In this week’s Catholic Herald, Bishop Loverde (Arlington Diocese, Virginia) invited his flock to embrace the upcoming implementation of the Revised Roman Missal. Bishop Loverde also invited us hear the call to deeper prayer through revised language of the Liturgy. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross best described the catechetical value of the Divine Liturgy when she said,
God Himself teaches us to go forward with our hand in His by means of the Church’s liturgy.
The Lord and the Church desires the Divine Liturgy to be the first and primary didactic means of educating her children. Bishop Loverde’s reflection is well said and deserves additional time for reflection.
Some of you may recall, as I do, learning certain tenets of our faith from the Baltimore Catechism. The concise, memorable question-and-answer format assisted me as a boy in learning theological truths upon which I still reflect today. In light of the announcement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that, after years of work, the new translation of the Roman Missal will be implemented in Advent 2011, the Catechism question “What is Prayer?” particularly resounds with me. The response, “Prayer is the lifting up of our minds and hearts to God,” highlights the opportunity for spiritual growth that the new translation will afford each of us (Baltimore Catechism, no. 1099).
This new translation of the Mass is the result of years of labor by skilled translators and the national conferences of bishops in English-speaking nations. The result is a translation of the Mass that will contribute to the ongoing renewal of sacred liturgy in our parishes and is a more accurate translation of the official Latin edition of the Roman Missal, first promulgated in 1970, updated again in 1975 and published in its third edition in 2000. Our Holy Father prayed that the new translation would be “a springboard for a renewal and a deepening of Eucharistic devotion all over the English-speaking world” (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Vox Clara Committee, 28 April 2010). Yes, this translation means more than merely learning new responses to say during Mass, although the words have a particular purpose and are important. It is, ultimately, a call to strengthen our prayer to God during the liturgy and to more actively and authentically participate: to truly “lift our minds and hearts to God.”
It is my prayer that each of us will take time to reflect upon the changes being made and the true meaning of the words that the priest and the congregation pray at Mass. Consider, for example, the occasions in the Mass when the celebrant says, “The Lord be with you.” Instead of, “And also with you,” under the new translation the congregation will reply, “And with your spirit.” Far from being a reduction in meaning, this response, which is more true to the official Latin text from which all translations have been made, increases our understanding that we are asking the Lord to dwell in the souls of those gathered for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In addition, since the priest (or deacon before the proclamation of the Gospel) greets the faithful with the words, “The Lord be with you,” the response, “And with your spirit” serves to mark those moments of truly priestly (or diaconal) ministry, that is, when the priest (or deacon) is about to do what he is ordained to do. These moments include: presiding over the entire prayer of the community at the beginning of the Mass; proclaiming God’s holy Word in His Gospel; offering the Eucharistic Prayer, which begins with the Preface; and imparting the final blessing. Our new response indicates that the priest (or deacon) is not acting on his own but only in the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit.
The new translation of the Roman Missal will also include Masses for recently canonized saints, additional prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayers, other Masses for Various Needs and Intentions, and updated and revised rubrics (instructions) for celebrating the Mass. The richness of these seemingly subtle changes not only brings our prayer closer in line with our brothers and sisters who speak other languages, but also invites us to enter more fully into the mystery of the Mass.
Our participation in the liturgy is an essential part of our worship. Discussing the Mass, Pope Pius X taught that “the faithful assemble for no other object than that of acquiring this spirit from its foremost and indispensable font, which is the active participation in the most holy mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church” (Pope Pius X, Tra le Sollecitudini, 22 November 1903). This liturgical theme was further developed by the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI during the Second Vatican Council when he wrote that the “Church consists in the full active participation of all God’s holy people in these liturgical celebrations, especially in the same eucharist, in a single prayer, at one altar, at which there presides the bishop surrounded by his college of priests and by his ministers” (Pope Paul VI, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 1963, no. 41). The new translation provides us with the opportunity, once again, to participate in the Mass in a deeper way.
In the upcoming year, you will learn more details on the new translation and be given the grace-filled opportunity to deepen your life of prayer during the liturgy through additional catechesis. Resources will be made available to you through our website, www.arlingtondiocese.org; diocesan workshops will be offered to priests and musicians; and parishioners will have the opportunity to delve more deeply into the meaning of this new translation through programs at their parishes. I encourage you to take advantage of the resources and opportunities that will be available this year — they will be advertised on the website, via Facebook and Twitter, in your parish bulletin and also in the Arlington Catholic Herald.
In the next year, in our diocesan Church and throughout English-speaking nations, we will prepare for the implementation of the new translation. During this time of fruitful transition, I ask you to dedicate yourself to active participation in the celebration of the Mass. As this new translation so beautifully emphasizes, Our Lord Jesus Christ died so that we may have life, a mystery which we celebrate at each and every Liturgy. He sacrificed Himself for us; let our response be one of prayerful participation in the celebration of the Eucharist, which He instituted