Sacrifice, Offering and Thanksgiving
8/25/2011Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes
Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of articles on the Roman Missal in anticipation of the new English-language translation, effective in the United States beginning Nov. 27.
We are fast approaching the implementation date for the new translation of the Roman Missal. The Knights of Columbus has been a significant supporter of the work of the Vox Clara Committee, which has been assisting the Holy See in this effort. Through this series of articles, Columbia continues to offer a wonderful opportunity to help Knights and their families to understand and welcome this new translation.
Most of the changes to the translation affect the prayers that the celebrant offers. But there are a number of smaller adjustments that involve all of the participating faithful. These modifications are intended to make the texts of the prayers more accurate in doctrine or more sacred in expression.
For example, the prayer that concludes the preparation of the gifts, or the offertory rite, will invite us to pray that “the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands” — the hands of the celebrant — “for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.” Notice how this makes clear that each Mass has a threefold purpose: we offer the sacrifice of Christ so that the Lord may be better known and praised (worship), so that our own good may be realized (salvation) and so that holy Church as a whole will benefit (the Church being most herself at the Eucharist). In the previous translation, the word “holy” had been omitted. The restoration of that word reminds us that the Church is holy because her head, the Lord Jesus, is holy and wants us to become holy in him.
The Mass then proceeds to the Eucharistic Prayer, wherein the sacramental re-presentation of the Lord’s sacrifice takes place. The Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer offers praise and thanksgiving to God: “We lift up our hearts to the Lord!” In the new introductory dialogue, we will recognize one change for the faithful: When the celebrant invites, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,” the response will be: “It is right and just.” This is a more faithful rendition of the Latin and captures the truth that our worship is not optional; rather, we owe worship to God in grateful love for all that he is and does. This is why participation in Sunday Mass is a serious obligation.
At the conclusion of the Preface, we are invited to pray: “Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts ... .” We move to the most sacred part of the Divine Liturgy by expressing awe and reverence, just as Isaiah did in the presence of God (Is 6:3). Note the small change in that we now call God the “Lord God of hosts,” instead of “Lord God of power and might.” We are not proclaiming here attributes of God (power and might), but are joining with the hosts of angels in heaven who adore, worship and praise the Lord. Even while here on earth, we are participating in heavenly worship!
At first, we may experience these modifications as annoying since we generally dislike changes to our routines in life. But each change has deeper significance for faithful and sacred worship. Obviously, it is going to be necessary for both the priest celebrant and the participating faithful to rely more closely on liturgical aids to learn these new expressions, but the Church invites us to listen attentively to the prayer texts. They can help us to realize the principal purpose of the liturgical renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council that our participation be more active, conscious and fruitful. It will be active if we are truly seeking to enter into the mystery that is being celebrated in the Eucharist. It will be conscious if we are growing in understanding and internally engaged. And it will be more fruitful if we progress in virtue in daily life as a result of our participation in Mass.
Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes, emeritus of New Orleans and a member of Baton Rouge (La.) Council 969, serves as a member of the Vox Clara Committee, which was formed to oversee the new English translation of the Roman Missal.