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This series of leaflets are intended for general parish use. They look at some of the key points of the new translation, explore the background and look at ways it can be understood.

Why a New Translation?


Why can’t things just stay the same?
Why is everything always the same?

Human beings both like and dislike change at the same time. We are comfortable with what is familiar but at the same time if nothing changes we become frustrated. This tension spills from everyday things even into the spiritual life and our being Christians.

Many of us are so familiar with Mass that we can just about say it with our eyes shut. Change, therefore, is bound to be a bit of a shock to the system. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it can provide growth and new life. Also, it is easy to forget there was a time that we celebrated Mass in a very different way and over the years we have used different translations of what are originally Latin prayers.

Sometimes translations aim to produce a close ‘word for word’ version. This is a good way of doing it but sometimes the language can feel quite different to the way we normally speak or write. Another way of translating is to express the gist of the meaning in more everyday English.

So here we are with a new translation and we have to ask ourselves ‘why?’ Why a new translation? Why don’t we just stick with what we know?

The present translation was not intended to be permanent. As they worked on it the scholars wrote a version that aimed to provide a good sense of the original Latin without giving a word for word exactness. It was understood that it would have to be looked at again. As time passed, it was felt that some ideas found in the original prayers have not come across as well as could be hoped. There are some lovely expressions in our present version yet there are some profound and beautiful ideas that remain hidden. There are lots of quotations from the scriptures woven into the words of the Mass that can be easily missed. It would be wrong to dismiss what we have been using but at the same time we must acknowledge that it is not perfect.

Work on a new translation has gone on for many years. In that time there has been a change in approach to the project. Now the aim is to produce something as close as possible to the original Latin and try to hang on to more of the rich insights hidden there. It will seem very different and this gives us an opportunity to look again at what we are really saying at Mass. It opens to us ideas that can help our faith grow. It is hoped that as we think about the changes our understanding will deepen and that our prayer at Mass will take on even more meaning.

Being open in our minds and hearts can help us draw ever closer to God.

 

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The Preparation of Gifts

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,
for through your goodness we have received
the bread we offer you:
fruit of the earth and work of human hands,
it will become for us the bread of life.

Blessed be God for ever.

The Procession with the Gifts
How long does the Procession with the Bread and Wine take?

Usually, it is over in a moment. It may take place in the tiniest chapel or in the grandest cathedral; children hanging on to parents may bring the gifts or it might be princes, politicians or power-brokers, but the dignity is the same. Yet this simple procession is full of meaning.

One of the great changes introduced after the Second Vatican Council was to bring back the Procession with the Gifts. We miss the point if we see it as merely something practical - fetching some bread and wine to continue with the next part. There is great meaning in the idea that we make a procession with them.

In this simple walking down the aisle we see humans process and human progress; both are needed to obtain bread and wine. It is a journey that begins with the wonder of creation and God’s command that it should be fruitful and multiply. It continues as a pilgrimage from field and vineyard, to baker and vintner. The Procession with the Gifts starts with the stumblings of our first parents to the measured pace of the human race, past, present and future.

In a way, our Procession with the Gifts has taken thousands of years.

When we bring forward the Gifts we should think of how they came about and how they are signs of our stewardship of the world. They must be an inspiration and a prod to our conscience. So much good has been done. Husbanding the earth and providing for the needs of others is a mark of goodness in humanity and yet there are so many who have their daily bread denied them because of selfishness, muddle and mismanagement. As we see the bread and wine come forward we should sit up, count our blessings and reckon up our responsibilities.

Some feel that the money of the collection is an intrusion into the beauty of these simple signs. But if we look closely a deeper lesson can be drawn. Reality breaks in with hard currency and our daydreams are dispelled. This hard-earned money reminds us that offering the service of our lives is more than an idea. Time is money and God wants our time, for all time belongs to him. Including the collection in the procession reminds me that this is not just about the fruits of the earth which all can enjoy and the work of everyone else but it concerns the garden of my soul, the fruits of justice and the work of my hands.

Pray, brethren (brothers and sisters),
that my sacrifice and yours
may be acceptable to God,
the almighty Father.

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 Preparation of the Gifts
The custom of mixing water with wine is a very ancient one and seems to reflect a regular practice in the time of Jesus and of the early Church.

A meaning has become attached to the mixing that is worth pondering. The silent prayer expresses it most clearly ‘By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity’. If we take the wine to represent God, then the drop of water can stand for us. The mixing of the water and wine is such that they will be henceforth always joined together and so the chalice represents the unbreakable bond between God and humankind.

As we witness the drop of water going in to the chalice we should think about the most important things on our minds, our deepest prayers and our very selves are being placed into the chalice. We ask that the Lord may transform our stumbling words, our weak and flawed lives and unite them with his great act of intercession in the offering of his Sacrifice. The contents of the chalice shall be changed into Christ himself and we pray that we shall be changed too and become like him and one with him.

In the new translation of one of our responses we say ‘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’. Inserting the word ‘holy’ makes it closer to the Latin original and reminds us of who we are and of our call to be holy. Jesus unites us to himself in his Body, the Church, the family of God – it is holy because it is his Body, his Church, his family.

This is not to pretend that as members of the Church we do not make mistakes or commit sins. As members of this Church we recognise that we must try to be good, to follow the Lord’s commandment to love God and our neighbour. We must not become complacent and just assume that we are good. That is why it is so important to examine our consciences and be aware of our need to change.

There is also a promise behind this description of the Church as holy. To be a member of the Body of Christ also means that he undertakes to work on us and bring us to perfection in heaven with all those who have gone before us. We are to be united with all those who are holy, the saints.

 

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The Lord be with you - And with your spirit

The Priest, extending his hands, greets the people, saying:
The Lord be with you.

The people reply:
And with your spirit.

The Lord be with you
This greeting is made several times during Mass. It comes, of course from the Latin, ‘Dominus vobiscum’ and it has been used at Mass since earliest times.

It is a Jewish greeting that is found many times in the Bible. Sometimes it is used to promise that God shall be with someone (Amos 5:14) or a prayer that he will protect or help (Joshua 14:12). It can be used to say hello or goodbye (Ruth 2:4, 1Samuel 17:37, 20:13). In Latin it can be taken as meaning both a prayer that God should be with others or a confident statement that he is present among them.

‘The Lord be with you’ is used at Mass at certain important moments when prayer, a reading or an action is about to happen. It is a greeting that helps us to focus on our beginning something. We respond, affirming that God is indeed present and that we are ready to proceed - that we are all involved in what is going to happen.

Above all it is about the presence of the Lord. It can occur at four important moments in the Mass to help us think about the presence of Christ.

  • At the beginning of Mass, we remember that we gather in the presence of Christ (‘where two or three are gathered together in my name’ Matt 18:20).
  • At the proclamation of the Readings, we remember Christ speaks to us in the Word.
  • At the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer, when Christ becomes present among us as we share in his sacrifice under sacramental signs.
  • At the end of Mass, Christ is with us as we glorify him by our lives and witness.

There should be a joy about this greeting and response that can be easily lost. They are acclamations that Christ is present with us in our celebration. If the Lord is with us then we should rejoice. A hope is expressed that he will accompany us in this sacred action. As we enter the sacred mysteries, the Saviour joins us.

And with your spirit
The response ‘And with your spirit’ to ‘The Lord be with you’ is part of a Jewish greeting used in the Bible and in the Mass from earliest times.

Think carefully about the way the word ‘spirit’ is being used. It means the whole of us. It sums up all that makes us truly human. Made in the God’s image, we are creatures with a body who have a spiritual destiny.

In the Apostles’ Creed we say we believe ‘in the resurrection of the body’. Here we are talking about our bodies that will be raised like Jesus’. Our bodies help us to know who we are. Looking in the mirror it is those eyes we recognise, that face we know. Our features, the lines formed by laughter or sorrow, the hair (or lack of it!) and much more record who we are and what has happened to us. Remember Saint Thomas wanting to put his finger into the holes made by the nails and the spear so that he would know that it really was Jesus.

Our bodies are part of what will be redeemed. They change and decay but the fact that we have one is part of what makes us ourselves. It is not a question of shape or size. People are no less human if they lose a limb or are tiny in the womb. But it would be impossible to be a human being if we had never in some way had a body.

When we use this word ‘spirit’ we should also think about what each us shall be eventually. When Saint Paul explained the resurrection of the body in his first letter to the Corinthians (Chapter 15) he likened our death to a seed being planted to emerge as something so much greater than what was laid in the earth. A simple physical body is laid to rest but a spiritual, life-filled body will be raised.

In our reply we say that the Lord is with the priest who has greeted us in every aspect of who he is. The priest is really saying this about us as he says ‘the Lord be with you’. Also we are praying that the Lord may be with the priest in every aspect of his life and who he is and who he will be. It applies to all of us too. Using the word ‘spirit’ reminds us that we are thinking about who we are and who we shall be.

Should the priest say ‘the Lord be with your spirit’ to recall that this spiritual aspect applies both to priest and people? Unfortunately it would unravel a greeting taking us back to the Church’s beginning. There is graciousness in this Hebrew greeting. One person mentions the Lord’s presence and the other adds more. There is much to be said for preserving this ancient example of Middle Eastern charm and good manners.

 

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The Liturgy of the Word

If someone finds a treasure chest they want to open it and look inside. They spread the treasures out to appreciate each wonderful thing to be found. At the Second Vatican Council the Church said that ‘the treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s word.’ To make this renewal of the Liturgy of the Word possible a three year cycle of readings was introduced with three passages of Scripture to be proclaimed at Sunday Mass. This means that Sunday by Sunday we hear a great deal of the Bible so that the Word of God may inform, inspire and sustain us.

A great conversation takes place in the Liturgy of the Word. Christ speaks to us in the First Reading and we reply using God’s word in singing or saying the Responsorial Psalm. He speaks again to us and we answer with an acclamation as we prepare to hear the Gospel. We must listen and speak carefully, reflecting on what he says to us. In the Homily the Word is broken open for us by the preacher. Silence after the readings and the homily can be a great help to us as we think about what we have heard. Our profession of faith in the Creed and the Bidding Prayer are other ways in which we respond to God’s Word.

The new translation helps make things clearer. The reader now says ‘The Word of the Lord’ which is supposed to be an enthusiastic acclamation not simply a statement of fact ‘this is the Word of the Lord’. Our responses should be filled with appreciation, praise and thanksgiving. We might sing them to emphasise this.

We speak of the table of God’s Word. This is an ancient idea in which see ourselves being fed both by the Word of God and Holy Communion. Christ wonderfully present under the appearances of Bread and Wine nourishes us. He is also present when the scriptures are proclaimed and he feeds us with his teaching. He speaks in our hearts, proclaiming his summons, announcing his words of new life and whispering his message of comfort. It is Christ who speaks as readers open their mouths to proclaim the readings. They have a great task and privilege to read well so that we may be fed properly.

The Word of God is something alive and active. It feeds us and gives us life. It moves us to change ourselves and change the world; a treasure to be opened so that everyone may have true riches.


The Creed
Can you remember when you first heard the Creed? Chances are you don’t. It is used at baptism which, for many, takes place when we are small. At every baptism either the parents and godparents or the persons being baptised profess their faith.

There are two Creeds used regularly; the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene. The Apostles’ Creed was first used at baptisms in ancient Rome. The Nicene Creed was drawn largely from the work of the Councils of Nicea and Constantinople which affirmed that Jesus is both God and a human being. Originally it too was used with those who were to be baptised. Because of this it began with I believe.

We believe, I believe
The Nicene Creed was introduced at Mass in the Eastern Church and the ‘I’ was altered to ‘We’ for congregations to recite. We started reciting it at Mass in Rome and the west of Europe much later. We have always used the version written for baptism and in Latin it begins ‘credo’ - ‘I believe’. The creed is said towards the end of the Liturgy of the Word as we remember and respond to the call and message of God.

Beginning with ‘we believe’ helps us say that we share our faith with others. On the other hand, using ‘I believe’ reminds me of the promises made at baptism. As I pray the creed I remember that I am a member of the family of the Church. We emphasise this at Easter when we renew our baptismal promises by using the question and answer form based on the Apostles’ Creed. We think about Baptism a great deal in the seasons of Lent and Easter and so we can use the Apostles’ Creed at Mass during these times.

Consubstantial with the Father
The Nicene Creed helps focus on who God the Son is and on his Incarnation. We speak of him as God from God, Light from Light etc. We use the word ‘consubstantial’ to say that Jesus has the same nature as God and that he is God himself. Our faith in the Trinity means we believe in three persons who are not three Gods but one God. In Jesus, God took our human nature so that the person who is the eternal Son of God was born in time and is the person who is the Son of Mary. We bow as a sign of respect (at Christmas, we genuflect) at the words, ‘and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man’.

The Creed is a sign we are in God’s family, it is important we know it and love it.

Let us pray
Silence is golden. There are times when we yearn for the chance to stop and think, to be silent and pray. The Church encourages us to do this especially at Mass. It provides us with two opportunities during the Introductory Rites to stop and think. We pause to reflect upon our need for forgiveness in the Penitential Rite and we think of the intentions we bring to church as we pause before the Collect. We are also advised to stop after the Readings and the Homily and reflect on what we have heard. We have silence after receiving Holy Communion to pray to the Lord who comes to dwell in the home of our heart, under our roof.

The Prayer of the Faithful is another time for silence. The Second Vatican Council called for a restoration of the Bidding Prayer, or General Intercessions, as part of our response in the Liturgy of the Word. The Missal shows us how they are to be written. The reader announces subjects for which the people can pray. In other words what the reader says aloud are not prayers in themselves, they are invitations to pray about something. It is for us to pray to God in the silence of our hearts during a pause that is supposed to follow.

Certain subjects are to be included: the needs of the Church, public authorities and the salvation of the world, those oppressed by any need, the local community. We adapt these to circumstances. The Intercessions should reflect the liturgical day and its readings, be relevant to our lives and attentive to current events. Those who write them should have on their desks the Lectionary and a newspaper.

Having invited the people to pray the reader should pause. Only then should come the formula that invites a response (e.g. ‘Lord, in your mercy’). It is the silence which is the essential part of the intercessions that makes them prayers. The formula draws to a close the congregation’s prayer on this subject as they express their requests in a public way. To introduce this immediately after having read out the intercession is to prevent the real prayer that might be about to take place.

We need a lot more silence in our Mass. It can be golden.

 

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The Creed (A recap)

Can you remember when you first heard the Creed? Chances are you don’t. It is used at baptism which, for many, takes place when we are small. At every baptism either the parents and godparents or the persons being baptised profess their faith.

There are two Creeds used regularly; the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene. The Apostles’ Creed was first used at baptisms in ancient Rome. The Nicene Creed was drawn largely from the work of the Councils of Nicea and Constantinople which affirmed that Jesus is both God and a human being. Originally it too was used with those who were to be baptised. Because of this it began with I believe.

We believe, I believe
The Nicene Creed was introduced at Mass in the Eastern Church and the ‘I’ was altered to ‘We’ for congregations to recite. We started reciting it at Mass in Rome and the west of Europe much later. We have always used the version written for baptism and in Latin it begins ‘credo’ - ‘I believe’. The creed is said towards the end of the Liturgy of the Word as we remember and respond to the call and message of God.

Beginning with ‘we believe’ helps us say that we share our faith with others. On the other hand, using ‘I believe’ reminds me of the promises made at baptism. As I pray the creed I remember that I am a member of the family of the Church. We emphasise this at Easter when we renew our baptismal promises by using the question and answer form based on the Apostles’ Creed. We think about Baptism a great deal in the seasons of Lent and Easter and so we can use the Apostles’ Creed at Mass during these times.

Nicene Creed

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,

At the words that follow up to and including and became man, all bow.
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

At the words that follow, up to and including the Virgin Mary, all bow.
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting. Amen.

Consubstantial with the Father
The Nicene Creed helps focus on who God the Son is and on his Incarnation. We speak of him as God from God, Light from Light etc. We use the word ‘consubstantial’ to say that Jesus has the same nature as God and that he is God himself. Our faith in the Trinity means we believe in three persons who are not three Gods but one God. In Jesus, God took our human nature so that the person who is the eternal Son of God was born in time and is the person who is the Son of Mary. We bow as a sign of respect (at Christmas, we genuflect) at the words, ‘and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man’.

The Creed is a sign we are in God’s family, it is important we know it and love it.

 

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Sign of Peace - Lamb of God

The peace of the Lord be with you always.
And with your spirit.

Let us offer each other the sign of peace.

The Sign of Peace
Why don’t we have the sign of Peace at the beginning of Mass to show that we want to be friends with each other and that we are sorry for any hurt we have done? Surely this is what Jesus is talking about when he says that if we approach the altar while not at peace with our brother or sister then we should leave and be reconciled first. (Matthew Chapter 5 verse 23-24).

It is true that as we come to Mass we should seek forgiveness and be reconciled with those around us. For this reason we have the Penitential Rite at the start of Mass. Are we thinking about this again as we offer each other the Sign of Peace?

The real idea behind the Sign of Peace is recalled in the prayer that comes before it. This speaks of Jesus’ own words about peace. He said ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives (John Chapter 14 verse 27). This peace we cannot give to each other; only he can give it. It is a special kind of peace.

Christ’s Peace is not only about human beings making up in reconciliation. We know that the Hebrew word for peace is ‘shalom’ but this greeting that was used every day had a special meaning when spoken by the Messiah.

His ‘Shalom’ is not just a standard greeting said without thinking. His ‘Shalom is the gift of everlasting peace, the gift of salvation.

In ancient times the question was asked why we don’t have the Sign of Peace earlier in our Mass so that we can show our willingness to forgive each other. Pope Innocent I wrote in 416AD, ‘it is clear that by the Peace the people give their consent to everything that has been performed in the mysteries and celebrated in church, and acknowledge their completion by the seal of the concluding Peace’.

This gesture in the Communion Rite emphasises that what we share is Christ’s Peace celebrated at every Mass. It is his salvation won for us by his death and resurrection and made present to us on the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer. The Sign of Peace is more than a simple ‘wish you well’. As we say to each other ‘Peace’, ‘the Peace of Christ’, or similar words, what we share is a gift from Jesus. There is a great solemnity to it and a deep joy. This is not about trying to shake everybody’s hand or including lengthy singing about peace. It is like Holy Communion itself; it is a most profound moment shown under the simplest signs.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
grant us peace.

The Lamb of God
This line occurs in different places at the Mass. It is found in the Gloria ‘Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us’, and we sing or say it at as the sacred Host is broken. The Lamb, of course, is Jesus. We declare this clearly as the priest says ‘Behold the Lamb of God’ before Communion. There is a rich understanding behind the phrase ‘Lamb of God’ who takes away the sins of the world. It appears in many places in the scriptures.

Lambs were killed and eaten at the first Passover and their blood was put around the doors of the Israelites to protect them from the last of the ten plagues. Ever since lambs were eaten at Passover celebrations as part of sharing in God’s saving work described in Exodus. According to Saint John’s Gospel Jesus was put to death at about the same time that the Passover lambs were being slaughtered. John is telling us that Jesus is the one whose blood saves all people and this is the heart of the Christian Passover.

Lambs were offered in sacrifice regularly to atone for sin and to express the bond between God and his people. Innocent sheep and meek lambs dumb before the shearers are compared to the servant of God who suffers without protest for the people (Isaiah Chapter 53 verse 7). We see in Jesus a fulfilment of these images.

In the book of Revelation the Lamb that was slain is the one who opens the seals on the scroll revealing the hidden and final purposes of God and to bring them to completion. The Lamb is also the Lion(!) of Judah, the one who shepherds the people and he receives worship and honour and glory. The Lamb is given the honour due to God because he is God and is praised because he has won victory and salvation. (Revelation Chapter 5 verses 1-10)

During Mass we pray that the Lamb of God will have mercy on us and give us peace. In asking Jesus to have mercy on us as the one who is the Lamb we are expressing our solidarity with all the world – whose sins he takes away. We are recalling that the gift of the Eucharist both in the offering of Christ’s sacrifice and in receiving spiritual nourishment for our journey takes away our sins. Communion brings our peace and forgiveness. It is very important to approach Holy Communion at peace with God and others and we understand that this comes to full effect in our receiving so great a gift.


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Preface Dialogue

The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right and just.

Lift up your hearts
The priest invites us to lift up our hearts as he begins the Eucharistic Prayer to draw us more deeply into the Mass in which Jesus saves us by his death and resurrection.

When we talk about our heart we mean those things which we feel most strongly and so to lift our heart means to raise our deepest hopes and longings to God. In our celebration of the Mass we bring before the Lord in prayer all the people whom we love, the experiences that give quality to our lives and the situations we worry about. We lift them up to God, bringing everything that is in our hearts to him.

In ancient times the heart didn’t just mean our emotions but also our thoughts and understanding. To lift our hearts means to raise our minds. Paul tells us to ‘set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth’ (Colossians, Chapter 3 verse 2). This is to give us a sense of direction in life. It is not about ignoring this world but to see what is really important and where we are going. It is like going for a walk in the country. Often we have to scan the horizon and note landmarks we are making for rather than just have our eyes upon the ground.

When the prayers of the Mass were being looked at after the Second Vatican Council those with responsibility for editing the Missal made a small but important change to the Prayer after Communion for the Second Sunday in Advent. Up until then it seemed to say ‘teach us to despise the things of earth’. It is a very ancient prayer and it was recognised that many might misunderstand the word ‘despise’. In our day it means to treat with contempt even hatred. Originally it didn’t mean that. It was about weighing things wisely, looking at things with care. For this reason they changed the words to draw out the idea behind it more clearly. Now it says, ‘teach us to judge wisely the things of earth and hold firm to the things of heaven’. This is at the centre of what it is to lift up our hearts.

Perhaps you might pray this special Prayer after Communion.

Replenished with the food of spiritual nourishment,
we humbly beseech you, O Lord,
that, through our partaking in this mystery,
you will teach us to judge wisely the things of earth
and hold firm to the things of heaven.
Through Christ our Lord.

Let us give thanks — It is right and just
In the dialogue between priest and people at the start of the Eucharistic Prayer there are some important things going on. The priest says, ‘Let us give thanks to the Lord our God’, inviting us to give thanks and to draw us deeper into the Eucharist which, as we know, means ‘thanksgiving’. He asks us to join him in Christ’s sacrifice of thanksgiving which is the Mass.

Giving thanks is at the heart of our faith. We are thankful for the many good things God has done for us; the wonder of creation, the joy of life itself, the comfort of family and friends. As Christians we see something deeper in the struggles of life and hardships that we endure. It is not easy, but we can learn and grow and become more fully human from both the joys and sorrows of life. All this should be part of our thanksgiving every day. It is perfectly expressed in the Mass; Christ’s act of thanksgiving.

Our reply to the priest’s invitation to give thanks helps us to recognise that this is something we are all called to do. We say, ‘It is right and just.’

Notice we add to the idea that it is ‘right’ to give thanks another one that it is ‘just’. Words like ‘just’, ‘justice’ and ‘judge’ recall our duty to do the right thing but these words have a meaning in the Bible that helps us understand the Mass more deeply.

The Old Testament picture of God as Judge can seem threatening – that he will judge us and therefore he may condemn us. This should not be underestimated for we must recognise the call to do what is right. But the Bible also portrays God as a Judge in a richer way. We are told he is the Judge who defends the widow and the orphan, who rescues the downtrodden and the oppressed.

A modern vision of judge tends to focus on one who weighs evidence and then makes a decision.

The biblical understanding adds to this. The judge not only makes an assessment, he helps, he provides a solution. When I look to Jesus to come as the Judge of the living and the dead I should see him as my rescuer, my Saviour.

The priest makes this clear as he continues with the Preface. He says ‘It is truly right and just, our duty and salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks’. In Mass the work of our salvation is being accomplished in each of us. As we give thanks we are being drawn into God’s saving work. It is not only our duty but it is also the way in which God, our Judge, comes to our rescue. It is truly right and just.

 

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Penitential Act

Brethren (brothers and sisters), let us acknowledge our sins,
and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.

A brief pause for silence follows. Then all recite together the formula of general confession:

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,

And, striking their breast, they say:
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;

Then they continue:
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.

The absolution by the Priest follows:
May almighty God have mercy on us,
forgive us our sins,
and bring us to everlasting life.

The people reply:
Amen.


I Confess
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words cannot hurt them.

This is a saying that we use when someone is unpleasant or critical. We say it to ourselves or aloud as a kind of self-defence. But is it true? Words can be very destructive. They can hurt very deeply and can lead others astray. If that is true for words, what about our thoughts?

There are times when what and how we think can be wrong. Even our thoughts can be sinful. They can affect our behaviour in all kinds of ways. Our attitudes can prompt us to put into word or action all kinds of things we might regret. The ‘I Confess’ or ‘Confiteor’ leads us to remember this.

It also reminds us that there are such things as sins of omission. To stand by and do nothing in the presence of great wrong is a sin. If we ignore the desperate pleading and needs of those who are helpless there is sinfulness in our inaction.

As I say sorry it is important to admit wrongdoing ‘in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.’

We say I confess admitting our own personal responsibility and that we can’t blame it on someone else. As I stop and reflect at the beginning of the Penitential Act it is important to confront myself and realise I need to change.

Also we should think of the persons we speak to in this prayer. There is God who accepts us forgives us. There are Mary, the angels and the saints whose prayers we need and there is our neighbour. Inviting us to say this prayer the Church reminds us that our sins affect everybody. In fact, it is often those who are closest to us that we hurt the most. As we say the pray we ask that others will pray for us and we hope that if we have hurt them they will forgive us.

At the end of the prayer the priest says ‘the absolution’ — May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life’. It is traditionally called an absolution. Does this simple absolution in Mass forgive sins? It does, just as God will forgive us whenever we make any act of sorrow. But this does not replace the Sacrament of Reconciliation Paragraph #51 of the General Instructions on the Roman Missal (GIRM) states that the absolution formula that concludes the act of penance at Mass is not sacramental absolution and in no way dispenses from the obligation of confessing grave sins before receiving Communion. Therefore the Sacrament of Penance enables us to not only fully express our sorrow and begin a new life, it is the clearest expression of God’s loving mercy guaranteeing forgiveness for even our most serious lapses.

Lord, have mercy
The ‘Lord, have mercy’ (Kyrie eleison) is a short prayer that seems to finish the Penitential Act. Interestingly it began as something quite different. Nearly fifteen hundred years ago it was part of a Litany used as Mass began. Everyone would be invited to pray for an intention, ‘Kyrie eleison’ would be sung, all would repeat and they proceeded to the next intention. The litany could be quite long and in a way it was a form of Bidding Prayer occurring at the start of Mass.

Things changed and a shortened form survived without the petitions but with just 3 Kyrie eleisons, 3 Christe eleisons and 3 Kyrie eleisons. Later these three groups of three were seen as being addressed to the Trinity. The Kyrie would only be used as part of a litany in special circumstances and normally it was used in its simplest form surrounded by other prayers.

At the changes of the Second Vatican Council it was decided to reintroduce a Litany with the ‘Lord have mercy’ and use it as one of the forms of the Penitential Act. Look closely at the words of this penitential litany:

You were sent to heal the contrite of heart.
Lord, have mercy.

You came to call sinners.
Christ, have mercy.

You are seated at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us.
Lord, have mercy.

We can see that all three lines are addressed to Jesus. So in this form of the Penitential Act we are speaking directly to the Lord who came to save us. We also notice that the focus is on what Jesus has done for us. In other words, we are not just thinking of where we have gone wrong but also how God puts things right.

If we look more closely at these lines there is even more to be seen.

‘You were sent to heal the contrite of heart’ — we recall Jesus’ mission, say we are sorry and ask for healing.
‘You came to call sinners’ — we admit we are sinners and that Jesus calls us on this basis to be members of his Church.
‘You plead for us at the right hand of the Father’ — we think of how Jesus, our great High Priest, intercedes for us.

The Church has drawn from its rich tradition of the Lord have mercy being a litany and developed it into an acclamation of Jesus’ care while asking for forgiveness.

 

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Invitation to Communion

Behold the Lamb of God,
behold him who takes away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.

Lord, I am not worthy
that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word
and my soul shall be healed.

The Invitation to Communion

Behold the Lamb of God
An earlier sheet looked at the idea of Jesus as the Lamb of God. It is also interesting to ask why we are changing in the new translation from ‘this is’ to ‘Behold’.

When he sees Jesus walking by, John the Baptist points him out to his own disciples ‘here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John Chapter 1 verse 29). The ‘here is’ has a sense to it of ‘look’ or ‘pay attention’ or ‘behold’. For this reason in the new translation of the Communion invitation we use the word ‘Behold’ rather than the simpler ‘this is’ which could be taken to be the beginning of a line that is simply a statement.

Also there is the feel of another passage from Saint John’s Gospel (Chapter 19 verse 5) where Pontius Pilate draws attention to Jesus as he emerges bound having been scourged and crowned with thorns. Pilate says ‘Here is,’ or ‘Behold, the man’ (see also Zechariah 6;12-13). Pointing out Jesus to the crowd is, in one way, a simple indication that he is standing there but there is a deeper sense. When Pilate says ‘Behold the man’ it is as if unconsciously he is pointing out the perfect human being, the model for all others and the fulfilment of humanity.

We believe that we are made in the image of God and in Jesus we see the image most perfectly – he is the starting point of the creation of humanity. He is also the new Adam, for his obedience reverses the disobedience of the first human as described in the book of Genesis. It will lead beyond the cross to resurrection with a recreation of humanity in his image. This change is begun in each of us at Baptism, renewed in the Eucharist and brought to fulfilment in Heaven.

The word ‘behold’ is a solemn invitation to look upon the Saviour and receive him who comes to transform us by his death and resurrection. He comes to change us into his likeness as we become what we eat in Holy Communion.

Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb
The words of the priest before Holy Communion are being changed from ‘Happy are those called to his Supper’ to the line above.

On the one hand it is simply a more accurate translation but it also draws out something that can be easily missed. The priest is speaking of those who are blessed because they are invited to the Supper of the Lamb.

We know the Lamb is Jesus and so we can see this line to be saying something about the wonder of being invited to Jesus’ Supper. But it is important to stop and think about this ‘Supper’. There are several interconnected ideas. There is: the Last Supper, the Lord’s Supper and the Lamb’s Supper’

‘The Last Supper’ is that meal Jesus shared with his disciples the night before he died. During it he gave us the Mass and Holy Communion commanding us to celebrate it in his memory. ‘The Lord’s Supper’ is another name that can be used for the Last Supper. Also it can be used as a title for the Mass itself. As we fulfil his command we are made present to his saving work. In recalling the words Jesus said at that Supper we understand that we share in the offering of Jesus’ life on the Cross, his sacrifice, and we are joined to his resurrection and glorious ascension.

‘The Lamb’s Supper’ comes from the book of Revelation (Chapter 19 verse 9) where it is called a marriage supper. This marriage feast or supper is alluded to in some of the parables of Jesus about the kingdom of heaven. It is the great feast of celebration in heaven — it is the gift of heaven itself.

The Lamb’s Supper is connected to the Lord’s Supper because our sharing in Mass makes us ready for heaven. The Book of Revelation describes the Lamb’s Supper as a marriage in which we, the Church, will be the mystical bride of Christ. The new translation highlights that the ‘invitation’ said by the priest is not limited to a particular Communion given to us at a particular Mass. Communion is the foretaste and we are being invited to the banquet of heaven.

Lord, I am not worthy
When we have visitors coming we often spend time tidying up the house so that everything is presentable and in order. Imagine having a VIP guest come to stay. Such a visit might prompt us to redecorate or do some of the jobs we have be promising to get round to but have never completed.

When the centurion confessed to Jesus that he was unworthy to receive him under his roof — into his house — it was not because things were a bit untidy or in need of a touch of paint. He understood his own unworthiness to receive the Lord on a visit to heal his sick servant (see Matthew Chapter 8).

In the Middle Ages when the priest brought Holy Communion to the housebound they welcomed Jesus into their homes repeating these same words of the centurion. Again, they were not apologising for dirty paintwork or broken furniture. They were admitting their unworthiness that the Lord should enter their house, under their roof, let alone the home of their hearts. They recogniSed they did not deserve so great a guest even as they realiSed they needed him and gladly welcomed him. A quite natural development included this line in the Mass for us all.

It is very appropriate that this greeting spoken as the Lord enters the dwelling of a sick person should be said by everyone receiving Jesus. We might not need a visit from the local GP but we all rely on the one who heals all our ills.

The new translation retrieves this line ‘under my roof’ and this can help me think of how Jesus makes his home in me as I must make mine in him. I must make him welcome, listen to him and wait upon him as Martha and Mary did when they welcomed Jesus under their roof. It can lead me to think of how I take Christ with me as I leave Mass to bring him, in my heart, into the heart of my home. He is to be that silent, unseen guest under my roof. I have received him in Holy Communion and I must be aware that he comes with me in my daily life.

As I echo the words of the centurion about my unworthiness to welcome Jesus I do not simply ask for forgiveness but healing. I admit that I am a sinner in need of the healing touch of Jesus to mend my life so that I may amend it. In receiving him in Communion I admit my weakness and my need of this medicinal nourishment.

 

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Institution Narrative

Take this, all of you, and eat of it,
for this is my Body,
which will be given up for you.

Take this, all of you, and drink from it,
for this is the chalice of my Blood
the Blood of the new and eternal covenant,
which will be poured out for you and for many
for the forgiveness of sins.

Do this in memory of me.

For many
When Jesus fed the multitude how many people did he feed? Surely the answer is easy; five thousand. If you remember, St Matthew and St. Mark tell us there was a second miracle in which four thousand were fed. But is that all there is to it?

In his accounts of the two miracles (Chapter 14 verses 15-21 and Chapter 15 verses 32-39), Saint Matthew says something we might wince at in our day and age. Each story gives the number of men adding ‘to say nothing of women and children’. In fact he is telling us something that is fascinating and surprising for the time. Jesus had women and children among his disciples. If we add these into the number fed at the miracle there must have been far in excess of four or five thousand.

There is something else to think about. We are told that at the end of each meal Jesus told them to collect the scraps and there were twelve and seven baskets full. Is this about not leaving litter or taking a doggy-bag home? No. We should think about the numbers twelve and seven. Twelve could stand for the twelve tribes of Israel – in other words Jesus would have fed the whole of the Jewish people if they had sat down on the ground that day! Seven is the number of days of creation and a perfect number – Jesus would have fed all the world if they had been there!

So when we think of how many Jesus fed using numbers and the word ‘crowds’ or ‘multitude’ we see it’s more than doing sums. Also in ancient cultures a common way of numbering was 1, 2, 3, many – which could mean beyond counting.

At the Last Supper Jesus gave us his body and blood saying his blood would be shed ‘for many’. We have been used to translating this as ‘for all’ because that is what he intends. So why use the words ‘for many’ in the new translation?

It is an exact translation. Also it reflects this idea that there are some surprises in store for us – just as Jesus had disciples who would not normally be included in the count – he died for far more than we might imagine. In the book of Revelation when John has a vision of the multitude who are saved by the Blood of the Lamb he first sees 144,000 representing the twelve tribes and then a huge number ‘impossible to count’ (Revelation Chapter 7)

It seems strange at first saying ‘for many’ means ‘for all’. But it is not only more accurate it also makes us think about countless numbers extending back through history, across creation now and stretching forward into eternity.

Do this in memory of me
Do you ever wish you could have been there? Sometimes this comes into our minds as we hear stories of Jesus and the wonderful things he said and did. The telling of the story on television and in movies makes us feel as if we are seeing what it was really like – what experience could be greater than that?

In fact there is an experience so much greater that it can take your breath away.

When Jesus said ‘Do this in memory of me’ he was doing more than asking the disciples not to forget. ‘In memory’ has a special meaning at Passover. In that annual celebration the story is told how God rescued the people from slavery, poverty and death and gave them freedom, the Promised Land and life. The understanding is that those gathered are present to those saving events long ago and God’s mighty hand stretches out and rescues them. This sharing in God’s saving work made present in the here and now is described as doing it ‘in memory’.

So Jesus’ command to remember means that every time we do so we share in the great work that he undertook for us. In the Mass we offer with him his sacrifice. As we share in the miracle of the Mass we are present at his saving death. At the same time we are present at his life-giving Resurrection and glorious Ascension.

In the Eucharistic Prayer the whole Church joins with Jesus who offers the perfect act of worship to his Father. This is the centre of our worship and the gateway to eternity. It is so important that we all participate fully and consciously in this great action of the Mass. To help us there are parts of the Prayer for both priest and people. The ministry of the priest is essential as he draws his priesthood from Jesus the head of the Body, which is the Church, and its great High Priest. At the same time all members of the Church share in Jesus’ priestly dignity. By our Baptism we are all part of a ‘royal priesthood’.

The priest leads us in the Eucharistic Prayer and says the words of Jesus as bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. We join in by making the prayer our own in heart and mind. There are words for everyone to sing or say. We have the ‘Holy, holy’ which reminds us that our prayer is joined to heaven’s worship. There is the Acclamation as we proclaim Jesus’ Death and Resurrection and look forward to our being with him for ever. The priest raises the Host and Chalice in offering during the ‘through him and with him’ and we proclaim our great ‘Amen’ to say we share in the offering and its promise of everlasting life.

Do you ever wish you could have been there? At every Mass you are.

 

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Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts

What do angels do?

We might think of Gabriel visiting Mary at Nazareth or be aware of guardian angels. The prophet Isaiah had a vision of the angels worshipping God chanting ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts (Chapter 6 verses 1-3). We repeat this at Mass to show that our worship is united to this heavenly praise. To remind us of this the priest ends the Preface with words such as ‘with the Angels and all the Saints we proclaim your glory, as with one voice we sing…’

And we are joined not only to the worship of angels. Jesus offered to his Father a perfect sacrifice of loving obedience, the most perfect act of worship possible. The heart of the worship of heaven is Jesus’ sacrifice of praise. Every Mass unites us to his offering.

The new translation replaces ‘power and might’ by ‘hosts’. It is closer to the passage in Isaiah and to the Latin Missal where the word used means the heavenly army. There is more to it than being accurate. ‘Power and might’ means not just any kind of strength or power, such as nuclear, electric or mechanical power. It is God’s power found above all, in people, all those who worship and serve him.

In heaven, the angels and saints worship God and here on earth we join with them in the sacrifice of praise. We are part of a great host or army of servants, who do not seek to dominate or intimidate but who join together in love, worship and praise. In singing or saying the Holy, holy we remember that we are united to the living and the dead, a great multitude throughout history and beyond.

It is thought that Jews at the time of Jesus and later the early Christians used this prayer in daily worship because they knew that all our prayer comes before God in heaven. All that we say is special to him. As time passed we started using these words in Mass but we can also pray the Holy, holy regularly as a prayer in itself.

Both are messengers of Good News, who look after others, worshippers of God. We have a lot in common with angels.

 
Note: Download in PDF copy of the above text. Photo below is known as "The Son of Man" is courtesy of Rev. Fr. Lawrence Lew OP. Fr. Lawrence was ordained to the priesthood on 17th September 2011 by Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., in Blackfriars Oxford.

Dismissal

Go forth, the Mass is ended.
Or:
Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.
Or:
Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.
Or:
Go in peace.
The people reply:
Thanks be to God.

Time to Go
As we come to the end of Mass we seem to return to our roots and the reason why we are there in the first place.

The name ‘Mass’ comes from the words in Latin that are said as people are told that the time has come to return to the business of everyday life. ‘Ite missa est’ is simply a command to go and in the ancient world might have been said to a gathering of people as things wound up and it was time to leave. It gave us the Latin name ‘Missa’ which we translate as ‘Mass’.

We come to Mass every Sunday for several reasons: to give glory to God, to hear his Word, to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass for the living and the dead, to be nourished by the gift of Holy Communion and in order to be sent out into the world. In a way, we come to Mass in order be told it is time to go. At the heart of every Christian’s vocation is the call to witness to the Gospel by a life of faithful service.

The words of dismissal reflect on our vocation. To draw this out special forms of the invitation of ‘go forth, the Mass is ended’ have been written.

‘Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord’, reminds us of Jesus’ command to ‘go out and teach all nations’ – to spread the Good News. Some may have the task of teaching in a public way but all of us are called to spread Christ’s message in ordinary ways. Sometimes it’s not even what we say but how we say it; it’s not always what things we do but how we do them. Often people who are attracted to the Church say that what caught their attention is the sense that a person of faith has something very special about them. It is so important that our lives reflect our beliefs. Our attitudes and the way we treat people give the most eloquent witness.

‘Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life’ tells how we give glory to God. It is by the way in which we live. Jesus said ‘I have come that they may have life and have it to the full’. Saint Irenaeus, one of the early teachers of the Church, wrote ‘The glory of God is man fully alive’. As we try to live fully at one with God and our neighbour we give him glory and we live in peace. It is the peace which Christ gives, the peace which our world needs.

We go out of the church as part of a great procession as members of the Church, the Body of Christ on our pilgrim way to the glory of heaven.

The Lord’s Day
During the Eucharistic Prayer, the Church asks the Holy Spirit to come upon the gifts to change them into Jesus. The priest extends his hands over the bread and wine praying for the coming of the Spirit and he prays for a change in us too. In the new translation of Eucharistic Prayer 2, the priest says ‘Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall.’

This idea of God descending like dewfall is ancient. It also recalls a line in a well-known hymn: ‘Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven, Like the first dew-fall on the first grass.’ We sing ‘Morning has broken’ in celebration of the beauty of creation renewed in the sunrise and freshness of each day. The dawning of every day should remind us of that special morning, when Jesus rose again. What’s more, no matter what the time is or the date, every Mass takes us back to that morning.

Easter Morning changed everything. Creation began all over again when Jesus rose. In the story of Adam and Eve, God walked in the garden at the end of the day. Describing the Resurrection, St. John’s Gospel (Chapter 20 verses 14-16) reminds us of this tale when it relates that at the start of a new day, Jesus, the new Adam, is thought to be the gardener by Mary Magdalene. In a way, he is the gardener; putting right the mistake told in the poetic account of Genesis. That day was the first day of a new week. Because of the Resurrection on that first day, at the start of every week we celebrate ‘the Lord’s Day’ – his day.

On that day a Light rose that can never be overcome. Jesus brings new Life and Light so that we can live in the day and he does this especially in the Mass. We are promised that, although our earth continues to spin in a cycle of darkness and light, there is now a new Light which will never go out. Week after week, ever since that first morning the Church has prayed on the Lord’s Day. We celebrate Mass above all on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, asking that the Spirit descend like the dew; to bring life to a world thirsting for life.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, he descends like dew. Just as the manna in the desert appeared like dew, Jesus comes quietly. The world seemed largely asleep when he was born in Bethlehem. The guards at his tomb claimed to have slept through the dawn of his Resurrection and, even now, many seem unaware of the change he brings. He comes in simple ways: through others, in his Word and in what looks like bread and wine.

The word ‘dewfall’ helps us think about how God works among us and the dawn of that morning when Jesus changed everything.

 

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Video Resource Summarizing New English Translation of Roman Missal

 

Note: Video from New Roman Missal for Parents and Adults - Word for Word by LifeTeen International. Images used with permission from Stephen Golder