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The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium), the first document approved by the world’s Bishops gathered at the Second Vatican Council, serves as the blueprint for our liturgical renewal. It asserts that liturgy is a celebration of Christ’s paschal mystery. Our full, conscious and active participation in liturgy is vital since liturgy is the source and summit of our whole Christian life.
After the Council, in the interests of enhancing the full participation of the entire assembly at worship, the Catholic Church authorized the use of the vernacular, the languages of the people for its liturgy. The results have been overwhelmingly positive. The vernacular has allowed the faithful to pray with greater understanding, to find deeper spiritual connections between the Tradition of the Church and their daily lives, and to formulate a voice and style of worship that fits the challenges and blessings of their day.
This “new” idea seemed to change centuries of liturgical tradition. But under the guidance of Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council actually restored an ancient practice of praying in the language of the people. To be sure, some in the Church and outside it lamented the loss of Latin from the liturgy, but the experience of Sunday worshipers in parish churches around the world has shown that the decision in favor of the vernacular was truly a gift of the Holy Spirit.
During his long pontificate, our late Holy Father, John Paul II, added many new saints to the Roman calendar. As a result, in the year 2000, he approved a third edition of the Roman Missal in Latin to include Mass texts for all these new saints. The Latin Missal is the source of the translations into all the vernacular languages.
A little later, the Vatican congregation that oversees the Liturgy, The Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, that had already been working on a revision of the guidelines for use in translating the liturgical books, issued a new guiding document, “Liturgiam Authenticam, On the Use of Vernacular Languages in the Publications of the Books of the Roman Liturgy.” After March 2001 all new translations of the Latin Roman Missal had to follow these revised guidelines for translation.
The English translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal reflects the new approach to translationthe technical name for which is “formal equivalence”so as to make the English more accurately resemble the Latin. The desire is to provide a more beautiful and more exacting language of prayer. The goal, for those who pray as members of the Body of Christ, is that the prayer be “to the greater Glory of God (Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam)”.
It has taken several years to translate the Missal from the original Latin into English, and the date of its use varies among the English-speaking countries, but here in the United States, the first Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2011, is the date set by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for everyone to use the new edition of the Missal at Mass.
The most noticeable change in this new Mass book is in the wording of the prayer texts. The new translation more closely corresponds to the original Latin, is richer in imagery, and more closely aligned with its sources in Scripture. It tries to expresses more authentically the scriptural roots of many of the texts we use at Mass. As you hear and pray these new texts, enter into a spirit of prayer and lift your hearts to God. This is a rich opportunity for us to renew our sense of mystery and awe, to deepen our Eucharistic spirituality and to learn more about the Mass. For it is at the Mass, that we, the Body of Christ, are nourished in word and sacrament to build the kingdom of God.
Within the lifetime of many of us, we have celebrated Mass from three different versions of the Missal. The translations are somewhat different, but the “new” Mass is still the same Mass! Each version of the Missal helps us celebrate better.
Change is always difficult for us. We are comfortable with the ways we have, and any change challenges us to let go of the familiar. Most changes are good; they help us grow, bring us new insight, and enable us to be creative and responsive in new ways. When the changes to the Mass (especially the prayer texts and people’s responses) are implemented in November 2011, it can be a positive experience of liturgical prayer, encounter with Christ, and lead to a deeper appreciation of the sacred.
The Latin texts are the fruit of many centuries of theological reflection and pastoral experience. They carefully nuance the faith of the Church. Many of them are beautiful and eloquent. To use a vernacular that adheres more closely to the Latin will give a clearer voice to the Church’s faith and unite us more closely to the universal church that relies on the same Latin text as its source. It is hoped that the new translation will mark an improvement over the one currently in use, and that it will assist future generations of worshipers to lift mind and heart to God in prayer.
Our current English translation has been criticized for being too informal or too “conversational.” Just as we have different ways of conversing depending upon whom we are with, i.e., family, friends, co-workers, dignitaries, so too, we should have a special language in conversing with God. The new translation is meant to provide another means of expressing our formal communal worship of God from our personal or private conversation with Godâ€¦ some would say, a more sacred language.
As well as the issue of translation, another reason for some of the changes in wording is to make more apparent the references to the words of Scripture that often provide the foundation for the phrasing found in many of our liturgical texts. In the current English version, the relationship between many of our liturgical words and the words of the Bible is sometimes easy to miss. This change in translation will help us be more aware of how our liturgical texts are rooted in the Scriptures and this can help draw us more deeply into the meaning of the words we pray.
An example may help make this clear. Just before communion, the priest holds up the Host and says in our current wording: “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the worldâ€¦” The scriptural episode that this wording echoes comes from the Gospel of John, where John the Baptist says of Jesus “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). So when this gospel passage is read during the liturgy, we hear not “This is the lamb of God â€¦” but “Behold, the Lamb of God â€¦”. The new Mass translation will bring the more formal word “behold” into this communion invitation, so as to echo more directly the phrasing of Gospel text itself.
For the changes to responses & prayers said be the faithful at Mass, click here.
Recently, I met with two engineers to discuss the possibility of air conditioning the church. In the process of that meeting, I asked whether or not the system that they were proposing would cost more to run than a different system. One of the engineers said that, while it might be hard for me to imagine, it would be less expensive. I agreed: it was hard for me to imagine that larger machinery would take up less electricity to run. He started to explain, “it has to do with their veersâ€¦” and at that I stopped him. See, I know my limits and, quite frankly I believed him. I knew that while I might be able to learn a few more tid bits, it wasn’t worth my investment of brain power: I wouldn’t comprehend half of the stuff he was saying and, in fact, I already trusted the information to be true.
Maybe another illustration of the same principle: I do not understand all of the issues involved in proving how gravity works, but I believe it does actually work. I’m willing to put faith in it without having a deeper understanding of its reality.
With those two illustrations now mentioned, I do not believe that the same can be said about issues of faith today. In today’s way of thinking, in today’s world, while people believe in the expertise of engineers and the theory of gravityeven without having firsthand knowledge or proofthey do not approach faith the same way. Very often, I have found that when some people pose questions about faith, they are trying to disprove its importance, downplay its relevance and dismiss its existence as foolhardy.
Today, while people in the world pursue power, prestige, pleasure and the like, without significant regard for the needs of anyone but themselves, they often then don’t find that God even really matters, that faith won’t impact them at all, and that skepticism is the most appropriate response to â€˜not knowing’.
But the fact that we’re here, says something different about you and me. The fact that we’re engaged in our “Catholicism series” this year or starting our new Scripture Study during this Year of Faith; we believe that God does exist, that God has always existed and interacted with His creation and His creaturesâ€¦and that a relationship with Himborne of faithis essential to us. Beyond that, I would propose that even in the midst of faith, however, there is still great value in knowing how and why God exists around us in the life of faith. Sure, we may not grow in our understanding of God Himself, but exploring the movements of God over time and throughout salvation history could actually be the ticket for us to appreciate more and more the gift of faith within this world; a world that despises things unseen and rejects things unfelt.
In the end, our knowledge of the words of Isaiah in the first reading or of “Ephphatha”, the word of Jesus in the gospel don’t help our understanding of how ears or lips were opened, but they do help in another way: they point to a plan being laid out and then fulfilledâ€¦all by God, who creates, who cares for us, and who dwells among us, to give us His own life; a life bursting with freedom, with openness, with hopeâ€¦and a lively faith placed in Him as we move about in our everyday. May this blessing of faith for each one of us be renewed this week, that we might be instruments who connect our world back to God, through Jesus Christ.
After hearing John’s gospel for the last five weeks, many murmur, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Not many can accept the sayings of Jesus, unfortunately, but that is not our roleto seek so much as to know the saying; no, our role is seek to know the Say-erâ€¦the One sent by God as the Way, the Truth and the Life. That’s our goal, isn’t it?
So often nowadays, people only accept what they can understand about Jesus, what they can relate with about Him: that is to say, many have no difficulty acknowledging that Jesus was a good man, a human person of wisdom and insight. And while that is certainly true, the most important thing to know about Jesus is that He is divine.
The Gospel of Johnfrom which today’s exchange comesbegan with, “In the beginning was the Wordâ€¦”. It is this word of God that became flesh in Jesus Christ, thus bearing God’s own life for all of us to know, to hear, to love.
So, a question comes to mind, doesn’t it? Is He really? Is this Jesus really divine?
Throughout the gospels we are given the evidence, but even more, St. Paul’s letters are emphatic. St. Paula powerfully phenomenal Jew of the first century who studied under the great Rabbi Gamalieltime and time again, over and over refers to Jesus as “Lord”. This is not so peculiar to us today, but to the people of Paul’s era, it was unheard of, simply because one only used the title â€˜Lord’ when referring to God alone. How radical and strange it was, yet, in Paul’s wisdom and virtue, in his knowledge and experience of Christ, he was convinced that the One Lord is Jesus Christ. Paul knows the sayings of Jesus, but more to the point, he knows the Say-er and he knows him to be God himself. Yes, the sayings are hard, but we can accept them once we know well the goodness, or Godliness, of the Say-er.
Well, with that, comes now a compelling and all-important choice for each one of us: with this understanding of Jesus as Lord, Jesus now compels us to make a choice in a way that no other founder of a great religion does. Mohammedto his infinite creditnever claimed to be God. Mohammed said, “I’m a messengerâ€¦I received a message from God.” Mosesto his infinite creditnever claimed to be divine. Moses received the Law from God and, in turn, gave it to the people. The Buddhato his infinite creditnever claimed to be divine. What he said was, “I’ve found a way.”
Then there’s Jesus: who doesn’t say, “I’ve found a way,” â€¦He says, “I AM the way.” How strange indeed. He doesn’t say, “I’ve found a truthâ€¦let me tell you about it,” rather He says, “I AM the truth.” He didn’t say, “Hey, there’s this new mode of life that I’ve discovered, let me share it with you,” rather He declares, “I AM the life.” These claims are the unique treasure of Christianity and treasure needs to be shared, needs to enrich us in order for it to be true treasure.
And so, this treasure, like I said, compels a choice. If Jesus is who He said He is, I must give my whole self, my whole life to Him. Of course, because He is God, He is the highest Good. But if He’s not who He says He is, then He’s a bad man. Either He’s God, or He’s a bad manâ€¦and each one of us must decide.
“Either you gather with me, or you scatter.” “Either you’re with me or you’re against me.” Even in today’s gospel, Jesus directly asks this question of us: “do you also want to leave?” It’s clear over these last five weeks of hearing John’s gospel, we are not allowed to be mere bystanders and spectators. We either believe and follow him full-well, or we leave him and return to a former way of life.
But we know the “Say-er” of these things; we are the recipients of the treasure of Jesus’ resurrection and new life; we are the bearers of Baptism; we are the manifold recipients of God’s graces; we are a people chosen and blessed by God as adopted children of the Father, in the Son.
Let your choice be unanimous, let your choice resound and echo in the days and weeks to come, let your choice guide all that you are and all that you do: for, Jesus is Lord. Amen.
Just a few days ago, we enjoyed our 13th Annual Golf Classic. The day couldn’t have been any better, except for one small detail: my dog Mimo was pent-up in the rectory for almost 11 hours all by herself. I knew she wouldn’t be pleased with me when I got home so in anticipation of â€˜the cold shoulder’, I brought her a rib bone from the banquet. I opened the door and while she wanted to ignore me completely, she couldn’t help catching the scent from the doggy-bag. I gave her the bone and she ran outside to a small dirt patch to enjoy her treat. Noticing how dirty it had become I grabbed it and threw it on the lawn, at which point, she ran over and started to roll all over it! She didn’t want to simply enjoy the bits on the bone, but she wanted to gnaw on it, savor it, dig deep into the treasured marrow and, when asleep, dream of the scents wafting from her coated coat!
In today’s gospel, Jesus is continuing what is known as His “bread of life discourse”. Over and over, Jesus is trying to teach His followers of the necessity to eat His flesh and drink His bloodtrue food and drink with everlasting value and reward. But, He did more than invite them to “eat” as we often do (even our ancestors merely “ate” the manna of the desert and still they died). Jesus invited them to “eat” His flesh, but in a manner like gnawing on it. He was inviting themand still invites usto gnaw on the gift of Himself, to savor His being, to gain the richness of His divinity, to live within the odor of the Lord and to take all of Himself into our very being, our very lives.
As members of His mystical bodythe Churchwe are invited to gnaw on the gift of the Bread of Life, to taste and see the goodness of the Lord as His own life blends and co-mingles with ours. Amen.
A Message from the Pastor: Greetings friends! On behalf of the one thousand parishioners who call the Church of St. Mary their home, welcome! St. Mary's is located in the town of East Greenbush and was founded in 1927 as a mission church of St. John's Church in the city of Rensselaer. In 1961, the small mission church burned while the building of the new parish school was underway. As a result, the gymnasium of the school became the new temporary worship space. We are still in this same space but it has truly become a wonderfully prayerful environment for our worship. St. Mary's is a … read more
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