Sunday, October 9, 2011

Homily on “The Changes in the Mass” 10/9/11

Deacon Jerry Franzen - Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption
Diocese of Covington, KY

Many of you know that during the week,
I teach Chemistry at Newport Central Catholic High School.
A couple weeks ago in my Chemistry 1 class
one of the students raised his hand and said,
“Can I ask a religion question?” I said, “Sure, go ahead.”
His question was,
“What is this I hear about their changing the Mass?”
So we spent about 20 minutes talking about the changes.
Some wanted to know if the Mass would be longer.
One asked, I think hopefully, if the homily would be dropped.
There are changes coming, but they are not major.
The changes will come into play
with the Masses on the weekend of November 27.
The order of the elements of the Mass will not change:
No new parts will be added, no parts will be dropped out,
all the same parts in the same order.


The changes are in words,
because we now have a new translation into English
of the Church’s official Roman Missal which is in Latin.
Some of us can remember how the Mass changed
as a result of the Second Vatican Council.
The pre-Vatican II Mass was in Latin throughout the world.
With the Second Vatican Council there were two areas of change:
First, the order of the Mass,
the set of actions that take place in the Mass, was changed.
Some new parts were added, some were deleted
some were rearranged and some were modified.
That all required a new Latin text, a new book, a new Missal.

If the post-Vatican II changes had stopped there,
the Mass would still be in Latin throughout the world,
with the current order of the elements.
In fact, the post-Vatican II Mass is still in Latin
for all to use if so desired.
However, translation of the post-Vatican II Mass
into the vernacular was permitted.
That meant that the Latin form of the new order of the Mass
could then be translated into
and used in each individual language.
That was done in English rather hastily about 1970.
A second English edition of the translation came out about 1975.
That is the edition we are currently using.
To get to our present point, there have been many, many changes
in the Mass over many, many years.

Some years ago, it was decided that a more careful translation,
using a greater variety of translation strategies was needed.
The third look at the translation was begun years ago,
And it has taken a good number of years to develop
and have it approved as the new third edition.
Once again let me emphasize that the Latin version
of the post-Vatican II Mass is not being changed.
It is SOME of the words of the translation that are being changed
and it is only for the English speaking countries.
The changes are widespread throughout the Mass.
They are in the words said by the priest,
the deacon and the assembly.
Some are in the private prayers said by the priest and the deacon.
You will not even hear these.
Many are in the prayers said out loud by the priest and deacon.
And some, not many, are in the words said by you or by all.
There will be cards in the pews for all parts of the Mass
that the people either sing or say with the new wordings.

While this may be an ideal time to review all the parts of the Mass,
I cannot do that in a homily.
Neither you or I could endure that.


But I would like to cover one important item
of background information: Jesus’s presence in the Mass.
We are in the midst of celebrating the Mass.
And who is the chief celebrant of the Mass,
Msgr. Neuhaus, Fr. Bach, Bishop Foys?
Jesus is the chief celebrant at each Mass;
it is his Mass, His Meal, His sacrifice
and Jesus is present in the Mass in four ways:
1.Jesus is present sacramentally in the consecrated species
of His Body and His Precious Blood, which we receive.
This is the presence of Jesus par excellance.
2.Jesus is present in the Word as proclaimed and preached,
which we hear.
3.Jesus is present in the priest,
who is the person who represents Jesus, in human form.
4.And Jesus is present in the assembly gathered here,
“Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am in their midst.”

All of that, Jesus’ Body and Blood, the Word of God,
the priest and deacon doing their parts
and YOU, the asembly, doing your parts,
all of that is aimed at our salvation.
It is critical and essential
that in order to have the fullest celebration of the Mass,
you do your parts well.


The reasons for the changes in words are several:
In some cases the aim is to be more faithful to the Latin.
In some cases the aim is to be more
faithful to the biblical origin
of many of the texts of the Mass.
In some cases the aim is to be more poetic
and pleasing to the ear.
I must say that I certainly would be a poor judge
of what is poetic.
I expect that most of the changes for poetic reasons
are in the prayers said by the priest
IN ALL CASES the aim is to make
all that is said more sacred and more beautiful
AND to make what we say
conform better to what we believe as Catholics,
because how we pray shows what we believe.

Let’s look at some examples of changes:
When the priest or deacon says, “The Lord be with you.”
The people currently say “And also with you.”
The changed response will be “And with your spirit.”
The priest’s “The Lord be with you.”
is a greeting from the book of Ruth of the Old Testament.
The Latin for the people’s response has always been,
“Et cum spiritu tuo.”
“Et” - “and”, “cum” – “with”, “spiritu tou” - “your spirit.”
The Latin word “spiritu” has always been there,
but our current translation does not include the word “spirit.”
I do not know why it was not included in the translation of 1975.
The word for “spirit” has always been included
in the vernacular translations in other languages,
such as Spanish – espiritu, French - esprit,
German - Geiste and Italian - spirito.
So the change makes what we say conform better to the Latin,
but there is a further dimension.
Why is “spiritu” there at all?
It is biblical.
In two of his letters, St. Paul wrote that the Lord
would be with the spirit of those to whom he was writing.
What is important about the concept of “spirit?”
Those who are ordained, deacons, priests and bishops,
receive by their ordination a special “spirit”,
a gift of the Holy Spirit by which they stand in for Christ.
They represent Christ in a special way by virtue
of the “spirit” they received at ordination.
So when “The Lord be with you” is said to the people,
the wish is for the presence of the Lord
in the assembly,
gathered as two or three in the Lord’s name.
Responding with “And with your spirit”
then recognizes and better expresses what we believe
in regards to the presence of the Lord in the ordained.

Now for some examples of changes in the Profession of Faith:
We now use the Nicene Creed.
With the new edition of the Missal,
the Apostles Creed can be used in place of the Nicene Creed.
Don’t worry, both will be on the cards.
At the beginning of the Nicene Creed, we say “We believe…”
That has been changed to “I believe…..”,
which is the correct translation for the word “Credo,”
the first word in the Latin version.
Because the Creed originated as a baptismal profession of faith
recited by the person (or sponsor of the person )
to be baptized, we have returned to the “I believe”,
which is more of a “speak for yourself” attitude,
that recalls the profession of faith at our baptism.

In the Nicene Creed we currently say,
“…..all things seen and unseen.”
We believe that God created all parts of creation
as visible and invisible by their very nature
and not tied to what some person has seen or not seen.
The new words are “…….all things visible and invisible,”
which states more clearly what we believe about God’s creation.

In the creed we now say,
“and by the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.”
During those words ALL are to bow from the waist.
This bow is part of what all of the assembly currently should do,
not just those of us in the sanctuary,
but all gathered together bow during these words.
The wording change is, “and by the power of the Holy Spirit
he was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.”
Again, during these words ALL are to bow;
the action has not changed.
The direction to bow will be on the cards.
The former wording seems to imply
that God became man at the moment of the birth of Jesus.
By using the word incarnate, meaning “in the flesh,”
“in” – “in” and “carnate” – “flesh” Latin, “incarnatus,”
we better express the fact that
God did not become man just at Jesus’ birth,
but that God became man when he first took on flesh
at the moment of conception
“by power of the Holy Spirit.”

Personally, I think that the most important reason for the changes
that involve what the assembly says
(at least the ones I have chosen here today,)
is that they help us to better pray in words that express
what the Catholic Church believes and teaches
about the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

These certainly are not all of the changes,
but I hope that what I have said will give you
an introduction to the flavor of the changes and
provide some concrete examples
of why the changes have been made.
Remember all of the changes will be on a card
available for you to read, as needed at Mass,
and they do not begin until the Sunday Masses
of the weekend of November 27.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great job Deacon Jerry - I may need to borrow some of this if you don't mind.
Deacon Steve