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How the new Mass translation will enrich your Advent

Mgr Andrew Wadsworth says this year’s Advent marks a double beginning

By on Friday, 25 November 2011

The Eucharistic Prayer from the new translation of the Roman Missal

The Eucharistic Prayer from the new translation of the Roman Missal

Advent is a time for new beginnings. It is the start of the Church’s liturgical year, and this Advent also marks the implementation of a new English translation of the Roman Missal throughout the world. Exactly 38 years ago, the first-ever edition of the Roman Missal, entirely in English, rolled off the printing presses and on to the altars of the English-speaking Catholic world. Its advent signalled the resolution of almost 10 years of flux, during which the liturgy of the Mass had made a transition from a Latin text established by the universal practice of centuries to vernacular translations of a newly assembled missal prepared by scholars following the Second Vatican Council.

The missal contains a wealth of liturgical treasures with many orations dating from the first millennium, together with prayers of more recent composition. The texts of the Advent season are particularly rich and are predominantly taken from ancient sources. A striking theme which emerges in the first days of Advent sets the tone for the whole season. It is the notion that we are hastening to meet Christ. The liturgy makes frequent reference to the three comings of Christ: first, in time, in the Incarnation which we recall during the Advent/Christmas cycle; secondly, at his Second Coming and for each person at the moment of their death; and thirdly, for us all continually by his grace.

The collect which begins Advent expresses this well:

Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ
with righteous deeds at his coming,
so that, gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom.
– Collect of the First Sunday of Advent

As we begin the Advent journey this oration, which is taken from the eighth-century Gelasian Sacramentary, asks that God will strengthen our resolve to press forward in the process of our conversion and that the fruits of our sanctification will be righteous deeds. In this way we can nourish the hope that we will be harvested by Christ when he comes again and so enter his eternal kingdom.

In the second week of Advent, in another ancient prayer from the same source, we admit that this process is far from straightforward and we ask for help with those things that still seem to hold us back and bar our way. We all recognise that so often our “earthly undertakings” just do not point us heavenwards and they frustrate us in reaching our true goal. We also pray that through this process we will learn something of the wisdom of heaven even here and now and so be more fittingly made ready to be admitted to eternal life. The wisdom of heaven is that which truly liberates us, unlike earthly wisdom which so often holds us captive.

Almighty and merciful God,
may no earthly undertaking hinder those
who set out in haste to meet your Son,
but may our learning of heavenly wisdom
gain us admittance to his company.
– Collect of the Second Sunday of Advent

In the final line of this prayer we are introduced to the notion that our hope of heaven is in a real sense the possibility of being made worthy to share all things with Christ. It is the notion of divinisation so prevalent in the teachings of the Fathers of the Church, that process whereby the human heart is expanded by the action of grace until it is able to bear receiving God himself.

This idea is central not only to this prayer but to the whole of the Advent season and indeed the entire Christian life. All things, insofar as they are good, are for our sanctification. It is an idea we hear on Christmas Day in the words of a collect which comes from the sixth-century Veronese Sacramentary:

O God,
who wonderfully created the dignity of human nature
and still more wonderfully restored it,
grant, we pray,
that we may share in the divinity of Christ
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.
– Collect of the Mass during Christmas Day

This prayer, which reminds us of the centrality of the Incarnation in God’s plan for our sanctification, also finds an echo at every Mass in the words said by the priest or deacon as he mixes the chalice:

By the mystery of this water and wine
may we come to share in the divinity of Christ
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

A drop of water is added to a quantity of wine. The water becomes lost in the wine and in a real sense becomes part of it. Such is the hope that we can have as a consequence of the coming of Christ in the flesh. If this is to be a possibility, there is a process implied and there has to be a willingness on our part to see it happen. The first stage is being vigilant, a very common theme in the prayers of Advent:

Grant that your people, we pray, almighty God,
may be ever watchful
for the coming of your Only-Begotten Son,
that, as the author of our salvation himself has
taught us,
we may hasten, alert and with lighted lamps,
to meet him when he comes.
– Collect of Friday of the Second Week of Advent

This collect, once again taken from the Gelasian Sacramentary, evokes the familiar Gospel image of the bridesmaids going out to meet the bridegroom as a prelude to the Wedding Feast. Readiness for change, willingness to act and vigilance at all times are key concepts in Advent and greatly evidenced in its texts. Advent teaches us a wonderful lesson for life: our watchful waiting, contrary to our instinct, is in fact part of the plan. This theme occurs frequently and is beautifully expressed in a collect from the Veronese Sacramentary which we pray on the Friday of the first week of Advent:

O God, who sent your Only Begotten Son into this world
to free the human race from its ancient enslavement,
bestow on those who devoutly await him
the grace of your compassion from on high,
that we may attain the prize of true freedom.

As Advent moves towards its climax the process intensifies as the goal of celebrating the great feast of Christmas comes into view. This prayer found in both the Gelasian and Veronese sacramentaries expresses the haste of Advent’s early days in terms of eagerness and even excitement:

Having received this pledge of eternal redemption,
we pray, almighty God,
that as the feast of our salvation draws ever nearer,
so we may press forward all the more eagerly
to the worthy celebration
of the mystery of your Son’s Nativity.
– Prayer after Communion for the
Fourth Sunday of Advent

The liturgical year is a year-long presentation of the mysteries of salvation made accessible to us and applied to us each individually, across the distance of time and space. As we welcome the new translation of the Roman Missal let us all hasten to meet the Lord with a new sense of the richness of the journey.

Mgr Andrew Wadsworth is executive director of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy

  • Sbvarenne

    I share wholeheartedly in Msgr. Wadsworth’s reverence and enthusiasm for the new liturgical translation.  I look forward to the revitalization they portend for the liturgy by giving us expressions of prayer in a language more elevated than the flattened out translations we have used for the past few decades.  Unhappily, sadly, there is an organized movement in the U.S.–even before the translations are implemented–to discredit them and to encourage Catholics to feel resentment and resistance to them.  Fr. Anthony Ruff and the National Catholic Reporter have made this resistance a campaign.  What are they so afraid of?  And what do they have to gain by this?  Even our own pastor, who did not do anything to prepare the parish for the coming changes, only raised his voice to the congregation to complain about how much he resented what is coming.  We are not rolling back Church liturgical history to the Tridentine Mass, as some seem to fear.  We are moving forward with changes in language that better express our relationship to Almighty God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  There is more awe, more respect, a deeper sense of God’s glory in the new Collects.  How can that be a bad thing?  When dissenting priests pray the words “one body, one spirit in Christ,” I hope they will think about how vital and important it is to express unity with the Church and not dissent.  Mat God help us all to rejoice together on the same page.

  • Fr. Richard Edelin

    The English translation of the Novus Ordo Missal was introduced in the United States by the end of 1970, making it exactly 41 years, vis 38 years that we’ve had the English usage.  Additionally, it was not the “first ever” all-English Missal, as the Missal of the”Traditional Form” of the Mass had been entirely translated into English, and was in use (at least throughout the United States) by 1969/70.  Having said that, it can no more be said that this new translation is a conservative effort, imposed from “above”, than to say that the introduction of the Novus Ordo was a liberal coup imposed from “above” 41 years ago.

  • Anonymous

    If the Novus Ordo was designed by Freemasons – is the Pauline still valid ? I’ve  been trying to track down the persistent assertion that Mgr. Bugnini was a Mason, and *if* (1) there is evidence that he was; & *if* (2) he was; then that raises questions about whether the Pauline Missal is fit for use by Catholics. How can someone who incurs excommunication  as a Mason (as he would have done, supposing the accusation to be true & just) be a fit person to be engaged in work which affects the Faith of the Church ? Or does Papal approval of a liturgical text tainted by bad faith, heresy, or schism rectify an otherwise unsatisfactory text, by a sort of liturgical *sanatio in radice* ?

    Mgr. Bugnini always denied that he was a Mason, and the whole story may be no more than the calumny he said it was. But *if* he was a Mason, and *if* that affects the Pauline Missal – how does that not put the Benedictine reform of the Pauline Missal under a cloud ?

    Catholics have a strict right to the use of liturgies & books that are unambiguously and honestly Catholic - so tainted spiritual food, heretical or otherwise unCatholic or unChristian “hymns and psalms & spiritual songs”, sub-Catholic liturgical texts & liturgy, disregard of canon law, will not do. A liturgy built on sand cannot last – it will need to be corrected all over again. Clergy of all ranks who despise the Liturgy will never form a People who love and value it.

  • Scripturals

    Quote: ‘The Word. The Womb. BOOM!’ This is the new
    translation which retains so much of the Latin original. It’s obviously
    difficult to accept and enjoy the full richness of the language, when we are so
    used to the flabby nonsense of the paraphrase previously current. And if the
    geriatrics in the audience could possibly learn to say ‘And with your spirit’
    that would be good.


    Meanwhile, we present something of an editorial process, a
    question of drafts, in reaching this position, including:


    “Needs refining. Do they do semi-colons? Maybe a bit more


    And: “the womb: BOOM!! (I’m just considering potential
    markets in sleaze hole American colonies with most of that and especially the
    last bit. Slogans et al. (Actually: ‘The Word. The Womb. BOOM!! does have a
    certain Wal-Mart quality about it.)”


    And we do indeed leave you with the thought of the original
    Latin: “flare verba in uterum”. (That’s actually funny. but no
    worries if your Latin is not so hot!)


    This is obviously posted as a bit of a joke but a serious
    and I hope very friendly one. It’s a reflection on what I’ve read about the
    complaints of people while the Church has done, in my mind, a pretty good job
    of bringing the English in line with the Latin.


    Now I am no Priest, but the next time the Priest says to you
    during Mass:


    Pax Domini sit simper vobscum…


    Your response is not: ‘And also with you.’




    Well you know this already! :)


    Welcome to the wonderful world of the Latin rite!


    I hope you enjoyed this post!


    With best wishes.. Et cum… yeah yeah…



  • Carlton

    Catholics have a strict right to the use of liturgies & books that
    are unambiguously and honestly Catholic - so tainted spiritual food,
    heretical or otherwise unCatholic or unChristian “hymns and psalms &
    spiritual songs”, sub-Catholic liturgical texts & liturgy,
    disregard of canon law, will not do. A liturgy built on sand cannot last
    Parasum,  this construction of yours is also built of sand and it won’t last either.  Fortunately, you won’t be deciding what is “unambiguously and honestly Catholic”, for which we should all be thankful.   That’s been done for you in Rome.

  • mike swift

    As far as this new translation of the phony 1969 mass, its only their
    because everyone is waking up to the fact that we have had a fake mass
    for the last 40 years or so. Changing a few words is just their way of
    dealing with the catholic counter-revolution. If they were serious
    they would just bring back Old Roman Rite that worked just fine for the
    better part of the last 2000 years. Why would the pope change a mass
    that had been used for for nearly 2000 years? Because Pope Paul VI was
    an infiltrator, an impostor, as was his predecessor John XXIII.

    was the lawful (though unrecognized) pope during this time? Why it was
    Cardinal Siri of Genoa who was elected on October 26th, 1958 when the
    white smoke billowed out of the Sistine Chapel for 5 minutes but was
    forced aside before he could appear on the balcony in St. Peter’s
    square. Historic footage of his election here


  • Emilysanchez2004

    still this cannot surpass the solemnity of the tridentine latin mass (even the low mass). if vatican wants solemnity, go back to traditional one… simple!

  • Anonymous

    That is not an answer. Why not show what’s wrong with what I’ve said ? Wanting a Liturgy that is “unambiguously and honestly Catholic”, is not the same as “deciding what is “unambiguously and honestly Catholic””. It is *not* wrong to want a Liturgy that is not tainted in its origins; that is not prepared by someone alleged to be a Freemason; that is not suspected of having been affected by Protestant observers. Or aren’t Catholics allowed to offer a valid, untainted, unsuspect, fully Catholic Liturgy these days ? Catholics have a strict right to the use of liturgies & books that are unambiguously and honestly Catholic - so tainted spiritual food, heretical or otherwise unCatholic or unChristian “hymns and psalms & spiritual songs”, sub-Catholic liturgical texts & liturgy, disregard of canon law, will not do. A liturgy built on sand cannot last.

  • Theresa Jayawardana107

    go on. the changed what ever if its will of God i agree my prayerful wishes  from bottom of my heart May God bless all forever Amen!

  • bht70

    The Anglican High Mass is the closest thing this side of heaven as western liturgies go. Then you have the Byzantine

  • Tyrone Beiron

    Just a quick foot note about the introduction of the vernacular for Mass began as early as Advent 1964, just a year after it was permitted by the Council, and not as late as 1973 as your opening paragraph suggested. As a widely-travelled Catholic, I have participated in Mass across many countries in the different continents and in various languages (European and Asian); adding Latin to that list was not a problem. Oddly, many English-speaking persons are voicing discomfort with the use of the Kyrie or Pater Noster, being born with the past 47 years since the approved use of the vernacular and they have lost that sense of how Liturgical language enriches our sense of Unity as being Catholics. I think the new translation (3rd Edition) has proved the importance of continued catechesis on our Faith, the teachings of the Magisterium, Catholic Spirituality and our Liturgy. Sadly, a great many of post-Vatican II diocesan priests seem to be cut from another type of cloth (pun intended) and their knowledge and appreciation of the Liturgical developments and Catholic apologetics is all quite weak. Somehow, I am amazed that the Lord through his Spirit has provided a wave of converts from the Evangelical and Protestant community to enrich our community and so many of them have been the best defenders of the new translation, explaining in many interesting ways how the elevated style befits prayer and praise to God, and the theological and scriptural basis as well. Thank you for this wonderful read on the new translation and this Advent. Be blessed with the joy of Christ this feast of his birth.

  • Disappointed

    Another blow for modern Catholics trying to hang onto the faith. This new translation is a back ward step, the phrases are unwieldy, often opaque and continue to be sexist. The repetition of “through my fault” is tantamount to grovelling. What we need is modernisation, plain English and equality. Watch the numbers of church goers continue to dwindle.