21/8/11 – What Happens At Mass, Part XVI: The Invitation to Communion

The introduction of the new translation of the Roman Missal is not just a chance to learn new words, but will hopefully be an opportunity to come to a deeper understanding of the Mass.

The Invitation to CommunionWhen the priest invites us to enter into communion, we respond by saying we are unworthy to receive Christ in the eucharist, but will accept God’s desire to heal us of our human frailty.  This response has been revised in the new translation, and probably sounds the strangest of the Mass texts to those who haven’t heard it before or are not aware of its origins:

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

While we are about to receive communion, the “roof” in this response has nothing to do with the roof of our mouths!  Like other texts that have been revised in the new translation of the Missal, this response bears a scriptural image that has been restored in this edition.

This response to the invitation to communion finds its origins in chapter 8:5-13 of the gospel according to Matthew.  A Roman centurion appeals to Jesus to heal his servant, who is ill.  Despite the centurion being symbolic of the “enemy” is this occupied Jewish territory, Jesus is willing to fulfil the request, and intends to visit the servant at the centurion’s home.  The centurion responds, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed.”

As such, when we respond to the priest’s invitation to communion, we echo the thoughts and the words of the centurion’s servant.  We are not worthy to receive the body and blood of Christ in holy communion.  Yet this is also a reminder and acknowledgement of the remarkable gift we receive.  We are truly healed, strengthened and nourished for the Christian journey.  As St Augustine once described it, we “become what we receive”, or “say ‘Amen’ to that which we are”, the body of Christ.

And as Jesus explains at the end of this encounter with the centurion, God’s will is done within us because of our faith.

2/1/11 – New Mass Settings

This is an important weekend.  Yes, we are celebrating the feast of the Epiphany (on the earliest date possible in the liturgical calendar).  It is also the first weekend of the New Year, 2011.  This means that in Australia, we can begin to take the first steps towards implementing the new English translation of the Roman Missal.

The bishops in each country are responsible for determining when and how a new liturgical book such as the missal is to be implemented.  In the United States, for example, they hope to implement the missal – all of it – from the First Sunday of Advent this year.

Given the amount of work and preparation involved in implementing a liturgical text as large as the missal, our bishops have opted for a different approach.  Based on the recommendation of their National Liturgical Council, Australia will gradually implement the missal in stages.  The first stage begins now.

From 1 January 2011, parishes are able to begin using Mass settings (collections of parts of the Mass set to music) that have been newly composed or revised to suit the texts of the incoming missal.  From Pentecost Sunday, parishes are to gradually introduce the assembly’s spoken responses, with all spoken responses mandatory from November.  The prayers the priest recites would then be introduced sometime from November onwards, depending on when the published missal is available to parishes.

In Wentworthville, we already have copies of the revised edition of Mass Shalom by the Late Br Colin Smith CFC on order.  Australian composer Paul Mason has reworked this well-known Mass setting to the new texts.  Once it arrives, we will start to gradually introduce it into the Mass.  We will also display the words to help you learn the changes.

Hopefully we can all work together, not only to learn the new texts of the missal, but also to reflect on the meaning of our Church’s prayers, and come to a deeper understanding of the Eucharistic celebration.

Why Does the English Translation Have to be Closer to the Latin? A Further Comment

Further to the recent article giving some explanation on the move to Formal Equivalence in translation (or an “as close as possible” match between the English and Latin), one matter I did not go into was how the texts of the prayers we hear and use at Mass form us in faith.

If you lose a degree of meaning from the texts through the translation process (which many people argue did happen when the translation we currently use was prepared), then you also diminish the capacity of the prayers to convey the fullness of what we believe in.

Some would argue that to preserve that depth of meaning, and to continue to pass on the faith through our prayer texts as fully as we have done in the past, we need to faithfully translate the Latin texts as close as possible. Others would argue (see the comments in the blog post linked above) that Latin is not the “be all and end all”, and there are riches to be discovered in all cultures and languages. For now, translation of the Latin text according to the method of formal equivalence is how we have been asked in the English-speaking world to respond to the challenge.

Regardless of our own viewpoints, I think we can agree that given the ability of our prayer to shape us in faith, our prayer texts need to be the best they possibly can be. The question a lot of people are pondering now is “are we there yet?”