Sunday, November 13, 2011

New Roman Missal Part 3 - The Liturgy of the Eucharist

Homily from the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A

"My sacrifice and your sacrifice."

When the priest says “my sacrifice” he’s referring to the sacrifice of Christ being made by the priest who acts in the person of Christ, in persona Christi.  The “your” part of the sacrifice refers to the sacrifice of all the people; the sacrifice of your lives: your prayers, works, joys, sufferings, your entire lives are being joined to Christ’s sacrifice on the altar and offered up to the Father.  Often a family will bring up the gifts of bread and wine. This is a significant gesture for it represents you offering back to God the gifts of creation and the fruits of your labor.

Also, the fact that the family brings the gifts up in procession through the people signifies the bringing up of the spiritual offerings of all the people. When you watch the family bring up the gifts, think about the joys and sufferings of your life that you wish to place on God’s altar.

"Lord, God of hosts."

For a few weeks now, we’ve been singing the new translation of the Sanctus which now begins, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts”  The new translation is from Scripture. The prophet Isaiah saw a vision of angels worshipping God, “‘Holy holy, holy is the Lord of hosts! they cried out one to the other, ‘All the earth is filled with his glory!’” (Isa 6:3)

Now by “hosts” we don’t mean the little white hosts of Holy Communion. The heavenly hosts are the army of angels.  This is the great hymn of the angels as they praise God. St. John wrote of it in Revelation. The angels sing “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.” (Rev 4:8)  The angels are worshipping God at this moment and at all times.

You’ll notice that immediately before we sing these words with the Angels and Saints, the priest will say something like this: “And so, with the Angels and all the Saints we declare your glory as with one voice we acclaim.”  At this point of the Mass, we are joining the Angels in their praise of God. We are uniting the liturgy here on earth with the liturgy of Heaven.

The Eucharistic Prayer

“Like the dewfall”

You’re familiar with Eucharistic Prayer II. It’s probably the most commonly used of the Eucharistic Prayers and it’s the shortest.  It’s an ancient prayer of the liturgy, written by St. Hippolytus around the year 215 AD.

You’ve heard it thousands of times before. It begins, “Lord, you are holy indeed, the fountain of all holiness. Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”  The new translation will read like this: “You are indeed Holy, O Lord, the fount of all holiness. Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall.”

Dewfall? What’s that all about?

Well, you remember when Moses was leading the Israelites through the desert and they were hungry, so God fed them bread from heaven or, manna? We read in the book of Exodus, “In the morning a dew lay all about the camp, and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground… Moses told them, ‘This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.’”  Similarly, the Lord is about to give us bread to eat, the Bread of Heaven, the Body of Christ.


First of all, these are words from Scripture. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke and St. Paul’s account of the Last Supper in First Corinthians, the original Latin says that Jesus took a “chalice.”

Plus, “cup” is too generic of a term. A cup is any vessel that holds a liquid (i.e.: a coffee cup or a Solo cup.) What we use at Mass however is a very specific type of cup, a chalice, which holds the Blood of Christ.

Virtually every item we use in the Mass has a special name, specific only to the liturgy. For example, this is not a napkin, it’s a purificator. This isn’t a placemat, it’s a corporal. What happens in the Mass is unlike anything that happens on earth, so our language is very special too.

"For you and for many."

This particular translation is the one which has probably drawn the most questions  Some people have raised concerns, saying that the new words give the impression that Jesus did not die on the cross for everyone – that he offered his blood on Calvary not “for all” but only for a select group of people (“for many”).

Well, don’t worry. This isn’t what the translation means. Jesus did die for every single one of us. After all, Jesus begins his words saying, “Take this, all of you, and drink from it,”  What the new translation means is that while Jesus died for all, not everyone chooses to accept this gift. All of us have a choice to make, to accept the gift of salvation and be among “the many” described.  Moreover, these are the words Jesus himself uses at the Last Supper as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.

Simply more beautiful language for a beautiful event.

In Eucharistic Prayer III, the priest used to say, “From age to age you gather a people to yourself, so that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name.”   Now, the priest will say, “You never cease to gather a people to yourself, so that from the rising of the sun to its setting a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name.”

In Eucharistic Prayer I, the priest used to say, “from the many gifts you have given us, we offer to you, God of glory and majesty this holy and perfect sacrifice”  Now, the priest will say, “we, your servants and your holy people offer to your glorious majesty from the gift you have given us, this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim”  Certainly a more elevated and worthy manner of speaking about Christ, the pure, holy and spotless victim, offered in sacrifice for our sins.  But you’ll probably notice that the language is more poetic, more exalted, and quite frankly, in my opinion, more beautiful.

A few weeks ago, a number of the teens and I gathered together to listen to the new words of the EPs and I asked them what they thought. One of them said, “Father, that’s legit!” They said it gave God greater praise. That it was holier. The teen who said “that’s legit” said the new words sound “more formal.” But then they immediately added, “Maybe we need that.”

Read New Roman Missal Part 4 - Concluding Rites and Dismissal.

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