Saturday, November 26, 2011

Finding Beauty in the Third Edition of the Roman Missal

Today, throughout the English-speaking Catholic world, Catholics will begin to pray the new translation of the Holy Mass in the Third Edition of the Roman Missal.  By now, you've probably heard about this (I hope!).  Dioceses have been offering workshops, parishes have been talking about this; even the secular media have done stories on this "biggest change" in the Catholic Mass in the last 50 years.

Most of what has been written in the secular media focuses on the perceived problems with the new translation.  The grammar can be awkward in places as it follows a Latin rather than English structure.  Some words can be confusing and requiring additional catechesis (like "consubstantial). There are phrases which might not be immediately accessible like the oft-referred to response, "And with your spirit."

These things have been discussed exhaustively, and hopefully someone has taken good notes for the time with we are welcoming the Fourth Edition of the Roman Missal. In the meantime, what I think has gotten lost in these discussions is that there are also some real moments of profound beauty in the new translation.  While imperfect, there really are moments when this new translation is successful in drawing us more profoundly into the reality of God and the reality of our worship.  I have spent a lot of time over the last 8 months or so giving workshops, retreats and presentations to different groups of people on the new translation and I have been struck by some real moments of beauty in the prayers.

Let me give you a few examples. The first is one that we will hear immediately as it comes from the Opening Prayer (or Collect) for the First Sunday of Advent.

In the outgoing translation, we prayed:

All-powerful God,
increase our strength of will for doing good
that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming
and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven,
where he lives and reigns....

In the new translation, we will pray:

Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ
with righteous deeds at his coming,
so that, gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ...

There is a passivity in the old, "that Christ may find an eager welcome."  It doesn't necessarily call anything forth from me individually.  We could almost think, "I hope the welcome committee is well organized when He returns."  The new translation seems to ask something of us individually, "the resolve" to not just welcome, but "to run forth to meet your Christ."  We are called to more than mere eagerness, we are called to run to Christ who is coming to us.

Likewise, this passage from the new Preface I of Advent:

For he assumed at his first coming
the lowliness of human flesh,
and so fulfilled the design you formed long ago,
and opened for us the way to eternal salvation,
that, when he comes again in glory and majesty
and all is at last made manifest,
we who watch for that day
may inherit the great promise
in which we now dare to hope.

Or how about this from the Eucharistic Prayer for use in Masses for Various Needs I (okay, maybe the could shorten that title!):

You are indeed holy and to be glorified, O God,
who love the human race and who always walk with us on the journey of life.
Blessed indeed is your Son,
present in our midst when we are gathered by his love,
and when, as once for the disciples, so now for us,
he opens the Scriptures and breaks the bread.

And later in that same prayer:

Lord, renew your Church which is in Massachusetts
by the light of the Gospel.
Strengthen the bod of unity between the faithful and the pastors of your people,
together with Benedict our Pope, George our Bishop,
and the whole Order of Bishops,
that in a world torn by strife
your people may shine forth as a prophetic sign of unity and concord.

Another example from the Opening Prayer (Collect) for Midnight Mass of Christmas:

O God, who have made this most sacred night
radiant with the splendor of the true light,
grant, we pray, that we, who have known the mysteries of his light on earth,
may also delight in his gladness in heaven.
Who lives and reigns...

One final, I love the new dismissal texts, particularly these two:

God and announce the Gospel of the Lord.
Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.

The point is simply this: there is a lot to welcome here.  There is a lot of beauty here.  This is our new Mass translation.  Will it be the last?  Probably not, but we will be praying it for decades to come, so let us welcome and pray that new beauty as we welcome this new translation of the Mass.

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