Liturgical changes


Cunningham_formal_robes In 1969, as a newly ordained priest, I had the opportunity of helping parishioners as they made adjustments to the celebration of Mass in the English language.  Until that time, Latin was the language of liturgical prayer in the Roman Rite.  Missals, with an English translation, helped us to know and understand what was happening.
More than 40 years have passed since those first tentative days when English was introduced into our liturgical prayer. During that time, we have become accustomed to English in the liturgy.  And indeed, while some of us remember the days of the Latin liturgy, many of the faithful have no such memory. For them liturgical prayer has “always” been in English. Yet, a significant change and one of the great blessings of the Second Vatican Council was the decision to permit vernacular languages to be used in the liturgy.
In recent months, much has been written in Catholic periodicals and on the Internet concerning certain language changes that will take place in the not-too-distant future.  Not all of it has been complementary.  As we prepare to accept these changes, I think it is helpful if we understand that the translation changes have been made so that the liturgical texts are more in keeping with the original Latin text, without omissions, additions or paraphrases. The changes also provide a common text for the various English language countries. Currently, different English translations, approved by the  Episcopal Conferences of English speaking countries ( England, Canada, Australia, etc.) and the Holy See,  are used in their respective countries. 
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Bishops of other English speaking countries have been reviewing suggested translations for the past several years.  Our proposals and recommendations were submitted to the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome and, after review and editing, have been approved. They will become part of our worship in 2011 with the publication of the English translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal. This new English translation may be more formal than those with which we are familiar.  There is merit, however, in using precise language to express our faith when we gather to worship and address God.
The task of translation is not an easy one.  For those of you who are fortunate enough to speak more than one language, you know that translation is a complex issue.  It is difficult to capture concepts in different languages in exactly the same way.  Once the new translation is introduced, some of you will be pleased, others will be disappointed.  Some will find difficulty with certain words or phrases, others will see the merit in the changes.  There will be questions and debate about the changes just as there were in the 1960s when the vernacular was permitted for liturgical prayer.  As we make this adjustment we must remember the importance of joining our prayer to the prayer of the Church Universal. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that liturgical services are not private functions but celebrations of the whole community, the Body of Christ united with its head (cf. CCC, # 1140).  This is an important part of our Catholic faith.  In our formal worship we are called to be a visible sign of this unity.
Father Joseph Scardella, the Director of the Office of Ministerial Formation and Liturgy for the diocese, and Father Mark Kaminski, the Director of Continuing Formation for Priests, are planning  workshops for our priests and people that will introduce and explain the changes. You will hear more about these workshops in the months ahead.  But let me give you three brief examples of changes that will occur. 
When the priest says, “The Lord be with you” we will be returning to the traditional response, “and with your spirit.”  This exchange between the celebrant and the congregation is more than a greeting.  The celebrant is praying that the Lord will truly be with the gathered assembly.  The assembly acknowledges that the celebrant genuinely represents Christ who is truly present and in whose name the priest pronounces the words and celebrates the Eucharistic action.  The word “Spirit” has a particular meaning in the Bible and in religious literature which bears remembering. 
On Sunday and major feast days we pray the Nicene Creed.  At the present time we pray, “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ  . . . one in being with the Father.” In the new translation, we will pray “I believe” which is the meaning of the Latin word “Credo.” While the Profession of Faith is a communal liturgical act, each individual in the liturgical assembly professes his or her faith, which is joined to the profession of the whole assembly. The revised translation of “one in being with the Father” will be “consubstantial with the Father,” a direct translation of the Latin word, “consubstantialem” which means having the same substance as the Father.  While one may argue that “one in being” and “having the same substance” are equivalent, the Holy See considers it preferable, and more accurate, to use the Latin term. 
Another change occurs in the formula for the consecration of the wine.  At the present time, the celebrant proclaims, “This is the cup of my blood … shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.”  The new translation will retain the original Latin, “for many” (pro multis) which is found in the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark.  The new wording conforms to the biblical text. 
Much more will be written and said about the revised English translation.  I encourage you to read and study these changes as information becomes available.  This translation will be at the center of our prayer and worship for many years. While translations and words will always be imperfect and fall short of the mystery we are seeking to express, they help us to approach our perfect God.
I hope also that you will participate in the workshops that will be offered. The changes provide all of us with the opportunity to deepen our knowledge and love for the liturgy.  This in turn will lead us to the “full, conscious and active participation” in the liturgy which the Second Vatican Council desired.   
God bless your heart and home with the gift of His peace.

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