On Sunday morning at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, the sounds of high-pitched singing, a ringing organ and a mumbling congregation filled the huge cathedral as people tried to catch on to the new version of the Catholic Mass. Sunday, also the first day of Advent, was the first time the updated Mass text was used at English-speaking Catholic churches across the world.
The new version of the Mass came from The Roman Missal, Third Edition—the ritual text that contains prayers and instructions for the celebration of Mass. At the Oakland cathedral, the audience stumbled through new words during the Introductory Rites, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Communion Rite and the Concluding Rites as they tried to not automatically reply with passages that they have been reciting for decades. “I had a hard time keeping up,” said David Raju, 31. But, he said, as a candidate for confirmation, “I haven’t had a chance to get used to the old [version], so I think I’ll catch on with everyone else.”
Hundreds of words were added and deleted from the revised Mass, including a new greeting response. Since the early 1970s at English-speaking churches, the priest has greeted the congregation with “The Lord be with you.” The congregation’s response has been, “And also with you.” But not any more. Now the congregation will respond “And with your spirit,” which is supposed to be a closer translation to the original Latin text.
The first English translation of the Mass was published in the United States in 1974. A year later, it was revised and called the second edition. Now, over 30 years later, it has been revised again. “I have been a member of the Catholic Church for about 70 years,” said John Tatmon, an 80-year-old Oakland resident. “I’ve seen about three changes to Mass. You just have to get used to it.”
Pope John Paul II actually issued the third edition of the Roman Missal back in 2000. The third edition was approved by the U.S. Bishops in 2009, and used for the first time on Sunday. “This work has been going on for a very long time, the work of the new translation,” said Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of the Catholic Diocese of Oakland. “It’s been really this calendar year that it’s been getting a lot of attention because the process is finally complete.”
In addition to the changes to the greeting response, Catholics will also recite a new passage during Communion. Previously, the passage read: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” Now, it’s: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
The new translations are said to make Mass ceremonies more universal because all other languages use translations from the original Latin text. “I think it’s a good thing because now it’s universal,” said Howard Biggs, 72, who has been a member of the Catholic Church since he was a young man. “You don’t have to worry [about translations] when you go from one church to the next church.”
The changes are also said to be more authentic. “The changes are more faithful to the Latin,” said Cordileone. “The original Latin has always read, ‘and with your spirit.’ The translation we had been using, up to now, used a looser style of translation—language that would be more familiar to people with their everyday speech.”
Starting on the first Sunday in October, priests and deacons in the area were asked to preach about different parts of the Mass ritual to prepare church members for the change. While some people knew the change was coming, others did not. “I’ve known about it for over two years,” said Biggs. “I thought they were going to switch then, but it went ‘hush-hush,’ then it came up again.”
“I heard of it on Thanksgiving Day,” said Tatmon. “I’m just getting into it.”
During Sunday’s Mass at the cathedral, most of the congregation read from a white, tri-fold brochure that included all of the changes to the Mass ceremony. And although people fumbled through words at the beginning, towards the end of service, it seemed everyone was catching on. “There’s some people who don’t like this and thought that we should wait. My prediction is that there will be little adjustments, but life will go on without disruption,” Cordileone said.
For a list of all of the changes, click here.