The revised Roman Catholic liturgy

When we lived in Wisconsin, my wife taught at a Catholic school, which occasionally would hold mass.  This also led to friendships which occasionally took us to wedding and funeral masses.   I had thought that going to a Roman Catholic service would at least mean taking in some high church liturgy.  But more often than not, it meant folky guitars, praise songs even worse than those of Protestants, and flat sounding modernizations of liturgical language.  (I know not all masses were this way.  My harder-core Catholic friends would find more traditional services, with some getting in trouble for trying to recover the old Latin mass, though I think the English translation of the ritual was mandatory.)

But now, things are changing again, but they are changing back.  A newly-authorized and newly-mandatory English translation goes back to some of the older readings that are closer to the original Latin.  As a result, by the end of next month, American Catholics are going to have to get used to a whole new liturgy, one whose language is actually more traditional than what that they had gotten used to after the Vatican II reforms of the 1960s.

English-speaking Catholics are bracing for the biggest changes to their Mass since the 1960s, a shift some leaders warn could cause “ritual whiplash.”

The overhaul, which will become mandatory Nov. 27, is aimed at unifying the more than 1 billion Catholics worldwide with a translation that is as close as possible to the original Latin version. It allows for less independence and diversity of interpretation in a church that in recent decades has tried to retain more control over how Catholicism is defined.

Recent popes have emphasized orthodoxy and hierarchy, particularly in the West, where religious identity is increasingly fluid. Catholic hospitals and schools have been required to more clearly espouse church teachings, and Pope Benedict XVI has stressed the sole truth of Catholicism over other faiths, even declining this month to pray with Hindus, Jews and others at an interreligious event.

The new translation changes the majority of sentences in the Mass. The prayers and call-and-response dialogue between the priest and the congregation are different, transforming the dialogue that Catholics under 40 have used in church their entire lives. Some leaders warn that the shift could cause “ritual whiplash” among those accustomed to a worship script so familiar that most recite it from memory.

Reaction to the changes has been intense, in some ways fueling a Catholic culture war that began when the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s imposed far more sweeping changes designed to open up and modernize the church. Some traditionalists say the new translation of the ritual is richer and — because it’s less conversational — more mysterious and spiritual. . . .

Perhaps the most basic change will be when the priest says: “The Lord be with you.” The congregation will no longer say “And also with you.” The new response is “And with your spirit.”

via ‘Ritual whiplash’ ahead? Catholics’ Mass liturgy changing. – The Washington Post.

Another change is going from “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might” to “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of hosts.”  That last phrase is a translation of the even older “Sabaoth.”

Notice anything, Lutherans?  The language that is being changed in those two examples was the same language used in Lutheran Worship (a.k.a., the “blue hymnbook”) by way of the ELCA’s Lutheran Book of Worship (a.k.a., the “green hymnbook”)!   So why did Lutherans follow the lead of the Vatican II liturgists?

But there is more.  The “contemporary worship” vogue has also been connected to the Vatican II worship reforms.  The call to be less God-centered and more congregation-centered, the impulse to be culturally-relevant, and the value of worshipping in new ways–all of these notions came out of Vatican II.   So did the use of guitars, praise bands, and faux folk music (which was only a small step from pop music).  So why did evangelicals, along with Protestants of all sorts, follow the lead of the Vatican II liturgists?

It will now be interesting to see if the neo-traditionalism of this new mass will pave the way for Protestants to return to their own particular and diverse ways of worship.

I do think the new LCMS hymnal, the Lutheran Service Book, made this move before the Catholics did in restoring, with light modernization, the Divine Service found in The Lutheran Hymnal of the 1940s.  The LSB keeps the more modern blue hymnal liturgies too, among other options.  But it’s a good example of something “new” that is also “old.”

 

 

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Rose

    Good news. Next, let’s go back to “a bulwark never failing”.

  • Rose

    Good news. Next, let’s go back to “a bulwark never failing”.

  • helen

    Imagine making the synodically approved Lutheran worship “mandatory”!
    Oh, wait! That’s what it was supposed to be. :(

  • helen

    Imagine making the synodically approved Lutheran worship “mandatory”!
    Oh, wait! That’s what it was supposed to be. :(

  • http://Facebook,s0far Judith Enwright Moody

    I was raised with best of Liturgy and Music. Several generations have been badly cheated (as in all other areas of family life, society and education) by orientation to the convient and the facile worst. As a teacher from university “down” through preschool level, I have seen all the damage – and some recent signs of hope. I predicted restoration out of necessity in the middle 70′s. It’s taking longer. Please do not fail to act. You, in your family and parish, are holding all the real power. Work with your blessed clergy for success. Do not fail your precious children , the masters of the future.

  • http://Facebook,s0far Judith Enwright Moody

    I was raised with best of Liturgy and Music. Several generations have been badly cheated (as in all other areas of family life, society and education) by orientation to the convient and the facile worst. As a teacher from university “down” through preschool level, I have seen all the damage – and some recent signs of hope. I predicted restoration out of necessity in the middle 70′s. It’s taking longer. Please do not fail to act. You, in your family and parish, are holding all the real power. Work with your blessed clergy for success. Do not fail your precious children , the masters of the future.

  • SKPeterson

    The only problem Judy, is that it is precisely many of the clergy who have desired to abandon or tone down the use of the older liturgical forms in a rush to be “relevant” to the modern culture. So we have perfunctory “traditional” services adequately edited to save time (so we can have more time for the contemporary service), and with a few free form enhancements to let everyone know we’re not too bound by tradition. Yet, I’ve found even these truncated “traditional” services cut back to one hour have far more relevance than the contemporary services which last half an hour longer (for the free form “We jus’ wanna” prayers led by the praise team leader and suitably emotive background music). The Romans are waking up to the fact that some of us LCMS Lutherans are also – that by making yourself relevant to the modern culture, you may be sacrificing reverence in the divine service.

  • SKPeterson

    The only problem Judy, is that it is precisely many of the clergy who have desired to abandon or tone down the use of the older liturgical forms in a rush to be “relevant” to the modern culture. So we have perfunctory “traditional” services adequately edited to save time (so we can have more time for the contemporary service), and with a few free form enhancements to let everyone know we’re not too bound by tradition. Yet, I’ve found even these truncated “traditional” services cut back to one hour have far more relevance than the contemporary services which last half an hour longer (for the free form “We jus’ wanna” prayers led by the praise team leader and suitably emotive background music). The Romans are waking up to the fact that some of us LCMS Lutherans are also – that by making yourself relevant to the modern culture, you may be sacrificing reverence in the divine service.

  • SKPeterson

    Judith _ I took liberties by calling you “Judy.” It is just that your name evoked the pleasant movie I watched recently with my daughter – Judy Moody and the No Bummer Summer.

  • SKPeterson

    Judith _ I took liberties by calling you “Judy.” It is just that your name evoked the pleasant movie I watched recently with my daughter – Judy Moody and the No Bummer Summer.

  • Cincinnatus

    I’ve been following this issue with interest, and, of course, I approve with the general direction the RCC is taking.

    The most interesting fact, however, is the one Dr. Veith notes: Lutheran liturgies are actually closer to the ancient Christian (and Latin) liturgy than anything the RCC has used in the past forty years. This is also true of the Anglican Rite I, which is still observed every Sunday in most Anglican/Episcopal churches. I can’t help but note the irony that it is the so-called Reformers and Protestants who never changed!

  • Cincinnatus

    I’ve been following this issue with interest, and, of course, I approve with the general direction the RCC is taking.

    The most interesting fact, however, is the one Dr. Veith notes: Lutheran liturgies are actually closer to the ancient Christian (and Latin) liturgy than anything the RCC has used in the past forty years. This is also true of the Anglican Rite I, which is still observed every Sunday in most Anglican/Episcopal churches. I can’t help but note the irony that it is the so-called Reformers and Protestants who never changed!

  • Cincinnatus

    approve of*

  • Cincinnatus

    approve of*

  • Dan Kempin

    ” . . . restoring, with light modernization, the Divine Service found in The Lutheran Hymnal of the 1940s.”

    Technically, there is no “divine service” in The Lutheran Hymnal. There is “The Order for Holy Communion.”

  • Dan Kempin

    ” . . . restoring, with light modernization, the Divine Service found in The Lutheran Hymnal of the 1940s.”

    Technically, there is no “divine service” in The Lutheran Hymnal. There is “The Order for Holy Communion.”

  • matt

    Why wouldn’t the Pope decline on praying with Jews, Hindus,etc at said interreligious event? They wouldn’t be praying to the same god.

  • matt

    Why wouldn’t the Pope decline on praying with Jews, Hindus,etc at said interreligious event? They wouldn’t be praying to the same god.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Cincinnatus, that is a brilliant observation!

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Cincinnatus, that is a brilliant observation!

  • Kelly

    Matt, I was just wondering about that comment, as well. Is it actually customary for popes to pray with Hindus, etc. at an interfaith event, or was this just poor news coverage?

  • Kelly

    Matt, I was just wondering about that comment, as well. Is it actually customary for popes to pray with Hindus, etc. at an interfaith event, or was this just poor news coverage?

  • http://Facebook,s0far Judith Enwright Moody

    AGAIN, WE COMMUNICANTS ARE THE AUTHORS OF PRESERVATION OF EXCELLENCE, TRUTH AND BEAUTY IN LITURGY, AND IN THE RESPECT THESE ARE SHOWN IN PARISH LIFE. OUR CLERGY, THROUGH NO PARTICULAR FAULT OF THEIR OWN, ARE OFTEN COMPROMISED BY SOCIETAL ILLS. THIS IS IN NO WAY ALL THEIR FAULT, BUT SHARED WITH US. HOW DO WE PREPARE, ALONG WITH OUR FAMILIES, FOR MASS ? DO WE DRESS AND BEHAVE IN RESPECTFUL WAYS FOR MASS AND OTHER SERVICES ? MAY WE ALL NOT START TO LEAD BY EXAMPLE ? THERIN LIES THE FAITH, AND THE BEAUTY.

  • http://Facebook,s0far Judith Enwright Moody

    AGAIN, WE COMMUNICANTS ARE THE AUTHORS OF PRESERVATION OF EXCELLENCE, TRUTH AND BEAUTY IN LITURGY, AND IN THE RESPECT THESE ARE SHOWN IN PARISH LIFE. OUR CLERGY, THROUGH NO PARTICULAR FAULT OF THEIR OWN, ARE OFTEN COMPROMISED BY SOCIETAL ILLS. THIS IS IN NO WAY ALL THEIR FAULT, BUT SHARED WITH US. HOW DO WE PREPARE, ALONG WITH OUR FAMILIES, FOR MASS ? DO WE DRESS AND BEHAVE IN RESPECTFUL WAYS FOR MASS AND OTHER SERVICES ? MAY WE ALL NOT START TO LEAD BY EXAMPLE ? THERIN LIES THE FAITH, AND THE BEAUTY.

  • Cincinnatus

    That hurt my eyes.

  • Cincinnatus

    That hurt my eyes.

  • http://Facebook,s0far Judith Enwright Moody

    I FAILED TO MENTION THAT, AS A VERY HAPPY ROMAN CATHOLIC, I HAVE SHARED WITH MANY LUTHERAN FRIENDS THE SADNESSES OF LOSS IN THE FULL BEAUTY AND JOY OF FAITH AND ITS MANY EXPRESSIONS. NONE OF US THOUGH, AS FAR AS I KNOW, HAS EVER, EVER, LOST HOPE. STAY WITH US, AND ALWAYS LOOK FORWARD WITHOUT FEAR !

  • http://Facebook,s0far Judith Enwright Moody

    I FAILED TO MENTION THAT, AS A VERY HAPPY ROMAN CATHOLIC, I HAVE SHARED WITH MANY LUTHERAN FRIENDS THE SADNESSES OF LOSS IN THE FULL BEAUTY AND JOY OF FAITH AND ITS MANY EXPRESSIONS. NONE OF US THOUGH, AS FAR AS I KNOW, HAS EVER, EVER, LOST HOPE. STAY WITH US, AND ALWAYS LOOK FORWARD WITHOUT FEAR !

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Judith (@14), is your caps-lock key stuck? Your comments are suddenly quite hard to read.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Judith (@14), is your caps-lock key stuck? Your comments are suddenly quite hard to read.

  • http://Facebook,s0far Judith Enwright Moody

    Sorry to have caused eye pain to C., but have eye problems off and on – need caps. I also appreciated his wise comment. Attention SKPeterson: Tried to leave message for you, may have missed. No resistable liberty taken on your part – I lived with “Judy Moody” long before the cute books were written, and your daughter is a very fortunate young lady. Thanks – JEM

  • http://Facebook,s0far Judith Enwright Moody

    Sorry to have caused eye pain to C., but have eye problems off and on – need caps. I also appreciated his wise comment. Attention SKPeterson: Tried to leave message for you, may have missed. No resistable liberty taken on your part – I lived with “Judy Moody” long before the cute books were written, and your daughter is a very fortunate young lady. Thanks – JEM

  • http://Facebook,s0far Judith Enwright Moody

    A word for John Paul II and Benedict XVI; there is no common prayer to one God (or to any god/gods), only prayer that rights and respect be experienced by all who express religious beliefs of their own. This neither condemns nor empowers any belief, but gives peaceful opportunities for dialogue and evangelization.

  • http://Facebook,s0far Judith Enwright Moody

    A word for John Paul II and Benedict XVI; there is no common prayer to one God (or to any god/gods), only prayer that rights and respect be experienced by all who express religious beliefs of their own. This neither condemns nor empowers any belief, but gives peaceful opportunities for dialogue and evangelization.

  • WisdomLover

    One thing that really ticks me off about both LW and LSB is that they said they would retain 5 and 15, from TLH, but then they didn’t. They gave us a modernization of 5 and 15. I want to hear things proclaimed in the name of the the Father , the Son and the Holy Ghost. I want to confess that Jesus will come to judge the quick and the dead. When I confess my sins to God, I want to speak to Him with the familiar “unto Thee”. I’ll give the LSB slightly higher marks than LW on this because it does keep a few more of the old forms than LW does, though far from all.

    In fairness, perhaps the software allows a fully ramified page 5 and 15 service, so you can at least print out bulletins or worship leaflets that really have the old stuff.

    I know these are minor points, and I don’t begrudge churches that don’t want to use that language. But it seems to me that when you say you’re going to retain things so as not to disrupt the worship life of congregations who’d prefer not to have their worship life disrupted, you keep that promise.

    It would be one thing if the old language were theologically unsound. Then no matter how much things are disrupted, you change them. They need to be disrupted in that case. I can also understand changing things if the language around us had changed so much that continuing to use an old form would cause undue confusion (in fairness, perhaps “Holy Ghost” falls into that category…perhaps people only think of haunting ghosts now and wonder whether the Holy Ghost rattles holy chains). But in both these cases, you tell people that you are making the changes and why you’re doing it, and you don’t promise to retain the old.

  • WisdomLover

    One thing that really ticks me off about both LW and LSB is that they said they would retain 5 and 15, from TLH, but then they didn’t. They gave us a modernization of 5 and 15. I want to hear things proclaimed in the name of the the Father , the Son and the Holy Ghost. I want to confess that Jesus will come to judge the quick and the dead. When I confess my sins to God, I want to speak to Him with the familiar “unto Thee”. I’ll give the LSB slightly higher marks than LW on this because it does keep a few more of the old forms than LW does, though far from all.

    In fairness, perhaps the software allows a fully ramified page 5 and 15 service, so you can at least print out bulletins or worship leaflets that really have the old stuff.

    I know these are minor points, and I don’t begrudge churches that don’t want to use that language. But it seems to me that when you say you’re going to retain things so as not to disrupt the worship life of congregations who’d prefer not to have their worship life disrupted, you keep that promise.

    It would be one thing if the old language were theologically unsound. Then no matter how much things are disrupted, you change them. They need to be disrupted in that case. I can also understand changing things if the language around us had changed so much that continuing to use an old form would cause undue confusion (in fairness, perhaps “Holy Ghost” falls into that category…perhaps people only think of haunting ghosts now and wonder whether the Holy Ghost rattles holy chains). But in both these cases, you tell people that you are making the changes and why you’re doing it, and you don’t promise to retain the old.

  • http://Facebook,s0far Judith Enwright Moody

    SKPeterson: Your comments, and others, are excellent. On youtube we find an occasional film of a priest (not lately) in full clown garb; congregation all clutching balloon strings. I once walked out of a catholic mass in which rite-of-spring maidens swivel-danced up the aisle, bringing the gifts to the altar. Short flashes of anger, shame, sadness. Then I knew I had to make a fast exit. I waa afraid my explosion of laughter would disrupt the ‘solemnity’ of the occasion. Such scenes were exceptional, but they happened. Poor liturgical education and interpretation should be sins. This blog is in a state of grace.

  • http://Facebook,s0far Judith Enwright Moody

    SKPeterson: Your comments, and others, are excellent. On youtube we find an occasional film of a priest (not lately) in full clown garb; congregation all clutching balloon strings. I once walked out of a catholic mass in which rite-of-spring maidens swivel-danced up the aisle, bringing the gifts to the altar. Short flashes of anger, shame, sadness. Then I knew I had to make a fast exit. I waa afraid my explosion of laughter would disrupt the ‘solemnity’ of the occasion. Such scenes were exceptional, but they happened. Poor liturgical education and interpretation should be sins. This blog is in a state of grace.

  • Shane A

    True, Cincinnatus. The first time I attended an Episcopal church, I was greeted with the Great Litany, an English translation of an ancient penitential service. The first time I attended a Catholic church, I witnessed folksy, poor quality guitar strumming.

    That being said, I would suggest that we need neither innovation which transgresses our own tradition, nor a dogmatic attachment to what C.S. Lewis referred to as the error of “timeless language”. It is good to see Catholicism return to their own tradition without clutching at the tridentine mass.

  • Shane A

    True, Cincinnatus. The first time I attended an Episcopal church, I was greeted with the Great Litany, an English translation of an ancient penitential service. The first time I attended a Catholic church, I witnessed folksy, poor quality guitar strumming.

    That being said, I would suggest that we need neither innovation which transgresses our own tradition, nor a dogmatic attachment to what C.S. Lewis referred to as the error of “timeless language”. It is good to see Catholicism return to their own tradition without clutching at the tridentine mass.

  • matt

    Kelly,

    I’m not sure. I have heard of this happening before.

  • matt

    Kelly,

    I’m not sure. I have heard of this happening before.


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