We will soon experience the Mass in a way that is even closer to the Scriptures and more poetic than we have known. After many years of careful work, the new English translation of the Roman Missal, the prayers of the Mass from the official Latin texts, will begin to be used at Masses in dioceses throughout the United States on the First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27, 2011. But changes to the Roman Missal over the centuries are not new at all — these are simply the newest changes to the Missal.
“Why is the Church doing this? Changes the Church does are always for the betterment of our souls, “ Father Cramer said. “ The Church does change. Anything that is organic and living changes. Think back to the early Church, when people gathered in people’s homes for Mass. The Mass back then didn’t look like what the Mass looks like today. But Who we worship and the essence of the Mass does not change. It has remained exactly the same for 2,000 years. The way we celebrate has to be adapted to times and places.”
The following provides an overview of how often the Roman Missal has changed over the centuries:
- 1570 – Pius V promulgated the first Roman Missal as mandated by the Council of Trent (1545-1563)
- 1604 – Clement VIII
- 1634 – Urban VIII
- 1834 – Pope Leo XIII
- 1920 – Pope Benedict XV
- 1962 – Pope John XXIII (used today for Masses in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, sometimes called Tridentine Rite)
- 1970 – Paul VI
- 1975 – Paul VI
- 2000 - John Paul II
The parish is providing several resources to help: at the parish office booklets are available “Understanding the Revised Mass Texts” by Fr. Paul Turner, also laminated cards with the new words soon will be in the pews, along with new Ritual Song books which will have the whole Mass in the front of it. Fr. Cramer said, “We’re not going to leave you high and dry. You’ll have the resources. ... In your prayer time, look over some of the changes to the prayers, take that to adoration and read over it. Allow these changes, these beautiful prayers, to sink into your soul and make a difference.”
After the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) the amount of Scripture readings proclaimed in the Mass increased, so the Roman Missal was divided into two books, the Lectionary and the Sacramentary. The big red book that you see on the altar that the altar servers hold up for the priest, the Sacramentary, which contains the prayers the priest uses, and the Lectionary for Mass, with the Scripture readings, make up the Roman Missal. With the new English translation, the name of the Sacramentary will change to the Roman Missal.
In 1963, the revised rite of the Mass was called for in the Vatican II document Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy by Pope John XXIII. Very soon after the Council ended in 1965, the revised Order of Mass in Latin with the people’s parts in the vernacular (language native to a region or country) was published. The English translations from the official Latin texts, first issued in 1966, were done very quickly, aiming to get the texts out as soon as possible and to capture the spirit or essence of the Latin texts rather than a word for word translation. Rather than a word for word translation from Latin, the Vatican document Comme le Prévoit (“So as to allow”) called for a “dynamic equivalent” translation to express the ideas that were in the Latin text. For more on this, see this article by Father Bryan P. Babick, SL.L., the diocesan vicar for Divine Worship and the Sacraments of the Diocese of Charleston, SC, “Does the new translation mean we've been wrong?”
For example, our current translation of the people’s response during the Liturgy of the Eucharist has “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” Fr. Cramer said, “That is nowhere near what it says in Latin, which is ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.’” We recognize the words “that you should enter under my roof” as the words the centurion said Jesus in asking him to heal his servant. “The centurion said …, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8).
Fr. Cramer added, “The Latin Mass is not changing. It is the standard text, so it will always stay the same. This is not the new Mass. It is a newly translated Missal.”
In 1969, Pope Paul VI promulgated the revised rite of Mass as the definitive Latin text with his Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum, with the changes to be used beginning the First Sunday of Advent of that year. However, the revised Roman Missal itself actually was published in 1970. It was translated into English and issued in 1974. A second Latin edition of the Roman Missal was issued in 1975. It was published in English in 1985 and is the one the priests use today in the Sacramentary. For the Great Jubilee Year 2000, Pope John Paul II promulgated the third edition of the Roman Missal.
To guide the translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal into the vernacular, in 2001, the Vatican issued a document Liturgiam authenticam (On the Use of Vernacular Languages in the Publication of the Books of the Roman Liturgy) which called for “formal equivalency” in the translation from Latin to the vernacular. The document states, “it seems necessary to consider anew the true notion of liturgical translation in order that the translations of the Sacred Liturgy into the vernacular languages may stand secure as the authentic voice of the Church of God” (7). It later says: “While it is permissible to arrange the wording, the syntax and the style in such a way as to prepare a flowing vernacular text suitable to the rhythm of popular prayer, the original text, insofar as possible, must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses” (20).
Another reason for the need for the new Roman Missal is that more feasts have been added to the Church. Under Pope John Paul II numerous saints were proclaimed in the Church, such as Saint Padre Pio and many others, but they’re not in the Sacramentary now. They are now in the new Missal. Father Cramer noted, “Eventually, 20 years from now, 30 years from now there will be more saints and we will need to have a new Missal again. It’s quite normal that throughout the centuries of the Church we get new Missals. What’s more remarkable is that we don’t do it more often.”
The changes should be accepted as an invitation to pause and reflection on what, after so many years, we may have taken for granted, Fr. Cramer added. “I can tell you that there is an absolute great need for this.”
He said a middle school student asked him recently, “Why do the priests have that consecration prayer when the hosts come from the convent? Surely the nuns blessed them.” The student did not understand that the Eucharist is confected by a priest by pronouncing the words of consecration in the Mass and that it truly becomes the Body of Christ, just as at the Last Supper. “So many people don’t… grasp what the Mass is and Who the Eucharist is! So hopefully this will help us go a little deeper, especially parents with children, grandparents …help your grandchildren understand what the Mass is. Because if we believe (the Eucharist) is only a symbol, then … we’re no better than a country club that gets together because we like each other. We are at Mass to be on our knees before God.” He noted that among Catholics today, “not just children, but many adults believe the Eucharist is a symbol and not Christ Himself.”
Father Cramer said of the current changes, “I’d say within two years, at most, it will become a lot more natural for us. The first several times it’s going to be very different. .. But the reaction shouldn’t be to pull back, it should be to dive in. The more work we put into it, the easier it’s going to be and the more beautiful it’s going to be.”
Pope Benedict XVI himself, to stress the connection between our daily lives and the Mass, wrote two of the new options the priest may choose from for the dismissal prayer at the end of Mass. They are "Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord" and "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life."