The Four Liturgists of the Apocalypse
The Register recently asked me to do a post on what I saw at Mass this Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, the first Sunday using the new translation of the Roman Missal.
Happy to oblige! So here’s what happened . . .
I arrived at Mass a few minutes early and took my seat in the pew. The particular parish I was attending had not done a lot of prep work for the new translation.
In fact, I saw that the Roman Missal they had was still in its shiny, new shrinkwrap.
And behold, there were seven seals upon its shrinkwrap.
I heard the cantor proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the Missal and break its seals?”
And no one in the parish was able to open the Missal or to look into it, and I wept much that no one was able to open the Missal, for I was really looking forward to the new translation.
Then the pastor said, “Weep not. This will only take a moment.”
And when the pastor opened one of the seven seals, I heard one of the four living choir members say, as with a voice of thunder, “Come!”
And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and its rider was a liturgist; and a crown was given to her, and she went out conquering and to conquer.
When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living choir member say, “Come!”
And out came another horse, bright red; its liturgist was permitted to take peace from the parish, so that people should form factions and grumble against one another; and she was given a great sword.
When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living choir member say, “Come!”
And I saw, and behold, a black horse, and its liturgist had a set of political talking points in her hand; and I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living choir members saying, “A dearth of jobs in the economy; but do not harm the taxes or the new medical care program!”
When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living choir member say, “Come!”
And I saw, and behold, a green horse, and its rider’s name was Envy, and Bitterness followed her.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of the parishioners who had been slain for complaining about liturgical abuses and for the witness they had borne.
They cried out with a loud voice, “How long must we suffer this squishy, 1970s translation?”
Then they were each given a white choir robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow parishioners and their brethren and sistren should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as when the California eucalyptus tree sheds its sap all over your car, which you have parked under it in the parking lot, because that was the only space there was.
And when the pastor opened the seventh seal, there was silence in the parish for about half an hour, and no one was able to speak a word.
For it turned out that the liturgists were right! The new translation was entirely “unproclaimable”!
And then the world ended.
Okay, actually it didn’t.
Here’s what really happened . . .
At the beginning of Mass the pastor said, in a very kind and gentle tone of voice:
“Today we begin using a new translation of the Roman Missal. We’re going to go slow and easy. There’s no brownie points for getting everything correct, and there’s no demerits for getting a few things wrong. We’re staying pretty much with the same Eucharistic Prayers and the same responses at all the Masses until we get used to them all.”
And then we did the Penitential Rite and nobody keeled over from a heart attack.
When the homily came, the pastor preached about the readings and about how Advent is a time of waiting for God, in contrast to the constant demands for immediate gratification that echo through our society, particularly with the commercialism that affects the pre-Christmas season.
He didn’t mention the new translation at all.
When we said the Profession of Faith, many people were going by memory and started to say the old version, but the pastor stepped close to the microphone and proclaimed the new version in a firm and confident tone, and people started looking at their pew card and reading the new one.
People also tended to reflexively say, “And also with you,” when the priest said, “The Lord be with you,” but the reflex will get retuned in short order.
All in all, the whole thing happened very smoothly. People made a few mistakes out of habit, but no big deal.
I also saw a lot of people looking at their pew cards in a way that suggested they were really interested in them.
So interested, in fact, that they might take them home with them. I was tempted to do that myself.
It was no surprise, then, that the only other mention that was made of the new translation was right at the end of Mass, when the pastor was doing the announcements and politely asked people not to take the pew cards home with them but to leave them in the pew because the people at other Masses would be needing to use them.
And that was it!
No fuss, no muss (whatever muss is). The world didn’t end. People did not begin a wailing and gnashing of teeth. It was went fine.
I was totally jazzed.
But how about you? What do you think? How did Mass go in your parish?