CHANGES are expected in the Mass as the Vatican has approved a new English translation of the Roman Missal, making it closer to the Latin version of the rite adopted by the Church following the Second Vatican Council.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has given its nod to the third edition of missal, the ritual text that contains prayers and instructions for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. It will be used first by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on November 27 next year, on the First Sunday of Advent.

Many parts of the Mass have been re-translated or restored. For instance, the response to the priests’ greeting “The Lord be with you” will be “And with your spirit,” instead of “And also with you.”

Before communion, the people say: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” closer to the conversation between Christ and the Roman centurion in the Gospels.

The Penitential Rite, the Gloria, and the Creed have also been re-translated closer to the original formulas.

Msgr. Guido Marini, Pontifical Master of Liturgical Ceremonies, said during the Year for Priest Clergy Conference in Rome last January that “there is an urgent need to reaffirm the ‘authentic’ spirit of the liturgy, such as it is present in the uninterrupted tradition of the Church and attested in continuity with the past.”

Proposed reforms include administering of the Holy Communion by mouth to the kneeling laity, the central placement of the crucifix on the altar, and the celebration of the Mass with the priest in ad orientem position, or his back turned against the people. Ad orientem, however, should be viewed as the priest and the people all turned toward God in worship, emphasizing the Mass’ sacrificial nature, the Pope had said.

These practices are closer to the Traditional Latin Mass prior to the Second Vatican Council.

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The proposals come amid Pope Benedict XVI’s move toward tradition, in the wake of liturgical abuses committed after Vatican II. Benedict has liberalized the use of the Traditional Latin Mass, declaring it in the 2007 apostolic letter, “Summorum Pontificum,” as the Extraordinary Form of the Mass that can be said by any priest even without permission from the local bishop.

The Mass of Vatican II, approved by Pope Paul VI in 1970, which also has a Latin version, continues to be the ordinary form.

Benedict has also made a number of gestures indicating his preference for tradition. Those getting communion from the Pope are requested to kneel and receive the Eucharist by mouth. He has also revived the use of older papal vestments.

Amid speculation that reforms were made to indicate a retreat from the liturgical movement following the Second Vatican Council, Marini said the moves were meant to make the laity closer to the liturgy.

“I believe that the best way to understand the expression is certainly not to reject the reforms determined by the Second Vatican Council,” Marini said in an interview with the National Catholic Reporter. “It’s to take another step forward in the comprehension and experience of an authentic liturgical spirit, carrying together the inheritance of our tradition with the reform that the council accomplished, in a spirit of development in continuity.”

Marini said the speculated “rollback” from Vatican II did not make sense as “the life of the church moves forward in time, always developing but without losing anything from its life of either the past or the present.”

He noted that the form used in Holy Masses does not really matter because these are expressions of authentic faith in the Lord.

“What’s important now is that the two forms of the Roman Rite look upon one another with great serenity, realizing that both belong to the life of the church and that neither is the only true, authentic expression. But rather, the two forms of Roman Rite can mutually enrich each other,” Marini said.

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On its website for the new missal, http://www.usccb.org/romanmissal, the USCCB said a new translation was needed to include “prayers for the celebration of recently canonized saints, additional prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayers, additional Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Intentions, and some updated and revised rubrics (instructions) for the celebration of the Mass.”

It added: “The unique style of the Roman Rite should be maintained in translation. By ‘style’ is meant here the distinctive way in which the prayers of the Roman Rite are expressed. The principal elements of such a style include a certain conciseness in addressing, praising, and entreating God, as well as distinctive syntactical patterns, a noble tone, a variety of less complex rhetorical devices, concreteness of images, repetition, parallelism, and rhythm, as measured through the cursus, or ancient standards for stressing syllables of Latin words in prose or poetry.”

‘Changes should respond to needs’

Thomasian Fr. Anscar Chupungco, OSB, director of Paul VI Institute of Liturgy and former Executive Secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Liturgy, said that although the plan to use the revised Roman Missal has been set for Advent 2011 in the US, it would still depend on whether US publishers would have the 2010 English Translation of the Roman Missal ready by 2011.

“The 2010 English translation of the Roman Missal by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) as of December 2010 still needs the approval of the bishops’ conferences before the Congregation for Divine Worship gives the final approval,” he said in a written response to questions sent by the Varsitarian.

Chupungco noted that the Catholic faithful in the Philippines have not been informed and catechized about the changes in translation.

Chupungco, who had served as president of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome and consultor to two Vatican dicasteries namely the Congregation for Divine Worship and Congregation for Catholic Education, added the “changes on the liturgy that are being ‘proposed’ are often justified reactions to excesses that transform the liturgy into some kind of social gathering that undermines the spirit of reverent worship.”

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But changes that are not explained historically, pastorally, and doctrinally to the faithful will not only cause a sense of the unfamiliarity, but also a misunderstanding of the true nature of liturgical worship, he said.

“There is a danger that when liturgical rites are not properly understood, they will occasion mistaken interpretations and beliefs as it happened in the Middle Ages,” he said.

Chupungco acknowledged that changes will always be necessary in the life of the Church and in the way it celebrates the liturgy.

“The Church does not live outside the sphere of global social, cultural, and even political developments. Changes should respond to actual needs of the worshiping community,” Chupungco said.

He said that what really matters in the Roman Missal is the interior disposition of faith that externally expresses itself in religious practices such as kneeling or receiving the Holy Communion.

“Such excesses were not envisioned by the Constitution on the Liturgy nor by its subsequent implementation. However, the liturgical posture of standing is not less reverent than kneeling, just as receiving Holy Communion on the tongue is not more respectful than receiving it in the hand.”

He also said that while people may argue about the merits or demerits of the way the Church’s Constitution on the Liturgy has been implemented, “we are not at liberty to cast doubt on its basic principle of active and conscious participation of all God’s people in the liturgy.”

“We can only hope for the best. But a word of caution is needed: Vatican II stays as the Magna Carta of the Church’s life until another Ecumenical Council shall decide otherwise,” he said. Jennifer M. Orillaza and Brylle B. Tabora

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