Goodbye to the "old Mass"

The Roman Catholic Church began using its new missal this past Sunday. Reactions range from "love it" to "hate it." From the Huffington Post:

English-speaking Roman Catholics who have regularly attended Mass for years found themselves in an unfamiliar position Sunday, needing printed cards or sheets of paper to follow along with a ritual many have known since childhood.

"I don't think I said it the right way once," said Matthew Hoover, who attends St. Ann Catholic Church in Clayton, a growing town on the edge of the Raleigh suburbs. "I kept forgetting, and saying the old words."

The Mass itself – the central ritual of the Catholic faith – hasn't changed, but the English translation has, in the largest shakeup to the everyday faith of believers since the upheavals that followed the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. A years-long process of revision and negotiation led to an updated version of the Roman Missal, the text of prayers and instructions for celebrating Mass, which originally was written in Latin. The new translation was rolled out across the English-speaking Catholic world on Sunday after months of preparation.

Mickey Mattox, a professor at Milwaukee's Marquette University, said he was happy with the idea that the bishops wanted the translations as accurate as possible.

Adapting to the changes "was a lot less difficult than I thought it might be," said Mattox, 55, adding, "even though probably all of us are going to end up holding our worship folders for a few weeks until we memorize all the new language."

The Rev. George Witt, pastor of the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on New York's Park Avenue, started the 11 a.m. Mass by noting Sunday was not only the first day of Advent, but also the first day to use the new Missal. He directed parishioners to a pamphlet inserted into the back of the now-outdated hymnal that spelled out the new wording. A notable number of worshippers stumbled after the priest said, "Peace be with you." The new response is "And with your spirit" instead of "And also with you." But many others confidently gave the right response.

Kathleen McCormack, a church volunteer and former school teacher, said she didn't like the new translation and didn't understand why the church needed a translation closer to Latin.

"Consubstantial? What is that word?" McCormack said, referring to a term in the retranslated Nicene Creed that replaces language calling Jesus "one in being with the Father."

John Pinette, former Roman Catholic priest calls it Vatican Vandalism and Mary DeTurris Poust offers 4 Spiritual Tips to Help You Adapt to the New Catholic Mass.

The Rev. James Martin, S.J. says Goodbye to the "Old" Mass

Any significant change is like a death; and so any change brings about the need for some grieving. You sell a house and buy a new one; and you are sad about the loss of the old one -- even if your new house is more spacious. You move from one job to another; and you shed a few tears saying goodbye to old colleagues -- even if you're looking forward to the new position. You graduate from high school to college, and even if it's your top choice, you cry at your graduation.

It would be odd, therefore, not to acknowledge some sadness over the passing of something so central to Catholic life as what will soon be called the "old" Sacramentary. Even if you are eagerly anticipating the new translations, something significant is moving into the past, and is being lost.

So let me say something: I will miss the old prayers, even as I prepare for the new ones. I'm 50 years old, which means that by the time I was conscious of the Eucharist -- say, around 1967 -- the Mass was being celebrated in English. I dimly remember saying things like "It is right and just" as a very young boy, which was most likely a holdover from the early Mass translations after the Second Vatican Council. But, for the most part, my entire Catholic life has been shaped by the familiar prayers of the Sacramentary, the book that we are leaving behind this coming Sunday.

The Day After asks for feedback as people experience the new Mass.
Two things struck me: how stately and formal the language is and how difficult the celebrant found it to use the First Eucharistic Prayer where a couple of sentences seemed to go on forever.

A friend who was with me was much more critical than I was, saying that the whole experience for her “reeked of a return to a Vatican 1 ecclesiology.”

Comments (15)

I am sad about this change. Having grown up with the earlier translations I cannot understand how God is served by this move to words that are more faithful (literal) translations of the Latin. It seems that this is just a reassertion of who is in charge and who is not. When the earlier translations were done, it was based upon the desire for DYNAMIC translatons which captured the spirit of the words rather than the letter. That sounds familiar, doesn't it? In any event, I doubt it will make a bit of difference in my life bu it might provide a wonderful moment of opportunity for us to be present to all those who feel bullied, alienated and cast off by the Roman church.

Not that I'm suspicious, or anything, but all this sounds like a stealth (as well as power) move back to Latin and back to Trent for the Romans.

In the meantime, Episcopalians will no doubt continue to be their trendy and fractious selves.

I'm always amused by cries of "Nobody knows what 'consubstantial' means!"

Apparently people are no longer capable of learning anything? Even the meaning of one word?

I suspect the word means something fairly close to what the previous words, 'one in being' meant. I'm sure everyone was crystal-clear on that term as well. :)

When I teach people to paint, I talk a great deal about the human tendency to "futz", which means: fixing what is not broken. When we do that it usually leads to even more problems. I find myself wondering if the Vatican is not "futzing" with the liturgy and what unimagined problems may result from it. I guess we'll see.

Makes me all the more grateful for the BCP.

The revisions to the English in the Revised Roman missal are a regressive throw back. They are mostly obtuse clunkers for speakers of English. Rome considers the Latin text ( the new one, not the one from Trent) to be the norm and any vernacular version a mere translation. None of this really ought to matter to Anglicans because all our English Rites originate in English--they are not translations (sources ancient and modern notwithstanding).

The only issue for Anglicanism is the encouragement the Roman revision may give to Anglicans who wish to revert to archaic English i.e., "and with thy spirit". What in the blazes does that mean? Is father referring to some sort of aura or chi? Lol! ( :

Oh, I don't know. There are plenty of Anglicans who don't need to "revert" to archaic English because we already use it! Rite I is still (thankfully) a valid option, and there are those of us who love it.

I think the strength of the Episcopal Church here is our willingness to sanction a wide range of liturgical options--Rite I, Rite II, Enriching Our Worship, etc. and that we know better than to try to impose one liturgical form on the entire church.

(As for "and with your spirit", I remember reading patristic sermons, I believe of John Chrysostom, in which he asks the question "Why do we say this in the liturgy instead of "and also with you"--and he has an answer. Now, that doesn't mean that it can't ever be changed, but it's not just a matter of it being archaic English, as though people used to go around on the street saying "and with thy spirit" to people! There was originally a reason behind that choice that had to do with more than it being the ordinary way of speaking, and I think that's the sort of thing that should be at least considered before changing anything...)

Elizabeth Anderson

On the one hand, the old "translation" was pedestrian and had lots of inaccuracies (and not just with the Latin: the notorious fault in the institution narrative headed the list of nearly every critic). That said, the English of the new translation is agonizingly bad. Nobody seems to have noticed that word order in Latin and in English function differently, so there are a lot of passages whose syntax is, um, tenuous if not flat-out ungrammatical.

And of course it's a huge step backwards for ecumenism. None of the ICET texts survived except maybe the Sanctus.

May The good Lord prevent thee Elizabeth in all thy gracious undertakings..but thanks be to God for modern liturgies in robust modern English. I really like, for example, the (dare I call it so) "sursum corda" in the New Zealand Prayer Book. (p. 485)

Christ is Risen!
He is Risen indeed.

Lift your hearts to heaven.
Where Christ in glory reigns.

Let us Give thanks to God.
It is right to offer thanks and praise.

Yet, I reckon there is a little of the old fashioned in all of us. I still keep a copy of Fr. Boyd's "Are You Running with me Jesus" on the devotional table in my study--if nothing else a talisman for hip and braver days.

Naturally, if one is wont to really follow the original texts ... we'll it's Greek to me (e.g., Kyrie eleison).

I've amused myself by responding to folks, who are (semi-)orgasmic about the present English translation of the Roman Missal (Third Edition, amended), that's nearly identical to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod liturgies I grew up with, and of course The Book of Common Prayer, Rite One. I've chimed in a couple of times with a THY that zing-ed across the nave.

As for 'consubstantial', I've actually heard a handful of priests say they're glad that it's back because (they say absolutely soberly and straight-faced) they are concerned about their flock slipping into Arianism.

It is always easier to impose than to teach, to command than to lead, to prohibit than to bless.

Sorry about not signing my previous post; glad that TypePad is smarter than I.

An excellent resource on the Roman Missal:

James Mackay

readers may also be interested in this article from NCR

Anyone catch "The Colbert Report" last night?

In the show's opening credits, where he shows a new Colbertism word/phrase of the week, was...



JC Fisher

NB: Colbert is a practicing RC.

[1]You sell a house and buy a new one; and you are sad about the loss of the old one -- even if your new house is more spacious. [2]You move from one job to another; and you shed a few tears saying goodbye to old colleagues -- even if you're looking forward to the new position. [3]You graduate from high school to college, and even if it's your top choice, you cry at your graduation.

The first two are voluntary (as presented), the third is always known to be time-limited by the participant. None of them are good analogies for this IMPOSED change.

JC Fisher

Someone here may be able to think of a translation I've overlooked, but as far as I know, English is the ONLY western language in which the response to "The Lord be with you" is something other than "And with your spirit/ Geiste/ ésprit/ πνεύματι/ spirito/ духови/ spiritu." Our modern-language "And also with you" is a dull, flat aberration in the historic text of the Eucharistic liturgy as prayed by our sisters and brothers throughout the world.

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