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Liturgical Winners & Losers

The world’s English-speaking Catholics are now entering the fourth full month of worshiping according to the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal. This missal, which was introduced at the parish level this past Advent, provides a more accurate English translation of the Latin original than its predecessors. It has restored a number of biblical references that had been lost, added a depth and richness to the prayers, and infused the Mass with a greater sense of sacredness.

We hope that by now you’ve grown accustomed to the new phrasings required of the congregation: “And with your spirit,” “consubstantial with the Father,” “His holy Church,” “enter under my roof,” etc. Indications are that the transition to the revised missal has, for the most part, come off smoothly and successfully, save for the occasional — and inevitable — verbal hiccup committed by priest or parishioners, which with practice will soon become a thing of the past.

The revisions to the missal, which seem relatively minor from the layman’s point of view, are the result of a major undertaking. It has taken some thirty years for this third edition to work its way down to us on the ground. The decades-long process pitted liberal American prelates against their curial counterparts and, in the end, discredited the old-guard at the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEB~ The final result, happily received by faithful Catholics in the pew, has driven to despair the champions of the laissez-faire liturgics that came to define Catholic worship after the Second Vatican Council.

When the bishops of the world convened for Vatican II, they agreed, almost to a man, that the Church’s liturgy was in need of renewal. The general feeling was that the time had come for a greater use of the vernacular in the liturgy. Accordingly, the first document issued by the Council Fathers was Sacrosanctum Concilium, the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” (1963). It called on the Church to “undertake with great care a restoration of the liturgy,” so that the “intrinsic nature and purpose” of the Sacrifice of the Mass (yes, this term is frequently employed) “may be more clearly manifested” and, therefore, “produce its full effects.” Sacrosanctum Concilium set forth a few basic norms and general guidelines and then urged that the process be completed “as soon as possible.”

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