September 7, 2011 // Uncategorized

Preparing for the new translation of the Mass

September 11th

This Sunday, our nation commemorates the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks against the United States that took place on September 11, 2001. It is an occasion for us to remember in prayer the victims of those horrific attacks and to pray for their families. It is also an occasion to remember all victims of violence and terrorism around the world as well as to pray for the safety of our service men and women in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world.

Our church bells will ring at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, calling all to pause in silent prayer. This national moment of remembrance calls all Americans to be united as we reflect on that day, ten years ago, when so many innocent people were victims of evil and hatred. At the same time, it is good to recall the counsel of Saint Paul: “overcome evil with good.” As we remember September 11th, we also recall the goodness of so many, including the firefighters, emergency responders and police officers who gave their lives attempting to save others. We remember the great outpouring of love and generosity of so many who came to the aid of those wounded in the attacks and to the families of the victims.

So let us all observe September 11th this year through prayer and a renewed resolve to “overcome evil with good.” And let us pray with particular attention the words of the Our Father: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…. and deliver us from evil.”

New Translation of the Mass

In less than three months, the new English translation of the Roman Missal will be implemented (on November 27th, the first Sunday of Advent). In these few months before we begin to use the new translation, it is important to prepare well in order to be ready for the newly translated texts of the Mass. This is a wonderful opportunity for us all to enter more deeply into the prayers of the Mass, to reflect on their meaning, and to recognize the importance of the words we pray as we offer the Eucharistic sacrifice.

Personally, I can hardly wait for the use of the new translation. Knowing the richer texts that we will soon be using, I find myself even now, while celebrating Mass, thinking of the words we will soon be using. Though change is not always easy, I am eagerly awaiting this change, not only because the new English translation is more literally accurate, more faithful to the Latin text, but also because I find the language of the new translation more conducive to reverence, more uplifting (less colloquial), and more steeped in Sacred Scripture. The sacred character of our worship is more evident in the new translation.

How can you prepare for the new translation? Brian MacMichael, the director of our Diocesan Office of Worship, wrote a series of commentaries on several of the new Mass texts. They are excellent. They were printed in Today’s Catholic this past year. If you have not read them, they can be found on our diocesan website. Our website and the website of the USCCB have a wealth of good material on the new translations. These websites also provide an abundance of additional resources that you can consult.

Our Office of Worship will be providing bulleting inserts on the revised Mass texts. Of course, every parish will have pew cards with the people’s parts of the Mass for use on November 27th and after. It will take time to memorize anew the prayers we have been saying at Mass since the last English translation which followed the Second Vatican Council and its permission for the use of the vernacular in the liturgy.

I encourage all to be prepared for the new texts through prayer and study. Our priests will be helping to prepare our parishioners through their homilies and other means. The priests themselves have much to prepare for, since the prayers recited by the priests are all newly translated, including the Eucharistic prayers. As I reflect and meditate on the new translation of the Eucharistic prayers, I am struck by their beauty. It is vitally important that our priests, many who have recited the “old” translation for so many years, be ready to pray the new translation. The language, as I have said, will be closer to the Latin, more elevated, and more poetic. Some sentences will be much lengthier. It will take me and the priests some practice to be comfortable in praying with the new translation.

I could give hundreds of specific examples of the new translated texts and explanations of the changed texts. It is obviously not possible to do so in this column. There are dozens of resources, found on our website and on the USCCB website, that explain the texts much better than I can do in a column. But I would like to mention one example which everyone will quickly notice. The people will no longer respond to the greeting of the priest The Lord be with you with the words And also with you.

I always wondered why we said in English And also with you when the response in Latin is Et cum spiritu tuo, a response literally translated in all the other vernacular translations of the Mass (e.g. Spanish Y con tu espiritu; Italian E con il tuo spirito; French Et avec votre esprit; German Und mit deinem Geiste.) It seems to me important that we be united with all our brothers and sisters of the Latin Rite in our prayers at Mass. Also, there is a difference in meaning between saying and also with you and saying and with your spirit. The latter literal translation of the Latin brings out a theological truth in the people’s response to the priest’s greeting. The faithful are recognizing the sacramental reality of the priest, that, as the celebrant of the Mass, he is speaking with the voice of Christ, that he is representing Christ the Head to whom he was configured at ordination. By saying and with your spirit, the people are acknowledging that the Holy Spirit is acting through the priest in a unique way when he celebrates Mass. In other words, they are saying not merely may the Lord be with you too; they are saying may the Lord be with your spirit, recognizing the presence of the Holy Spirit conferred at his ordination so that he can indeed offer the Eucharistic sacrifice in the person of Christ.

As I said, I am eagerly looking forward to our use of the new English translation in a few months. I encourage all to become familiar with the new translation. This is a wonderful opportunity to grow in our knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the sacred liturgy. This is a moment of grace for the Church and for the authentic renewal of the liturgy envisioned by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council. Blessed John Paul II asked for the new translation several years ago. He gave us the principles for a new, more literal, and richer translation. As we prepare to implement the new translation, may Blessed John Paul II intercede for us!

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