Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

Peace Be With You

The New Roman Missal: A Time of Renewal
Part III: Liturgical renewal: How do the new Roman Missal and a new translation contribute to it?

by Bishop Blase J. Cupich

(From the October 20, 2011 edition of the Inland Register)

(In Parts I and II of this series, “The New Roman Missal: A Time of Renewal,” we took a look at the historical factors behind the call to renewal by the bishops at the Second Vatican Council and at how that renewal unfolded over the past half century. This month I want to take up the two questions noted above in the title.)


Much of the news about the changes in the Mass that will occur on the First Sunday of Advent focus only to the new translation of the Roman Missal. But, that is only half the story. What really triggered the new translation was the publication in 2000 of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal. The first was published in 1970 and the second in 1975.

Why a New Roman Missal and How does it Contribute to Liturgical Renewal?

The decision to publish a Third Edition of the Roman Missal was based on one simple principle. The Church’s worship is always in need of reform because it is the prayer of the Pilgrim People of God on journey through the ages. Destined for eternity, we live in time. We are approaching the 50th anniversary of the reforms called for by the bishops at the Second Vatican Council and a span of 25 years elapsed between the Second and Third Editions. During that time the Church has canonized a large number of saints, grown her understanding of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, discovered the importance of offering greater variety in our prayer. Thus, the Third Edition now includes prayers for these new saints, has provided special inserts for various feasts and occasions in the Eucharistic Prayers and corrected some phrasings that could only be discovered by experience. Simply put, these new additions and prayers reflect the ongoing life of the Church. The new edition of the Missal allows us to celebrate that life in our worship and thereby continue the task of ongoing renewal and conversion to which we as the Pilgrim People of God are called.

Why a New Way of Translating?

First it is important to recall that the decision to make the Mass available in the vernacular, that is, the spoken language of people was designed to promote full, active and conscious participation in our worship. As the late Pope Paul VI put it the vernacular was judged by the Church: “to be necessary to make its prayer understandable and grasped by all. The good of the faithful calls for this kind of action, making possible their active share in the Church’s worship.” The introduction of the vernacular... “means that you, the faithful, so that you may be able to unite yourselves more closely to the Church’s prayer, pass over from being simple spectators to becoming active participants.”

The task of translating the Missal was easier for those major language groups that shared vocabulary and syntax with original Latin version of its prayers, than it was for English. The challenge was balancing being faithful to the text with being faithful to the audience who would be using the translated texts. After 40 years of experience it became clear that the first attempts to translate from Latin to English were done too quickly and they missed some important meanings.

How will the New Translation Contribute to Liturgical Renewal?

There are many examples that could be cited, and in fact you will see that I speak about a number of them in the video presentations I have prepared for our diocesan website ( The first change you will hear, however, is one of the most significant ones, for it establishes a pattern of how we speak at Mass, drawing our attention to the fact that something different is occurring when we pray together in the Eucharist. I am speaking about the change in your opening response:

The Lord be with you…..And also with you. And with your spirit.

This is a small but significant change in the way you respond to the priest’s opening greeting. First, notice that And with your spirit is a more faithful translation of the Latin Et cum spiritu tuo. (Spanish speakers will notice that their response has always been closer to the Latin, as they respond, Y con tu espíritu).

But, even more importantly, this revised translation conveys something important about what we believe we are doing and who we are as a worshipping community. By responding to the presiding priest this way, we recognize that the priest is not greeting us in his own name, but in the name of the Risen Lord, the Head of the Body, in whom the priest was ordained. When we say And with your spirit, we are making an act of faith that Christ is present in our midst and He is the one who is gathering us together. We come together, not as a group defined by a similar social class, neighborhood, nation or race, but as the Body of Christ.

The Church from the earliest centuries has had this understanding of our worship. A disciple of the apostle John, Ignatius of Antioch, who was martyred around 117 A. D., put it this way in his Letter to the Trallians: The cross of Christ’s passion is his invitation to you who are members of his Body for the head cannot come to life without its members.

In that very succinct yet powerful phrase this early Church Father makes clear that when we come to celebrate the dying and rising of Christ in the Eucharist, He, as the Head of the Body, invites us to bring that full Body to life. Our simple response, And with your spirit, makes it clear from the very beginning that we are more than a group of people at prayer, a local community who shares things in common. No, we are the Body of Christ, and He as the Head has brought us together to enter into His dying and rising.

This exchange makes it clear that our celebration of the Mass brings about a deepening of our initiation into the Body of Christ begun at Baptism. That deepening or transformation comes about in the exchange, the dialogue of Christ’s proclamation in Word and Sacrament and our response to it as active participants in the saving work Christ is doing.

Sunday Mass Obligation

Our obligation to come to Mass on the Lord’s Day is therefore much more than a legalistic duty. It is an obligation to become what we committed ourselves to be on the day of our baptism, members of Christ’s Body, participants in his active ministry of redeeming the world. All of that takes place in our exchange, our dialogue, our response to his proclamation in Word and Sacrament. With the new translation we can now recall that as we recognize that the Risen Lord is in our midst as we respond to the greeting made in his name by saying And with your spirit.

Your parish will be offering a number of guides and resources to help you more fully learn these responses and understand more fully the meaning of the Mass that this translation conveys. I will also from time to time offer some articles and use my First Friday gatherings at Immaculate Heart Retreat Center to provide additional information.

I am convinced that the occasion of the release of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal and its new translation presents us with a fresh opportunity to take up once again the renewal of the liturgy called for by the bishops at the Second Vatican Council. That renewal is ongoing, as it should be for the Pilgrim People of God.



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