The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Amid passing things

Today—as far as I know—church roofs did not collapse throughout the English-speaking Catholic world as the long-debated third edition of the Roman Missal was officially implemented for celebration of the Eucharist. The earth did not part and swallow up the People of God. There were no riots. No one died as a result. What a relief!

Whenever I have been asked these last few months what I thought of the “new Mass,” my typical response has been: “It’s not new. Christ will not be any more or less present than he has always been at any celebration of the Eucharist.”

Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (cf. Hebrews 13:8). Our particular liturgical expression and experience of that fact may change (and will change again), but the One Thing Necessary holds it all together and presents himself as a gift to us through the Church. It’s not our doing.

In other words, I didn’t get all that worked up over it. I have not broached the topic here until now because I didn’t feel the Catholic blogosphere was in need of one more opinion on the matter. I still don’t. My purpose with this blog (I hope) is to help inspire prayer, not polemic.

How we pray together as the People of God is terribly important, to be sure. As the ancient Latin saying goes, lex orandi, lex credendi, lex Vivendi, or (loosely): “As we worship, so do we believe, and so do we live.” I believe that wholeheartedly, so I do not dismiss the various views of those whose responsibility it is to work on our liturgical expression in the Catholic Church. It matters.

However, we ultimately have to trust that the Holy Spirit is at work throughout the Church because “all things work together for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28). This was true in 1965, and it is true in 2011.

The reason for bringing this up today, after the new missal's official implementation, is because I was struck in a prayerful way by two things at our celebration of the Eucharist here at Saint Meinrad Archabbey. First, I was edified by how sincerely so many people present concentrated on what they were saying and singing. Second, the words of the closing prayer seemed to echo in my heart:
May these mysteries, O Lord,
in which we have participated,
profit us, we pray,
for even now, as we walk amid passing things,
you teach us by them to love the things of heaven
and hold fast to what endures.
Truly, we walk amid passing things on this earth, and the liturgy is no exception. No one likes change, and few seem to handle it without at least some trouble. But the words of this prayer demonstrate that it is only through such change, such difficulties, that we are progressively given the opportunity by God to turn our attention toward and love the things of heaven. Everything and everyone around us changes during our lifetime. We change. But God remains the same, and we must hold fast to what endures—God alone.

As I listened the last year or so to the arguments for and against the new translation, I was never convinced by any case based on how true the language was to the original Latin. I am not knowledgeable enough in that field to make such a determination anyway. However, the rationale that adjustments were aimed at sharpening the focus on Who we worship, rather than on we who worship, made sense. That is always a good thing.

The experience of change is often disagreeable, but sometimes it is spiritually profitable to occasionally refocus our understanding of not only how we do something, but why and for whom. We can’t always just go through the motions. If nothing else, the process of implementing the new translation provides us with yet another opportunity to realize that we walk amid passing things and must hold fast to what endures. And, of course, this too, shall pass.

After Mass today, several monks gathered in the calefactory as usual for coffee and conversation. Inevitably, the discussion turned to the new translation and how everything went. Br. Zachary acknowledged that although he was trying very hard, he “goofed up” a couple times (most of us did).

Without missing a beat, Fr. Harry responded with the most simple yet profound statement of the day (which he is wont to do). He smiled and said, “You’ll get another chance.”

Thanks be to God.

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