Bishops on Mass changes

The bishops of the Southern African Bishops’ Conference have been evaluating the response to the implementation of the new English texts of the Mass. We wish to thank all who have cooperated in the implementation of this first phase which involves by and large the responses of the faithful.

We have attempted to identify the problem areas with a view to facilitating the second phase which will provide texts for the ordinary parts of the Mass which are used by the priest. We have studied the letters and e-mails addressed to us directly as well as those from the readership of The Southern Cross.

We have decided to appeal to the Holy See on the use of “man” and “men” in the Creed and the fourth Eucharistic Prayer. Only the Holy See has the authority to alter the text — no one of us nor any priest has that authority. In the meantime we ask our Catholics to be patient since the process of appeal takes time. For those who find it difficult to use the term “man” or “men” because they feel it to be not inclusive enough, in the spirit of our Catholic tradition we ask them to bear in mind that one text which is meant for universal use will always make some demands on us, and there will always be some give and some take. This is made all the more challenging in that English is the new Latin in the Church.

“For us men and for our salvation…and became man”. In the creed the main intention is to proclaim that Christ, in becoming incarnate, became MAN. He is the new MAN, and, by our baptism, we are all men and women in the new MAN. “For all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27,28).

“You formed man in your own image …” Similarly in Eucharistic Prayer Four, addressing God, the priest proclaims, “…you formed MAN in your own image”. This carries the meaning of the old MAN redeemed by the new MAN in which there is no longer distinction of male and female, as St Paul taught.

Before we implement the second phase—texts for the ordinary parts of the Mass used by the priest—we would like to give our priests a further opportunity to study the reasons behind certain choices made in the new translation so that they may pass these on to the faithful. Towards this goal, we will issue a series of three further letters and ask them to see that the formation and information is passed on to all our members.

We will make the new texts of the four Eucharistic Prayers available to them — not for use, but for study. The text differs in places from what is contained in the ICEL (International Commission for English in the Liturgy) book issued in 2007. We ask that the period of embargo be respected so as to give everyone the chance to prepare adequately. The date of implementation will be Trinity Sunday.

“And with your spirit.” We once again hear the response to the greetings of the priest. In some of the languages used in Southern Africa this is not strange — “ibe 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 the celebrant has by virtue of his priestly ordination.

It would be a misunderstanding to claim that this formulation creates clericalism. Clericalism is a sign of something dysfunctional. What should really be acknowledged is that from within the community one has been called to serve the community with the spirit of Christ. The dictum of St Augustine is appropriate here: “For you I am a bishop [a priest], with you I am a Christian. The first is the title of the office I received, the second is by grace” (Sermon 340, 1)

In the threefold “through my fault” we again revert to the formulation in existence in the Council days. ICEL, in the years immediately following the Second Vatican Council and the introduction of the rite of the Mass in English, 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”.

You take away the sins of the world …you are seated at the right hand… The pattern of threefold repetition 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.”

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”.

In the dialogue introducing the Preface, the response “It is right and just” in answer to the priest’s invitation “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God” may sound incomplete. It will only begin to make sense when the full missal is introduced and the celebrating priest takes up the words of the congregation, expanding on them thus: “Truly it is right and just…”.

An example of renewed theological insight 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 of renewed theological insight is the formulation concluding the penitential rite: “May almighty God have mercy on us and lead us, with our sins forgiven, to eternal life.”

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 in English: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”, from Luke 7:6-7. This latter is an example of the genius of the Roman Rite which begins with the words of the sacred scriptures and brings them to focus on the person him/herself.

“Consubstantial with the Father” As for “consubstantialem”, the problem arose when there was no agreement from the bishops’ conferences on the use of “one in Being” and “of one Being”. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments maintained that, in the matter of the Christological definitions expressed in the creeds, absolute uniformity throughout the Universal Church was necessary.

Bishop Risi chairs the SACBC’s Deptartment for Christian Formation, Liturgy and Culture. The text was approved at the bishops’ plenary meeting in January.

  • Stephen P. Newton, CSC

    I found Bishop Risi’s comments interesting and helpful, but want to make 2 points: 1) It seems a bit disingenuous for a cleric to define what is and is not “clericalism” and, 2) it is even more inappropriate for the non-English speaking Vatican to define for native English speakers what is and is not proper use of that language.

  • John Michael Victor

    I thank Fr Newton for his pertinent comments. I am less convinced than him that Bishop Risi’s comments are ‘helpful’.

    I would add that (1) the SA bishops have implemented these changes far ahead of the church. A document from the relevant congregation for liturgy explicitly says they are not to be implemented until all elements are complete and necessary catechesis have been done. Further, (2) the process of creating these new ‘texts’ was the result of a deliberate attempt by the Vatican to destroy the attempts by ICEL to produce more accurate but [horror of horrors!] gender-inclusive texts. The 1998 translation of ICEL was not only rejected – it has ‘vanished’. The new ICEL committee were chosen not for their expertise as for their ‘orthodoxy’ – read: ideological conservatism, anti-gender inclusive language, and in some cases sympathy for the Tridentine rite. Note too that Vox Clara, the organisers of ‘oversight’, are themselves a mixture of non-English speakers, religious archreactionaries (our old friend Cardinal Pell – known by some in Oz as ‘Pell Pot”) and devotees of Latin. Hardly a group that inspires my confidence!

  • Martin Keenan

    “The non-English speaking Vatican”? What might that be? What was wrong with Cardinal Arinze’s English when he was Prefect of CDWDS?

    And who, of the 12 members of Vox Clara, is not an English-speaker? The Indian Archbishop of Agra speaks fluent English, I am sure; as do the Archbishop of Castries in St. Lucia and Bishop Tirona in the Philippines. Archbishop Sarpong of Kumasi in Ghana writes perfect English – does that count?

    The argument against the new translation never gets off the ground, continually mired in irrelevant sidetracking. The new version of the Nicene Creed required some commitment on the part of the reader, but apart from that, what precisely is supposed to be the problem?

    After three months, surely to goodness the debate might have moved ahead an inch further than the vague complaints continually aired in The Southern Cross Letters pages and in these blogs.

  • Tim

    The problem is the degraded English that is used in the new translation. It is forced and wierd because the structure of the English and Latin languages are different. I am amazed that the Vatican could expect an English text of the Mass translated in this “formal equivalence” fashion could be given the dignity and status it deserves if it looks and sounds so un-English to English speakers. Have at look at the rest of the new Mass translation and I’m sure you’ll see what the problem is. The Mass should have the best English possible, not a pidgin variant.

  • Martin Keenan

    I am anxious to respond, Tim, because it’s refreshing to hear a critic who isn’t expressing himself in abusive and hostile terms, but you don’t give me enough to go on; so all I can say is that I disagree with you as to the effect of the English. It doesn’t strike me as “degraded”, “pidgin” or “weird”, and I consider I am as highly tuned to differences in spoken and written English as anyone. Having read all the new Eucharistic Prayers, I have to say that I find them an immense improvement over the previous version. So here we have one for and one against, which doesn’t take us very far.

    To widen the picture, my parish is mixed in every possible way – culturally, socially, economically, linguistically, and in levels of education. Neither I nor my parish priest can say we have noticed any discontent with the new version, which has been adopted with a minimum of difficulty. The new prayers are spoken with the same unanimity as the old were, and with the same strong conviction. But that isn’t a comfort to you either, if the new version is still giving you trouble after three months of experience with it.

    Maybe it’s just a vague feeling with you, but possibly you have some specific words or phrases in mind. Let’s take the Gloria, for example. You must have noticed that the new version is longer than the previous one. That’s because the old translation simply deleted entire phrases in the original for no obvious reason. But is the new version now weird? Is it in “pidgin English”? Is the Confiteor now weird or degraded?

    What, if I may ask, is the problem with ANY of the prayers in the new version before the Creed? What, indeed, is the problem (as far as weirdness is concerned) with any of the prayers AFTER the Creed?

    You tell me to look at all the prayers and I will see what the problem is; but I don’t see the problem. Some phrasing takes a bit of getting used to, and I’m not saying that the new version is perfect (I have plenty of suggestions for improvement!). But all in all I find it more than just acceptable. I think it is very worthy of our respect.

    So these are honest questions of mine. Leaving aside, for the moment, the Nicene Creed, which are the prayers (if there are any specific ones) that are giving you a problem? Perhaps we can work through them. I hope to hear from you.

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