New Words --- Deeper Meaning

by Joyce Stolberg

 Those of us who have been Catholic either all our lives or for some years are striving to relearn some responses of the Mass. As we inculcate in our candidates and catechumens the habit of attending Sunday Mass, we ourselves will do well to look at the new words of the Mass through their fresh, enthusiastic, unburdened minds. Even while I myself accidentally say "And also with you" on occasion, I ponder the deeper meaning of "And with your spirit."

 The deeper meaning and the greater formality of these words remind us that we are addressing no mere human person, but the great God Almighty. The horizontal dimension of our worship, that is, our relationship with one another in the body of Christ has been emphasized for the past 40 years. Now, without negating this dimension, we are restoring the wonder and awe of the vertical dimension of our worship, that is, the humble presentation of our human nature before the awesome Majesty of God.

 Some words used in the liturgy better clarify our Catholic doctrine: Lex orandi --- Lex credendi! Have you heard the word consubstantial? It expresses in a word the essential dogma of the Trinity: there are three equal persons in one God. Did you catch the word "prevenient" used in the canon of the Mass of the Immaculate Conception? This one word expresses the belief that Mary, in anticipation of the merits of her future divine Son, was conceived free from original sin. How many other deep and beautiful words have you heard in the priest's prayers? Have you noticed an increased reverence in the tone of the priest's prayers? More clearly than before, they celebrate the fact that the Lord God IS LORD and we are his humble and grateful creatures.

 When we teach the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist we always stress the necessity of receiving Christ worthily: here we mean that we must be aware of being free from serious sin and in full communion with the Faith, laws, and requirements of the Catholic Church. Candidates and catechumens prepare for many months for the worthy reception of their first Eucharist. We are strongly encouraged to receive the Eucharist weekly or daily if possible once we have been fully initiated into the Catholic Church, and the Eucharist is a source of life-changing grace. Yet the new language reminds us that we must always be in awe of this privilege --- none of us human beings can presume to be "worthy" to receive our Divine Master under the roof of our mouths, the roof of our humanity. Hence, regardless of how well prepared or how nobly we have lived our lives, we, nevertheless, pray "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." Jesus comes and heals us, but this humbling prayer of the Centurion reminds us never to take the privilege for granted.

 I have prepared a revision of my 10 page section on the prayers of the Mass. in God Calls You by Name in keeping with the revised order of the liturgy and I am in the process of submitting it to the proper authority to obtain legitimate permission to propagate it. As soon as this is cleared I hope to be able to offer it online as well as in print for the benefit of all the directors and readers who we serve. The language and tone of the new prayers of the Mass are truly beautiful and faithfully reflect the sublimity of the worship we give to our Almighty God.