7 Ways the New Mass Translation is Closer to Scripture

November 17, 2011

Faith and Reasons


Photo/Catholic Westminster. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Because the Mass prayers are so familiar, I’m sad to say that once in a while I go on autopilot during the Liturgy. That will end in just over a week when English-speaking Catholics first bring the new translation of the Roman Missal to life at Mass. Many of the responses will be new and we’ll have to pay closer attention.

With the help of theologian Dr. Edward Sri’s book “A Biblical Walk Through the Mass,” and Father John Paul Erickson, director of the Archdiocese’s Office of Worship, I’ve tried to show how the new translation brings the Mass text closer to the scripture it’s founded upon. Whether or not you’re ready for the transition, this post provides something to reflect on during Mass and after. The new responses are in italic, followed by the old text in parentheses.

1. The Lord be with you
...And with your spirit. (And also with you). Instead of the polite response we’re used to, this one sounds almost New Age until we discover that St. Paul said it in Gal. 6:18, Phil. 4:23 and 2 Tim. 4:22. The new response acknowledges that through ordination and the Holy Spirit the priest represents Christ in sacred duties. We address the priest’s spirit, the deepest part of his being, where he has been ordained to lead us in the liturgy.

 2. The Confiteor
…through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. This prayer, which starts with “I confess,” doesn’t change much in the new translation except for this line and one other word. The new words, taken from 1 Chron. 21:8, sounds repetitious but in praying them we more accurately convey our true sorrow for our sins.

3. The Gloria
The previous prayer won’t work because more than half the words are different in the new translation. One difference is that Jesus is identified as the “Only Begotten Son,” which reflects his unique relationship with the Father as described in St. John’s gospel. (Jn. 1:12, 1 Jn. 3:1)

4. The Nicene Creed
There aren’t a lot of changes to the Creed but here are a few of the most significant ones.
…all things visible and invisible (seen and unseen). This phrase is a more precise translation of St. Paul’s reference to all created things. (Col. 1:16)
… consubstantial with the Father (one in being with the Father). Here’s a big new word that will take a while to get used to. It’s the right word because It’s closer to the theological language of the Council of Nicea held in 325 AD where the Creed was developed in response to a heresy denying Jesus’ divinity. The new word means that the Father and Son are of the same substance.
…was incarnate of the Virgin Mary (born of the Virgin Mary). Another big word, consistent with the Latin text of the Mass, emphasizing that Jesus took on human flesh (Jn. 1:14), not just that he was born of Mary.

5. The Sanctus
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts. The last three words of this line are the only changes to this prayer that comes right before the priest prays the Eucharistic Prayer. The new words are taken from Is. 6:3 where the prophet Isaiah received a vision of the angels praising God. “Hosts” refers to the angels in heaven.

6. Consecration Prayers
…Chalice of my Blood (Cup of my Blood) What’s the difference between a cup and a chalice? A chalice is associated with the liturgy–it’s a special Eucharistic cup that the Lord uses at the Last Supper. (Lk. 22:20, I Cor. 11:25)
…for you and for many (for you and for all) The word “many”  is closer to Jesus’ actual words at the Last Supper (Mt. 26:28) and more accurately reflects the Latin text. The addition of this word shows that Jesus died for all but not everyone chooses to accept the gift of salvation. The prophet Isaiah also speaks of how Christ’s suffering justifies many in Is. 53.

7. Prayer before Communion
Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof (Lord I am not worthy to receive you). The new words better represent the centurion’s request of Jesus in Mt. 8:8 and Lk. 7:6-7.



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About Susan Klemond

I'm a freelance writer who enjoys writing about the Catholic Faith, local issues and people. I love the challenge of learning about the Church and discovering the reasons behind her teachings.

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  • Some comments on “7 Ways the New Mass is Closer to Scripture” by Susan Klemond.
    I’ve read much about the new changes in The Missal, especially in the New York Catholic.
    One is that the new language will bring ‘the faithful’ closer to the mysteries & truth of The Mass; that it will be clearer, more accurate in ‘meaning.’ This is very presumptuous.
    For me personally, there is not one change that I can point to that has changed any perspective of mine that I have not already had. For example, Jesus Christ as “One in Being with The Father,” has always meant to me that He Is of the Essence of The Father because this is implied when we confess to worship ONE God: The Father, The Son, & The Holy Spirit. In the New Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus of the English Language, “consubstantial” means “of the same kind, ESSENCE or nature [capital letters are my emphasis].” I see no difference in ‘meaning’ between the two. But I will say what I do notice about this change in The Missal and may other changes: these new substitutions completely take away the beauty, what I call the ‘poetics,’ of the English language.
    It’s not hard to feel the difference rolling off my tongue. “One in Being with The Father,” rolls off of my tongue well. “Consubstantial with The Father,” does not. The first reason for this is that the word “consubstantial” has four syllables. The second reason is that the “c” sound in “con,” the “b” sound in “sub,” the “st” sound in “stan,” & the “t” sound in “tial,” have what I would call -concerning poetics – ‘harsh,’ ‘forceful’ sounds. That’s four in one word. Not many good poets would use the word “consubstantial” in a line of poetry in my opinion. In my artistic view, the first version got it just right, and as I’ve already stated the meaning is also the same.
    So then too would be my reasoning for the insertion of “was incarnate” for “born of.” And to imply also, as you and many opinion writers have done, that the new change is “emphasizing that Jesus took on human flesh (Jn 1:14), not just that he was born of Mary,” is once again presumptuous. What it seems to imply to me is that you and others think that a majority of The Laity (literally the Body of The Church) does not read The Scriptures or Catholic Theological books: that we don’t know the fact that Jesus was born of human flesh & blood?!
    You implied that “I’m sad to say that I go into autopilot during the Liturgy.” First of all, that’s not a sin. But, you going into autopilot during The Mass cannot be blamed on the current language of The Missal. Why can’t you & other opinion writers just admit that you’re trying to hype-up these new changes because you have some preconceived notion that people don’t like change so you want to try to justify the changes by saying that they will make us better informed about the mystery of our faith? That opinion is not a sin either. You have a right to say what you believe. And I will believe you if you think the changes will be better for The Laity, but your reasoning in my estimation is wrong…at least for me.
    So we don’t say “only Begotten Son,” in The Gloria? We say it in The Nicene Creed. “All things visible and invisible,” as opposed to “of all that is seen and unseen.” Here I would like to just point out that the latter statement has more spiritual depth to me. There is a difference between visibility and sight. Sight – again in Webster’s, the first definition in fact – is “the power of seeing.” Is tomorrow invisible? We can’t see it now, but tomorrow for us it will become visible to us. We do not have the ‘insight’ to see tomorrow: but God does. If this is not what it is supposed to mean, just partly speaking, in The Church’s interpretation, then all that I can do, which I do several times a day, is thank God for giving me my sense of imagination & creativity: for me, a truly wonderful and inspiring gift.
    To end this commentary, I would like to point to one of the best examples of English poetics (as of tomorrow night, I am afraid that for the distant future we shall not be saying this prayer [‘prayer’ is probably a very generic term for a better definition that does not come to mind right now – sorry]; one that was basically eliminated in words:

    Dying You destroyed our death
    Rising You restored our life
    Lord Jesus, come in Glory

    How beautiful the poetic alliteration! How true (to me; my truth at least) the meaning of the Cross! I will faithfully recite the new alternative to this prayer as I will all of the changes in The Missal. I will never forget this most wonderful prayer!
    This opinion was not meant to be disrespectful or malicious; I am an artist & musician, a devout Catholic, and a sinner. Peace Be with You {8~)>