Having eaten my fill yesterday afternoon, which is probably why I woke up at the ungodly hour of 4 AM, I opened my e-mail to read some more doomsday articles and comments regarding the launch of the revised English texts of the Roman Missal. At Thanksgiving Mass yesterday, our pastor mentioned that this would be the last time most of us would be praying the texts we have been so used to praying for close to forty years. Some might see it as a sad ending to a Mass that has brought joy and comfort to many, but I see it as a new beginning. My early years were spent with what we now call the Extraordinary Form, the "Latin Mass," but the dialogue Mass was what I was used to, so we at least prayed the responses from our personal missals. I still have mine from 1963. As we transitioned into English, it was an exciting time, but I am sure there were many who bemoaned what they grew up with and who didn't like the change. So too with the revised texts we will begin praying Saturday evening. But I really don't anticipate the uproar that others predict.
I have presented twelve Missal workshops over the last year. I honestly have to say that I have heard objections from less than a handful of people. Some may object to a word or two but overall the reaction has been good. They like the idea that the language will sound more formal and more theologically accurate. I had sixth graders, anxious to run home and share with their parents the meaning of the words consubstantial, incarnate and oblation. Are we so used to texting and tweeting shorthand that we can't open ourselves to learning words that are more than four or five letters long? Are the words that I learned early on in my formal study of theology really going to turn away people?
I am looking forward to the changes. In fact, even though I rarely attend the Saturday anticipated Mass, I just might go tomorrow evening to be among the first to hear the new texts prayed. But today and tomorrow morning I will be praying the texts that I know so well. I will miss the familiarity of them, but I anticipate that very soon these new texts will become just as familiar. Will it renew the liturgy and bring people back to church? Probably not, for that I believe, will take more than new words, but a real change of heart that comes not from the formal words we pray, but from a personal encounter with Jesus.