Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Eucharistic Prayer

The liturgy of the Eucharist begins with the preparation of the gifts.  This part of the Mass is short, and we’ll only see a few changes to the words we use.  In most places on Sunday’s a song is sung as the gifts are collected and the altar is prepared.  The Missal calls this the Offertory Chant.
Once the priest has received the gifts and stands at the altar, he praised God, who has provided them… once for the bread and once for the wine.  These prayers are to be done “in a low voice.”  Most of the prayers as the altar is prepared are done in a low voice, according to the notes in the Roman Missal.
After the priest’s hands are ceremoniously washed, you are invited to pray.  “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.”  You may notice the expansion of the words “our sacrifice” to “my sacrifice and yours.”  In keeping with the Latin, this implies that more than one sacrifice is being offered.
On one hand, the Mass is a single sacrifice offered by all present.  On the other hand, each baptized member is offering a sacrifice, in keeping with his or her priestly role.  However, each participant in the one sacrifice of Christ.  The 1st letter of St. Peter says we are meant to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God though Jesus Christ.
Your response to this plea is changed by the addition of one single word… “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.”  The word holy appears in Latin, so its being added to the English.  The reason the Lord will hear the prayer and accept the sacrifice of the priest has to do with the holiness of the Church, which benefits from his prayer.
The preparation of the gifts concludes as the priest turns to the appropriate page in the Missal and offers the Prayer over the Offerings.  The content of this prayer changes with almost every Mass.  Each of these prayers throughout the Missal has been retranslated.  The prayer ends the same way with the community saying “Amen.”
Then the Eucharistic prayer begins.  It is the center of the entire Mass.  It is a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing.  The priest invites you to lift your hearts in prayer.  You unite your thoughts with those of the priest who addresses God in the name of the entire community.  We join ourselves to Jesus Christ to proclaim the marvelous deeds of God.
The priest speaks a lot more than the people do during the Eucharistic prayer.  You sing the Holy Holy and the Memorial Acclamation.  You conclude the prayer with the “Great Amen.”  But the rest of the time, you listen and pray in silence.  Sometimes its difficult to concentrate fully during this time.  The Eucharistic prayer demands a lot of attention, but it rewards a lot of attention as well.
The Eucharistic prayer begins with a dialogue between the priest and the people.  There are a few changes to the texts here.  Just like at the beginning of Mass, when the priest says, “The Lord be with you,” your response will be: “and with your spirit.”  The next part of the dialogue hasn’t changed at all.  “Lift up your hearts.”  You will say: “We lift them up to the Lord.”
Then, the priest says, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.”  Those are the same words you’ve been hearing.  Your response will be different.  The new response will be: “It is right and just.”  It is much closer to the Latin and just a declarative statement without any explanation.  The preface begins with a statement as well.  Usually “It is truly right and just.”  So when the priest begins his part, he will expand on what you have just said.
The preface explains why it is right and just to give God thanks on this particular occasion, or during this season of the church year, or on this saint’s feast day.  Some prefaces are quite generic, but always give specific reasons why we give thanks on this day.
The preface ends with the Holy, Holy.  Perhaps the most common phrase to describe the Lord, heard by Isaiah in his great vision in the temple is “Holy, Holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.”  The words show that God makes his power shown in a special way through the hosts of angels who attend him.  These are the hosts of angels mentioned in the bible who minister at his altar, or who guard us in our weakness, or who fight on our behalf.
The new translations have affected the entire collection of Eucharistic prayers.  You’ll have to have a little patience with your priests as we learn the new words.  The sentences are longer and more involved, and the vocabulary is broader.  In time, it will become more comfortable for us to say and for you to hear.
There is still a variety of choices.  Prior to Vatican 2, there was only one, the Roman Canon or Eucharistic Prayer number 1.  It is still there, and probably the longest. 
Three more were added after Vatican 2.  Eucharistic Prayer 2 is the shortest of them and is based on a prayer from the 3rd or 4th century ~ and is the oldest of the Eucharistic prayers. 
Eucharistic prayers 3 and 4 came after Vatican 2 also.  Number 4 is based on a 4th Century eastern prayer of the Church that gives a summary of salvation history.  Some of the Eucharistic prayers were composed for specific circumstances.  Two were written for the jubilee year of 1975, expressing the theme of reconciliation.  Another has four variations allowing it to make better connection to the intentions of the day.  Each variation has its own preface and a changeable part within the body of the prayer. 
All totaled there are 9 choices of Eucharistic prayers in the new Missal.  Each of them has been re-translated, so you can expect to hear thing a little differently.  Its hoped that the revised translation will reward your attention.
The Eucharistic prayer always flows the same way.  If you listen you will always hear the parts of the prayer move the same way.  There is always the opening dialogue and the Preface which gives thanks and praise to God.  Most of them have a theme that makes them appropriate for the season or feast.  The acclamation of the Holy, Holy follows as we join our voices to those of the angels.
After a brief transition, the priest asks the Holy Spirit to come down upon the bread and wine, and change them into the body and blood of Christ.  This action of laying on of hands is the epiclesis.  Following that is the institution narrative and consecration.  The story of the last supper is recounted with the words “this is my body, this is my blood.”  As Catholics we believe that the bread and wine turn into the very body and blood of Jesus.
We proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again in the memorial acclamation.  The priest offers to God the consecrated bread and wind.  It is the perfect self-offering of Jesus Christ.  We join ourselves to that offering at every Mass.
The intercessions follow… first for the unity of those filled with the Holy Spirit.  We pray for the Holy Spirit to come down upon us all, binding us together in unity as we prepare for Communion.  We pray for all the living and the dead, for all Christians and for all people in the world.
The entire Eucharistic prayer concludes with the Doxology with praise to the God the Father, through, with and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.  You respond in faith with one of the most important words at Mass: “Amen!”
Our Eucharistic prayer is at the heart of the Mass.  Even though you mostly listen, you should pay close attention to the beauty of the words used in those wonderful prayers.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I'm back... October 23rd Post on the Profession of Faith

The words we say to profess our faith are also changing, but our faith is as strong as ever and is not changing!  In just a few weeks, we will start using the words on the cards you have to recite the Nicene Creed.  There are a number of important changes in the translation of the creed… probably more in this text than in any other words you’ll say at Mass.
The guiding principle for the new translation has been to make the English close to the Latin original.  Translators have learned a lot in the past 40 years.  This new translation better expresses our common faith with more precision.  Catholics profess the creed each Sunday in various languages all around the world.  Especially for this part of the Mass, we should all be saying the same words; there is after all, one faith.
The creed we proclaim on most Sunday’s is the Nicene Creed given to us from the Council of Nicea ~ found in present day Turkey ~ a gathering of church leaders in 325… called to settle disputes of our faith and to settle on just what it is Catholics believe.
Take a look at the Nicene Creed.  You’ll notice right off that the Creed begins with “I” instead of “we.”  The creed is still the faith of the church, but each of us proclaims it to assert our personal faith together with other believers. 
“I believe” is a literal translation of the Latin word “credo”, and is consistent with the translation that’s used in many countries around the world for the last 40 years.  At first it will sound a little unusual for English speakers, but not to Spanish speakers, for example.
Of all things visible and invisible.”  The choice of words over “seen and unseen” makes this line a little more precise.  Some things that are visible by nature are actually unseen at certain times and places.  Your relatives who live across the country are visible, but unseen.  Your great-great grandfather vase visible once upon a time, but now he is unseen.  We believe that God is the maker not only of things we cannot see for whatever reason, but also of things that are in fact invisible ~ for example, the saints and angels who occupy a place in our belief and worship.
Only Begotten” These words also appear in the Gloria.  They replace the word “only,” and they translate the Latin a little more fully.  They reaffirm our faith that Jesus had always been part of the Divine plan.
“He was born of the Father before all ages.”  This replaces the words “eternally begotten of the Father,” and makes it more precise.  Jesus dwelled with the father before time began.
The big word in the Creed is “consubstantial.”  It’s a mouthful!  In the entire revised translation of the Mass, this is probably the one word that will raise eyebrows.  It replaces the expression “one in being.”  It describes the relationship between Jesus and the Father.  It was one of the main reasons why the Council of Nicea was called in 325 A.D.  The word “consubstantial” is thought to be more understandable and closer to the original Latin.
The question of how Jesus relates to the Father has great importance.  The Church is filled with problems that arose over this very issue.  The council of Nicea chose this word to express the belief of the very divinity of Jesus.  The Latin word means having the same substance.  It is describing the very nature of Jesus.  He is not like anyone else.
The word “incarnate” is another word we don’t use very often.  It replaces the word “born” in the previous translation.  It means something like “given flesh.”  It professes our belief that the very Word of God became flesh when Jesus was born.
The next phrase seems to be little different that the previous… “in accordance with the scriptures” and “in fulfillment of the scriptures.”  In Latin, the word more nearly means the bible is being fulfilled… that the work of Jesus death and resurrection is all part of God’s great plan, and the revised translation brings the bible alive once more.
In place of acknowledging, we confess… we profess our belief in as a more profound belief in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins because it involves the heart, not just the head.
I look forward to the resurrection.”  At the end of the creed, instead of saying that we look for the resurrection, we say we look forward to it.  This is not only a clearer translation, but it resounds with confidence, as we state belief in a God who gives us faith.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Week Three ~ October 9th

When we start using the revised order of the Mass, one of the biggest changes we will see is in the Gloria.  Take a look at the words.  Over 70% of them have changed.  Do you find that hard to believe?  If you look at the old version and the new, you’ll see the differences. 
The rules governing the use of this prayer haven’t changed.  We’ll sing it on all Sundays of the year, except for those of Advent and Lent and on other occasions that don’t call for a Gloria, like when All Souls Day falls on a Sunday.  We can sing it all together, the choir can sing it alone, or we can alternate with the music ministry.
It can be started by the priest, the choir, or a cantor, or like we do most of the time… all together.  We can learn many different musical settings, but we must use the newly translated words.  The text has changed so much that composers have written new settings for it.  It’s a little longer than the previous version, but the one Dan wrote is quite singable, regardless of your musical ability, so sing out, please.  The very same text repeats Sunday after Sunday, so it should be easy to learn.
The revised translation is much more biblical.  It changed “his people on earth” to “people of good will.”  The guiding principle for all translations is to let the English express more literally the sentiments of the Latin.  In this case, the previous wording describes to whom the people belong… “his”… where the new one describes the quality of the people… they are… “people of good will”… not only is this faithful to the Latin prayer, but it better connects with Luke’s gospel… we see hints of it in the familiar Christmas story.
We hear in the opening line of the Gloria an echo of angels announcing peace at the birth of Jesus.  We are also reminded that it rests in our freely given love whether we shall belong to God, and enjoy on earth a measure of his peace that surpasses all understanding.
In the newly translated version we sing: “We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you.”  This spilling of verbs is like water flowing over the sides of a fountain.  We show in a number of ways our love for God.  We show his greatness in our praise, and proclaim his holiness in our blessing.  We adore him.  We literally seek his face… we long to look upon him with awe.
The one we were singing was abbreviated because it seemed excessive to the early translators.  Now, all the descriptions for God have been restored.  The result is excessive ~ but that’s the point.  We’re so overcome with awe in the presence of God that we sometimes stammer.  We keep searching for words to describe the experience.  The result ~ word upon word ~ seems the best way to express the sometimes overwhelming experience of meeting God in prayer.
“We give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God heavenly King, O God almighty Father.”  We don’t simply give God thanks, but we thank him for his great glory.  We do more than say that God is glorious.  We raise the roof in his glory.  We see that the glory of God is a great gift to us, because he has made us to enjoy that glory, and enjoy all that is beautiful and holy.
The words, “Only begotten Son” represent only a slight change from the previous version that says, “Only son of the Father.”  The earlier version chose an economy of words to express the same belief that Jesus is the only Son of God.  The text is meant to echo Psalm 2 which says: “you are my son; this day I have begotten you,” as well as the prologue from John’s gospel that says: “we beheld his glory, the glory as that of the only begotten of the Father.”
Jesus isn’t created by the Father, but begotten, with the word expressing the eternal relationship between the Son and the Father.
At the words, “you take away the sins of the world,” the phrases appear in a different order in the new translation, to imitate the order of the words in Latin.  A small change appears in this line.  We have been singing about “sin” in the singular, but the new translation has “sins” in the plural.  The difference shows that Jesus takes away not just generic sin from the world, but individual sin.  He forgives people their personal sins.  In Latin, the word for sins is in the plural.
Jesus the Lamb of God, takes away our sins by sacrificing himself for each of us, the innocent for the guilty, and shows us in reality what its like to be God…  The book of Revelation says: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.”
The new translation faithfully follows the order of the original prayer.  We address Jesus three times, not twice, reflecting that our prayer is to the trinity, and preparing ourselves for the prayer before communion… the “Lamb of God” in which we will address the Lord 3 times.
Repetition is a prime feature of poetry and can stir our minds to contemplation.  The words, “receive our prayer” and placed between two utterances of “have mercy on us” since our prayer must begin and end with an appeal to God’s freely given grace.  After all, God is the one who begins our personal salvation, and the one who freely brings it to completion.
All in all, the revised translation of the Gloria reflects the long tradition of this hymn, while making it suitable for singing.  It roots us in the scriptures, gives us words to praise God, and is an occasion to reflect on the forgiving power of Jesus Christ.
In the Acts of the Apostles, it is written that the apostles were all persevering in prayer with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus.  The bible emphasizes that the early church acted and prayed in union of mind and in action.  Explaining this in reference to the liturgy handed down from the Apostles, Saint Cyprian writes: “They were with one mind continuing in prayer, declaring alike by their unity in prayer that God, who makes us of one mind to dwell in a home, does not admit into the divine and eternal home any except those who are of one mind in prayer.”
The newly revised translation gives us a chance to purify and deepen our communion in the Body of Christ and in the Catholic Church in two ways.  First, it invites us to listen more closely to the words and spirit of the tradition of the apostles in our sacred liturgy.  Second, it confronts us with the need to really work at our common prayer and approach the liturgy as disciples.
Human words can’t of themselves deliver salvation and the new life of God’s kingdom.  The words we use together in prayer and in the liturgy do matter a great deal, though.  Since we no longer know Latin ~ the mother tongue of our Church, a good translation is valuable for putting us in touch with the mind of the church.
The revised translation can deepen our communion by forming us more closely to the apostolic heritage of the Latin Rite.  To some extent this will happen without us even realizing it, as we incorporate the words and meanings of the words we use at Mass.  Our progress can also be deliberate… taking care to study and appreciate the words we use at Mass.
The second advantage is the word it asks us to do.  For priests and other ministers of the liturgy, the new missal is an opportunity to re-learn and then to do what the Rite requires.  Without being too rigid, we need the reminder that in the liturgy we are ministers…we are servants.  We have our roles in the mass in obedience to Jesus the Master.
For all English speaking Latin Rite Catholics, the new missal is a challenge that demands our time, and our patience.  Its true that praying with the new words, “active participation” can happen right away.  Praying with one mind and heart at Mass is the fruit of faith, not of translators.  To sing or recite the new words with one voice is going to take a little time.  Love and patience are necessary if we are going to relax into the new rhythm of words together.
St. Cyprian said: “When we meet together and celebrate the divine sacrifices with God’s priest, we ought to be mindful of discipline.”
For all of us, the new Missal gives us a chance to encounter the words of the liturgy once again… to become liturgical novices once again… and to learn from Christ and his apostles once again.  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

week two ~ October 2nd

The words we say at Mass are changing.  The flow of the Mass is not.  There are still four main parts: the Introductory Rites, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and the Concluding Rite.  The Introductory Rites include everything that happens from the moment you stand at the beginning until you sit for the first time.  Today, we go over the changes that will take place in the Introductory Rites.
Mass begins with the entrance song.  In most parishes during the week, there is no singing, so the entrance is normally done in silence.  The priest begins Mass with the Sign of the Cross and all answer: “Amen.”  There is no change to these words or gestures.
There are now three options for the priest’s greeting, as you can see on the cards we have used at St. Gabriel’s.  The response to this greeting is changing.  The common response for over 40 years has been, “and also with you,” but soon will be, “and with your spirit.”  This is a closer translation of the Latin: “Et cum spiritu tuo.”  It matches the response that already exists in most other major languages, including French: Et avec votre esprit; Spanish: Y con tu espiritu; Italian: e con il vostro spirito; and German: und mit deinem geiste.  In each language the word “spirit” is directly translated into the vernacular.
The purpose of this greeting isn’t just to say, “Hello” or “Good morning.”  It alerts us that we are entering a sacramental realm and reminds us of our responsibility during this time.  We are about to pray together.  By this greeting from the presider and the response of the people present, the mystery of the Church gathered together is made clear.
Both the greeting and the reply come from the bible.  “The Lord be with you” appears as a greeting or encouragement in the book of Judges {6:12}, in the book of Ruth {2:4}, in the 2nd book of Chronicles {15:2}, and in Luke’s Gospel {1:38}.  In addition, Jesus promised that he would be with his followers until the end of the age.
“And with your spirit” is inspired by passages that conclude four of the New Testament epistles: 2nd Timothy {4:22}, Galatians {6:18}, Philippians {4:23}, and Philemon {2:5}.  In almost every case, Paul addresses the words to the Christian community, not to one minister.
Our reply is formal and sacred; its a prayer that dates back to the earliest years of the Church.  We pray that the Lord may uphold our priest, not because he is better than anyone else, he’s not, but so that he, human though he is, may serve us in his priestly capacity as an embodiment of Jesus, wedded to his bride, the Church.
St. Paul often uses the word “spirit” to refer to the core of a person’s emotional being, what we might call the heart.  So we are asking that the Lord will shower his gifts upon the spirit of the priest, so that he may help build us up into one body. 
St. Paul bids farewell to all the churches of Galatia.  He says: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”  To his disciple, the bishop St. Timothy, he writes: “the lord be with your spirit.”
The priest has two other forms he may use for the opening greeting.  These are similar to the one already in use in our current Sacramentary, but the translations have been varied a little.  The first is based on the final words of St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (13:13): “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the community of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 
The other one appears frequently in Paul’s letters, in the first chapter of Romans for example and again in 1st Corinthians: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  The newly revised translation roots us more deeply in the bible. 
In the case of the greeting, it brings us into the language of St. Paul.  As we begin Mass, the priest gathers the community together as a family. 
The penitential rite challenges us to remember that we depend on the mercy of God to gather us to His banquet table week after week… to strengthen us in fellowship so that we can continue to be his disciples in the world.
So that we can faithfully celebrate what we are about to do… the priest calls out to us… “brothers and sisters, let us acknowledge our sins and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.”  An exact translation of the Latin… with the word “brethren” or brothers and sisters, the priest and people are united in prayer to the Father of us all. 
We acknowledge our sins, not merely our failures, because a sin is more than a failure, it is a turning away from God.  So we admit those sins precisely so that we may be prepared to celebrate the mystery of forgiveness ~ the mystery of why Jesus had to die on the cross for us.  The language is taken from Psalm 51: “I acknowledge my offense; my sin is before me always.”
There are three options for the Penitential Act.  The 3rd is probably the most commonly used.  The priest or deacon makes three acclamations concluding each with “Lord, have mercy,” “Christ have mercy,” and “Lord, have mercy” again.  Everyone repeats each phrase.  This will not change, but there are new translations for the acclamations that introduce them.  There will continue to be a variety of invocations that you will hear.
There is a new translation for the prayer known as the Confiteor.  That the prayer that begins: “I confess to Almighty God.”  It’s almost the same, but not quite.  Here it is…
I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done
and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault,
through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.

At first, saying the phrase, “I have greatly sinned,” striking our breast at “through my fault,” repeating those words, and adding “through my most grievous fault,” all make it look as though we are a lot more sinful now than we used to be.
Remember though, the guiding principle is to have a closer translation to the Latin than a keener evaluation of our virtue.  The new translations don’t have us express the seriousness of our sins any more grandly or the sincerity of our sorrow any more genuinely… but with more accuracy, we are to step a little further into prayer.
Another option for the penitential rite is option B… Have mercy on us O LordFor we have sinned against youShow us, O Lord, your mercyAnd grant us your salvation.  These verses are always followed by the “lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, lord have mercy” repeated refrains.
From time to time on Sundays, especially in Easter Time like we do so often at St. Gabriel’s, instead of the Penitential Act, the blessing and sprinkling of water may take place as a reminder of Baptism.
The opening or “Introductory Rites” of the Mass are meant to gather us together… to help us gather our thoughts… to gather our spirits… to gather our hearts and silence them so that we can remember what it is that we are about to do.
It is vital that all who plan on coming to Mass participate in this part of the Mass.  The General Instruction says: “Their purpose (the Introductory Rite’s purpose) is to ensure that the faithful, who come together as one, establish communion and prepare themselves properly to listen to the Word of God and to celebrate the Eucharist worthily.”
So, a challenge of the new translation is to commit to arriving on time for mass.  If Mass starts at 4:30 or 8:30 or 10:30, please be here before the opening song, so when we gather, we can all gather!
The point is that we are challenged to “full, conscious, active participation” in the Mass… and you can’t do that if you aren’t here for the opening song, and don’t stay for the closing credits.  Today’s message is about the Opening dialogue and the Penitential act.