On November 27, the First Sunday of Advent, the Roman Missal, Third Edition, the ritual text containing prayers and instructions for the celebration of the Mass, will be implemented in the United States of America.
If you have been hearing the buzz but are not completely up to speed on the new Roman Missal, here are ten things you need to know:
- It is not a new Mass, it is a new translation for a new edition of the Missal. Because a new edition of the Missale Romanum, the Latin Roman Missal, was promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 2000, it was necessary for all the countries of the world to translate this missal into the various local languages. The new missal has added features: prayers for the celebration of recently canonized saints, additional prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayers, additional Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Intentions, and some updated and revised rubrics (instructions) for the celebration of the Mass. In the case of the English-speaking world, a common translation of the common text was sought through the International Commission for English in the Liturgy (ICEL) to ensure uniformity.
- Vatican guidelines for translation.The translation of the new Roman Missal was carried out under the newest Vatican guidelines for translating prayers into modern local (i.e., vernacular) languages. These were given in the instruction Liturgiam Authenticam, published in 2001, urging a stronger adherence to the original Latin wording and structure than earlier directives. In the new translation, the unique style of the Roman Rite is closely maintained. The texts are marked by a heightened style of English speech and a grammatical structure that follows closely the Latin text. In addition, many biblical and poetic images—such as “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…” (Communion Rite, taken from Matthew 8:8) and “…from the rising of the sun to its setting” (Eucharistic Prayer III, taken from Psalm 113), that were lost in the 1973 translation—have been restored.
- Particular adaptations to the U.S. are included. The new English-language Missal also includes Vatican-approved adaptations requested by the Bishops of the United States as well as texts for observances that are proper to the United States (such as the prayers for the Memorial of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and prayers for Independence Day and Thanksgiving Day).
- “And with your spirit.” The translation of several phrases in the Order of Mass had been previously decided by the Vatican in the instruction Liturgiam authenticam. Among these are “certain expressions that belong to the heritage of the whole or of a great part of the ancient Church, as well as others that have become part of the general human patrimony…” Such is the case of the response “Et cum spiritu tuo.” What had originally been translated in 1973 as “And also with you” becomes now “And with your spirit.” This places the English translation in line with the way this has always been translated in most other languages, including Spanish, French, German, and Italian
- Changes in the people’s parts. In addition to the response to the greeting “The Lord be with you”, people are going to find a number of other changes in the translation of common prayers throughout. This includes the various parts of the Penitential act (“I confess to Almighty God…”), the Gloria, the Creed (both in the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed), the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy), the Mystery of Faith, and the invitation to communion. (Samples of comparative texts for the new and old responses can be found at the USCCB Roman Missal website.
- “For many.” One of the points that has generated more discussion is the translation of qui pro vobis et pro multis effundétur in remissiónem peccatórum, presently translated “which will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.” In the new edition of the Roman Missal, “for all” will be changed to “for many.” There are several reasons for this change. First, “for many” is a more accurate translation of the Latin phrase pro multis than the present translation. This is also the wording used in the Biblical narrative account of the Last Supper found in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. Even though it is a dogmatic teaching of the Church that Christ died on the Cross for all men and women, the expression “for many” is reflective also of the fact that this salvation is not brought automatically, without one’s own willing participation, but rather is a gift to be accepted. Also, in the context of the Last Supper, Jesus was speaking to the Twelve, extending the reach of his sacrifice beyond the boundary of his closest disciples. In the context of the celebration of the Eucharist, the phrase “for you and for many” connects the particular gathered assembly with the larger sense of the Church in every time and place, as if to say “not only you gathered here, but many more as well.”
- Gradual implementation for Musical Settings. Though official implementation is set for the First Sunday of Advent 2011, Diocesan bishops may permit the gradual implementation of various musical settings of the people’s parts in the Order of Mass starting in September to allow the congregation time to learn them. This applies only to the Glory to God, the Holy, Holy, Holy, and the Memorial Acclamations. Composers have readjusted previous musical settings and new compositions are also being prepared. New musical settings of the Amen and the Lamb of God, the texts of which are not changing, can be introduced at any time.
- What’s not changing. The structure and rite of the Mass itself is not changing, so the Mass will look and feel the same. Some texts of the Mass are not changing, including the Lord’s Prayer and the Lamb of God. The translation of Scripture readings used at Mass will remain the same, so those who proclaim the readings (lectors and deacons) will not be affected in their ministry by the introduction of the new Missal. Much of the hymnody and other chants sung at Mass will not be affected by the changes, although many hymnals and other participation aids are being revised to reflect the changes in the parts of the Mass.
- Symbolism of posture and gestures. The symbolism of some traditional gestures has been recaptured in the new missal. The gestures themselves have always been prescribed, but the introduction of the new Missal provides an opportunity to teach about these long-standing customs. One such example is striking oneself over the chest during the Penitential Act (Confiteor) while reciting the words “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault,” (mea culpa), as a show of remorse, a tradition that had not always been followed in the U.S. Another example is the reverent bow during the recitation of the Creed. After the words “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven,” at the words that follow up, “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man” all bow as a sign of reverence for the mystery of the Incarnation.
- Proximate preparation. Parishes and dioceses are now abuzz with preparations for the reception of the new Missal. The Roman Missal itself is the primary source of training and instruction for the new translation. It displays rubrics, sentences printed in red that instruct a priest on what to say and do, how and when to gesture, and when to sing the common prayers in the Order of Mass. It provides instructions that guide the celebrant in leading the liturgy and the people assembled in ritual response for each occasion. It also dictates the words used by a priest during the Mass. In addition to the homily at Mass, during which many priests will offer instruction about the new text, many parishes are making use of various small- and large-group catechetical sessions to help the people learn the new responses and be aware of upcoming changes. A variety of print and online resources for use in parishes, in group settings, and in homes are available from many publishers.
The introduction of a new translation for the Roman Missal gives people an opportunity to pause to think about the words they are saying every time they participate in the Mass. It is an opportunity for the entire Church in the United States to deepen its understanding of the Sacred Liturgy, of its meaning and importance in their lives. It also puts Catholics in contact with the Church’s tradition of prayer and helps create a historical awareness. The new translation and the education Catholics shall receive before it is implemented offer Catholics a chance to “brush up” on their knowledge of the Mass and of the Church’s beliefs. Those leading the efforts to educate the community hope the changes “will invite the faithful to pause and reflect on what, after so many years, we may have taken for granted” and that such meditation will redound in an “enrichment of people’s spiritual life.”
To learn more about the new English translation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition, visit the USCCB Roman Missal website.