Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Faith Works 11-12

Faith Works 11-12-11

Jeff Gill


The More Things Change



"The Lord be with you"


"And . . ."


Those statements are familiar, as far as they go, across many Christian traditions.


They have long taken the form, in America, of "The Lord be with you" from the priest, preacher, or presider, with a response from the people gathered of "And also with you." It comes from the Mass in English after the great transition of the Vatican II conference for the Roman Catholic Church, and sets the worship service rolling.


Those responsive statements are so effective that actually in the vast majority of Protestant churches you could step up to the platform or pulpit and say "The Lord be with you," and count on the majority of worshipers to respond in booming tones "And also with you."


This will get a little complicated come the end of the month.


Nov. 27 is the first Sunday of Advent, which is, for liturgical churches (and to some degree for any congregation which follows the lectionary cycle of Scripture readings), the beginning of the year. Everything resets, from the texts in weekly worship to the colors of pulpit covers and table paraments (purple for Advent).


Catholic Christians will find on that day, and I presume in the "vigil masses" on Saturday evening before, a bit more of a change. Well, more than a bit.


It turns out that the Mass translations from the Latin many of us have heard for years have been provisional, awaiting a more carefully considered effort from an international commission on worship texts. They've been provisional for over 40 years, but Rome likes to remind people that they don't think in terms of years, but of centuries (and wags would add, "yes, the fourteenth century").


After some politick-ing that I've read about but can't claim to understand (there was a draft worked on for some 30 years that was liked by many, but pitched at the last minute and reformulated under different management to reach the new, final translation), this new liturgical year ushers in an official, non-provisional "Missal of the Roman Mass" for use in worship among Catholics throughout the English-speaking world.


With this first Sunday of Advent, you will hear the priest say "The Lord be with you," and your response will be "And with your spirit."


Is that all, you might ask? Oh no, there's much more. The form and sense of the whole is really not much changed at all, but some have said that a certain preference for Latinate constructions is what most marks this translation, with words like "consubstantial" likely to trip up unsuspecting tongues.


I've spoken to two priests and a few church musicians about the coming change, and the consensus is that the adjustment for the congregation should be relatively simple & straightforward (watch the card that's going to be in the pew!), but the real problem will be for priests and musicians who have been putting off wrestling with their parts, where the largest number of changes in wording have been made (I'm told). Some have begun already "saying the Mass" in this form in their private devotions, even practicing it in front of the bathroom mirror ("like being back in seminary!" one said).


But all agree the rumors and worries are a bit out of scale with what's actually going on. When you read the Latin text the 1970 translation was based on, you don't have to know the language to see why the 2011 adjustment makes a certain sense: Priest: Dominus vobiscum.  People: Et cum spiritu tuo. You can see it: "And with your spirit."


There is also returned from traditions of an earlier day a practice which is behind the common idiom "breast-beating": instead of what the 1970 version asks the people to pray as "that I have sinned through my own fault," the new translation returns, in English, to the Latin mass usage of inviting worshipers to tap their chest three times while saying "that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault," from an original Latin "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa."


Meanwhile, for all us Protestants, the question now arises: do we change, too? Or does the sacramental meaning of acknowledging the Holy Spirit at work in the presider, reclaimed with "And with your spirit," mean that most of us would do well to keep "And also with you"?


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he hopes that the Lord is with you! You may respond as you prefer to or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

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