Familiar passages in the Bible can help us to appreciate how the use of noble vocabulary and poetic phrasing helps reveal to us a higher appreciation of the ideas expressed in prayer texts of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal. In fact, much of the text does find its basis in Scripture. In Scripture we find a refined and noble language that imparts to us the theological insights that form our faith.
In the Gospel according to Matthew, we read about Magi from the East seeking a new born king. When they arrived at the place where the new born Jesus lay they offered gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The story of these “wise men” is familiar to all of us. Note that we do not refer to them as “three guys.” We identify them as members of a priestly class (Magi) with special knowledge. We do not list ordinary, simple gifts. We include gifts that suggest holiness, royalty and eternity. In the first chapter of Matthew, the child is named not just Jesus, He is also called “Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”
Scripture offers to us a lesson on language. When extraordinary truths of our faith are presented in Scripture, the language raises us to a level that transcends our ordinary life experience and suggests meanings that raise us to a higher plane of understanding. Through the careful use of language we understand that the child viewed by the Magi is not an ordinary little baby boy.
In Scripture, we have no problem reading words that convey special meaning; words that are more noble than our everyday language. So too, in the texts of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal, we will note language that transcends the experience of our daily activity. The noble vocabulary and poetic phrasing found in this refined text raises us up from our colloquial lives so that we can better comprehend the sacred mysteries, celebrated in the liturgy, that transcend our daily activity.
For example: In Eucharistic Prayer III we are accustomed to hearing the priest say, “....so that from East to West a perfect offering may be made....” In the new translation we will hear, “so that from the rising of the sun to its setting a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name.”
Note that the current translation makes reference to earthly, geographic directions. The revised text makes reference not to the earthly plane, the locale of our daily activity, but to a higher plane and reference to God’s first gift of creation, light. When we raise our thoughts up to this higher plain, we transcend our earth-bound realities and enter into the realm of God; an eternal realm. Further, the words, “from the rising of the sun to its setting” come from Scripture. These words come from a Psalm of praise (Ps. 113), an ancient prayer offered to God in Heaven. During the Eucharistic Prayer we are drawn up to realities that transcend our typical daily experience.
This modification of the text brings us to a point of epiphany, a realization that the things we celebrate are not ordinary or arbitrary. They reflect our belief in eternal truths. The revisions in the text are not intended to confuse us, or change the meaning of our ritual. The revised text is intended to help us share in a deeper understanding of our ritual celebration.
Karen Podd is president of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission.