Skip to main content

Last Word - January 2013

The Roman Missal One Year Later

t has now been just over a year since the introduction of the new translation of the Roman Missal. With only occasional slips, we have pretty much mastered “And with your spirit” and “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.” As the Holy See challenged us: we are now before the most important part of the work of the renewal of the liturgy, for what is now only words on paper must become “spirit and life” through careful and patient study, meditation, and the internalization of the texts.

For priests, at least, the hardest part of the new translation has been the opening prayers of the Mass. We knew this would be the case. The new prayers are longer and more complex. But, in my opinion they are also much richer and better able to challenge us spiritually and theologically. The old prayers were much simpler and more direct, but simpler was sometimes, in my opinion, poorer and weaker. They must be proclaimed slowly, phrase by phrase, and listened to attentively.

I thought it might be helpful to put a couple new translations side-by-side with the old translations. I chose the opening prayers of the Third Sunday of Advent, which has just gone by, and Holy Family Sunday which, depending on when you read this, is coming up.

Third Sunday of Advent

The Former Translation

Lord God, may we, your people, who look forward to the birthday of Christ, experience the joy of salvation and celebrate that feast with love and thanksgiving. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


The New Translation

O God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity, enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvation and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad rejoicing. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

I like “faithfully await” over “look forward,” because our waiting is truly an act of faith. I like the “Lord’s Nativity” better than “birthday” which seems almost insipid. We are not celebrating Jesus’ birthday, just one more birthday after 2000 years of them, we are celebrating the awesome mystery of the Incarnation, the Word made flesh. “Solemn worship and glad rejoicing” is much expressive than simply “love and thanksgiving.”

Holy Family Sunday

Former Translation

Father, help us to live as the holy family, united in respect and love. Bring us to the joy and peace of your eternal home.


New Translation

O God, who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of your house, delight one day in eternal rewards.

We really would not want “to live as the holy family”: we like electricity, central heating, and indoor plumbing. But they can serve as a “shining example.” “United in respect and love” is not as strong and too brief, in my opinion, compared to “practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity.”

So, yes, the prayers are longer and more complex, harder to proclaim, and harder to hear. But proclaimed and heard with real attention, they can enrich us.

Rev. Msgr. Michael J. Henchal