Today’s feast of Christ the King marks the end, as it always does, of the Church’s Liturgical Year in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. This year, it also marks the end of an era.
This is the last Sunday that we will use the old familiar responses and prayers of the Mass that we have absorbed over these past forty years. Next Sunday, the First of Advent, a new edition of the Roman Missal comes into effect throughout the United States and almost all the prayers and responses used by both clergy and laity will be altered and have a different tone and aura.
I’ve been writing about this here, and in the parish bulletin and from the pulpit for a few months now. In October I hosted two open meetings to introduce and explain the changes. One more will be offered on Tuesday, November 22nd, at 7 PM in Msgr. Goggin Hall.
For many conversant with the official Latin texts of the Missal, which has gone through three editions since 1970, there was always been a sense of a “gap” between what is in the Latin ( which is supposed to be normative) and what we actually hear and read in the translations that we have been using all these years. A combination of haste, didacticism, “horizontal dynamic equivalence”, and, in my opinion, a desire to downplay or altogether omit some traditional Catholic turns of phrase and concepts uncongenial to “modern man” is now to be corrected. We will enter a new phase of the grand experiment of a totally vernacular Liturgy. Until the 1960’s the Church’s Liturgy both West and East was often conducted in the “sacral language” that was the matrix of the Rites. For us in the West, Latin; for many in the Catholic Eastern Rites and the Orthodox Churches, Greek and Old Slavonic.
We will now be using an English in the Mass that is more redolent of an aura of tradition, mystery, and respect for the actual language of what, after all, is referred to still as the Latin Rite.
We will find the language of the Mass will ask US to stretch up to it a bit, rather than us asking IT to come down to everyday speech.
For all of us it will mean a change in our habitus mentis, the accustomed way of thinking about, and doing, the Liturgy. Not just the words, but the mentality of forty years ago of a seeming endless experimentation and “adaption to current needs” as vaguely defined will also have to change. I’ve sometimes joked that while we’ve talking about “implementing the Third Edition of the Roman Missal” many of us clergy haven’t yet implemented the FIRST edition of the Roman Missal! How many times have I heard about, and witnessed, priests and deacons with varying degrees of skill and good theology altering words, gestures, even the Eucharistic Prayers themselves to “improve them” or make them more “relevant”.
I have had several meetings with my priestly colleagues and deacons in the parish to discuss these changes and to stress the fact that we are the servants of the Liturgy, NOT its masters.
This will, I suspect, be perhaps the greatest challenge of all: that what I like to do, say, or rearrange in the Mass and its ceremonies and words must give way what the CHURCH wants.
November 20, 2011. Feast of Christ the King.