By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Moment of Change

As you know, yesterday we began using a newly revised English-language translation of the Roman Missal. This change is occurring not only in the Archdiocese of Edmonton but also throughout Canada and, indeed, the English-speaking world. The Roman Missal is the book that you see the priest use as he presides at Mass. It contains all the prayers and indications that guide us in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Why the change?

The Roman Missal's official edition is in Latin, and it is this official edition that is translated into all the languages of the world. This official edition was revised by the authority of Blessed Pope John Paul II in 2002. This revision was not to change the Mass, obviously. The Mass remains the same. The revision of Pope John Paul II was made in order to include some new material, such as feasts of newly canonized Saints, some new Prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayer, and clarifications in the way we celebrate the Holy Eucharist. This change to the official edition necessitated the preparation of a revised version in the various languages of the world, including, of course, English.

As a result of the new English translation, you will notice a few changes to the prayers, acclamations and responses. Most of the changes in wording occur in the prayers offered by the priest. With time and patience, all of these prayers will become as familiar to us as those we have been using over the last few decades.

Also to be implemented are some changes to posture. At the beginning of the Missal is a section called The General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM). It stipulates the norms to be followed for the correct celebration of Mass, including directives pertaining to posture. These directives have as their intention to assure consistent practice and conformity with the universal law of the Church. This is very important. The oneness of our faith is to be apparent in the unity of our gestures and posture at the Sacred Liturgy.

This moment of change is a wonderful occasion for a renewed appreciation of the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist. For a while we shall naturally be focusing upon what to say, not to say, when to kneel, stand, sit and so on, but let us not forget the sublime mystery that underlines it all. In the celebration of Holy Mass, the Lord himself is present to us, present with us. In the transformed gifts of bread and wine, the sacred body and blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ becomes truly and really present. In the Mass, we worship God, we give thanks for his countless gifts, especially the gift of salvation, we listen to his Word, we receive from the altar the sacred body and blood of Christ, and we are sent forth to be his agents of love in the world.

The Mass is the central event, the highlight, in the life of every Catholic. In its celebration we encounter our Lord and draw life and strength from his love. For this reason, our liturgical celebrations must be beautiful and dignified. For this reason, we must give careful attention not only to the way we celebrate but also to our interior dispositions as we approach the Mass and enter into its celebration. Have I reviewed the readings for Mass before coming to Church? Have I made an examination of conscience and confessed serious sin? Have I reflected upon the countless blessings that God always pours out upon me and offered thanks?

Perhaps the most important question for us is this: how shall we translate our encounter with the Lord into the way we live our lives? The new Missal is a translation from Latin to English. Yet this is in service of a much deeper and more significant translation that must take place: the translation of the mystery of the Eucharist into daily living. Here we meet the love of God for each of us. Do we translate that into love for others? Here we encounter the mercy of God towards us sinners. Do we translate that into the forgiveness of those who have hurt us? Here we receive the gift of salvation. Do we translate that into lives of hope? In the Gospel for Sunday we heard Jesus tell us to be ready to meet him when he comes again. His return will be at a time we simply do not and cannot know. This means to be ready now. As we enter this holy season of Advent, may the Lord help us ready ourselves by translating the encounter with Christ in the Eucharist into lives of Christian holiness.

On Saturday night I gathered at our Basilica with a group of people who translate their encounter with Christ into work and prayer for the protection of all human life. We marked the beginning of the new liturgical year with solemn evening prayer for nascent human life. This event springs from an initiative of Pope Benedict XVI himself, who last year invited all dioceses to gather for this prayer. We repeated it again this year and plan to do so henceforth every year at the beginning of Advent. We must not fail to pray for nascent human life, for life in its beginning stages, initiated at fertilization and now wondrously developing in the womb of the mother.

We are all called to speak in defense of this life and to witness to its beauty in the face of so many threats against it. Yet without sustained prayer such efforts will bear little fruit. What is needed in our society is an awakening of conscience and a profound conversion of heart. This is brought about by the grace of God, and so let us ceaselessly implore the Lord to touch the hearts of all people and effect a new beginning of respect for all human life, especially at its most vulnerable stages.