Archbishop’s column: a special book launch

Archbishop John DewOctober 2011 In the last few years I have been privileged to have been invited to a number of book launches. The First Sunday of Advent (November 27)…

Archbishop John Dew
October 2011

Archbishop's column: a special book launch Archdiocese of WellingtonIn the last few years I have been privileged to have been invited to a number of book launches. The First Sunday of Advent (November 27) will be more than a ‘book’ launch. It will be the opportunity to pray in a different way and hopefully to have a new sense of the sacred.

I am very aware that some people are finding it difficult to come to terms with new words and phrases in the Mass. The phrase ‘New Words, Deeper Meaning, Same Mass’ does not seem to say much to some people. I hope that with much prayer and reflection that we will all be patient and come to a deeper sense of what the Mass really is as we try to generously and graciously accept the Revised Missal.

The Liturgy of the Church is not about us but about God. That which is ‘about God’ is what we call sacred. The sacred always witnesses to the eternal, to unchanging truths, to the things of heaven. The sacred is clearly distinct from what is purely temporal and earthly. That’s why what is sacred calls for something different, a distinct form of human experience, a different way of speaking, of behaviour – what is sacred is addressed to God.

There is a need for us to address God as God. God is totally different from us, therefore we need something different from our everyday language to speak to, and of, God.

In today’s culture, many seem to think that because Christ was born in a stable, ate with sinners, and washed the feet of his disciples, that God should be treated as merely ‘a first among equals’. This would mean that we downplay the truth and the wonder of the Incarnation – and the distinction between God and his creatures.

What makes our salvation such an extraordinary way of God showing his love for us is precisely the fact that God is infinitely greater than we are, yet was willing, in Jesus, to humble himself to become human and die for us. (cf Phil 2:5-11). God is not just one of us and should not be treated or spoken to as merely one of us.

This is basically why we have been given a new translation of the Mass of Pope Paul VI (1962). There are many changes to the text – the intention is that they all work towards deepening for us a greater sense of the sacred.

This actually implies, however, that something needed to be corrected in what we had before. This new translation simply tries to restore to the liturgy words which should be more meaningful such as ‘soul’ and ‘adore’, terms that strangely the earlier translators seemed unwilling to allow into the English texts.

A second example is the Confiteor (one option of the penitential rite). The new translation gives us a phrase that was omitted completely from the translation we have been using. That is of course ‘. . . through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault . . .’ Some think this is a backward step, an ‘old’ thing to do and that it seems too negative and therefore does not help an individual’s self-esteem. However, in all honesty there is always a need for the reminder that we are sinners in need of God’s mercy, that we are responsible for our ‘actions and omissions’ and that we are in need of constant conversion.

Yet another example is in the Eucharistic prayers and the Memorial Acclamations; one Memorial Acclamation (‘Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again’) has been done away with altogether.

It was invented by the previous translators and had never existed before. But in many parishes it has become the one used most often. It has been removed because it was just a statement, a declaration, not a prayer, in contrast to the others – the three which are retained – and which are salutations or greetings addressed to Christ.

These are only a few examples. The Revised Missal will take some time to get used to. However, if we come to our liturgies knowing that this is what God is doing for us, this is about encountering the ‘sacred’ in our midst it may just help us to appreciate that ‘new words’ do give ‘deeper meaning’, but it is the ‘same Mass’.

See also Answers to questions I don’t have – the new translation