What's the Deal with the Upcoming Changes in the Mass?
This is a common question that has been raised both in Saint Mary's RCIA and in the broader parish. There seems to be a bit of anxiety about November 27th, when the new missal will be implemented in churches throughout the United States. There is plenty of information out there about all of the specific changes, but I thought it might be helpful for some to give a simple and concise overview of what is changing and why.
At the Second Vatican Council, held from 1963 – 1965, the Bishop’s of the Catholic Church called for a more active participation of the faithful in the Mass. One way to do this, they suggested, was to translate the prayers of the Mass into the native languages of the people. Soon after the close of the council, committees were put in charge of translating the Latin text of the Mass into the local tongues. The committee in charge of translating the Mass into English translated the Latin according to the principle of “dynamic equivalence." Dynamic equivalence means that you don’t translate a text word for word, but look for a more natural rendering of the words.
In recent years, the Bishops have decided that while this strategy of dynamic equivalency has its merits, important theological and scriptural points were lost when we moved further away from the Latin words. In addition, much of the rest of the Catholic world has translations that are more closely tied to the Latin. They decided to re- translate the text of the Mass by principle called “formal equivalence,” a strategy that sticks with the most literal rendering of each word that is possible.
For example, at the beginning of the Nicene Creed, we currently say “I believe in God…maker of heaven and earth of all things seen and unseen.” The new translation will instead read “visible and invisible.” While there is nothing wrong, per se, with the former translation, it could lead to the impression that all things created can be seen. Visible and invisible sticks to the Latin "visibilium et invisibiliun" and conveys that there are created realities, such as angels, that are invisible by nature.
Is this the kind of change that will create confusion and chaos? Hardly. It is true that things will sound a bit different. We will need a response card to follow along with for a few months. But these changes are nothing that a little practice and repetition won’t solve over time. Perhaps it will be good for us to be a bit out of our comfort zone for a change…giving us a chance to experience the Mass in a new light.
If you would like more information about the upcoming Mass changes, please visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s website at: http://usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/roman-missal/index.cfm.
Brian Desmarais is our Assistant Director of
Faith Formation. If you'd like to ask him a
question, please email him here.