Many words and phrases in the revised edition of the Roman Missal that we begin to use on the first Sunday of Advent will be new to us, but not the priest’s invitation “Let us pray.”  It was back in the Jubilee Year 2000 that Pope John Paul II announced a revised version of the Roman Missal, until now referred to as the Sacramentary.  The delay in implementing the use of the new Missal occurred because of the need for a new vernacular translation in accord with the directions of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.  It was a long and tedious process, but one well worth the effort.

When the work of translation was complete and had been approved by the Vatican, Francis Cardinal George, then the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, determined that the new Missal would begin to be used in the churches of the United States on the first Sunday of Advent of this year.  Subsequently it was decided by our new President, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, that we would begin to use the new musical settings to accompany the new translation this September so that there will be some familiarity in our congregations, especially when we celebrate the solemnity of Christmas.  In the coming months I have asked our pastors to prepare parishioners for the reception of the new Roman Missal.  

The most important event to take place in any parish on any given Sunday is the celebration of the Eucharist.  Pastors and pastoral ministers, together with some parish leaders, have been preparing themselves for the work of implementation.  Now it is time for the people in the pews to become a little better acquainted with what will be expected of them.  Fortunately, most of the new language will affect the prayers of the presiders much more than the prayers of the assembly.  I have already encouraged our priests to begin studying the new texts so that they will be able to proclaim them prayerfully, clearly and worthily.  There undoubtedly will be some flaws in our efforts to proclaim faithfully what is given.  

The long-term goal of this new translation of the Roman Missal, third edition, is to foster a deeper awareness and appreciation of the mysteries we celebrate whenever we gather for liturgy.  There is an old axiom in the church, lex orandi lex credendi – “What we pray is what we believe,” which suggests that there is a direct relationship to what we say in prayer and what we believe.  I am grateful to the many theologians, liturgists and writers who have begun to instruct all of us in these matters so that the prayer life of all Catholic people will be deepened and enriched.

There will be a few changes that will immediately strike us as different and perhaps even jarring.  One that has provoked many comments already is the response to the priest’s greeting, “The Lord be with you.”  The assembly will no longer respond “And also with you,” as was true in the earlier translation, but the response instead will be “And with your spirit.”  This translation is a much more correct rendering of the Latin “et cum spiritu tuo.”  The other major languages made that change many years ago.  Our Spanish-speaking parishioners have responded “y con tu espiritu” for many years now.  The response we will begin using in Advent is in accord with the one found from the earliest days of the church.  In the priestly greeting there is expressed a sincere desire for the dynamic activity of God’s spirit in the prayer of the people.  The people’s new response is intended to assure the priest that God’s assistance will be his in fulfilling his ministry in the church and particularly at the altar.

Another change that will undoubtedly be noticed by many occurs in the Nicene Creed at Mass on Sundays and Solemnities.  When we profess our belief in the divinity of Jesus we will no longer be affirming, as we have done thus far, that Christ is “one in being with the Father,” but rather that he is “consubstantial with the Father.”  Once again the new translation is more in accord with the ancient Latin text of the Creed.  The term “consubstantial,” although not something common in our ordinary conversation, traces its history back to the church’s doctrinal concern in the fourth century that faith in Jesus include a profession that he truly is the eternal Son of God, equal to the Father.  

The Fathers of the church came up with the Greek word homoousion to indicate that Christ was indeed “of the same substance with the Father.”  When the term homoousion was translated into Latin, the word chosen was consubstantialem.  Until the Second Vatican Council that Latin word was always rendered as “consubstantial” in the English version of the Creed.  The return to the use of “consubstantial” in the Creed is based on the teaching of the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome, namely, that, certain expressions which belong to the heritage of the whole or of a great part of the ancient church, as well as others that have become part of the general human patrimony, are to be respected by a translation that is as literal as possible.

Another change which will be evident will occur in the words of consecration when the priest prays over the chalice.  Until now we priests have used these words in referring to the Precious Blood of Jesus: “which will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.”  Now we shall pray over the Precious Blood in these words, “Which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  

Why the change?  “For many” is what the Latin says, pro multis.  Those are the words in the gospel of St. Matthew, 25, v. 28.  The same is true in the gospel of St. Mark, 14, v. 24.  Certainly Christ died for everyone, but the words, “for many,” remind us that when all is said and done, people have a choice.  Those who accept the gift of redemption from Christ and live it out in their lives will be numbered among the “many” to whom this text refers.  The same change is occurring in the other vernacular languages where “for all” had been a replacement of “for many.”

Catholic publishing houses, including Oregon Catholic Press, are preparing cards and other aids to assist us in our implementation of the new words of the Roman Missal, words that clearly proclaim a much deeper meaning than was experienced in the past, with the realization that what we are celebrating is exactly the same Mass as always.  Ritual editions of the new Roman Missal should be arriving in parishes around Oct. 1.  

Yes, let us pray.  Let us pray together with one voice and one heart. the church teaches us to pray.