Life as Liturgy: New Words, Fresh Starts

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© Heidi Bratton Photography

This year, Advent bears a unique treasure for Catholics, who have the rare opportunity to experience the Holy Mass with newly translated prayers. The revised Missal is aesthetically rich and spiritually dignified. Much like a compelling piece of art, the Mass can be enjoyed over and over again, but there is only one first encounter. Now, after four decades, Catholics can again experience the Mass with a sense of awesome novelty, thanks to the finely wrought poetry of the revision.

Certainly, we already know the “narrative” of the Mass, but this is a chance to hear in a new way its eternal truths and sacred mysteries. Given the unfamiliarity of the language, we will no doubt listen more attentively and take care to speak with precision. Simply put, we will have to engage our minds in order to participate. There will be no more relying on muscle memory.

Women, who bring the liturgy home and so build up the domestic church, should take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the new translation. Is it possible this Advent to begin again with loved ones? Might it not be a good idea to listen more heedfully to our children and spouses, siblings and parents, friends and neighbors; to ponder the meaning behind their words; to consider if we have been coasting along on assumptions? Advent ushers in the liturgical year. Is it not the perfect time to follow the Church’s effort and more fully participate in the divine conversation into which we are called by baptism?

During the liturgy, there are two parties in conversation: man and God. The new translation helps clarify the nature of God and the manner in which we should approach Him. Words like “only begotten,” “consubstantial” and “incarnate” remind us that we worship Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, while words like “right and just,” “exultant” and “humble” lift our thoughts, orienting them toward God and away from mundane affairs. We have the potential to deepen our relationship with the Trinity through this enhanced worship.

We should cultivate similar attitudes in our home lives and domestic churches, taking care to engage our families, listening to cherished ones as though for the first time. While this translation will soon become routine, we must ever try to experience anew those we love, discerning the unique imprint of God’s likeness on their souls.

“Be not afraid” (Matthew 28:10). It is easy to keep to the surface of relationships. Ignoring deeper connections while floating by on assumptions may have protected you during the normal tragedies of life, but genuinely listening to one another is the first step toward healing wounds and growing into communion. Take any painful words you hear and bring them to God in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to direct your response. Remember that the Body and Blood of Christ is the heart of the Mass which we are now experiencing anew. The Body was broken and the Blood was shed for our tragedies, big and small, so that grace might comfort and restore those who have the sincerity to listen earnestly—and the courage to respond with honesty, charity, and trust.


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  • goral

    Don’t forget the frequent responses of – and also with you(r) Spirit, which we’ll be hearing for another couple of months.

  • Kathleen Woodman

    Lovely thoughts to ponder, Genevieve. Thank you.