The Mystery of Faith

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10/28/2011

The new translations of the Suscipiat, Preface and Sanctus invite us to deeper participation at Mass

by Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli

roman missal

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth 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.

With the introduction of the new translation of the Roman Missal this Advent, the priest will no longer say, “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith,” after the consecration. Instead, he will simply announce, “The mystery of faith.” Attention to the theological reasons for this subtle change can open us to a richer appreciation of the Eucharist.

The phrase “the mystery of faith” is one of the most powerful in the Roman liturgy, a rich biblical word that denotes God’s plan for the creation of the world and for our salvation hidden for all eternity.

The words “the mystery of faith” have been part of the institution narrative since the 7th century. Before the Second Vatican Council’s reform of the liturgy, they were said by the priest inaudibly as part of the consecration of the wine. With the liturgical revisions in 1969, the formula was moved to its present position and made audible.

The priest’s words, “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith,” have now been shortened in the new missal text to render the Latin text, mysterium fidei, more faithfully. This shorter formula also conveys more accurately the purpose of these words, since they are not, in fact, an invitation to “proclaim” the mystery of faith. Rather, when the priest says “the mystery of faith,” he is inviting the people to make an acclamation. Unlike a proclamation, an acclamation is addressed directly to someone; it is spoken in the second-person, not the third-person.

This interpretation is clearly seen in the new translation of the missal. In response to “the mystery of faith,” the people will use one of three options: “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection until you come again.” Or, “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.” Or, “Save us, Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection, you have set us free.” Even though two of these formulas use the word “proclaim,” the whole formula is not merely a proclamation, but an acclamation directed to the Lord, who is now present among us in the Eucharist.

By contrast, our present response — “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” — is not an acclamation. It simply declares what the mystery is and, for that reason, will no longer be used. Following the acclamation, in the anamnesis (memorial) of the Mass, the priest himself recounts, or proclaims, the death that Jesus endured for our salvation, his glorious resurrection and his ascension into heaven.

When the priest says “the mystery of faith” immediately after the consecration, he draws our attention to Christ, who is crucified, risen, ascended and present among us. The words of the priest remind us that Christ is here to form us as “the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:23). Jesus, now present sacramentally, truly and really in our midst, is bringing to completion in us the fullness of our redemption.

The phrase “the mystery of faith” is one of the most powerful in the Roman liturgy. The word “mystery” is a rich biblical word that denotes God’s plan for the creation of the world and for our salvation hidden for all eternity and gradually revealed and accomplished in Christ.

In the Eucharist we find this mystery of faith: Jesus accomplishing our salvation through his sacrificial death of the cross. How can our hearts not be filled with wonder and awe! How fervent our spontaneous response to this great gift! Ultimately, the Eucharist, present on the altar, demands our response not only in words of acclamation, but in a life that truly reveals the mystery of faith, God present to us and saving us in Christ.

Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., is a member of Paterson Council 240. In February 2011, he became secretary of the Vox Clara Committee, formed to oversee the new English translation of the Roman Missal.