10/7/11 – What Happens At Mass, Part XII: The Preface

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.

After the Prayer Over the Offerings, we enter into the Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer.  As I touched on last week, this always begins with three-fold dialogue between the priest and the people:

            The Lord be with you.                                            And with your spirit.

            Lift up your hearts.                                                We lift them up to the Lord.

            Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.           It is right and just.

The priest greets us, and invites us to join him in the Eucharistic Prayer.  Our desire to share in the Eucharistic Prayer and sacrifice, as indicated by our response “it is right and just”, must be expressed so that the priest may continue with the Mass.  After all, the Mass is not the work of Christ and the priest, but of Christ and his Church – all of us incorporated into Christ through baptism.

Bishop Anthony Fisher leading the PrefaceWhile there are only a relatively small number of options for the Eucharistic Prayer, with some only permissible on specific occasions, there is a larger collection of prefaces.  The Preface leads us into the Eucharistic Prayer by declaring to God (and at the same time reminding ourselves) the reason we celebrate the Eucharist at this particular time.  On most days, they typically reflect the liturgical season we celebrate.  There are, however, also prefaces for particular feast days, for saints, for the dead, and for a range of other needs and occasions.

The Preface then concludes with our prayer of acclamation, the Sanctus (or Holy, Holy).  In the new translation of the Sanctus, the opening phrase has changed from “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might” to “Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts.”  This, like other changes, reflects a closer match with the Latin text.  It also reflects what the priest proclaims immediately before; that what we do in celebrating the Eucharist is not done alone, but in communion with the angels and saints – the entire “heavenly host”.

6/3/11 – The Doxology and the Great Amen: Who Says What?

During the course of this year, we will gradually begin to use the texts of the revised translation of the Roman Missal.  This is not just a time when we need to learn new words, but will hopefully be an opportunity to come to a deeper understanding of the Mass.

As we look more closely at how we celebrate Mass, there are some ways in which we celebrate Mass that need to be reviewed.

During the Eucharistic Prayer, we pray together, as one body in Christ, to God.  We are led in this prayer by the priest.  We engage through our own listening and reverent, prayerful silence, and respond vocally through the three acclamations, the Sanctus (“Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts…”), the Memorial Acclamation (which we most commonly recall as “Christ has died, Christ is risen…”) and the Great Amen. The Eucharistic Prayer is so important, and our participation in the acclamations is so important, that they are sung whenever possible.

The doxology at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, however, is a part that belongs to the priest to lead.  While we may have been invited to join in with “Through him, with him, in him…”, our part is to clearly give our assent and agreement to the entire Eucharistic Prayer by singing or saying the “Amen”.

So from now on, we ask that you do not say the “Through him, with him, in him…” part, but leave this to the priest.  Let us all ensure instead that we join in – fully, consciously and actively – in what is and should be the Great Amen.

Fr Paul Sireh OCarm, Parish Priest
Robert Barden, Liturgy Coordinator

12/9/10 – Is What We Say at Mass Going to Change?

As we mentioned before, a new English translation of the Roman Missal is being prepared.  This will be used in English speaking countries throughout the Catholic Church.  To help us learn more about this new translation, we’re trying to answer some of the key questions here.

Is what we say at Mass going to change?

Altar Missal which belonged to Cardinal NewmanYes.  A key characteristic of this new translation is an attempt to make the English version match the original Latin text more closely.  As such, we will see changes to prayers such as the Gloria, the Creed, and the Sanctus (Holy, Holy).

Some of the revisions are minor, while others are more extensive.  The Gloria, for example, is quite noticeably different, while only the first line of the Sanctus changes to “Holy, holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.”  Other prayers, such as the “Our Father” and the “Lamb of God” will not change.

There are other words which we say which will change.  These can be found within the responses in which we engage during Mass.  One of the most obvious, and most commonly used will be the phrase “And also with you.”  In the revised translation of the missal, this phrase will be “And with your spirit”, which is closer to the original Latin text of et cum spiritu tuo (you can see “spiritu” there which translates to “spirit).  This phrase has a direct connection with the greetings made by St Paul in his letters to the early Christian communities.  Some of you may also remember that when Mass was first celebrated in English in the late 1960’s, the response was “And with your spirit.”  So in some ways, this is a return to the first English texts we used.  There are other responses which will also change in an effort to bring them into closer harmony with the Latin.

Photo: IMG_5153 by jdbradley

Singing Acclamations

Pipe Organ and Choir, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, CaliforniaI recently wrote about our learning of the World Youth Day Mass setting, Missa Benedictus qui venit, in preparation for next month’s massive event.  Why is it, however, that the preparation and learning of a Mass setting has taken priority over other songs and hymns?

The reason for this is because the singing of the acclamations of the Mass should always take priority over the other songs and hymns of the liturgy.  The United States’ Bishops last year released a document on liturgical music entitled Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship, which says the following about acclamations:

The acclamations of the Eucharistic Liturgy and other rites arise from the whole gathered assembly as assents to God’s Word and action. The Eucharistic acclamations include the Gospel Acclamation, the Sanctus, the Memorial Acclamation, and the Great Amen. They are appropriately sung at any Mass, including daily Mass and any Mass with a smaller congregation. Ideally, the people should know the acclamations by heart and should be able to sing them readily, even without accompaniment. (no. 115)

The reason for singing the Gospel Acclamation, Sanctus (Holy, holy, holy Lord…), Memorial Acclamation (Christ has died…, and others) and the Great Amen is simple.  These texts are integral parts of the Mass where the entire gathered assembly gives its firm acknowledgment of Christ’s presence and action within the Mass; where he truly makes himself present to us.  Other parts of the Mass, while they can be sung and it is good to sing them, do not form the liturgical texts of the Mass itself that must otherwise be said.  As such, if a community had to choose only a very limited amount of the Mass to sing, its first priority should be singing these acclamations.

Singing these acclamations encourages our full, conscious and active participation in the celebration.  It allows us to make full use of the gifts that God has given us.  It adds a richness and fullness to our worship.  We unite ourselves with our ancestors of both Christian and Jewish faiths, whose use of song and music to praise God is recorded in the Bible itself.  It enriches our prayer.

Photo: Pipes and Choir by Just A Slice