As I look over the new translation for the Mass, one of the characteristics that struck me with extraordinary power was the heightened eschatological sense. To put it in everyday language, a sense of expectation and anticipation of Christ's Second Coming. It is in the present translation, too, but in a less obtrusive way. Or (this may be closer to the truth) I just didn't notice it because it has been said the same way for so very long. (Maybe we should have a new translation every 10-20 years to keep us all on our toes?)
The first part of the new translation I was exposed to was the Creed. Granted, in the Creed we explicitly state our faith that Christ, at the Father's side, "will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead," and that we "look for the resurrection of the dead." It's that second phrase that is changing in a way that made me sit up and take notice: "I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come." Then, still in the Order of the Mass, there are the invitations I wrote about last week:
"... as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ"; "Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb" (from Revelation: how much more eschatological can you get?); and the (unstated) response to the faithful centurion, whose words we will make our own right before Communion. These invitations are a way the Liturgy tries to keep us alert and light on our feet in view of our real destination.
The Prefaces all put heaven on our minds, reminding us that the "Holy, Holy, Holy" we sing here is identical with the unending song of the angels and saints. In the middle of the Eucharistic Prayers, there is the "Mystery of Faith," but often the "memorial" puts what we are doing here and now in reference to the return of Jesus and our hope for heaven: "Have mercy on us all, we pray,
that with the Blessed Virgin Mary...we may merit to be coheirs to eternal life" (EP II); "so that we may obtain an inheritance with your elect, especially with the most Blessed Virgin Mary..."; "as we look forward to his second coming, we offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice..." (EP III); "as we await his coming in glory, we offer you his Body and Blood" (EP IV); "and looking forward to his blessed Coming, we offer you...this sacrificial Victim" (Rec. I).
Then there are the "proper" prayers, the specific prayers that change from Sunday to Sunday. The Prayer after Communion usually ties the Communion we have just received with the ultimate Communion. Here's a sample from Advent: "Nourished by these divine gifts, almighty God [there's the Communion just received], we ask you to grant our desire: that, aflame with your Spirit, we may shine like bright torches before your Christ when he comes. Who lives and reigns for ever and ever."
Here's one from Lent: "May your holy gifts [code words for the Eucharist!], O Lord, we pray, give us life by making us new, and, by sanctifying us, lead us to things eternal. Through Christ our Lord."
And then there are the ritual ways the Church turns our gaze toward the Second Coming. One is only manifest in the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite (the Tridentine Rite), when the priest and people are facing the same direction, a symbolic "East." East isn't simply a compass point for the liturgy: it is a symbol for the return of Christ, the "sun of justice" whose coming is "as certain as the dawn." When we are sent out after Mass (more about the new dismissals later), it is as though the priest had said, "The Bridegroom is here, go out to meet him!" (not as the wedding guests, but as the Bride!). All the wedding language in the liturgy is eschatological. We are sent out from the assembly knowing that on the eighth day, we will again be gathered in worship, either in the fullness of the Kingdom itself, or in its earthly manifestation at Mass.