It’s Not About You

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Msgr. Pope addresses some of the common concerns about the new translation.  In particular he discusses the charge that it is difficult to understand the new prayers because of the subordinate clauses.

Now, if the priest who recites or sings the prayer is careful with the commas, and alters his tone of voice properly, the new translation is quite intelligible, and also quite beautiful. My own mind lit up as I recited the new prayer above, this morning.

That said, it may still be harder for some in the pew to attend the words of the priest, even if it is well spoken, since the use of sentences with subordinate clauses requires the listener to hold one thought, while a subordinate thought is articulated, and then the speaker branches back to the main thought.

So lets grant that it is a little harder.

But here we come to an important insight that, though it is not politically correct, is still true: The priest is not talking to you. He is not directing the prayer to you, and the first purpose of the prayer is not that you understand it perfectly. The prayer is directed to God, (most often, to God the Father). The priest is speaking to God, and is doing so on your behalf, and that of the whole Church. And God is wholly able to understand the prayer, no matter how complicated its structure.

Too often in modern times we have very anthropocentric (man-centered) notions of the Sacred Liturgy. With the return to the vernacular, and mass celebrated toward the people, (neither intrinsically wrong), there is often the wrongful conclusion that the Liturgy is about us, the gathered assembly. Surely there are aspects celebrated on our behalf and for our benefit, especially the Liturgy of the Word and the reception of Holy Communion, but the prayers of the Sacred Liturgy are addressed to and focused on God.

More at the link.  As much as we’ve touted the new translation and have psyched ourselves up for the new responses, the really radical change is not what we’re saying but what the Priest is saying.  It became immediately obvious that we had something very new with the first prayers.  The very tone of the prayers is completely different.  The language is so much more elevated and distinct.  Even if you had no idea that there was a new translation in effect surely you would have noticed something had changed.

Anyway, that is what struck me with my initial Mass with the new translation.  I’ve been reading over the responses and getting ready, so finally saying “And with your spirit” wasn’t as novel to me as hearing the words of the consecration for the first time. That’s when it really hit me that we have something much more special here.

Of course I still managed to mess up and began responding “and also with you” at the conclusion of Mass.  Something tells me it might be a while before even those of us who are the happiest about the revisions really settle in and adapt to it fully.

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  1. “The priest is not talking to you. He is not directing the prayer to you, and the first purpose of the prayer is not that you understand it perfectly. The prayer is directed to God, (most often, to God the Father). The priest is speaking to God, and is doing so on your behalf, and that of the whole Church. And God is wholly able to understand the prayer, no matter how complicated its structure.”

    But the Mass is about us as a community. A community of self-actualizing beings who, through the meal of the Eucarist, then go into the world to realize ourselves in acts of social justice. This justice is then the actualization of the example of the actualized humanity of Jesus in the world.

    How can the Mass be about God?

  2. Phillip:

    You have a point – the Mass is about community. But first, and foremost, the Mass is about our worship of God. The Mass is entirely about our recognition of our dependence on God so that we can fulfill the mission He sends us out to do. For us to believe that the Mass is all about “us”, we’re deceiving ourselves, because we’re placing ourselves above God, and then not realizing our dependence on Him or the Mystery of Salvation that comes to us through Christ. If this is the case, then why even go to Mass? We’re just worshiping ourselves in the belief that we’re doing what Jesus asked us to do, but not asking Jesus to help us do it. Our communal gathering is to make manifest that it is through the Body of Christ alone – yet through the Sacramental and Mystical realities made present – that we do what Jesus commands. Ultimately, it is for us as the Body of Christ to realize is that God is God, and we are not, and that we can do nothing apart from Him.

  3. Frob,

    It was in part a bit of satire. I say a bit because once upon a life I was in the diaconate program in my diocese. That was how the about how the sacramental theology course summed up the Mass. Pretty much every sacrament was so reduced to the action of the community transforming this or that in social justice. The priesthood was the action of the community transforming the candidate into a presider, baptism the community accepting the baptized into the community, etc.

    So, sadly, I accept your clearing things up.

  4. I actually find it _easier_ to pay attention to the new texts with all the subordinate clauses, etc. because it gives my mind something to latch onto 🙂 Active participation is much easier when your mind is actually given something to be active about! With the old texts it was like trying to grab hold of water — it just slipped and flowed through my fingers no matter how much effort I made, partially because so much content was removed by the translators that there was less there to grab hold of, and partially because the remaining content was then phrased so smoothly that it just washed over me with ever sinking in. The new translation has all the content back (or most of it anyway — any translation will lose some nuances, and Latin is still the first language of the Roman Mass) and the way it’s phrased is often the opposite of the old text – it wakes me up and holds my attention rather than softly lulling me into a dreamless (i.e. doctrine-free) slumber like the old texts did.

  5. You have said it all, Paul. To us who grew up to adulthood with the Latin Mass and Missals which had the exact English translation on the opposite Pages, we are thanking the Holy Spirit for restoring our Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist to us. The Eucharistic Prayers are especially truly Divine Worship to God the Father – and this is what the Holy Eucharist is all about. As commented above, though the Congregation are full participants, the Priest/Celebrant is in place of Jesus who offers Himself to His Heavenly Father and, as we assist in the Sacrifice, He in turn, offers us, along with Himself to our Heavenly Father. When one understands fully what the Holy Mass is all about, one will greatly appreciate the Sacredness which has now been restored. We are now awaiting with great joy, the translation of the other Divine Worship especially the Holy Matrimony Liturgy and the Requem Holy Mass.

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