Go figure. I return to church after a long period of self imposed exile and just when I’m beginning to feel comfortable about being back, what happens? The Vatican throws me a curve and changes the mass on me! Can you believe it? Okay, so maybe the mass itself didn’t change, but the words to some of the prayers and responses were changed in accordance with the new translation of the Roman Missal, the book of texts and prayers used in the Mass. This past Sunday the new translation was introduced in all Catholic Churches in the U.S. and Canada.
The new version got it’s start in 2000 when the late Pope John Paul II authorized church translators to develop a more formal word-for-word translation of the Roman missal. Although most of the changes are found within the priest’s prayers, there are some noticeable differences in the responses of parishioners. For instance The Nicene Creed, the profession of faith, now begins with “I believe in one God” instead of “We believe in one God.” The response to the priests proclamation “the Lord be with you” was “And also with you.” It is now “And with your spirit.” The Communion prayer begins with the words, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,” instead of “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you.” That one I really don’t understand! “I’m not worthy to receive you not only sounds better, it makes more sense! I want to receive Christ in me not under my roof!
Then there is my favorite, in the Nicene Creed our profession of faith, the line “One in being with the Father” has been changed to “consubstantial with the Father.” Come on! Consubstantial? That word better explains that Christ the Eternal Son is unequivocally the equal of His Father? That they are one and the same? I don’t think so. If they thought something was lost in the translation before, now it’s completely gone!
Other changes and additions are minimal, “I have sinned through my own fault” is now “I have greatly sinned,” “all things seen and unseen” is now “all things visible and invisible,” “and peace to His people of earth” has become “and on earth peace to people of good will,” and “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might” is “Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts.” There are more, but again they are not that significant. The Vatican believes the new translation more faithfully tracks the original Latin, which is all well and good, but it also makes the mass seem more formal in praising God and creates a greater divide between priest and laymen.
In the early 60’s the Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council authorized changes that brought the church into the 20th century. The Council decreed that the mass could be celebrated in other languages other than Latin and text could be translated accordingly. They also authorized the principle of greater participation by the laity in the celebration of the mass. I remember when the mass changed to English I was reluctant to let Latin and some of the other traditions go. I was a 12 year old altar boy and had a tough time accepting change. I was caught up in the magic and mysticism of the Latin mass. Somehow those qualities made the idea of God more real to me.Turning the altar around so that all could partake in the mass and be a part of what the priest was doing and saying the prayers in English killed it for me. In time I got over myself and came to understand that the changes gave me a bigger role in the mass and heightened my awareness of my relationship with God and accepted the changes.
Now all these years later, here we go again! Only this time it appears that the changes are designed to take us backwards, returning to the way things were prior to the Second Vatican Council. Hundreds of priest agree. In fact some wanted the new translation scrapped. They fear that the Vatican is turning away from the SVC’s commitment to allow people to pray in a simple, clear dialect that they are comfortable with as they participate in the mass and other sacred rites. nearly 22,000 people including many priests, clergy and liturgical scholars endorsed a petition to postpone the introduction of the new Mass, obviously the Vatican thought otherwise.
So why the change? Why now? Why deal with semantic issues when there are much more important issues at hand like allowing priest to marry or using proceeds from the sale of Vatican treasures and properties to feed the hungry, aide the sick and create shelter for the homeless. I can only guess that it’s the Vatican exercising her power over us, a needless attempt to look important. They are attempting to reestablishing the hierarchy, the division between clergy and worshiper. A return to what they probably think of as
“the good old days.” The director of the States Conference of Catholic Bishops which is in charge of instituting the change in America, claims the new translations are more poetic and filled with imagery. “Over time, we have realized that there is a better way to pray,” he added. “Not that the old way was bad, but we hope and believe that this new way is better.”
Perhaps he’s right. As I read the changes from a laminated card in church Sunday I was a little put out by the changes, but vowed that I wouldn’t let it deter me from practicing my faith. And actually I did have a poetic image. The first time was when I said “Consubstantial with the Father,” I couldn’t help but imagine a room full of clergy tossing that word around a conference room, discussing the dire importance of the need for this particular word to be used in the Liturgy. what a waste of time. The second time was when ” I said ” Lord I’am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.” I can’t explain why, but Father forgive me, I immediately imagined the Coaster’s singing their big hit “Up on the Roof” which was followed by another Coaster song “Under the Boardwalk.” Go figure…