By the time most people read this, most of us will have attended Mass on Sunday, November 27, the First Sunday in Advent. At that Mass, if you didn’t already know that it was going to be a special day in the history of our Catholic faith, then you certainly knew it by the time the congregation gave the response “And with your spirit” to the priest in the Greeting at the very beginning of Mass.
Yes, today is a very important moment in our history as Catholics. And we are all blessed to be a part of it. Today marked the first day the all English speaking Roman Catholics would be using the new prayers, responses and Mass parts from the 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal in English.
The Roman Catholic Church has been preparing the changes for the 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal in English since 2002. There’s tremendous tradition and history behind these changes, but the most important is that the Holy Spirit moved the Catholic Church to understand that the previous translation of the Mass into English from Latin could be translated better. As a result, we’ve got some different, wonderful and more meaningful words and phrases to use to pray the Mass in English.
If you’re familiar with Mass in other languages such as Spanish, you’ll note that the changes present in the 3rd Roman Missal in English were already being used. You see, it is far easier to translate from Latin to Spanish (and several other languages) and have words share the same meaning than it is to translate from Latin to English. And so now with this 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal in English, we find ourselves praying and singing with words that have a meaning closer to how our brothers and sisters from hundreds of years ago celebrated and prayed Mass, as well as how our brothers and sisters who speak other languages pray today.
These changes for those of us that speak the English language are massive. The wording, phrasing and grammar used are not part of our everyday language. It’s not common to refer to the spirit of another in greetings. When we admit that we did something wrong to another, some of us will say “it’s my own fault,” but I know of no one that says “through my most grievous fault.” And I definitely don’t know of anyone who uses the word “consubstantial” in everyday conversation. Yes, these changes are massive and significant. Yet the translation changes from a dynamic equivalent translation of Latin to English (what we’ve been using up until now) to a formal equivalent translation of the Latin to English now gives us as English-speaking Catholics a massive opportunity.
In the time we live in, and in the United States in particular, there’s a lack of understanding of the whats and whys of what we do and say at Mass. And this 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal in English gives us an opportunity to delve deeper and understand more about the Mass we celebrate as Roman Catholics. It’s the same Mass we’ve attended week after week, just an opportunity for the Mass to have a deeper meaning to us as we question and understand these changes. One of the ways we can understand the Mass better is to look at the scriptural references present throughout our prayers at Mass. As Catholics we don’t always catch the scriptural references, and this 3rd Edition translation will help us be more aware of many of these.
A great example of this (and one of my personal favorite changes) to the text at Mass is during the Ecce Agnus Dei (Behold the Lamb of God). In our new response* to the priest we say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” A very profound and powerful scriptural reference is made here, to the moment in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 8:8) when a Centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus tells the Centurion that he will go to the Centurions’ house and cure the servant. But the Centurion tells Jesus, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; but say the word and my servant will be healed.” Jesus, amazed at the faith of the Centurion healed the servant. It is with similar faith we trust that Jesus can heal our souls.
I’ve only mentioned a couple of the wording changes at Mass. We in the congregation don’t have to learn quite as many new things to say at Mass like the priests. Just think about some of the priests that have been saying Mass with the 2nd Roman Missal Translation for so many years to the point of having the Mass memorized! These changes are even bigger and more significant for them. So listen carefully to what the priests say. It’s a massive opportunity to discover more about our Catholic faith.
There’s great meaning words, a great power. And just because some of the words at Mass have changed doesn’t mean our faith has. Actually, something just the opposite is happening. We are growing closer to our roots in our Catholic faith, identifying more closely to our traditions, faith history and our brothers and sisters in Christ from hundreds of years ago.
Remember, the words we use to pray and sing the Mass have changed, but the Mass itself has not changed. There’s greater meaning in these changed words. And with these changes, we have a have a massive opportunity.
“O blessed Mass, by which we come to have the Son of God placed not within our arms but within our hearts, Nor is there a doubt but that with Him, and Him alone, we shall be able to satisfy the debt of gratitude which we have contracted with God.” -St. Leonard of Port Maurice
*changes from previous text to current text are in bold
Want to learn more about these changes?
For adults, you can watch videos on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) YouTube Channel that explains it well. Especially good: “What’s New- Part I” and “What’s New- Part II.” Each is about 16 minutes long. You can also visit the USCCB website for a side-by-side comparison of the changes. The USCCB also has many articles and resources are available concerning the changes, including books for purchase.
For teens, there are some great videos created by Life Teen at Is The Mass Changing?. The videos near the top of the page are 10 minutes or less and provide a good general overview and explanation. Some of the videos (like the one towards the bottom of the page) are a little long, but very comprehensive.