Preparing for the new translation of the Roman Missal
September is fast approaching! That is when we will begin to use the new English translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal. The Missal, containing all the prayers, chants and instructions for the celebration of the Mass, was first published in Latin under Pope Paul VI in 1970, as the text of the reformed liturgy of the Second Vatican Council. The text was revised in 1975, and then fine-tuned again in 2000. It is this third edition, published under Pope John Paul II, that has now been translated into all the languages of the world.
For all of us as Catholic Christians, the Mass is the most important thing we do, for ourselves, and for our world. We are one of many generations, past and future, who have and will receive, and pass on, this treasured mystery which lies at the heart of our faith. The aim of the new translation of the words of the Mass is to keep us connected with the timeless liturgical tradition over the centuries of the universal Catholic Church. Several of the prayers are over 1,000 years old, and some responses date to biblical and early Christian practice. You will be more aware of references to scripture, uncovered in the new texts.
Many people in our parishes, including all those with young families, have only known the Mass as we celebrate it today. Others, including the grandparents in our communities, will remember the changes that took place in the 1960s and 1970s. Whatever age we are, things are going to sound and feel different. It will take time to learn new responses and prayers.
Each and every one of us in our parishes holds some responsibility for helping one another get used to the new translation. What do we hope for? Yes, we will need some catechetical support – but above all, we want to be able to continue to pray the Mass, and to express our love and worship, our praise and petition, in all we say and do in the Mass. In the Mass, we raise our hearts and minds to God. We use our bodies, minds and spirits, as we offer our lives, joining with Christ’s perfect and timeless offering. We come close to God and God comes close to us (James 4:8).
Perhaps one of the opportunities the new Missal gives us is to slow down, and look at everything we do and say, and how we do it, whatever age or stage of life we are in. At first we may find the changes in the words uncomfortable – but the Mass is reassuringly the same structure, the same Sacrament. We are all part of the Body of Christ, each one a member, each one sharing in the ministry of Christ in our different ways. No-one contributes in isolation – we work together in the Mass and are then sent out to live its fruits in our lives.
For families with young children – taking part forms habits! We can encourage children to fully participate in the Mass through all the different postures and gestures – these are not just ‘do this’ ‘do that’ for the sake of it – they have deep meanings – and children will learn by doing
- Standing: we remember and acknowledge the gift of our Baptism – we stand to show we have ‘risen with Christ’ and through Christ share in the life of God. We stand to meet Christ in the proclamation of the Gospel. We stand to receive communion.
- Kneeling: we kneel to signify adoration – e.g. during the Eucharistic Prayer.
- Sitting: we sit to listen and meditate (e.g. for the Readings, the homily).
- Processions: a sign of following Christ (priest and ministers at start of Mass, Book of the Gospels to the ambo, gifts of bread and wine to the altar, and the community to receive Holy Communion).
- Making the Sign of the Cross: reminding us in a physical way of the death and resurrection of Christ our Saviour and His presence with us (beginning and end of Mass, and before the Gospel, on forehead, lips and heart).
- Bowing: a sign of reverence, respect and gratitude (during the Creed, before receiving communion, and ministers bowing to the altar as a symbol of Christ).
- Other signs are our singing and praying in unison (becoming one voice of praise and thanksgiving) and silence (allowing time to reflect on what we have heard and experienced).
For each of the four parts of the Mass (Introductory Rites, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Eucharist, Communion and Concluding Rites) we can encourage children to learn the new responses and prayers with us.
For example, the first, very obvious change is one that occurs at several points throughout the Mass:
- ‘The Lord be with you’ ‘And with your spirit‘.
Those Catholics growing up before 1960 will recognise that this is a more literal translation of the Latin ‘et cum spiritu tuo’. You will find both the greeting and response several times in both the Old and the New Testament.
Another simple but striking change to be aware of is in the expressions used at Mass that capture the great moments when we consciously recognise Christ present:
- ‘The Word of the Lord’ ‘The Gospel of the Lord’ ‘The Mystery of Faith’ ‘The Body of Christ’ ‘The Blood of Christ’.
The Bishop’s Council for Liturgy are currently running a number of events in the Diocese for Priests and people, looking in detail at the changes. It is hoped that every parish will be starting to offer opportunities for parishioners to look at the new texts.
What can the parish do now? Some ideas from around the Diocese:
- Order Parish Mass leaflets for September
- Parish Priest with small team: planning how to inform and enthuse the parish
- Make Leaflets with new words – for parishioners/families to take home for study and prayer (including provision for visually impaired, housebound etc).
- Watch/discuss the video clips on the Missal website to see how the new texts sound in a celebration of Mass
- Parish or group of parishes: offer meetings with specific information for key groups – e.g. Readers, Extraordinary Ministers, Musicians, Catechists
- Offer meetings open to all parishioners to disseminate information (including use DVD and other printed resources) – perhaps before or after Mass
- Clergy using the homily to impart information over the coming weeks and creatively using parish bulletins or cluster newsletters
- Begin learning some of the key responses and practice new musical settings e.g. the mystery of faith responses (see www.icelweb.org/musicfolder) (NOTE: Timothy Craig Harrison, Director of Music, is going round the deaneries – look out for dates near you)
In this season of Pentecost, let us invite the Holy Spirit to open hearts and minds, and through the richness of diverse voices, to harness the faith, energy, light, and passion of our parish congregations. As we celebrate the Mass together, may we be formed and strengthened in our faith, to live our lives in service to one another and the wider community.
(Member of Bishop’s Council for Liturgy and Celebrating Family Project Worker)