Ancient Prayers, New English Words, An Opportunity for Holiness
Fr. Matthew J. Albright, M.A., M.Div.
1. Why a new
translation? All the texts of the
Church, prayers, teaching documents, laws, are written first in Latin and then
translated into the various languages spoken by Catholics throughout the
world. In 1969, the Mass was translated
into English from Latin because the Second Vatican Council decreed that the
vernacular should be used in the Mass.
That first English translation was done in a hurry to get the Mass out
in English so people could pray it. The
meaning of the text was translated but not the original Latin words and
grammar. Translation can be difficult
and theology needs to be transmitted precisely in our prayers because how we
pray reflects and shapes what we believe.
The translation we have been using is incomplete in certain ways. The bishops recently undertook a new English
translation of the original text of the Mass prayers in order to give us a more
complete experience of our worship.
2. What does the new
translation do for us as Catholics? It
gives us prayers that are beautiful in their language, deep in theology and
richer in references to scripture. It also
provides us the opportunity to understand the liturgy more fully and grow in
our relationship with God.
3. What is the impact for the
faithful? It will take time and effort
to learn new words and phrases but the Mass is well worth the effort. Most of the new translation affects the
4. Where will the faithful
see changes in the Mass? The greetings,
the Confiteor, the Gloria, the Creed, the response to the priest in the
Offertory, the Sanctus, the Preface Dialogue, the Sanctus, the response to the priest
5. Which changes are most
noticeable and meaningful? The “Big 5.”
1. Greeting. “The
Lord be with you. And with your spirit.”
refers to the sacramental character of the priest, for this greeting is
exchanged between people and priest (deacon).
In saying this, the faithful express their desire for the Lord to bless
him in his priestly vocation. You want
me to be a holy priest!
“I believe” because the creed is a personal statement of faith made in
the context of the Church’s communal worship.
“Consubstantial” means Jesus is of the same substance as the Father
(same as “homoousious” in Greek, the word chosen by the bishops at the Council
of Nicea when the creed was written).
“Incarnate” refers to Jesus’ conception when the angel appeared to Mary,
nine months before He was born.
3. Offertory. “My sacrifice and yours” – emphasizes that,
while priest offers the Sacrifice of the Mass, the people are not spectators
but offer their own valuable sacrifice of their lives and needs to God when
they come to Mass – symbolized by the people’s offering of the gifts of bread
4. Consecration. “For many.”
NOT a theological change. Jesus
indeed died for ALL. Original Latin text
clearly says “multis” (many) and not “omnis” (all). Jesus says “many” at the Last Supper and
Isaiah speaks of the Messiah “taking away the sins of many” (Is. 53: 12). Jesus
says “for you and for many,” referring to the Apostles who are present with Him
and “the many who are not here who will be saved.” It is important to be true to the original
text and to the Bible.
5. Communion. “Behold the Lamb of God…Blessed are they who
are called to the Supper of the Lamb.”
This refers to Revelation 19, the wedding feast of the Lamb, an image of
Heaven where all are united perfectly to God.
Communion is union with God on earth.
In Mass, Heaven and earth unite.
“Lord, I am not worthy to enter under your roof.” This refers to Jesus healing the centurion’s
servant (Matthew 8:8). We express our
unworthiness to have Jesus come into our bodies and souls.
6. Greet the new translation
with joy and allow it to lead you though prayer to union with God!