April 3, 1969 should be recalled as a monumental day in the history of the Catholic Church in the 20th century. That was the day Pope Paul VI promulgated his Apostolic Constitution, Misalle Romanum, that gave the Universal Church the so-called Novus Ordo, or the Mass of Paul VI. As part of the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul decreed that this new form of the Latin Rite liturgy should take effect on the first Sunday of Advent of 1969. Effectively, about eight months were designated for the transition from various forms of the Sacred Liturgy that had been in place in the wake of the end of the Second Vatican Council.
The period following the eight months of transition saw the implementation of the Novus Ordo Liturgy of Paul VI during Advent of that year. After the period of transition, the use of Latin in the Liturgy became the exception to the norm of using the vernacular language that was peculiar to each country. As a result of such a transposition in the United States, English became the norm and Latin was the exception which was sparingly used by priests for the next 40 years.
However, the initial translations of the Latin provided accurate examples of liturgical use of the English language. There is also a resurgence of the use of Latin with the restoration of the Mass of Blessed John XXIII and the permission to freely celebrate both forms of the ritual in either English or Latin. Quite surprisingly, the bulk of the “revised” translations that have been approved in 2008 are a return to the original translations initiated in 1969.
The implementation of the Novus Ordo of Paul VI literally took place overnight and Catholics were expected to accept the changes immediately, without explanation, education or sacramental preparation. Now some four decades later Catholics are presented with another round of changes in the Liturgy with the translations from the Latin as the core component of the changes.
It seems that the revisions to the text of the Mass from 1969 were in reality quite appropriate for their time and in most examples are being restored to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. However, this round of linguistic changes is taking place in installments of 12 groups and it might take up to two years to implement the first translations in the United States.
It seems incomprehensible that Catholics in the English speaking world need in excess of 120 Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation to implement these simple changes, which are in effect a revision of the revision of the Novus Ordo of Paul VI.
For example, the response to the priestly prayer, “The Lord be with you” is currently rendered, “And also with you.” In the revised revision the people’s response will be, “And with your Spirit” in keeping with a more accurate translation of the Latin, “Et cum spiritu tuo.”
Another change will involve the salutation addressed to God the Father in the Sanctus or Holy, Holy prayer. The current translation is, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Power and Might!” The revised translation will be, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts!”
Additionally there are changes in the Confiteor, with the return of the phrase “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault” which restores the original revision. The Gloria will be recited in the manner previously used in the early translations. The Lamb of God returns to “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof” which is reflective of the form used right after the Council. Finally the translation of the priestly prayer “…vere et dignum justum est…” in the preface of the Eucharistic prayer will be more precisely translated.
There is no projected date of implementation for these changes because, according to the USCCB, a period of instruction and education for priests, deacons and laity is required regarding the nature of the textual changes. It is even suggested that it might take two years to realize an implementation of the first round of linguistic changes, while English-speaking Catholics await more approvals and translations from the Holy See. What exactly is there to educate and catechize everyone about? We have been celebrating the Mass of Paul VI for almost 40 years and these are the literal translations of the Latin that we started with!
Catholics need to take charge and begin using the new forms of the prayers immediately so we can get our liturgical lives back on a traditional Catholic track of unity in prayer and worship. It is ridiculous to think that six textual modifications should require catechesis and education that spans a period of two years or more. When Paul VI introduced the revised Order of Mass in 1969, American Catholics were quite literally “hit over the head” with changes that were implemented in the course of a summer season. It is not likely that any prolonged process of linguistic education will more effectively educate English speaking Catholics to a more superlative understanding of the nuances of the Latin roots of the Catholic liturgy.
Let us make the changes and get on with it. Better yet, perhaps we should start as an American Catholic Church implementing the first recommendations of the Second Vatican Council and begin teaching the people how to celebrate the liturgy in both Latin and their vernacular language as part of the historical and cultural heritage of the Roman Catholic Church. From there we might even begin with a primer example of Latin 101 and start proclaiming the Creed according to the precise Latin translation of “Credo!”, that is, “I believe…!” Even a first year, first semester Latin student would recognize the first person singular is the correct translation of the Latin text. Perhaps we need to go back and implement the intended liturgical changes of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council as recommended in Sacrosanctum Concillium and return to the prayerful and holy celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice intended by the Second Vatican Council.