Archbishop’s column: new words deeper meaning same Mass

The revision of the prayers and responses we use during the Mass is intended to give deeper meaning to the celebration of the Mass.

A revised Roman Missal is to be in use by the end of the year and the bishops will introduce it through catechesis over the next few months. The revision of the prayers and responses we use during the Mass is intended to give deeper meaning to the celebration of the Mass: ‘New words – deeper meaning – same Mass’.

The need for a new version
Archbishop's column: new words deeper meaning same Mass Archdiocese of Wellington Over the next few months, the New Zealand Bishops will explain why we need a revision through an in-depth catechesis which will bring us to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Mass. A six-hour DVD, Become One Body, One Spirit In Christ, will be shown in study sessions to give background to the changes. There is also a series of pamphlets and homilies which will be introduced on the last Sunday of July and first three Sundays in August.

A pastoral letter will be read throughout the country on July 18 on the introduction which will happen on the first Sunday in Advent, November 28. Currently most parishes are including a brief notice in their weekly news bulletin.

I was at a meeting in January with the bishops and advisors who have been working on the new translations. Also present were people who have been producing the catechetical DVD. We used the revised translations when we celebrated the Mass. As they heard the different words prayed, those who had been working on the DVD for months talked about what a prayerful experience it was for them.

The International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) has been responsible for the revision. It comprises representatives of several bishops’ conferences where there are large numbers of people who celebrate the liturgy in English – Australia, Canada, England, Wales, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Scotland, South Africa and the United States. You can imagine the difficulties in finding a common language among such diverse speakers of English.

Weaknesses in the earlier edition
In 1969, the first English edition of the Roman Missal was published. To meet the demand to celebrate the liturgy in English as soon as possible, ICEL rushed the translation of the Latin text. The new liturgy was sometimes introduced without adequate preparation. As well, some priests experimented with changes not allowed by the Holy See or mandated by the bishops.

Some of the specific problems from that time were the loss of some obvious connections with scripture, – the words we used to say before receiving the Eucharist and which we will say again ‘I am not worthy to have you come under my roof’, come from Luke’s Gospel (Luke 7:1-10).

Sometimes explanatory comments or responses were added which went beyond the mandate to provide a faithful translation – the many versions of the Eucharistic acclamation that do not reflect the paschal mystery: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

In 1975 another edition was rushed through creating similar problems. Two more issues emerged – creative additions made some of the prayers look like new compositions rather than translations, and contemporary English expressions and phrases were introduced.

The bishops soon realised that changes in the liturgy needed good catechesis, a lesson we want to learn from this year by preparing well for the introduction of the new texts on the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of a new church year.

The third edition of the missal
Added to the mix of issues that ICEL addressed was the call to use inclusive language. The question of liturgical inculturation was hotly debated. How much adaptation of the Roman liturgy is permissible in honouring the customs and traditions of racial and ethnic groups?

If the liturgy is inserted into the culture, tradition and history of the people celebrating it, how does this affect our judgment as to what constitutes an accurate translation of our prayer tradition? What values does a translation need to preserve to transmit faithfully the essentials of the faith?

In New Zealand this has meant a renewed translation of the text into Maori through a broad consultation with the bishops’ Maori Catholic Advisory body, Te Runanga o Te Hahi Katorika.
The Maori community reflected not only on te reo and tikanga, but on their traditions in the celebration of the Mass. The bishops believe that it is important for New Zealand to have a missal which truly reflects the bicultural relationship we have in this country between Pakeha and the tangata whenua.

Some of the considerations in producing a modern vernacular translation of a liturgical text are: the preservation of biblical references, retention of the traditional grammatical gender of the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), and faithful translations of biblical and liturgical expressions such as ‘Son of Man’, the ‘hand’, the ‘face’ of God, or of God ‘walking’ among us – features that incorporate biblical imagery (‘not worthy to have you come under my roof’).

Having worked with the new texts over the last few years, I believe the new edition of the Roman Missal will be viewed as an improvement over the old translation, as well as one that leads to a more satisfying experience of worship.
If we use the catechesis Become One Body One Spirit in Christ well and if we have realistic expectations, I am certain the new translation will enable us to pray together well as the People of God. I ask all priests and lay pastoral leaders, parishes and communities to make full use of this catechesis and ‘Become One Body One Spirit in Christ’.