Throughout the history of the Sacred Liturgy, the Church has undertaken a constant search for beauty. High artistic talent has been employed through the centuries to build beautiful churches, compose and execute Sacred music, and create masterpieces of liturgical art, all for the greater glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful. Within the Sacred Liturgy, each and every action of the faithful should be guidedintruthaswellbyanunderstandingoftheoverarchingnecessityforbeautyamongus. The liturgical vestments, posture, music, even the attire and attitude of the people all reflect our willingness to serve and worship the Almighty. Just as an examination of conscience is helpful for our daily lives, it is good from time to time to analyze our actions, our interior and exterior participation, within the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Our honest quest for beauty helps us understand the renewal of the Sacred Liturgy in our present time, more specifically with the forthcoming release of the English translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal. Just as we should not toss aside the beautiful Tradition given to us by our ecclesial ancestry, the Church is “a living and breathing organism,” and so the passing of time allows us to develop a greater understanding of the texts through the ages. An appreciation of Church history can aid our hearts and minds to seek and pray the most beautiful texts and how their use in the present day can enhance the Liturgy. Let us as Catholics of the Diocese of Sioux Falls examine the past in order to guide our understanding of the exciting developments in the new translation of the Roman Missal.
A Brief History
Each day at Mass, our beloved priests use the Roman Missal, the book containing the prescribed prayers, rubrics, and priest’s chants for the celebration of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The earliest surviving Missal has been attributed to Pope Leo the Great (440-461). Throughout the ages, prayers were added, especially suiting particular religious orders and celebrations throughout the growing Church. As the prayers developed, there was a need for consistency and authenticity in the words used in the celebration of the Liturgy. Many attempts were made to adopt a uniform edition, such as St. Francis of Assisi’s use of the Papal Books within the Franciscan order, although nothing was widely adopted until after the invention of the printing press in 1440.
History is resplendent with revision and renewal, therefore variations of the liturgical books created a lack of universal agreement. This was especially prevalent over the next century, particularly during the Reformation, until the Council of Trent in 1545-1563. Implementing the Council's decision, Pope Pius V promulgated an edition of the Roman Missal in his Apostolic Constitution Quo Primum, dated July 1570. For the first time, the Latin Church had a Missal that was obligatory, except where there was a traditional liturgical rite which had lasted at least two centuries in antiquity. Following this model, subsequent revisions were promulgated to meet the needs of the Universal Church, as is the case today.
About the New Missale Romanum
In 2000, Pope John Paul II issued a revised edition, editio typica tertia, the “third typical edition” since the Second Vatican Council. In following tradition, this was first published in Latin. Though the universal language of the Church was never abrogated for the Holy Mass, the Second Vatican Council allowed for use of the vernacular translations. Translation is not a quick or simple task, as the integrity and specific meanings of the Latin texts should be maintained, and any translation must be approved by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The primary goal of the new translation is to achieve consistency in the Latin texts: making use of ancient standards of writing, worthy repetitions, distinctive patterns, and poetic and Biblical images.
In subsequent articles, we will look at the new edition in greater detail, as well as how we as Catholics should better focus our lives on truth and beauty, most especially within the Sacred Liturgy. May this process of the implementation of the revised Roman Missal be a time of deepening, nurturing, and celebrating our faith as followers of Jesus Christ. Soon we will see a new English translation of the Missal that will uplift us on our path toward ultimate beauty, until we arrive at the eternal tabernacle.