The New Roman Missal (NRM) brings some changes. For you, the parishioners, the changes in what you say are fairly simple and easy. We have already been doing some of them in the Gloria, the Memorial Acclamation, the Sanctus and Agnus Dei. The other changes in what you SAY (e.g. “And with your spirit”) will come equally smoothly. On the other hand, what you HEAR will have substantial changes.
A couple a points about the NRM. First of all, all change is disruptive and somewhat clunky at first. To truly judge how well the NRM impacts (or not) your experience of liturgical prayer you will need to wait till the newness and awkwardness wears away and you have some mastery of and comfort with the new responses. Therefore I urge you to suspend judgment (either way) on the NRM for about 6 months. Only when you have mastered a facility with the responses will you be able to judge it accurately.
Secondly, why are we going through this change? Well, the new translation is much closer – almost mechanically so – to the original Latin. Official Catholic prayers for the last 1,500 years or more have been composed in Latin. The words have very specific meanings. And so the new translation adheres much more closely - in vocabulary, sentence structure, entirely – to the Latin original.
So, why do we want to be so close to the Latin? Well, in actually it is not something we want so much as something that the Vatican wants. To explain this let me tell you a story. Back in May, 2009 I had the great benefit of a tour of Turkey hosted by a group of Moslems who live in California. As part of this tour I found myself in a restaurant named “Friend” in Turkish, just north of the city of Antalya (gorgeous place on the Mediterranean Coast). This restaurant is situated next to a fast flowing stream filled with trout, and of course the specialty of the place is trout. While enjoying my fresh trout lunch I was listening to our Turkish tour guide explain that the greatest number of tourists to Turkey each year come from Russia, the second most from Germany, third most from Scandinavia, and so on, with Britain down the list and the US even farther down. “But” I objected, “in all the museums and sights the signs are not in Turkish and Russian or German, but rather in Turkish and English.” The guide looked at me condescendingly as a dumb American and replied, “But everyone speaks English.”
And this is true. In science, transportation, business, medicine, English rules supreme. And this dominance of English also affects liturgy and theology. People who do not speak Latin (a dead language, after all) will look not to the Latin originals of liturgical prayers, but to English. So out of concern that the liturgical prayers remain true to the original compositions, the Vatican cares greatly about the fidelity of the English translation to the Latin.
In addition, the NRM translation is more clearly Scriptural. One of the great accomplishments of Vatican Council II was to introduce and familiarize Catholics with the Bible. The NRM makes the Scriptural allusions in the Mass prayers clearer. So for example, in Eucharistic Prayer III, where we previously said “from East to West”, we will now pray ‘from the rising of the sun to its setting…”, which is a clearer allusion to Psalm 113:3, Malachi 1:11, and Isaiah 45:6, as well as being considerably more poetic.
Another example can be found in the words of consecration, or more technically called the “Institution Narrative”. In the past we stated that Jesus’ Blood “will be shed for you and for all….” Now we state that Christ’s Sacred Blood “will be poured out for you and for many …” The reason for the change from “ALL” to “MANY” is that “many” is a direct quote from the Gospel: “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (MT 26:28) However, our faith is still that Christ died for ALL, not just for many, so I am not entirely pleased with this particular change. However, it is closer to the Gospel.
Next week I will discuss the difference of singing during the liturgy, as opposed to singing the Liturgy. Meanwhile, welcome to the NRM! Happy Advent!