Some Mass Changes
The changes to the Roman Catholic Mass announced Aug. 4 won't take effect for a few years. In the meantime, new prayer books will be printed and distributed to dioceses, parishes and priests. Below, a few of the old responses, followed by the new:
"The Lord be with you"
Old : "And also with you."
New : "And with your spirit."
Old: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."
New: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."
The refrain, "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again" has been deleted.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Aug. 4 released the official text of a new English-language translation to the Roman Catholic Mass. It's the first time the Mass will change since the 1960s — though the changes will not take effect for a few years. Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest, reflects on the changes.
What's your response to the following: "The Lord be with you."
If you said, "And also with you," you're probably a Catholic who goes to Mass on Sunday.
Not so fast. That response is about to change, along with other familiar parts of the Mass.
Overall, the language in the new English translation, just released by the bishops, is more elevated than before.
Critics of the old translation thought that the language was too conversational to be reverent. On the other side were those who thought that conversational language helped people to pray to God more naturally.
One easy place to see the change is when the priest prays a blessing over the bread and wine.
Here's the old translation: "Let your Spirit come upon these gifts, to make them holy."
Here's the new one: "Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall."
And the familiar refrain, "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again"? That's been deleted. Frankly, those two changes I'm not too crazy about.
But here's one I like.
Right before Communion we say this: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."
Pretty soon we'll say, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." That sounds odd until you realize it's from the Gospels, when a centurion tells Jesus that he's not worthy to have him come under his roof.
By the way, the new response to "The Lord be with you" is "And with your spirit."
That means one of my favorite jokes goes by the wayside. A priest starts shouting into the microphone saying: "Is this thing on?"
He makes lots of noise and finally says: "Something is wrong with this mic!" And the congregation replies: "And also with you!"
Language is important in the spiritual life: The way you relate to someone influences the way you speak to someone, and vice versa. It's the same with God. The way you relate to God influences how you speak to God in prayer. And your language will influence your image of God.
What does all this mean? Well, for a few months, maybe even a few years, most Catholics aren't going to know what to say in Mass. Some parishioners will be delighted, others annoyed, others just confused. For a time, the most familiar thing in many Catholics' lives will become, at least in parts, unfamiliar.
But overall the upgrades are small. I don't mean to minimize the changes, or the change in tone, but in the end, Catholics will get used to the new Mass.
And I believe that, happily, God hears everyone's prayers, whether they're in conversational language, elevated speech, through tears or through laughter, or even in the midst of dewfall.
James Martin is a Jesuit priest and author of A Jesuit Off-Broadway: Center Stage with Jesus, Judas and Life's Big Questions.