not yet used in English, but are truly part of the Mass.
Change is always challenging. Over the past 37 years we have become very familiar with the words of the Mass – both priests and people alike. Our familiarity with the words means that we will all probably join in without needing to look at Missals and mass sheets. Come September, when the words change, we will all be scrabbling for sheets and guides again! It is inevitable that we will make mistakes – both priests and people will find themselves slipping into the “old words” every now and again. It would be very easy for us to get a little frustrated with this change. Nevertheless we can take change two ways: as something to resent and complain about, or as an opportunity to think about what we are doing. Let’s do our best to accept these changes as an invitation to stop and think about the words we use, and how they touch our minds and hearts.
After gathering and uniting ourselves as a worshipping community by our opening hymn or antiphon, the first word we say is “Amen” in response to the Sign of the Cross. This word is not changing in the New Translation – because it is not actually translated! The word “Amen” is a Hebrew word, showing agreement or confirmation – “So be it”, “It is so”. In the Scriptures we find it in Our Lord’s mouth many times, and it is used in Jewish and Muslim prayer as well as in our own Christian Liturgy. We will say this word at least ten times in Mass – sometimes more. When we use it, what meaning do we put into the word? Or is it just a verbal full stop which does not mean a great deal? Saying “Amen” is all about affirming truth and certainty – crying out “Yes, it’s true”. Think of all the moments in the Mass when you are asked to say “Amen”: you are being asked “Do you believe this? Is this true?” A heartfelt “Amen” proclaims “Yes!”
"And with your spirit"
At three key moments in the Mass we are greeted, “The Lord be with you”, and from September we will reply “And with your spirit.” This greeting is very different from saying “Good morning.” It occurs at three significant moments in the Mass – at the beginning, when we gather as the Body of Christ; at the Gospel, when Christ speaks to us; and at the Eucharistic Prayer, when bread and wine become his Body and Blood*. It is all about the presence of Jesus Christ with us! The words will feel unfamiliar, but they take us back to the world of Saint Paul and the early church and at the same time bring us closer to others in the church today – in Italy they say, “E con il tuo spirito” or in France they say “Et avec vôtre esprit”. Every time we use these words, we are reminding ourselves – and our priest – that it is Christ who is present for us, with us and in us, and that we welcome his presence as one family, with many languages, throughout the world.
This footnote can be pasted in if you have room!
*In the Vatican II document on the Sacred Liturgy we were reminded of this: “Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister, … but especially under the Eucharistic species. … He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20).”
I confess …
After “And with your spirit” the next change we will notice in the new translation is in the Penitential Rite, where we will find new words for the “I confess”. Perhaps the biggest change is the return of a phrase that many of us will have grown up with: “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” In the translation we have been using this has been abbreviated to a single “through my own fault.” In trying to understand this change there are two factors: the first, as we have seen before, is that the new translation is closer to the Latin original, and to what our sister and brother Catholics say in other languages. The second is that we have to remember that sometimes our words of the Mass are poetry – the repetition is all about a rhythm of words that is beyond simple speech, which will eventually, as we get used to the new words, speak to our minds and hearts in a different way.
“I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.”
English Translation of “The Order of Mass” © 2010, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc.
Glory to God in the highest …
As with the “I confess” last week, the new words for the Gloria are much more poetic than before. It is worth mentioning at this point that the “Glory to God” is meant to be sung wherever possible (new settings and revised familiar settings are already available from the major publishers). The pattern of repetition in the words, which we will see clearly in the new translation, reminds us that this is a hymn: “we praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you”, is something we can almost sing without realising it! These new words will be one of the hardest changes for us all to get used to, because often when we say them these prayers flow without us consciously thinking about them – which in one way is a good thing! But this is an opportunity for us to think about what we are singing or saying: at the beginning of our Mass on Sundays and great feasts, we lose ourselves in the praise of Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will. We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father. Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us; you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer; you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.”
English Translation of “The Order of Mass” © 2010, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc.
"The Word of the Lord"
Our new translation will be arriving in two waves: first, at the beginning of September, will be the “unchanging” parts of the Mass, such as the Gloria we saw last week. The parts that change from week to week and day to day, such as the Opening Prayer of the Mass, will be changing on the First Sunday of Advent at the end of November. One thing that will not be changing is the readings, so once we sit down after the Opening Prayer, everything will seem very familiar. (There are plans to reprint the Lectionary, using a new translation, but this will not be for quite some time).
However there will be one change in the readings: at the end of the two readings before the Gospel, the reader will proclaim “The Word of the Lord”, rather than “This is the Word of the Lord,” as we hear at present. We will reply with the same words we use now; “Thanks be to God.” Is this a big deal? Surely a couple of words will not make that much difference? Possibly! Think about it for a moment: when we say “This is the Word of the Lord,” ask yourself, “What is?” The words on the page in front of the reader? The book they use? What they have just read?” This is a very direct word, pointing to something. Just saying “The Word of the Lord” is deliberately vague, referring to something that is not (and cannot be) pinned down and printed on a page—the word of God is alive and active! Perhaps this will also make us think of the presence of Christ in His Word—after all, when we receive communion we already hear “The Body of Christ” not “This is the Body of Christ”!
After the homily we will all notice some big changes in the Creed. This will, in fact, be one of the hardest things to get used to – not because of any particularly difficult phrases, but simply because this is a long text that most of us recite by memory. For a while we are all going to have to say the Creed with our eyes on the words! And for quite a while we may find ourselves slipping back into the words we know! It is good to know the Creed by heart, since this is a summary of our faith: perhaps the change in words will invite all of us to think again about what we are saying in this profession of faith.
And those words will be a bit different: for a start, we begin with “I believe” as opposed to “We believe”; this is a translation of the Latin “Credo”, but it may feel a little uncomfortable to some people, who have become used to saying “we”, and seeing in that a sign of our togetherness and community, and may now feel that it is somehow being undone. This is not the case. We are still a community, but each of us can only speak about our own belief – I can only say what “I” believe. It is the sum of our personal confessions of faith that make us a community! Many “I believes” make up the “We believe” that is the Church. (More on the Creed next week)
The Creed is an ancient statement of what binds us together: it is Trinitarian in format, so first we say what we believe about God the Father, reminding ourselves that God is the Creator of all things – “visible and invisible” is just another translation of “seen and unseen”. We then move on to our faith in God the Son, Jesus Christ. Before we get to the story of his coming among us, and his death and resurrection, we profess what we believe about the Son’s relationship with the Father – and here words are very difficult. Most of the earliest disputes and heresies in the Church were to do with this; and this is where we encounter another new word “consubstantial”. This is not a word you will come across very often: it is one of our very particular Church words – our own jargon, if you like – which we use to describe something that it is very difficult to describe – the way in which God the Father and God the Son are so perfectly united so that we can talk about One God. Another word which jumps out shortly after this is “incarnate” – though we have been using this for quite a while. It is also a technical word, which describes the moment when the eternal Word, the Son of God, came into the womb of Mary in our human flesh. Every time we proclaim the Creed, we announce the Annunciation, Christmas, Easter, Ascension and the End of Time in one sentence! Quite something to think about … (More on the Creed next week)
I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe – the Creed part 3
The final part of the Creed is very similar to what we currently know – one “new” word is “confess”: this is not confessing as in owning up to sins and wrongdoing, but taking a stand and proudly announcing something. Saint Edward the Confessor got that name not because he was always at confession, but because he bore witness to Christ and the faith of the Church. This is slightly stronger than the current “acknowledge”. Another small but significant change is in the line about the resurrection of the dead: currently we say “look for”, the new translation says “look forward to”, which is quite different in meaning: think of the things in life we look forward to – parties, holidays, visits, a good rest – and think of how this speaks to us of our longing for the life of heaven. After the Creed the Bidding Prayers or Prayer of the Faithful will not be changing at all. Next week: into the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen
English Translation of “The Order of Mass” © 2010, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc.
Right and Just
After the Preparation of the Gifts we enter into the great Eucharistic Prayer. The new translation of the Eucharistic Prayers is very different – which will probably catch a few priests out for a while! This is an opportunity for everyone to listen to these new words, which are still saying everything that they said before, and perhaps for us to hear afresh some of these great prayers. There are a few new things in our responses during the Eucharistic Prayers, beginning with the opening dialogue. First we have another “And with your spirit” when the priest greets us – remember that this greeting and response reminds us all that we are acknowledging the presence of Christ at this special moment. The final response used to be “It is right to give him thanks and praise”, which becomes in the new translation “It is right and just”. While this might seem to be a little abrupt, that is entirely the point: this is a strong affirmation that we are doing the right thing, that we want to be here!
Lord God of Hosts
After the Dialogue and the Preface we join our voices to the heavenly choir: “And so, with the Angels and all the Saints we declare your glory, as with one voice we acclaim: Holy, holy, holy…” This great hymn (and it should be remembered that it is a hymn – we are always invited to “sing” with the angels and saints) is a great offering of praise to God, echoing the majestic moments of worship in the Old Testament, as when Isaiah saw God’s glory, and prefiguring the triumphant gathering of the heaven we read about in the Book of Revelation. Only one word is changing in the “Holy, holy”: “Lord God of power and might” is becoming “Lord God of hosts”. “Hosts” is not the easiest word – it refers to that gathering of heaven mentioned before, and is a translation not of a Latin word, but of the Hebrew “Sabaoth”, one of the most ancient titles of God in the Old Testament.
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
The Mystery of Faith
Our next words, after the Institution Narrative, are what we refer to as the “Mystery of Faith”, an acclamation that we make together, proclaiming the power of Christ’s death and resurrection which we celebrate in the Eucharist. One change which the new translation will bring is that number of possible acclamations has gone from four to three – this is because what we currently use as the first choice – “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” – does not actually exist in the Latin Missal! Also some people point out that it doesn’t say anything about our involvement in the mystery, but is a simple statement. All the other acclamations talk about “we” or “us”, emphasising that what Christ does has an impact our our lives and deaths.
1. We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.
2. When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again.
3. Save us, Saviour of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection you have set us free.
Lord, I am not worthy
The “Our Father” and the “Lamb of God” remain unchanged, so our next “new” words come just before Holy Communion, when the priest holds up the host and says: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” We will reply: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” While this might seem a bit of a mouthful at first, it is a very rich phrase: it comes from the gospel story of the Roman Centurion whose faith so impressed Jesus – he believed so deeply that he knew it was not necessary for the Lord to travel to his house. When we say these words just before communion, it can remind us that Jesus does come to our homes: when we receive communion, it is not just Jesus coming to us in church – having received communion, he is truly with us, he accompanies us from Mass to our homes, and we take him “under our roof”.
Go in peace
At the very end of the Mass the new translation gives us something a bit different – not words that we, the congregation, say, but words addressed to us. After another “The Lord be with you” – reminding us of the enduring presence of the Lord as we head out of Church - the dismissal now has some new formulas, which seek to tell us more vividly what our mission is at the end of Mass: there are four versions:
1. Go forth, the Mass is ended.
2. Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.
3. Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.
4. Go in peace.
Numbers 2 and 3 are especially rich, encouraging us to do something with what we have received in Church – to announce the Gospel and to glorify the Lord by our lives! Whichever dismissal is chosen, the response is the familiar “Thank be to God!” – a reminder that the Mass has been a gift from the Lord, and in it we have touched the salvation won for us by Jesus.
This series has not been able to explore all the details of the changes to the translation of the Roman Missal – but as the weeks and months roll by we will all begin to take these new (and currently unfamiliar) words into our own prayer lives. This will take time. Only when we can begin to pray these words – without worrying about reading them from sheets and cards – will they begin to do their work. It is of the nature of translation to be imperfect; some people will be dissatisfied with the unfamiliar solemnity of these new words, while others will welcome them for their closeness to the Latin text. However it is to be remembered that words – in whichever language or translation – are not what worship is about. Worship is about the heart. Words are only one of the tools whereby we seek to lift our minds and hearts to God. Let us pray that the fragility of human words will never damage the spirit of prayer and worship, and that however we react to the words of this new translation, we will seek in charity to be bound up more closely in the mystery of divine love lived in the family of the Church.