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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

9. Revised Roman Missal: The Communion Rite to the End of Mass

And now for the final post on HandyGramps' explanation of the Revised Roman Missal. We'd love to hear your thoughts or questions.

9. The Communion Rite to the End of Mass

The Lord’s Prayer
We are now at that moment we have all been waiting for. The bread and wine have been changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, and it is time for us to receive Christ in the Eucharist. The Communion Rite begins with a prayer that bears no change: the Lord’s Prayer – the Our Father. As Fr. Turner writes, “Some people think that the prayer should at least be updated to change the word thy to your. This is the only text of Mass that retains the Old English pronoun. But the Lord’s Prayer we know has achieved a level of holiness that cannot be replaced.” The priest’s prayer that introduces the Our Father and the prayer that follows have changed a bit. One notable change in the prayer following that begins “Deliver us, Lord…” replaces “protect us from all anxiety” to “safe from all distress.” The subtle difference is that we will now pray to be free from that which causes the anxiety, not merely relieved of the anxiety itself.

One particular phrase that Fr. Turner uses – “achieved a level of holiness” – in a way underscores the impetus for the revisions we have discussed. It’s almost to say that the words we pray are being raised to a level that already existed in that singular prayer, the Our Father, to that language of “Sanctity” that we spoke of early on.

The Sign of Peace
The invitation to give one another the Sign of Peace has not changed; but the priest’s words leading to it have. He will now say, “…look not on our sins, but the faith of your Church, and graciously grant her [emphasis mine] peace and unity…” The use of the feminine pronoun is an acknowledgement of our belief in the Church as the Bride of Christ. To the actual invitation, “The peace of the Lord be with you always” we will respond as we do to “The Lord be with you” – “And with your spirit.”

The Lamb of God
The “Lamb of God” remains as is, including any valid musical settings used when it is sung.

Having addressed the Lamb of God, we are ready to receive Christ, the Lamb, in Holy Communion. We are called to share in the meal by the priest, who presents the Lamb to us, using the revised words that follow.

[The revised words are shown in bold type.]
Former Translation
Priest: This is the Lamb of God
who takes away the sins of the world.
Happy are those who are called
to His supper

Revised Translation
Priest: Behold the Lamb of God,
behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those called
to the supper of the Lamb

Former Translation
Lord, I am not worthy
to receive you,
but only say the word and I shall be healed.

Revised Translation
Lord, I am not worthy
that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

The shift from “This is” to “Behold” echoes the words of John the Baptist spoken when Our Lord went to him to be baptized in the Jordan River (John 1:29). It is a more elegant and majestic announcement of the Lord’s presence among us, a fitting tribute to the Lamb who shed His blood that all might be saved.

To be “Happy” signifies a state of being free of any kind of complication in life, a state that does not always fit those coming forward to receive Communion. In fact, most of us probably have issues in our lives that at least inhibit our happiness to a greater or lesser degree. To be “Blessed” is a state to which all of us can be called, regardless of what’s going on in our lives. Further, and very appropriately, it reflects what John wrote in Rev. 19:9a, “Then the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.’” This makes a direct connection to the fact that receiving Communion is a foretaste of what we can expect in heaven, when we are invited to the Messianic Banquet.

The admission that we are not worthy is a direct acknowledgement of our sinfulness, which can be healed only by the Word of the Lord. The revision states almost verbatim the words of the centurion who comes to Jesus and asks Him to cure his ailing servant. When Jesus offers to go and cure him, the centurion responds: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed” (Matt. 8:8; see also, Lk. 7:6). Although he is a Gentile – and a Roman soldier, at that! – Jesus admires the man’s faith and cures his servant immediately. The message for us is that, if Jesus is so willing to acknowledge this man’s humility despite his sinfulness, He is just as willing to do the same for us.

The last change to this short prayer is from “I shall be healed” to “my soul shall be healed.” There is a subtle ambiguity in using “I” in that it could be misconstrued to be asking for the healing of some physical or psychological condition. The intent here is to focus on our being healed spiritually, a request for healing better expressed by asking that “my soul” be healed.

You may have also noted that the response by the “People” has been changed to a prayer said by “All”, indicating that the priest, like the people, is in need of that same healing.

The Concluding Rites
In a final greeting, the priest will say, “The Lord be with you”, to which we again respond, “And with your spirit.” He will follow this greeting with the blessing – sometimes a simple blessing, sometimes a more formal, solemn blessing. If he uses one of the solemn blessings, you will note that the words have changed. They will, however, conclude in much the same way as before, prompting us to respond with our resounding “Amen!”

The deacon (or priest in the absence of a deacon) will then offer a dismissal. Some new options are:

“Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.”
“Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”
“Go in peace.”

All of the dismissals call us to leave and go into the world with a mission, called to spread the Good News of Salvation by the way we live. We acknowledge that call by thanking God for the opportunity to serve Him in the world we live in: “Thanks be to God.”