From politics to the economy and even to the weather, America is in a time of change. The fair question remains, when is this country not changing? The same can be said of the Church: always faithful to Christ, yet always dynamic in response to the needs of people living their faith today.
The Church shows its dynamism and fidelity in its worship through the sacred liturgy. The Mass has changed many times over the centuries, even as it continues to raise to almighty God the prayers of the faithful in every time and culture.
Many Catholics recall the first English translation in 1973 of the Roman Missal, produced in Latin in 1970. That translation produced a popular and colloquial English rendering of the prayers that caught the sense of the Latin but did not in every case faithfully translate the important theology of the Missal.
In 2002, a process began in the Church to revise the English translation to produce richer and more theologically faithful language. That process took a big step toward conclusion when the Catholic Bishops of the U.S. approved a revised English translation of the Roman Missal last week.
The changes affect the Proper of Seasons, the group of Mass prayers including the opening prayer, prayer over the gifts and prayer after Communion during the Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter seasons of the liturgical year, plus the days of the sacred Triduum leading up to Easter.
While the nuances of translations were debated among liturgical experts and some interested observers, most Catholics are not likely to notice significant changes to the prayers they hear during those seasons.
For one example of the subtle differences, compare a segment of the current opening prayer of the Sixth Sunday of Easter: “Ever-living God, help us to celebrate our joy in the resurrection of the Lord and to express in our lives the love we celebrate.”
Now compare the same passage with the approved English revision: “Almighty God, make us celebrate with heartfelt devotion these days of joy which we keep in honor of the risen Lord.”
Official recognition of these changes is expected from the Vatican. Other final revisions to the Missal translation are expected to be completed by 2010 and in use by 2012.
Now the Church takes up the task of teaching people the content of the revised translation. The reason for it must also be remembered by all: by enriching the words we pray through the prayer of the Church, we strive to perfect our worship of God.
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