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Church revises Roman Missal

Marisa Iati | Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Roman Missal, the book of Mass prayer and ritual, is being given a new English translation intended to prepare the Church for an era of liturgical renewal, the chaplain of the College of Saint Mary Magdalen said at a Wednesday evening lecture.

Fr. Neil J. Roy said the new translation will take effect Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent.

“The liturgy exercises a formative influence on us as Catholic Christians, so I think it’s very wise of you to take the time to understand what is taking place and how we might benefit from it,” he said.

The principles governing the updated translation of the Missal appear in the Vatican’s document “Liturgiam authenticam,” which was issued in 2001, Roy said.

“The instruction demands precise theological and liturgical language to express theological truths in the context of the Sacred Liturgy,” Roy said. “The liturgy must express what the Church believes.”

“Liturgiam authenticam” urges prudence and attention to prayer, as well as an exact translation of the Latin text that is free from ideological influence, Roy said. The translation is not creative innovation, but rather, a faithful and accurate rendering of the original text.

“[The new translation provides] a sort of formal equivalence rather than a dynamic equivalence [to the Latin text],” Roy said. “The new translation does succeed in observing the principles that the original text must be translated integrally.”

The changes also provide a clearer sense of sacredness and a greater openness to mystery, Roy said.

One change applies to the response to the priest’s greeting of peace. Mass attendees will now respond “and with your spirit,” rather than the current “and also with you.” Roy said the new wording reflects the priest’s spirit of ordination.

Roy said the Church will be referred to using feminine pronouns instead of “it.” This change identifies the Church as a dynamic institution rather than an inanimate object.

“Now She [the Church] has a certain life, a certain quality, a certain character,” Roy said.

Roy said the new translation also places greater focus on the role of music in the liturgy.

“We should think about singing the Mass, rather than singing at the Mass,” he said. “It’s good to chant the Mass as a practice, so you’ll find that in the new Missal. You’ll have more opportunity for that.”

Reactions to the new English translation have varied greatly, Roy said. While some parishes gradually integrated the changes into the Mass, others are waiting until the Nov. 27 deadline in the hopes that the Holy See will revoke the changes.

Roy said he thinks the changes are beneficial as some meaning was lost in the 1970 English translation of the Missal.

“Let’s use these [new words] for a while and let’s test them,” he said. “Let’s see how the Church grows with them. Liturgy is formative. There are good things that will come.”