Friday, 2 September 2011
This Sunday will be a great day of liberation for the Mass - After forty years in the liturgical wilderness, English speakers will be introduced to a more authentic translation of the Roman Missal
Although I am excited by the prospect of a more uplifting and poetic liturgy, I will probably not really notice the liturgical changes, as I usually attend Mass in Latin (either in its ordinary or extraordinary forms). Having said that, I do sometimes attend Mass in the vernacular, and am occasionally even asked to read at novus Ordo Masses - though, one day, would rather see clerics resume their roles as lectors. By coincidence, I will be the reader at the last complete 1973 translation of Mass to be held at Westminster Cathedral this coming Saturday afternoon. So, I will be the last person in the Mother Church of England and Wales to announce "This is the word of the Lord", as the readings end with a more correct and dignified "The word of the Lord" in the new translation. Of course, the saint being commemorated at Saturday's Mass will be Pope St Gregory the Great (his feast day being 3 September), the Latin Church's greatest liturgical reformer. One assumes that he will be rejoicing in heaven as he witnesses the end of the English-speaking world's liturgical captivity.
Having read through the new translation, it seems to be completely in line with Pope Benedict XVI's desired reform of the liturgy - except for the bizarre and unnecessary Communion instructions that state: "[The people] receive Holy Communion standing"! The present Pope has always emphasised the need to restore dignity to our Catholic rites, and he also knows that something profoundly mystical and powerful was lost during the hurried post-Conciliar "reform" of the Mass. In that sense, the new English translation of the Roman Missal is but the first step in the long process of "reforming the reform". In fact, by being given a more authentic translation of Paul VI's Mass, those of us in the English-speaking countries are only really being brought into line with the rest of the world - as most other language translations were not as free or economical with the original text as was the 1973 ICEL version.
It is sad to see that many disaffected malcontents within the Church's dissident wing have already been complaining about the new translation. Bizarrely, they seem to think it will detract from the so-called "spirit" of Vatican II, even though the translation will actually be a more authentic and literal version of the Mass of Pope Paul VI. One assumes that it is only so as to keep these hippy-generation dissidents happy that the new translation comes with the irregular and illegal instructions for the reception of Holy Communion - namely that the laity receive Our Lord whilst standing. Of course, the universal, ordinary and traditional, as well as the more reverential, way of receiving Communion in the Roman Rite is on one's knees. Every Catholic within the Latin Rite is allowed to receive Our Lord whilst kneeling - for those bishops' conferences that encourage standing for Communion can only do so if they have received special permission from Rome. It is precisely this sort of strange liberal legalism, which seems to force the laity to go against Catholic tradition, that actually encourages even more people to seek out Old Rite Masses or the novus Ordo as celebrated in places such as the Brompton Oratory - where love of kneeling continues unhindered.
Those attending Sunday Mass in England and Wales this weekend will be able to participate in a more reverential and beautiful liturgy than the one they have been used to for the past forty years. Having said that, the whole of the new translation will not be coming into force until Advent - so we will have to endure the substandard 1973 translation of the various prayers for another few weeks. But at least we can rejoice in the fact that, after so many years of liturgical bondage, the Church will soon be experiencing a more profoundly Catholic liturgy. So, this coming Sunday, I, for one, will be offering a Te Deum in thanksgiving!
[Image: Order of Mass in English: New English Translation (book cover); source: Cenacle Catholic Books & Gifts]