New words at Mass

Bishop Edward Risi

The first Sunday of Advent, November 30, will see the first phase of the introduction of the new English translation of the Mass. To facilitate this phase the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference has produced a leaflet which can be carried by congregants in their missals or provided at the doors in the benches of parish churches and oratories for use during the Mass.

The first phase involves, by and large, the responses of the faithful. The second phase will provide texts for the ordinary parts of the Mass which are used by the priest. This is foreseen before the end of 2009. The third phase will be the introduction of the new translation of the missal which may be as late as 2011.

‘And with your spirit’
We will once again hear the response to the greetings of the priest: “And with your spirit”. In some of the languages used in Southern Africa this is not strange—“kube nomoya wakho futhi” is the answer in isiZulu. The reason for the reverting to the old form of the response in English is because it is closer to the scriptural origins of the formulation, as one can read in Galatians 6:18 or 2 Timothy 4:22. It is not the isolation of the soul from the whole person of the celebrant but rather the recognition of that special character or spirit which he has by virtue of his priestly ordination.

‘Through my fault’
Here again we revert to the formulation in existence in the Council days. The International Committee for English in the Liturgy (ICEL) in the years immediately following the Second Vatican Council and the introduction of the rite of the Mass as we today celebrate it ordinarily, interpreted their mandate to remove certain repetitions in formulations found in the Mass.

However, when the new rules of translation were drawn up in 2001, it was noted that some of the repetitions were characteristic of the Latin Rite and should therefore be restored. This applies to the “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault”. It also applies to the threefold invocation of Jesus in the Gloria: “You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us; you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer; you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.”

‘People of good will’
In proclaiming the words of the angels, the new formulation, “people of good will” replaces “peace to his people on earth”. The origin of these words is found in Luke 2:14 which in the Latin Vulgate read: “Gloria in altissimis Deo, et super terram pax in hominibus bonae voluntatis.”

Theological insights
A number of the changes can be attributed to changes in English usage, bearing in mind that a single English translation is used for the whole world. This was a commitment in the foundation principles of ICEL and at times has caused tension and dispute in the effort to maintain one English format.

One may attribute the change in the response “It is right and just” in answer to the priest’s invitation “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God” to enhanced style. It is foreseen that when the new translation of the full missal is introduced, the celebrant will take up the response of the people and begin the Preface, saying: “Truly it is right and just…”.

But some changes are more than just stylistic, they come out of renewed theological insight and developments. An example is the greeting: ‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” The choice of “communion” in place of what has been commonly used up to now, “fellowship” is because from the outset the liturgy looks forward to the Holy Communion by which we find fellowship with each other and communion with God. Another example is the formulation concluding the penitential rite: “May almighty God have mercy on us and lead us, with our sins forgiven, to eternal life.”

Greater faithfulness
This point has been made already, but it is important to note that it was one of the principles established in the new rules for translation that the Mass formulations reflect more faithfully the scriptural texts which are used in prayer and proclamation. For this reason one will find “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of Hosts”, which comes from Isaiah 6:3. Also the formulation as was in former times: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed” (Luke 7:6-7).

The bishops in their deliberation had preferred the formulation found in the Nicene creed, which we have become used to: “of one being with the Father” or “one in being with the Father”. However, the higher authority has decided that in future we should use that jaw breaker “consubstantial”.

In any event, both terms need to be explained for people to understand what is being said. Similarly, the word “incarnate” has been re-introduced to us: “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man”. Here is an example where our own option for inclusive language was not accepted with the argument that the relationship between “men” and becoming “man” is logically necessary.

Liturgical leaflet
The liturgical leaflet has been prepared on durable paper since it is foreseen that it will have to serve the communities for the next six to nine months. Simple directives have been inserted in red so as to help the worshippers and in particular the note that if the exchange of peace takes place after the bidding prayers, as approved for Southern Africa, it is not repeated after the prayer for peace prior to the Lamb of God. The leaflet is obtainable from the chanceries in the dioceses and archdioceses of the Conference territory.

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