New Translation Brings Changes to Mass

November 11, 2011

The language of the Mass is changing with the introduction of a new English version of the Roman Missal.

Based on a more literal translation of the original Latin text, the new Roman Missal Third Edition is being used at all Masses as of this past weekend, the start of the season of Advent and of the Church's liturgical year.

The Rev. Stephen Wilbricht, C.S.C., an assistant professor of religious studies at Stonehill, is hopeful that the prayer changes will help Catholics connect even more to the Mass.

"I would like to see it give people an increased stake in the celebration of the Eucharist," he said of the new language.

To familiarize the Stonehill community with the changes, Fr. Wilbricht will introduce the new Missal by taking a teaching approach to Masses he will celebrate on Sunday Nov. 13 in the Chapel of Mary.

Explaining The Revisions

At those Masses, he will explain the revisions within the context of the prayers, starting with the opening response that used to be "and also with you" but now will be "and with your Spirit," a phrase that more closely reflects the words of Scripture.

His message to students and to Catholics in general , he said, is that "the Mass is like our lives. God calls, and we respond."

Some of the new language may resonate with long-time Catholics who grew up with the Latin Missal that was in use until the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s allowed new translations in the vernacular, or commonly used language. The editions that followed captured the sense of the language but not the literal meaning, favoring a word like "offering" over the more formal "oblation."

By 2000, the late Pope John Paul II declared that the prayers had been translated too loosely and a new, more literal edition was therefore needed. Fr. Wilbricht said that was a particular concern in countries where the English version was used as a basis for other translations, which removed them even more from the original Latin.

The more direct translation of the third edition incorporates phrases like "consubstantial with the Father" replacing "one in Being with the Father" and "was incarnate of the Virgin Mary" replacing "was born of the Virgin Mary."

Richer Language

That wording may seem awkward and even archaic to some Catholics, and Fr. Wilbricht said he understands that reaction, but he believes the new language is richer and actually invites a deeper understanding of the mystery.

"It's taking us to a different plane," he said, noting that much of the liturgy is not in common words. "It was meant to be loftier," he said. "The community is putting itself into another language, another world."

He has also heard the concerns that the Church is returning to an emphasis on personal guilt by bringing back such phrases as "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault," or that the changes go against the intent of Vatican II to make the Mass more understandable and accessible.

True To Latin Text

But Fr. Wilbricht said the council most likely never expected the translations to become as loose as they did, and the phrases being reintroduced are true to the original Latin text.

"By no means is this an attempt to go back to the days when the people's part is unimportant," he said.

He finds great beauty in the language, like in the description of the blood being "poured out" rather than shed.

One of the real gems of the new text, he said, comes before the Eucharistic prayer. That is when the response "It is right to give him thanks and praise" is replaced by the more literally translated "It is right and just." This is then reiterated in the subsequent prayer. The priest follows the people's response with the words, "it is truly right and just." That emphasis, he said, was lost in the former editions.

"That may be a small point to some, but it is huge to me because it is emphasizing our participation in the Eucharist as an act of justice," Fr. Wilbricht said.

Dispelling Concerns

He is hopeful that the discussions surrounding the prayer changes will dispel people's concerns as they come to appreciate the reasons for the revised language and the deeper meanings it conveys. But he also wants people to be educated on the Mass in its entirety and not just on the words.

"We need to help Catholics better understand the nature of the liturgy from beginning to end," he said.


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