Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Spirit moves

Already it has been five years since you got your Spirit back.  Do remember?  How for decades we had responded “And also with you,” to “The Lord be with you,” then suddenly everything changed, and the one big change was “And with your Spirit?” 
Sure, there were also “under my roof” and “consubstantial with the Father,” but the first and most frequent hurdle was, “And with your Spirit.”  All of it came with the new English translation of the Roman Missal, introduced the first Sunday of Advent in 2011. 
Have you gotten used to it yet?  I still find some awkwardness, but only at funerals or weddings, when people are present who don’t attend Mass often, or at all.  The other awkwardness is when I participate in Mass at some other place, and the music used for the Mass commons (the parts like the Gloria or Holy Holy that happen at most or all Masses) is the same music from before the change.  Because the music was composed for the old words, and used with the old words, it makes people sing the old words!  
There were many, many more changes for us priests.  All the proper prayers (the ones that are specific to each particular day, season, or feast) were re-translated, and these make an enormous difference.  Especially the collects (the prayer just for that day that is said by the priest at the opening of the Mass) have much more theological content and complexity.  Now they are more useful to understanding what the Church believes, often lending themselves to incorporation into the homily.  The texts of the Eucharistic Prayers, which the priest says for the Consecration, are much more accurate in their presentation of the actual Latin prayers.  Therefore, there is much more there to make clear what is happening at the heart of every Mass.
All around it is an enormous enrichment over the previous translation, both in content and style.  But it is change, which is always hard.  Do you know someone who still dislikes the change, or maybe has drifted away from the Mass over the past five years, because of the difficulty they had with the change -- whether they realize it or not?  If they talk about it with you, are you able to encourage them to push through the difficulty to reach the reward?
One of the principal characteristics of good liturgy is its consistency, even (especially?) in the face of change in all other aspects of life.  It is an indication of just how vital this change really is that the Church thought this important enough to ask all her English-speaking parishioners around the world to undergo such a change.  So the trouble it causes to some people is not itself the goal, but an acknowledged cost that will have a great and in fact indispensable benefit. 
This realization should help us to appreciate why we went through it, and therefore to help people who resent or resist the changes, or even unconsciously found the change alienated them.  There is an enormous enrichment to our prayer and understanding that these changes make possible. 
Five years is long enough to assimilate a change of this import, and many of us have already totally adjusted – at least those of us who have also changed the musical settings, and not only the texts.  So this is a good time to examine intentionally the prayers that now are more familiar, and discover the deep riches they bear for us.  It may also help you help someone you know and even love to make the effort and overcome the difficulty of the change. 
Help them want the increased understanding and richer insight that the translation offers.  Start the conversation, shed the light, and invite them to join you again in this richer new liturgical relationship with the living God.  This is the purpose for which you got “your Spirit” back!
Monsignor Smith

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