1. The Revised Roman Missal: What’s In It for Me?
“What’s in it for me?” That’s a fair question. By now, almost everyone knows that there is change afoot. On the 1st Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2011, we will be using some different words when we celebrate Mass. The obvious question on most people’s minds is, “Why? What was wrong with the old way?” Essentially, there was nothing wrong with the version being replaced. Since its inception following the Second Vatican Council, the translation from Latin into the vernacular has provided a means for all of us to more fully participate in the Mass. What will happen with the newly revised Roman Missal is that we will be able to go to an even greater level in the way we worship. It is not change for the sake of change, but a matter of growing and maturing in how we express our faith through prayer.
While it is valid to say that there was nothing wrong with the Sacramentary we currently use, it is important to recognize that, when viewed on a universal scale, it bore certain deficiencies. The very word, “catholic”, means universal. That means that, whenever Mass is celebrated anywhere in the world, is must by its very nature be the same. The revision of the Missal is intended to ensure that that sameness is, indeed, universal even in the literal sense. In brief, here is how it came about.
Pope John Paul II was fluent in a number of languages. As he celebrated Mass in different countries, he noticed that there were subtle differences in what he was praying. For example, the Creed (which we will discuss in a later article) currently begins “We believe…” in English; but the Spanish translation is more true to the Latin, which says, “I believe…” For that reason, he promulgated (that is, formally published) what is known as the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal. That edition provides a new Latin text that prompted new translations in the various countries that celebrate Mass using the Roman Rite. By doing that, it ensures that, even though our languages differ, we will all be “singing from the same sheet of music” – we would be praying to God in a universal tongue. Note, too, that the title of the book has been changed.
What is different at the base level is how the text was translated. The Sacramentary we currently use was translated by making use of the general, more colloquial sense of what was being said. The drawback to this is that the translation used the more contemporary vernacular which often involves words and phrases that change in meaning over time, often very subtly. It also used more ordinary words that put the prayers in the context of everyday language. The revision will use words that are both more formal and more elegant, enabling us to pray with a greater reverence.
The majority of the changes will affect what the priest says. The changes in the responses by the people are far fewer, and in the following chapters, we will be looking at those changes.