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The New Order of Mass

3 February, 2011

The newest English translation of the Catholic liturgy is to be introduced to parishes in September, before being published for Advent. This follows Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI’s desire to re-establish the significance of the Tridentine Mass and the publication in 2002 of the Latin Missale Romanum.

The new Order of Mass is the result of 8 years’ work and aims to be a more literal translation of the recent Latin version. Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds, chairman of the Commission that drafted the new Mass hails it as “a text which is richer in its theological content and allusions to the scriptures but also a translation which […] will move people’s hearts and minds in prayer.”

While the structure of the liturgy remains unchanged, the main alterations are in the specific wording of the prayers and responses. See the comparisons with the current version below:
The Penitential Rite
The Gloria
The Profession of Faith (Nicene Creed)

One of the most noticeable changes will be the replacement of “And also with you” as a response with “And with your spirit” (much closer to “et cum spirito tuo” in the MR). This will take some getting used to, speaking as someone who has grown up with the current version. However, I have been to several masses where the responses and prayers were bashed out/mumbled in less-than-enthusiastic style. Hopefully, the forthcoming changes will prompt people to pay closer attention to the words they are actually saying.

Picture from http://iconodule.wordpress.com

From the perspective of the global church, the push for liturgical unity is greatly aided by this change. The beauty of a standardised mass is that you can go anywhere in the world and be fully aware of what is happening. Word for word, the new English Order will be virtually the same as masses spoken in other languages.

However, I can’t help but feel that something is lost through a more literal translation of the Missale Romanum. The King James Bible stands as perhaps the best example of English (albeit Early Modern) being used to wondrous effect in a religious text. With its 400th anniversary this year, several Catholic commentators have voiced their preference for the style of the King James, over the Ignatius Bible. I’m no theologian, but I believe there is a fine balance to be struck between retaining the true message of the text, while at the same time including linguistic embellishment for the purpose of inspiration.

The changes will prompt other questions: For example, how will the new Order affect mass in Catholic schools? The language seems somewhat drier, less suited to the syntactical flow of English and as such, may be harder to understand. Also, how will the liturgy look from the perspective of someone unfamiliar with Catholicism? The key issue seems to be: While it may become theologically richer, will it remain accessible to all?

- The website about the new missal, set up by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy can be found here.

UPDATE (9th Feb): William Oddie has written an interesting and persuasive argument in the Catholic Herald, highlighting the theological deficiencies in the current translation of the mass.

ANOTHER UPDATE (10th Feb): Another good article, looking at the specific changes and the reasons behind them.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Sandy permalink
    3 February, 2011 11:30 pm

    I was glad to read this because nothing has appeared yet (as far as I can see) at parish level; the dioceses may have their own policies on the introduction later this year. But on your specific points: “with your spirit” is so much more profound than “with you” ! During a religious rite, we ought to be engaging with the spirit rather than the every day. The existing version seems to be covering up the fact that we are actually at prayer – it is an exchange of a polite greeting, as though we are embarrassed about something. So this one apparently minor change is to me refreshing, very welcome, and long overdue. But then I wish schools taught Latin and we could just have the Latin Mass!
    I do agree about the King James – and Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer contains the most moving and soul searching prayers, beautifully expressed. There is a fine line to be drawn though, lest we take such pride in our fine words that we lose sight of the divine!

  2. Mattheus Barnabas III permalink
    3 February, 2011 11:32 pm

    Ok, a couple of points. Firstly, you mentioned that several Catholic commentators prefer the King James Bible to the Ignatius Bible, but the Douay-Rheims Bible is generally considered to be the main Catholic Bible. That’s just me being nit-picky. My main point is should the liturgy, and Catholicism in general, be made accessible? The CofE is has tried to make itself more accessible for a long time now, with the result that less and less people attend church. I was reading recently that they may change their Baptism service to attract the non religious by lessoning the Christian overtones. It seems to be a form of appeasement. A Church which isn’t instantly accessible may actually be more appealing to people. We live in a world of instant gratification and shallowness, which I personally am sick of. Finally, if we want liturgical union, why not return to latin mass? That way everyone says the same thing the world over, not a translation of the same thing. It being in a different language also makes it appear more mystical, which the mass is.

    • Patrick Dickinson permalink*
      9 February, 2011 1:48 am

      I share your sentiments with “shallow” religion, having met several people whose faith seemed to be based on little more than a need for psychological security. I think Andrew Motion best summed up this attitude when he said there was a “God-shaped hole” in his life, implying that he’s waiting for a moment when faith will suit him.

      My main point here is that the English language is richer than many others, allowing greater freedom when it comes to theological expression. I do think the Latin mass is wonderful, but I also believe beautiful language can inspire people towards God, just as art or music can. Again, a fine balance to be struck.

      This is getting into a debate that has been going on for centuries: is it better to keep God mystical, or is it better to use artifices of our humanity to celebrate God?

      I’m definitely NOT advocating some form of simplified mass; a kind of “right-on” liturgy. The Church should not compromise in an attempt to pander to the laziness of society. Most importantly though, the message and focus of the liturgy must not be distorted.

  3. 5 September, 2011 3:15 pm

    I have just seen the new American Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed at;

    http://acts17verse28.blogspot.com/2009/08/new-order-of-mass.html

    Similar to the new British Creed except a few sentences start with the word ‘And’.
    Guess the rule about ‘and’ should never follow a comma or full stop doesn’t exist out their.

    US version:

    I believe in one God,
    the Father almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all things visible and invisible.
    * And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
    the Only Begotten Son of God,
    born of the Father before all ages.
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    consubstantial with the Father;
    through him all things were made.
    For us men and for our salvation
    he came down from heaven,
    and by the Holy Spirit
    was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
    and became man.
    For our sake
    he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
    he suffered death and was buried,
    and rose again on the third day
    in accordance with the Scriptures.
    He ascended into heaven and is seated
    at the right hand of the Father.
    He will come again in glory
    to judge the living and the dead
    and his kingdom will have no end.
    * And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord,
    the giver of life, who proceeds
    from the Father and the Son,
    who with the Father and the Son
    is adored and glorified,
    who has spoken through the prophets.
    And one, holy, catholic
    and apostolic Church.
    I confess one baptism
    for the forgiveness of sins
    and I look forward to the resurrection
    of the dead
    and the life of the world to come. Amen

    • El Supremo permalink
      29 November, 2011 9:12 am

      There are so many rapid changes that are happening today on the practice of writing.

      Even the old practice of two spaces after each sentence is discouraged today since this was only proper during the period when Courier Font monospace was the only thing available. You don’t definitely see people putting double spaces between sentences in websites. Communication practices have certainly changed.

  4. Aaron Cowen permalink
    9 October, 2011 10:56 am

    Went to mass today with the new order of mass. I saw no point to the changes. I really did not enjoy it at all. Changes to the prayers certainly should not of happened. I think it will push many away from the church. I certainly will not be going back after 30 years of never missing. The church needs change but not in this way.

    • nzabonimpa robert permalink
      25 October, 2011 1:06 pm

      bro Aron i advise u donot abandon the mass. ibelieve for the thirty years , u know the meaning and importance of the mass irrespective of the changes. the first time religion came in diverse languages Greek,Hebrew, French, Italian English etc but we cought up, besides u have not given us what kind of other changes that the church needs. courage , mass is the center of our liturgy.be blessed.

    • Oponjuru Brian Bush permalink
      25 October, 2011 2:39 pm

      Hi,Bro Aaron,Don’t loose hope in prayers,this changes are taking us back to the normal way the mass is to be. If you had followed the original Latin mass,you would not complain at all because this changes are from the original Latin mass.It is just that the first translation is not matching the Latin words itself.I pray that you don’t loose hope of prayers but continue to go for mass and slowly by slowly you will get used to it. There’s a saying that”slowly by slowly an egg will walk.” God bless you.

  5. El Supremo permalink
    26 November, 2011 2:45 pm

    For your information before Vatican 2 Played out with the previous version of the Mass this is how the Mass REALLY SOUNDED and actually, the so called New Order is more or less a return to the real English Dialogue between people and priest. Get used to it because this is how the latin really sounds in English and this should be so. I am personally glad to the return to a more solemn origin of the Mass at it really is and how it was in the beginning. Be it ever so humble… be thankful you lived thru this period as I am when I actually saw the 360 degree return of the Eucharistic Ritual to its true origin.It’s real spirit!

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