New Words: A Deeper Meaning, but the Same Mass
Full implementation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition began around the United States and most of the English-speaking Catholic world on the First Sunday of Advent, 2011. While the preparation phase of the Missal has passed, the work of preparing hearts and minds to enter more deeply into the mystery of faith continues.
Revised principles for translation (Liturgiam authenticam) were issued in 2001, and the third edition of the Missale Romanum was promulgated in 2002 (and emended in 2008). Nine years later, a monumental work of inculturation—the English translation of the Latin text—has reached fruition in churches and oratories around the world. There is need for patience with assembly and ministers as we all struggle to learn, to understand, and to interiorize our ageless faith in a new verbal expression.
In addition to the revised translation of some familiar Mass prayers, the new Missal contains prayers for the observances of recently canonized saints, additional prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayers, additional Votive Masses and Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions, and some updated and revised rubrics (instructions) for the celebration of the Mass. New musical settings have been composed, and pew cards to help with the transition are in place.
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. Because the Sacred Liturgy is the central action of the Church’s mission in the world, the energy and attention given over to the Roman Missal actually serves as the foundation for all of the other charitable and apostolic work in which the Church engages. It is the Sacred Liturgy which informs, inspires and nourishes the rest of the Church’s work in the world. As the Constitution on the Liturgy states, “the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows” (art. 10).
The coming months are an opportunity for Catholics to let the new words of the Mass strike our hearts and imaginations. Homilists are encouraged to preach not only on the new texts, but on the structure and meaning of the Mass itself. It is also a chance for ministers and assembly alike to invite back those who have not attended for some time, and encourage them to “come and see” (Jn. 1:46) this new work in the Church.
There is grace with the new Missal for all Catholics as we allow the Holy Spirit to deepen, nurture, and celebrate our faith through the renewal of our worship and the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy.