I am certain that you are all aware that we will be receiving a new missal at the beginning of Advent. This new missal is a more literal translation of the Latin Text of the Mass. Now people will ask: why does it matter that our Mass is exactly the same as the Latin? I will suggest four reasons.
First, the Mass is sacred, so we use sacred language. The new prayers are not the way we speak “everyday.” But when we come to Mass we aren’t going about our “everyday” business – we are taking part in something extraordinary – the worship of the angels and saints in heaven and the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. At Mass we use sacred vessels, and sacred vestments, and a sacred place – it makes sense that we also use sacred words.
Second, the Mass connects us with our heritage. The Latin Missal contains prayers that date as far back as the fifth century. One examples is the response “And with your Spirit” – this dialogue between priest and people is found in the earliest records of the Christian Liturgy as is one of the unique features of the Christian liturgy. By restoring this practice we will be in continuity with Christians in many places throughout history.
Third, the Mass unites us with Christians around the world. By having each language group adhere more closely to the official text, the prayers we say in English will now be the same as those said in Italian or Vietnamese – an expression of our common faith and our common worship.
Fourth and finally, our new translation will bring out some of the connections between the Mass and the Scriptures. A good example is the prayer we will say before receiving Holy Communion: “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” These are the same words used by the Centurion in Matthews Gospel when he asks Jesus to heal his servant. They are signs of faith and humility – two attitudes we should have when approaching Holy Communion. Many scriptural images, present in the Mass today, will be more obvious in the new missal.
No doubt it will be difficult for us to transition to new prayers. Changing habits is always difficult – especially when it is something so important to us as the Holy Mass. Let us look upon this moment as an opportunity – may our new Missal give us a richer experience of the Holy Mass.