There are a couple of sayings: “It’s like taking coal to Newcastle” or “It’s like preaching to the choir,” which imply I am either presenting something already on everyone’s mind, or I am speaking of a topic that everyone has already heard.
I know many who read the Catholic Herald are good Catholics who would willingly accept any decision or direction offered by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. At Rome’s direction we will face the new translation of the sacred liturgy this coming Advent. Although this is a given, I must discuss the obvious.
In a few months, parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee will begin the implementation of the new translation. For some, this will interrupt their normal routine and present a slight inconvenience. The greatest burden will be on the priests, who must learn the new translation in order to properly celebrate the sacred liturgy.
For others, it will be one more excuse to be angry with the church. They will claim the church is out of touch and worried more about words in the worship than some of the great social problems affecting humanity.
And still others may claim that this is a precursor of Latin returning to the liturgy. There is no truth to that estimation, although it would be good to use some of the more familiar traditional musical Latin chants for the “Lamb of God” or the “Holy, Holy, Holy.”
Believe me, there is something far deeper going on than just the new translation. First, it is a reminder that the most important function we humans can perform is to worship our God. Therefore, the words we use to express our prayers in the celebration are extremely important. The words we use reflect a reality.
The new translation gives us an opportunity to think and reflect about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Our Sunday worship is the central act of worship of the Catholic Church. It is the highest form of prayer. There is nothing more important in our lives than worship. When we worship God, we acknowledge he has supreme dominion over our lives.
Just realize what is happening at the sacrifice of the Mass. Many of the priests I have talked to throughout my years as a seminary professor readily told me they feel most like a priest when they celebrate the Mass or hear confessions. The very nature of the priest is one who offers sacrifice.
When a priest celebrates Mass, he is at one with his ordained calling. At Mass, the priest offers the unbloody sacrifice of Christ on Calvary for our good and the good of the whole world. Christ is freely offering himself to the Father as an appeasement for our sins and the sins of all. Hopefully, this will be an opportunity for the priest himself to deepen his personal relationship with the Holy Sacrifice and enhance his role as leader of the community in prayer.
The Mass is also a sacred banquet at which we receive his Body and Blood, the heavenly food. I recently heard a TV talk show host and his panel member openly mock the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They both were former Catho-lics who obviously never understood the nature of the sacrament or integrated that reality into their faith lives. Their mocking anger was a demonstration that their faith was weak and their lives were based in a rejection of “mystery.” How sad!
When the church issued “The General Instruction of the Roman Missal,” it called for a proper attitude and gesture in the reception of the Eucharist. This was to remind us that what we were about to receive was the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Not a symbol, not a sign, but Jesus Christ.
How do we approach the second person of the Blessed Trinity who comes to us under the form of bread and wine? Of course we should approach with profound reverence. What the General Instruction recommends is a bow before reception. I have noticed that only about a third of those who are receiving Communion bow before reception. I do not attribute any disrespect, but it is a missed opportunity by some to acknowledge the reality of Christ’s presence and to witness that reality to others.
Secondly, in our integration of the new translation, we need to recapture the sense of mystery. Mystery allows us to understand that we are limited and finite creatures before an infinite God. However, as a believer, I can embrace the mystery through prayer, study and experience, which will allow me to grow in faith. If we undertake the new translation with a sense that the translation will assist us in our prayer life, then it will help us to enter that mystery which is the Holy Sacrifice.
I know that a few of our parishes, through the efforts of the pastor, have been preparing for the new translations. Some reserved four Sundays and instructed their congregations on the meaning of the Mass. Some of our directors of religious education have offered instruction classes on the Sacred Liturgy and, of course, Dean Daniels and the Archdiocesan Office of Worship have put together a program of instruction on the new translation for priests, deacons, parish directors, religious and pastoral staff members.
Our archdiocesan parish music ministers will incorporate the new translation into their musical presentations. Hopefully, all of these efforts will allow us to gain a deeper understanding of the mystery of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and an appreciation of worship as the center of our lives. But please remember to be patient, for the Lord comes and we must be ready.