Friday, October 14, 2011

The New Roman Missal

I just received a copy of the third edition of The Roman Missal, the book of Mass prayers we formerly called The Sacramentary.

The new translation, in my humble opinion, is going to be more difficult for priests to proclaim and pray than the former one.

When I compare the new with the old I see the difference.

The old translation of the opening prayer for the First Sunday of Advent was:

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 with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The new translation of the opening prayer for the First Sunday of Advent is:

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, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The priest-presider must not only pray the prayer he must proclaim it, or say it aloud.

The presider will have to make a special effort to clarify that the personal pronoun "they" refers back to "your faithful" (the antecedent is at the start of the prayer) and not to "righteous deeds" which is closer to the pronoun.

I do not think the congregation will have much difficulty with the "peoples' responses" to the prayers.
Within a few weeks "And with your spirit" will come as easily to mind as "And also with you." The burden is going to be on the priests.

Those who have been praying the Mass prayers for 40 years are likely to stumble when the familiar "Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer..." becomes "Blessed are you Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you..."

Even more troublesome will be the change from "Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven."

The new version, "Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins," changes the wording but also unnecessarily raises the theological problem of what "for many" means.

The wording changes from "for all" to "for many," but we have to clarify that the meaning is the same, that "for many" means "for all."

Most of the preparatory programs and presentations have assured us that implementation of the new translation provides us with an excellent opportunity for reflecting on the Mass and renewing our commitment to this central act of worship.

The United States Catholic Bishops website explains that "the entire Church in the United States has been blessed with this opportunity to deepen its understanding of the Sacred Liturgy, and to appreciate its meaning and importance in our lives." The revised translation is touted as "New words: a deeper meaning but the same Mass."

The saving grace of implementing the new Roman Missal will surely be the revised emphasis on the liturgy and its significance for the Catholic faithful. The problem that will linger after the initial enthusiasm is the translation itself.

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