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The new English translation of the Roman Missal is finally here
This column is the final in the Denver Catholic Register’s New Roman Missal series.
Nov. 23 2011 - The Book of Acts describes the work of the Church’s very first bishops, the apostles of Christ, as they set out to evangelize the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter and Paul, who are the bishops principally featured in Acts, engage in difficult travel, preach the Gospel and have some grand adventures in service to the kingdom of God.
As a young priest I imagined my life to be a grand apostolic adventure in service of the Gospel. I was not disappointed. And to be sure, being a bishop is an adventure—I never know what the Lord will ask of me each day. But the truth is there weren’t very many meetings in the Book of Acts. As a bishop in the United States in the 21st century, I attend a lot of meetings. It has taken me a while to see those meetings as a part of the great call to build up the kingdom of God.
Lately, it has been easier than usual for me to understand the value of the meetings a bishop is obliged to attend. Last week I spent a few days in Baltimore for the annual fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. As we met we bishops discussed, among other things, our preparation and excitement for the implementation of the new Roman Missal.
The bishops of the conference worked for more than 10 years in many meetings to develop and approve a new translation to the missal. On Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, the years of hard work that led to a new Roman Missal will begin to bear great fruit. The day we have been praying for, working for and preparing for these many years has finally arrived!
To some people, such enthusiasm over a new text doesn’t make much sense. They may wonder: The words of the Mass will be different? Why is that important? The Eucharist will be the same—so why have the bishops spent so much time, in so many meetings, on this new translation? Why so much excitement about this new translation of the Roman Missal?
I am excited because the worship of God is the most important thing we can do as Catholics. God made us to know, love and serve him. We know, love and serve God completely when we worship him in the Mass. I believe that the new translation of the Roman Missal will allow us to understand more clearly than ever before, who God is and how much he loves us.
The words of the Mass in the new translation reflect directly the words of sacred Scripture. They help us to know and love the Scriptures more concretely. The words of the Mass, because they will now more accurately reflect the Latin, also tie us to the great history of the Church—to the saints and martyrs of ages past who have known the Lord through the Mass. More than 80 percent of the prayers in the Roman Missal date back to before the ninth century!
The new translation puts greater emphasis on our actions in the Mass—which draw us into the mystery of Christ’s sacrifice. And the new translation puts greater emphasis on silence. Silence is the key to contemplation. In the new translation of the Mass we have the opportunity to hear God more clearly—and to respond to his love for us.
The way we worship God is at the heart of who we are as Christians. The Mass defines us as Catholics. From our worship flows our commitment to justice and our love of neighbor. Too often we think of liturgy as being less important than our work as Christians in the world. But we cannot be serious about Christianity if we are not serious about worship. My spiritual mentor, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, expressed it this way: “Feelings of awe, majesty, tenderness, reverence, devotedness … are the class of feelings which we shall have if we realize his presence.” This is what true worship engenders inside of us. Liturgy, celebrated well, allows us to know God’s presence—and to love him as we are made to.
I pray that the series of columns on the new translation of the Mass has been helpful to you. I am grateful to the members of the implementation committee for the new translation in the Archdiocese of Denver. Our work, and yours, has not yet come to completion. As the Roman Missal is implemented in our parishes, we move into a new era of history. Each of us will need to work at our full, active, conscious participation in the liturgy. Please join me in that work.
This week we will celebrate Thanksgiving and on Sunday we will begin Advent. Advent anticipates the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I pray that the new English translation of the Roman Missal will allow us to enter more deeply into that profound mystery of our Catholic faith—that Jesus Christ has come and is available to us, physically, in the sacrifice of the Mass. May each of us rejoice in Thanksgiving and give to God our reverence, our worship and our thanksgiving.
Bishop James D. Conley is apostolic administrator of the Denver Archdiocese.
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