In his address to the Bishops of Scotland, England and Wales at the end of his Visit to the UK Pope Benedict XVI drew our attention to the imminent publication of the new English translation of the Roman Missal. In doing so he thanked all the bishops “for the contribution you have made, with such painstaking care, to the collegial exercise of reviewing and approving the texts.”. He described the provision of the new missal as “an immense service to Catholics throughout the English-speaking world”, and encouraged us “to seize the opportunity that the new translation offers for in-depth catechesis on the Eucharist and renewed devotion in its manner of celebration.” With such strong approval for the new missal coming from Pope Benedict we, the Bishops of Scotland, will soon begin the work of introducing the texts of the missal across our country, and we invite the clergy and lay faithful to welcome the introduction of the new missal and to indeed seize the opportunity it offers to renew our faith in the Eucharist and in all aspects of its celebration.
THE BISHOP AND THE LITURGY:
In praising the collegial work of the bishops in preparing the new translation Pope Benedict highlighted the responsibility of the Bishop for Divine Worship. Indeed this is his pre-eminent role, and in his own Diocese he has the task of ordering, promoting and safe-guarding the entire liturgical life of the Diocese. As Scottish Bishops we will each introduce the Missal in our dioceses in accord with our ministry in the person of Christ the High Priest, and in communion with Our Holy Father and the College of English-speaking Bishops across the world. In doing so we wish to remind the faithful that the Sacred Liturgy is a gift from God, given to us by Christ through His Church. It is not something, therefore, that we put together ourselves or re-create according to our own ideas and expectations. It is the means by which the mysteries of our faith in Our Lord’s life, death and resurrection are made present for us, and through which we receive the grace of his living presence in word and sacrament. It is a beautiful gift by which we worship God in Our Lord Jesus Christ through the prayers prepared for us when we gather to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy in accordance with the norms given to us by the Church through the Pope and the Bishops.
“LEX ORANDI, LEX CREDENDI”:
An important principle in Catholic teaching is “lex orandi, lex credendi” (the law of praying, the law of believing) meaning that what we say in prayer is what we believe, or the Church believes as she prays. It is vital therefore that the fullest attention is given to expressing the faith of the Church in all our prayers, and especially in the texts of the Sacred Liturgy. In order to achieve this the Holy See has instructed that all translations from the original Latin of the Roman Missal should have a stricter adherence to the Latin, both in the words and the structure of the prayers. This means that some of the words we are familiar with in the present English Mass will change, and we are aware that it will take some time to get used to the new words. During the period from September this year until the first Sunday of Advent the new words for the Ordinary of the Mass will be gradually introduced into our Masses here in Scotland, accompanied by the in-depth catechesis called for by Pope Benedict. On the First Sunday of Advent the full Missal will come into use, replacing the present English Missal, and it will then be the text used at all English Masses celebrated in Scotland according to the Roman Rite.
SOME OF THE CHANGES IN COMMON PRAYERS AND RESPONSES:
A very noticeable change will be the response to “The Lord be with you” (Dominus Vobiscum) – it will now be “And with your spirit” (a more literal translation of the Latin “Et cum spiritu tuo”). In the Confiteor we will again say “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault”, offering a fuller translation of the Latin “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”. In the Creed we will say “I believe”, translating the Latin “Credo…” . Parts of the Gloria will change, and in the Sanctus we will begin “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts…
As the priest presents the Body and Blood of Christ to the faithful immediately before Holy Communion he will say this beautiful invitation to the Lord’s Supper:
“Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb.”
And the response will be:
“Lord I am not worthy that you enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”.
Our humble words before receiving the Lord in Holy Communion give a clear example of how the new text tries to honour the scriptural references and metaphors which abound in the ancient Latin prayers of the Roman Missal. In this prayer we repeat the words of the centurion who came to Jesus seeking healing for his servant (Luke 7:6-7), while expressing his own sense of unworthiness that Jesus should even consider “entering under his roof”.
Throughout the new translation great attention has been given to such biblical allusions, and this helps us understand that the traditional words we use in prayer (e.g. the Our Father and the Hail Mary) often come from the Word of God, and the Gospels in particular. This can help us see the unity between the Missal, the sacred prayers of the Liturgy, and the Lectionary, the divine Word of God proclaimed from the Scriptures. On occasions the various scriptural nuances and references need to be explained, but surely this is exactly what Pope Benedict refers to when he speaks of “in-depth catechesis on the Eucharist.” We do need to deepen our faith in the “Sacred Mysteries” and the freshness of this new translation may open up this opportunity for us.
THE FULL CELEBRATION OF THE SACRED MYSTERIES:
When we speak of the Liturgy as the celebration of the “Sacred Mysteries of our faith” it tells us that there needs to be a strong sense of the sacred in all that we do and say at Mass – in the décor of the church and its furnishings, in the vestments and vessels used, in the person and actions of the priest, deacon and other ministers, in the quality of the music and the full and active participation of the faithful, and not least in the words read from the missal and lectionary and those offered by the preacher. The words of the prayers in the new missal do seek to offer a renewed sense of the sacred. We will notice a strong emphasis on reverence for the mystery of God, the graciousness and majesty of the Lord, and the necessary human stance of humility and unworthiness before our gracious God. He has recognised the depths of our sinfulness and our struggle with evil and has sent his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to redeem us by his death on the cross, his resurrection from the dead and ascension to the Father’s right hand. In the Mass we reach out to our Saviour and are touched by his saving grace.
OUR EUCHARISTIC FAITH:
Ours is a strong and very real faith in what happens at Mass and it is appropriate that the robust words used in Latin to express the human reality and our need for the Lord’s redeeming mercy are translated accordingly in English. This has meant that the new translation has returned at times to an older, more traditional terminology than we have been used to in the present English text. This is particularly the case with regard to the words which encourage us never to lose sight of the unity between Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross and the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist, in which the Lord’s self-offering is made present for us in the sacrament of his Body and Blood. Pope Benedict in his homily in Westminster Cathedral, reflecting on the mystery of the Precious Blood, gave a very clear exposition of our Eucharistic faith. Indeed he said “The reality of the Eucharistic sacrifice has always been at the heart of the Catholic faith”. The new translation, especially in the Eucharistic prayers, will help keep this fundamental truth of our faith before us, and perhaps point us also towards the renewed devotion in the celebration of the Eucharist which Pope Benedict asked the Bishops to strive for.
PREPARING FOR THE NEW MISSAL:
In the decree of publication the Bishops of Scotland permit the use of the revised Order of the Mass, the prayers and responses common to each celebration, in our dioceses from Sunday 4th September 2011. Then on the First Sunday of Advent, 27th November 2011, the third edition of the Roman Missal will enter into use in the Scottish dioceses, replacing the present edition of the Roman Missal. Although each Diocese will prepare in its own way for the introduction of the Missal the National Liturgy Commission will offer assistance in the way of catechetical materials distributed through the dioceses or downloaded from a website. Another shared resource is an interactive DVD, Become One Body, One Spirit in Christ, produced by ICEL (International Commission of English in the Liturgy). This DVD, filmed in a number of English speaking countries, is recommended as a good resource for the in-depth catechesis on the Eucharist called for by Pope Benedict. All changes can be difficult to adapt to, and this will be true also of the texts of the Missal, particularly for the priests as they familiarise themselves with the revised prayers. For Catholics there is nothing more important than the celebration of the Eucharist, and our understanding of its meaning has grown over the last 40 years through its celebration in our own language. Those responsible for the new translation, the Holy See and the Bishops, have sought to enhance the quality of our English text, bringing to the fore the beauty and richness of the prayers of the ancient Roman Rite. We now wish to pass on the fruit of these endeavours to the Catholics of Scotland, to priests, deacons and lay faithful. We ask you to welcome it as something good, a gift from the Church, through which we will continue to worship God and celebrate in English the Holy Mysteries of our faith.
+ Joseph Toal
President of National Liturgy Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland