Changes in the Mass
October 6, 2011
Fr. Peter Daly
After all the sturm und drang of the last few years, the changes in some of the words at Mass will probably turn out to be a good thing. Here is why.
First it will make us pay more attention to the celebration of the Mass, at least for a while.
Second it will make us talk about the history and the development of the Mass.
Third, it will be a better sign of the unity of the Church, at least in the Mass of the Roman Rite.
Those are all positive things. Like most pastors, I want to accentuate the positive.
By definition, any ritual is routine. By frequent use, we run the risk of saying words automatically and without reflection. Even though the changes in the Mass are relatively minor, they will make us more attentive.
When the priest says, “the Lord be with you”, we will have to say “And with your spirit.” The addition of the word “spirit” makes us aware of the spiritual quality of the greeting . It makes us conform to the translation in other languages.
No doubt we will bumble around for a while. But we will be more aware of our words.
Like most parishes, we have bought laminated cards with the changes highlighted in bold print. For a while we will be holding the cards and reading the words. But eventually we will learn them. After a while it will become more natural. The National Catholic Reporter recently reported that Catholics in South Africa are now getting used to the new words, after a rocky start over a year ago. The same will happen here.
The very strangeness of some of the new words will make us think about them. I doubt that anyone uses the word “consubstantial” in every day speech.
The change will make us talk about the historical development of the creed. Why it was important to the Greek fathers who wrote the Nicene Creed that we emphasize that the Christ is “homo osseous” (in Greek) “of the same substance” with the Father. They were trying to make it clear that Jesus, the Christ, is a co-equal member of the blessed Trinity. He is not merely some exalted “creature” .
Even seemingly trivial changes, like changing “seen and unseen” to “visible and invisible” will make us think. God is creator of things we cannot see. It is not so much about our perception as is about God’s creation.
Some changes will make us more aware of the scripture. For example, at the invitation to communion, the priest will say, “Behold the Lamb of God.” This is a direct allusion to John the Baptist when he sees Jesus near the Jordan. And we will all say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,” that is a direct allusion to the centurion in Matthew’s gospel when he asks Jesus to heal his servant.
All of these changes will make us more aware that we are part of a ritual that extends beyond our language and culture. They do bring us into better conformity with the other languages of the Roman Rite. For instance, in the Confiteor prayer we will again say “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” Just as they do in Italian and Spanish. It is a better echo of the “mea culpa” of the Latin. It reminds us of our link to the universal church.
The changes to the mass are coming. After much discussion, we are going to implement them, ready or not. I think this might be a good chance to learn from them.