Revised Roman Missal: Understanding the reasons for the changes - Part 4
How and why the Church is improving the English translation of The Roman Missal
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa
by Emily Stimpson
This article is reprinted from OSV Newsweekly, a publication of Our Sunday Visitor, Inc, with the kind permission of the editor, John Norton, and author / contributing editor, Emily Stimpson.
The words of the Mass matter.
They matter a great deal.
That's why the forthcoming changes to the translation that English-speaking Catholics use in the Sacred Liturgy aren't about theological quibbling or liturgical minutiae.
It's most definitely not to-may-toes and to-mah-toes.
It's serious business … albeit serious business that takes a bit of time and study to understand.
So, what are some of the changes Catholics will encounter starting on November 27, the first Sunday of Advent, that seem small but are actually quite significant?
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa
Now we say, "I confess to almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters that I have sinned through my own fault in my thoughts and in my deeds, in what I have done and what I have failed to do."
Beginning November 27, we'll say, "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 what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault."
The new translation of the Roman Missal won't just bring a change in words.
It will also bring a change in tone, calling for greater humility from both the priest and the congregation.
Consider, for example, the language of the Confiteor.
In the current penitential rite, Catholics pray, "I confess to almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters that I have sinned through my own fault in my thoughts and in my deeds, in what I have done and what I have failed to do."
With the new translation, however, Catholics will pray, "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 what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault."
Likewise, in the introduction to the penitential act, the priest no longer calls upon the congregation to "acknowledge our failures," but rather to "acknowledge our sins."
To some, the changes might sound a bit like an invocation to breast beating, rather like the Church is calling congregants to indulge in some good old-fashioned Catholic guilt.
But that's not what's happening.
As with the other changes, the new translation is just faithfully rendering what's always been there in the original Latin.
And what's there isn't there to make us think badly about ourselves.
It's there to make us think rightly about ourselves.
"The words are intended to help us realize how grateful we should be," said Joe Paprocki, from Loyola Press.
"In spite of the fact that we've gravely sinned and have grievous faults, we have a God of mercy who died for us.
We need to realize the gift that our salvation is."
We also need to realize that we all need that salvation.
"In the culture today, many people, Catholics included, have an 'I'm OK, you're OK' attitude," Paprocki explained.
"But we're not.
We're broken people in need of being fixed.
We need God.
We're completely dependent on him, and without him, we're nothing.
Unfortunately, most of us only remember that in times of great need.
The language of the Mass tries to help us realize that in good times as well."
It also reminds us that God is not a vending machine for spiritual and material favors, dispensing grace at our command.
"In the new translation, you hear the priest saying things such as, 'humbly we beg you,' 'we beseech you,' 'be pleased to grant,'" said Father Rick Hilgartner, director of the USCCB Secretariat for Divine Worship. "There's less bossing, less 'Lord do this,' and more petitioning, more 'Lord, grant this we humbly pray.'
"That can sound like groveling," he added, "but it's not.
It articulates the truth that we don't dare just present a list of demands to God.
We're not engaged in commodity trading.
Everything is a gift and only because God is gracious and merciful do we dare approach him, let alone receive the gift of a response."
In articulating that, the new translation does what the Mass is supposed to do: It puts us in right relationship with God.
It also reminds us who we are.
"We are beggars before God," said Father Stravinskas, author and liturgist.
"We are not his equals.
He's not our buddy.
He is our Creator, and as his creatures we owe him adoration.
We haven't come to Mass to give orders, but to receive orders.
The current texts have blocked that distinction."
All this matters, of course, because in the journey to holiness, humility is a must.
"Humility involves real knowledge of self," said Father Neil Roy, who teaches liturgy at Notre Dame University.
"Even the ancient pagan Greeks understood the importance of that. 'Know thyself,' said the Delphic Oracle.
Christians recognize humility as the first rung on the ladder of perfection.
The final rung is charity, but the journey starts with humility.
It's where the path of perfection begins."
Copyright © 2011 by Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.
Reprinted by permission of the copyright owner and the author.