Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Roman MIssal: Invitations

With the new translation of the Missal, those of us in the pews are going to have to pay extra attention to  make sure we catch the newly translated "cues" from the priest. Since our responses have been re-translated, too, we can't run on autopilot! And those cues (and our responses) have a lot to say...
For example:
"Brothers and sisters, let us acknowledge our sins and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries." We're not being asked to "call to mind" our sins (that would be a prelude to a guilt trip), but to take responsibility for them. We are entering into worship in a spirit of ongoing conversion.
As the Eucharistic Prayer is about to begin, the priest will say: "Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father." Not so different. But it does hint that we are not offering a generic sacrifice: each of us, including the priest, is making our own sacrifice in union with that of Jesus.
Before the Our Father, we will hear: "At the Savior's command and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say..." and after our "deliver us from evil," the priest continues: "Deliver us, Lord...that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ."
Although I really like the expression "in joyful hope," that's not actually in the Latin. Instead, we get something even better. This last prayer brings out what was for me an unexpected characteristic of the new translation: a strong sense of our being alert and ready for the Second Coming. (It is especially clear in many of the post-communion prayers.)
And then, right before Communion, comes my favorite invitation/response pairing:
    "Behold the Lamb of God,
      behold him who takes away the sins of the world.
      Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb."
Two scripture quotes, back to back: the first from the Gospel of John, chapter 1; the second from the book of Revelation, chapter 19. That "supper of the Lamb" isn't simply "this" Holy Communion, though many priests seem to have that impression (they may alter the words slightly to say something like "Blessed are we who are called now to this supper..."); it is really the wedding feast of the Lamb; the heavenly nuptials. That's what Mass is all about. Even John the Baptist, whom the priest quotes in the first part of the invitation, knew that. (And the very next chapter of the Gospel is the story of the wedding feast at Cana: not a coincidence.)
To that scriptural invitation, we make a scriptural response, changing only one word from the  centurion's act of faith:
     "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,
      but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."
As it currently stands, this final prayer before Communion seems to be simply an act of humility: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you..." But there's so much more than that going on.
The first thing I notice in the new translation is the change of perspective. Right now, the first part of that expression focuses on "I": I am not worthy; I ... receive you.  In the new, stricter translation, I am still "not worthy," but the focus is on Christ: that you should enter.
So much for the grammar. The really exciting part of this scriptural prayer is the part we don't hear: the part that comes after the centurion's words in Matthew, chapter 8. That would be Jesus' own answer: "Many shall come from the east and the west and sit with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of Heaven."
In other words, "Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb."


Anonymous said...

"Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."
That is my favorite part. I love what you have said about Jesus' response about dining at the Kingdom of Heaven...Beautiful words. I do wonder how often the Church can change the wording (or correct?)? I am still learning...might be a silly question.

Sr Anne said...

There's no set time frame for changes; the idea is that it should develop somewhat naturally. That said, the Church is well aware of what aspects of the liturgy are simply beyond her ability to recraft: God has shown us how to worship; it is a given, not something we humans have full control over!