168 priests advised on implementing of new Mass texts

By: By Jennifer Willems

When Abraham Lincoln penned the Gettysburg Address, he used the words “four score and seven years ago” to establish a framework for his remarks. He could have said “87 years ago,” but the context of that November day in 1863 called for a different tone, a different way of entering into what had brought him and his listeners together.

The same is true when we speak to God and about God in the liturgy, said the presenters for “Mystical Body, Mystical Voice,” a recent workshop on the third typical edition of the Roman Missal attended by 168 priests of the Diocese of Peoria.

The day, which was held at the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria, was the first step in preparing for implementation of the new Mass texts on the First Sunday of Advent next year, Nov. 27, 2011.

Without an understanding of the cultural context of the church, the symbolism of the liturgy, and how language facilitates communication between God and the people of God, those who are sitting in the pew may not fully appreciate why the new texts are so important, said Father Douglas Martis. A priest of the Diocese of Joliet, he is director of the Liturgical Institute at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein and chair of the Worship Department at Mundelein Seminary of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

While there is some trepidation about what the changes will bring, “with the right vision and the right meaning, it makes sense,” said Christopher Carstens, director of the Office for Sacred Worship for the Diocese of La Crosse, Wis. He also serves as an adjunct faculty member for the Liturgical Institute.

Carstens said that there are many ways to approach implementation, including, “The bishops say we’re going to do this.” Liturgical catechesis that emphasizes a sacramental approach is vital, however, because “John and Mary Catholic . . . want to know how to pray, how to encounter Jesus in the words of the Mass.”

“We hear words and they’re going to speak of the Word, who is Jesus,” he explained.

“We’re not talking about a different Mass. We’re not talking a different meaning,” Father Martis said. “We’re talking about the meaning of the Mass that is already there, now, today.”

Because the words of Mass connect us to the divinity of God — “God spoke like us so we might speak like him” — Carstens said “liturgy is an eternal dialogue of love and we’re allowed to participate.”

Father Martis explained that sacramental words are pointers that carry meaning. In some of the new texts, the word chalice is used instead of the
current word, cup, for example.

“A chalice is used for precious contents on special occasions,” he said. “There is a difference between a cup and a chalice.”

Another word that is coming under scrutiny in the new text is “dewfall.”
Father Martis said no one will understand why this word is a good choice in the prayers at Mass unless they understand the Exodus reference to how God fed the Israelites in the desert with dew that became manna when it dried. It was also a dew-laden breeze that saved Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when they were cast into the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:50).

“Far from being something crazy that was put in there to trip us up, it means something and ties it all together,” Father Martis said.
Others may question why “consubstantial” was chosen to replace “one in being with the Father” in the Creed, he said, but this is actually a more precise description of Christ’s relationship to the Father.

And changing the words of the Confiteor to include “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault” is not intended to focus on sin in an obsessive way, Father Martis said, but “showing our wound to the Divine Physician to be healed.”

“If the words don’t bring you to meaning, what difference does it make if you say it in English or Latin?,” Carstens said.

The last session of “Mystical Body, Mystical Voice” was devoted to tips for catechesis for the laity as well as the priests themselves. One of those tips, offered for both groups, was to read and reflect on the new texts with a special focus on cultivating the sacramental perspective.

“Pay attention when you are praying the Office,” Father Martis said. “These things are there.”

He also suggested that they learn the Mass texts musically, saying it is a good way “to get it integrated more into your being.”
Working with other priests and deacons to improve is not only helpful but necessary “for the sake of the church and for the sake of the people of God,” Father Martis added.

Carstens said the laity could benefit from joining a Bible study to start making connections between that important source and the new texts. He also encouraged them to ask questions about the origin and meaning of the words and phrases they may be hearing for the first time and said music would be a good learning tool for them, too.

“All of this takes time,” Father Martis reminded the priests. “We have to be humble and charitable and patient with one another.”

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