Praying and believing lead to transformation
This week brings to a close the Review’s five-part series on the new translation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition. On the first Sunday in Advent, Nov. 27, Catholics in English-speaking countries will implement this new translation.
In the first four parts of our series, Father Jason Schumer, a liturgical theologian and associate pastor at St. Ambrose Parish on the Hill, explained the history of the liturgy in the Roman Rite, the reverence of the new language of the missal, the structure of Christian prayer and “lex orandi, lex credendi,” or “the law of prayer is the law of belief.”
There are also signifi cant spiritual elements of the prayers of the Mass.
“What we believe is how we pray. But how we pray must affect how we live,” Father Schumer said.
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, “Sacrosanctum Concilium,” says “…that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices that they can cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain.”
That is “very counter intuitive,” Father Schumer said. “Normally you form a thought in your mind and your mouth speaks it. But in liturgy we are given a sacred text, and our voice speaks the text.”
The goal of speaking the text, he said, is to have our minds conform to that text, “that the sentiment expressed in the sacred text will change and transform our minds. It’s very beautiful if you think about it,” Father Schumer said.
The liturgy can have the ability to change our lives, “but to truly be conformed to the heart of God, to the heart of Jesus, the prayers that we speak must be authentic.” he said. “They must express the fullness of the prayer in Latin.”
Father Schumer explained that the prayers are given to us and have grown in our hearts through every century. When we pray them each week, they can transform our minds as well.
That transformation isn’t always easy, Father Schumer conceded, because the structure can be difficult to understand in context with modern language. “If we cooperate with it and listen to it,” he explained, “we can be spiritually transformed. We can be transformed by the words we speak. That is what the Mass is meant do.”
Referring to “lex orandi, lex credendi” — the law of prayer is the law of belief — he said, “this must boil over into what’s called the ‘lex vivendi,’ a way of living.”
Father Schumer stressed, “The Mass must ultimately be about the way we live. If we come to Mass on Sunday and it’s just a one-hour thing, and we leave and we’re not transformed in some way, we’ve missed the point of God’s grace in that liturgy.”
Grace through liturgy
In “Sacrosanctum Concilium,” it is explained that the purpose of the sacraments “to sanctify men, to build up the body of Christ, and finally to give worship to God. Because they are signs, they also instruct.” They impart grace that transforms lives.
“If we listen to the prayers, by speaking them and meditating on them they will have the ability, with the grace of God, to change our lives, to affect the way we live and the way we evangelize in the world,” Father Schumer said.
In the new translation, just before beginning the prayer over the gifts, the priest will say, “Pray brethren that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” In the current translation, the priest says, “Pray brethren that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God the almighty Father.’
The Latin phrase in the Roman Missal is ut meum ac vestrum, — mine and yours — not “ours.”
“The eucharistic sacrifice is the common sacrifice of all of us,” Father Schumer said. “The priest offers it in a particular way, but the faithful also are there praying and offering it with him in some way.”
The sacrifice of the people, highlighted by Pope Pius XII in his 1947 encyclical “Mediator Dei,” is the sacrifice of our daily lives.
“… The idea is that we also present ourselves. We want to make of ourselves a gift to God so that as the bread and wine are transformed, by the power of the Holy Spirit, so we also will be transformed as the eucharistic prayer says and become one body and one spirit in Christ.”
Father Schumer continued, “When you come to Mass, give God your anxieties, give Him your difficulties, give Him your joys, give Him all the great things that happen. Thank Him, give Him your life so that your life can be transformed. That is your sacrifice. That is the way you participate in the sacrifice of Christ. That is active participation.”
The liturgy is about “transforming the lives of Christians so that we will go forth into the world and then transform the whole world,” he said.
The sacraments offer us the grace to change. If we cooperate with the grace of God, we will be healed.
“And having been healed, from sins, from struggles, from addictions, God will transform our lives, and we will be better men and women, and we will be better Christians because of that transformation. That is the life-changing reality that the liturgy, that the Mass, that the sacraments are geared toward. That we will be healed, that we will have life and have it to the full.”
Father Schumer acknowledged that the changes in the liturgy will be difficult for many people, but offer at the same time “a great opportunity” for Catholics.
“The liturgy expresses something so beautiful about the heart of God the Father, the heart of Jesus, and we get to enter into that and to pray that, and now to pray it in the new way. It’s going to be beautiful.”
The struggles of the next few months, getting used to the translation, will be well worth the effort, Father Schumer said, “for the decades and decades to come, when our children and the next generations are going to be able to pray these prayers and … their lives are transformed by them, that they hear something in the prayer that is not just routine but is something deep, beautiful and abiding.”
- Praying Anew | A look at the new translation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition
- New English translation of Roman Missal renews understanding of the structure of prayers
- Praying anew | Understanding our prayerful relationship before God through humble language
- Translation of the Gloria | With instructional video
- Use of musical settings for new Roman Missal can begin in September
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