Just a couple of days after our national feast of Thanksgiving, Catholics in America will receive a tremendous gift, one for which we will certainly be thankful: a reorientation of our worship and a consequent deepening of faith, thanks to a newly translated Roman Missal.
Our focus on Thanksgiving at the dinner table will shift to thanksgiving — Eucharist, to use the Greek-derived word — at the table of the Lord.
The new edition of the Roman Missal, issued for the Jubilee Year of 2000, is finally coming to our parishes in a translation that, by all accounts, will be well worth the wait. The choice of words, dictated by a Vatican-ordered fidelity to the original Latin, places a much-needed emphasis on he who is worshipped, rather than we who worship. It is he who is the source of everything we have, and our task is to be receptive to that gift.
Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa, Okla., offered a reflection on that reality in a recent interview at NCRegister.com, where he encouraged the faithful to approach the liturgy “with tremendous humility, recognizing that it doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to God. It is a gift.”
“We worship God not by creating our own liturgies, but by receiving the liturgy as it comes to us from the Church,” Bishop Slattery said. “The liturgy should be formed and shaped by the Church itself to help people pray better. And we all pray better when we are disposed to receive what God has offered.”
The new translation of the Mass drives home more clearly that our focus in the liturgy is on God, not on us. The beginning of the First Eucharistic Prayer, for example, Te igitur, clementissime Pater … has been translated as: “We come to you, Father, with praise and thanksgiving. …” Now, however, rather than beginning with “We,” the prayer begins by addressing God: “To you, therefore, most merciful Father, we make humble prayer and petition through Jesus Christ, your Son, Our Lord.”
Immediately, therefore, our attention is directed away from the congregation and toward the Almighty.
The fact that the priest now will say simply, “The mystery of faith” directs our attention to the action that has just taken place and the mystery that God became man, suffered and died in propitiation for the sin of Adam — a sin for which man could never atone on his own — and left us his Body and Blood so that “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” Our attention is directed to Christ on the cross, not to ourselves.
Those are only two examples, but the effect all of this will have on the faith of Catholics should be significant. We, at least, are hopeful.
And, we suggest, we should all give thanks.