The New Order of Mass
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 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.
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.