Happily Even After
“And With Your Spirit”
by Josh Noem
Like everyone else, we stumbled through the new translation of the Mass this weekend. It was certainly not for a lack of preparation—it is just that the execution was difficult.
Even with solid leadership from our presider and brightly colored cards with the new translation of our responses right under our noses, it was hard to stop the familiar responses from tumbling out. We even practiced with the kids on the way to Mass, randomly exclaiming the greeting “The Lord be with you” so that everyone could reply “And with your spirit.”
We chuckled more than once at our own ineptitude. That greeting, “The Lord be with you” appears much more in Mass than I would have guessed!
I’ve spent my whole life responding to the presider with a certain set of lines, and now there has been a re-write of sorts. The fact that it is hard to put the brakes on the old words points out an essential element of ritual: the familiar paves the way for prayer.
Our Catholic ritual means that we don’t have to spend much time or energy finding new ways to speak with one another and with God. We can simply slide into the words and gestures that have carried this faith community for generations. When it works, that ritual lets us rest in the deeper movements and meanings of liturgy.
Yes, this familiarity has disappeared suddenly. But I don’t think it will be long before what is now new feels familiar.
In fact, I found it rather comforting that our congregation muddled its way through its dialogue parts. It is a tangible reminder that we’re not in this alone. I’m sure congregations around the English-speaking world were having the same experience. It was nearly comical, yes, but it was also a tangible experience of solidarity.
And isn’t that the whole idea? These responses are changing so that they better reflect the Latin they are founded on, and in so doing, better match the responses that are offered by Catholics speaking other languages.
I’ve heard some grumbling about the changes, but not much. In fact, most of it has come from fellow ministers who have more preparatory work to do—my pew-mates acknowledged the difference and are simply going with it.
I think most people realize that being Catholic means that you are part of a large community, and that some things are going to be outside of your control and even beyond your preferences. But being an adult Catholic also means that you are mature enough to realize that not everything is about you.
It was fitting to have these new responses to work with as Advent begins because it is a time for newness. Advent is a time to set aside what is old in our lives, and to embrace that which makes us new. In my experience, the new translation is a brief departure from the familiar and a great reminder that liturgy makes us new by binding us together.
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