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The Great Gift the Lord Left to His Church Print E-mail

November 9, 2011 | The Long Island Catholic Vol. 50, No. 27 | BISHOP WILLIAM MURPHY

As we all now know, the First Sunday of Advent will not only usher in a new liturgical year. It will be the day when we begin to use the new translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal.  There are many reasons why this is happening. First is that we should be using the same Missal as the universal Church which now has a third edition in contrast to the first one of 40 years ago. The new third edition will include new Votive Masses for special occasions and Masses for a number of saints who have been canonized especially during the pontificate of Blessed John Paul II. These are all reasons to be grateful to the Holy See for approving the work of literally thousands of experts in many different fields who have worked on this for the last eight years.

With change can also come some apprehension. Most of us have become very used to the Sacramentary we have been using and many of us know some of the prayers by heart. When the Sacramentary we currently use was translated from the original “editio typica” after the Second Vatican Council, there was pressure to produce that translation as quickly as possible. The experts who did that all were quite competent and the translation we had served us well. Yet the times change and the experience of time often gives us the opportunity to reflect on what is good and what can be made better, which was the case as we undertook the new translation. The colloquial, even informal, language that characterized much of the 1970 Sacramentary had its advantages and its disadvantages. 

The Holy See gave new instructions on translations some 10 years ago that called for translations being much more informed by the original Latin texts and to be carefully constructed in the vocal languages with a special care for theological accuracy and with a desire to have language that expressed the beauty and the dignity of the People of God at worship to the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Most of the changes will be in the prayers the priest says: the collect, prayer over the gifts and the concluding prayer. There have been some more careful re-wordings of the prefaces and the Eucharistic Prayers that again the congregation will hear but which will be the province of the celebrant. While there are very few changes that the congregation will have to make, at first it would be expected that we all will have to be attentive. But I am confident that this will come rather easily and that, in little time, we all will be “at home” with the new translation.

To be attentive to the prayers is a good thing. I believe that the new translations will open up to us new opportunities to hear the prayers of the Church in a new key. Phrases and images will be available to us that will invite us into a deeper understanding of the faith we proclaim. In turn they will deepen our capacity to enter into the spirit of the liturgy and experience ever more profoundly what we are doing and how we are being transformed by the worship we offer and the gifts we receive.

Being attentive is linked to becoming “at home” in the liturgy. For the Church is our spiritual home. When we enter the church to celebrate the Eucharist, we do so, not as a motley crowd, but as a people, the People of God, the Body of Christ, the community of communion. We have an identity that is ours from baptism, an identity that is re-affirmed and reinforced every time we gather for Mass. The new translation is not a new liturgy, not a new Mass. It is the same Mass the Church has celebrated ever since the Lord Jesus told his first apostles “Do this in memory of Me.” 

This is the source and summit of our life as Church, the Body of Christ in space and time. No other action or activity we do as Church can match the spiritual richness and transforming power of God’s divine life and love than the Eucharist we celebrate, the Mass we offer. This is where we are one with God, the communion of saints and the whole Catholic Church on earth. That is why the liturgy is not something we “make up.” It is a gift given to us by the Lord who entrusted it to His apostles and their successors to guard and to oversee as the servants of Christ who are called to fulfill their service to Him by their faithful service to the people who become one through the liturgy which is given to us. That is why the Holy Father is the “chief liturgist” of the whole Church and why every diocesan bishop is the “chief liturgist” of his own diocese. Ours is the solemn responsibility to celebrate the liturgy as the Church celebrates it. Ours is the task to ensure that in every parish and in every place where the faithful gather we celebrate the same Eucharist in the very way that the Church has given it to us.

In my pastoral letter, “Belong More Deeply,” I asked that our Diocese of Rockville Centre prepare for the reception of the new translation with great hope and expectancy. I am convinced this will be a special moment in the life of the Church that can open up to us an ever deeper experience of the richness of the Eucharist and its meaning in our lives. I know we have been preparing for this day in all our parishes. I am grateful to the pastors and their parish staffs for the care and the enthusiasm with which they have been readying their people for this most promising moment in our lives as Church on Long Island. Great thanks and appreciation are owed to Msgr. Andrzej Zglejszewski and his staff in the Office for Worship for all the workshops, seminars, meetings, materials and aids they have provided these last months. The pastoral musicians and the faith formation and education folk also have collaborated in this great effort.

For my part I pray daily that we all will find this new translation a means for us to enter more fully in the worship of God in the Mass and belong more deeply to Him and to one another as we celebrate the Eucharist, the “greatest gift the Lord left to His Church.”

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