New English Translation of the Mass


November 28, 2011 – Four video links to presentations given by Fr. Bill Burke about the changes in the new translation of the Mass. Check the sidebar on the right side of this page.

Beginning the First Sunday of Advent, November 27 of this year, all Roman Catholics in English-speaking Canada will notice some changes made to the wording of the various parts of the Mass. Though the structure of the Mass will remain as it has been, prayers recited by the priest, responses made by the assembly, and various sung parts, such as the “Glory to God in the highest” and the “Holy, Holy, Holy” will have different English wording. The prayer texts of the Mass are contained in the red book that is placed on the altar. It is called the Sacramentary of the Roman Missal. All of the prayers contained in this book are originally written in Latin before being translated into modern languages such as French, Spanish, German and – of course – English. English translations were produced after the Second Vatican Council in 1969 and 1975. This third English language text, which we will begin to use this Advent, is a more literal representation of the original language than were the former ones.

Zone Presentations re The Revised Roman Missal (Prepared by Fr. Keith Kennific on behalf of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission)

Note: The following is an excerpt from the Zone Presentations

The Mass:

Go, you are sent.

First of all, it is good to be aware of the origin of the word we most commonly use when we speak about our celebration of the Eucharist: the Mass. It comes from the Latin word for dismissal, being sent. So right away we realize that the Mass, the Eucharist, has something to do, yes, with gathering, with coming together, but also about being sent out, dismissed from our gathering. Ite missa est were the words of the dismissal those of you who remember the pre-Vatican II mass may recall. “Go; you are sent,” is the English equivalent.

Sent—to do what? Hear the words of the dismissal from the new translation of the Missal: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” or “Go in peace, glorifying
the Lord by your life.”

And how do we “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” or “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”? We recall the words of Jesus from Matthew’s account of the gospel, in chapter 25: “When I was hungry; when I was thirsty; when I was in prison, you took care of me. When did we find you in need and look after you? Whenever you reached out to any of these my brothers and sisters, you did it for me, and to me.” We announce the Gospel of the Lord, we glorify the Lord in our life by living as Jesus did—by being aware of the people around us, and by responding to them. And when we show love for others by our care for them, we do it for and to the risen Jesus.

The Lord’s Day, the First day of the week, Sunday

So, we recognize that we come together as Christians, as disciples of Jesus Christ, as his brothers and sisters, Sunday after Sunday, as our ancestors in the faith have done for 2,000 years, and we are sent out to be like Jesus Christ in our hearts, in our attitudes, in our interactions with one another, and with the wider world.

Why Sunday, by the way? Because it is the Day of Resurrection, the Lord’s Day, the First Day of the week.

And what’s the significance of calling it the First Day? What does that expression remind us of? Where have we heard it before? In the first Book of the Bible, indeed in the first verses of the first Book, the book of Genesis: the story of creation. God began the creation on the First Day. How is that associated with Jesus, and our coming together on the First Day? In him, we are the New Creation, St. Paul tells us (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17). On the Lord’s Day, the First Day of the week, we come together, we assemble, we celebrate the Eucharist, in order to receive the new life of Christ, his Real Presence, so that we can be sent out to be that new life, that new creation in the world. “See,” says Christ Jesus, “I am making all things new” (cf. Rev. 21:5). “And your life in me, my life in you, is bringing that to completion.”

So, we come together and are sent. But what happens in between? What happens during the Mass?

Liturgy and Eucharist

We all know of the Second Vatican Council. It was that gathering of bishops from all over the world with the pope—first Pope John XXIII, until his death in 1963, and then with Paul VI. The Council ran from 1962 to 1965. Its purpose was to reflect on the life of the Church, and how the Church, the Body of Christ, the People of God, could best live the life of Christ in the age in which we find ourselves.

The Council issued a number of documents to instruct us as to how to go about living that life. And the first of those documents, issued even before the Council closed was the document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, in December of 1963.

Here are a couple of important things that this document said about the liturgy. (And we’ll remind ourselves of what the liturgy is. The liturgy is the official public prayer of the Church. It is the prayer we pray together when we, to use Paul’s words, “come together as Church” (cf. 1Cor. 11:18). It’s the celebration of the sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours (Morning and Evening Prayer), Vigil services for the dead. And in all of those, “especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, the work of our redemption is accomplished” (SC #2). So the Eucharist, among all the liturgical prayers of the Church, holds pride of place.

The document goes on to say, “Every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of his Body, which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others (SC #7). The
liturgy, then, with the Eucharist and its celebration in the Mass, is the work of the risen Christ, and through him, with him, in him, of the whole Church, his Body: all of us, each with our own specific role and ministry, but all of us.

Summit and Fount

The liturgy—and remember it has been said, in the liturgy, the Eucharist holds pride of place—the liturgy is “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows” (SC #10).
Let’s unpack that. “The liturgy is the summit.” What’s the “summit?” The highest point. The apex of the triangle. What is the highest point to which, to whom we direct ourselves as Christians? God, the Father. What happens in the Eucharist? We do what Jesus has done. Through him, with him, in him, we give ourselves to God. We say, “Father, take me, take us—our joys, our sorrows, our hopes and dreams, our disappointments and failures, our strength and our weakness, warts, wrinkles and all—take us and change the darkness in us to light, the death in us to life. In other words, takes us and make us more like Christ Jesus.”

We hint at that in the traditional Morning Offering, and in the little prayer I, and maybe others who went to St. Joseph’s or St. Jean’s, learned those many years ago: Take my body, Jesus, eyes and ears and tongue. Never let them Jesus help to do thee wrong. Take my heart and fill it full of love for thee. And then, these words: All I have I give thee; give thyself to me. And in the Mass, more directly, when we present the gifts to be received and placed on the altar by the priest (GIRM #’s 75, 140), and enter into the dialogue with the priest, to use the new translation: “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the almighty Father… May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands…” And also, “Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord.
The liturgy, the Eucharist, is the high point of all that we could ever do because, what more could we do than give the gift of ourselves back to God? And we do it over and over again, because what Jesus did once and completely, we do only gradually. So we keep doing it week after week, until we’ve given ourselves completely, and “God will be all in all” (cf.1Cor. 15:28). Until that final personal surrender of ourselves. When? At our death. Until that final consummation, the ultimate completion of all things. When? When Christ returns in glory.

Giving ourselves to the Father, through Christ, in the power of the Spirit: that is the work of the Eucharist, the summit, the highest point of anything we could ever do. That has to do with giving praise and thanks—in our words, and also in our actions. That’s why the General Instruction of the new Missal says things like this. While the uniqueness of the priest’s role is repeatedly affirmed, he “associates the people with himself in offering the sacrifice” (GIRM # 93); “The meaning of [the Eucharistic Prayer] is that the whole congregation of the faithful joins with Christ in confessing the great deeds of God, and in the offering of the Sacrifice” (GIRM # 78); and “The oblation, by which, in this very memorial, the Church, in particular that gathered here and now, offers the unblemished sacrificial Victim in the Holy Spirit to the Father. The Church’s intention, indeed, is that the faithful not only offer this unblemished sacrificial Victim, but also learn to offer their very selves” (GIRM # 79f).

The Eucharist is “summit,” but it’s also “fount.” What does that word mean? It’s the font, the source of all we are and do. It’s the energy we receive to live the life to which we are called. It’s the very life of Christ, his Real Presence. Christian faith tells us that in the power of the Spirit, Christ continues to act in the world. Most of the time, how does that happen. In a way, the same way it happened when Jesus walked upon the Earth: in the power of the Spirit, through flesh and blood.

I want to share a little story.

During the Second World War, much of France was heavily bombarded. At the close of the conflict, large areas of the country had to be rebuilt. This was the case in a certain little village. In the village was a small square that, like the rest of the community, had been devastated. The people set about the task of reconstruction, including the square. In the centre of the square was a nine-feet-high statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, one on which his outstretched arms reached toward everyone. When they came upon the statue, they noticed that it had been knocked off its pedestal. It was in surprisingly good shape, except that the hands had been broken off. The town’s folk had three choices: get a new statue; replace the hands and re-erect the old one; or clean it up and re-erect the statue as it was, without the hands. After some discussion, they decided upon the third option: they erected the statue without the hands, and at the base of the pedestal placed a plaque inscribed with the words, “Today, I have no hands, but yours.”

Who are the hands of Jesus? You and I: us. In a way, our role is to allow Jesus to continue his work through us. And we prepare for that, we open ourselves to that in a particular way when we celebrate the Eucharist. We partake of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the new General Instruction repeats, from Vatican II’s document on the Liturgy: in the assembly (that is, one another), in the person of the priest, in the proclaimed Word, and “substantially and uninterruptedly in the Eucharistic species” (GIRM #27): the consecrated bread and wine. The “manifold presence of Christ,” it’s called (cf. SC # 7; GIRM # 27).

The Eucharist: the summit because in that celebration, through Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we give ourselves to God, and the fount, the source, because God returns the gift as our transformed selves, made more like Christ so we can live as his presence in the world. A couple of examples from the Prayers over the Gifts in the current translation put it this way, “Lord, make us worthy to bring you these gifts. May this sacrifice help to change our lives” (Lent, 1st Sunday); and “Father, accept our sacrifice as a holy exchange of gifts. By offering what you have given us, may we receive the gift of yourself” (Ordinary Time, 20th Sunday).


Full, conscious, active

If you knew of something that you could be involved in that was the most important thing you could ever do, and the source of the energy and vitality needed to live life at its depths, and to share that life with others, what would you want to do? Be involved in it! Or to use another word: “Participate!”

Because the Eucharist is summit and fount of our life, individually and together, because it is the way through which we give our lives to God, and are transformed, changed to become more like Christ Jesus, one of the most important declarations of the second Vatican Council in relation to the liturgy is that we—all of us— “should be led to that full conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations, which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people…have a right and obligation by reason of their baptism” (SC # 14).

And further, to underline the importance of this, “in the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy the full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else, for it is the primary and indispensible source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit” (SC # 14). It is the source from which we draw to live the life of the gospel in the world.

Internal and External

That “full conscious and active” participation is multi-layered. It is internal. We just spoke of that. We give ourselves to the Father. We are transformed and become more like Christ, sent out to be his hands in the world. Maybe that’s the level of participation we don’t often think about; yet it is at its heart.

What do we usually think about when we hear “participation in the liturgy?” Singing, (“Great importance should…be attached to the use of singing [by all the people] in the celebration of Mass” GIRM # 40; See also # 39). praying aloud, gestures, postures, processions, responding, listening, reflecting. The latter two, listening and reflecting, we may not associate with participation. The new General Instruction, however, highlights a number of times, the importance of periods of silence in the Mass. Some of these times specifically mentioned: prior to the Penitential Act (# 51); before the Collect (# 54); after the words, “Let us pray,” so that the intentions of our hearts are called to mind and gathered—collected—and consciously united with all the intentions of the gathered community, of the Church, and of the world; during the Liturgy of the Word (# 56), in order to begin the process, Jesus speaks of in Jn. 8:32: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.”

All of those: singing, praying aloud, gestures, postures, processions, responding, silence. Those comprise what we commonly call “external participation.” What we do that can be seen and heard, tasted and touched. What’s its purpose? To give outward expression to what’s going on in our hearts, and to nourish and encourage that. We use our voices, our ears, our eyes, our sense of smell and taste and touch, our ability to move about. What’s that saying? We’re giving our whole selves. Out here and in here. Our whole being—individual and communal—is caught up in the life and person of Christ.

To encourage that full conscious and active participation in the liturgy, to help us involve our whole selves in our prayer, changes were made, after Vatican II, to the way we pray together. Rites
were simplified. Things that had crept in over the years were looked at, and some were let go of. The Word of God came to greater prominence, a prominence it had at the beginning, but for a number of reasons had been partially eclipsed. And, perhaps the most noticeable change of all: the Eucharist could be celebrated in the language of the people, to use the official word: the “vernacular.”

The History of Translation

Early Years

From the very beginning of the Christian people, the community gathered on the First Day of the week, the day of Resurrection, the Lord’s Day. Indeed the first Christian feast, many generations before Christmas or Easter, for example, was Sunday. They came together for what they called the Breaking of the Bread (cf. Acts 2:42). At first they gathered in the Jewish synagogue; then later, up until the fourth century, often huddling in secret. Always, they believed they were doing as the Lord had commanded them to do in his memory. And in the bread, blessed and broken and the shared cup, he was with them. In the early years of the Church, the celebration of the Eucharist was less structured than we know it today, though basic elements such as bread and wine, prayer, the Word of God, preaching, gifts for the poor and for the needs of the community, and a designated presider were commonly present from very early times.

The language was the language of the people: initially language used by the first Jewish converts; then, as the Christians left Jerusalem and entered the Greek world, that language. (The Kyrie eleison is a remnant of that time.) Then as Rome, the site of the martyrdom of Peter and Paul, and the centre of the Empire, became more prominent, Latin—the language of every day social interaction and business affairs. For a variety of reasons, Latin remained the language of liturgy, even after it ceased to be spoken by most of the people who lived in the lands to where the Church eventually spread.

It’s quite interesting, though, as outlined in the new General Instruction, even in the sixteenth century, at the Council of Trent, there was a call by “many” to use the language of the people in the Mass (GIRM # 11).

That, however, didn’t happen for almost exactly 400 years. In order to support the full conscious active participation of everyone in the Mass and all liturgical celebrations, Vatican II gave permission for the liturgy to be celebrated in the language of the people—whatever that language might be. This was immediately seized upon, and the huge task of translating from the Latin
into the hundreds of vernacular languages in which the liturgy would be celebrated began.

Why the change?

The concern for a formal, more literal translation of the Mass prayers comes from a number of perspectives. There is an ancient adage in the Church that, formally translated, says, “The law of prayer is the law of belief.” It basically means, “If you want to know what Christians believe, observe how they pray. Pay attention to the words they use.”

In his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul says this in talking about the Eucharist—we hear it every Holy Thursday at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper: “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed…”(1Cor 11:23). He then goes on to recount the words and actions of Jesus at the Last Supper. Paul considered it crucial that others learn from him what he had learned from those who went before him.

That’s similar to how the Church views the prayers we pray together at Mass. We pray what we have received, and in doing that, pass it on to those who will come after us; thus, the need for as close a rendering as is possible. In the meantime, by the repetitive nature of our prayer together, those words wash over us, seep into us, supporting that self-offering and transformation into the likeness of Christ, which we pointed to earlier as the heart of our participation in the prayer we call the Mass.

Looking at the repetition that way, we have an option to boredom. What do we do when we want to learn something, when we want it to become second nature to us—whether that be baking biscuits or playing hockey? We do it over and over again until it becomes etched in our bones. It’s the same with a lifetime of repetitive liturgical prayer. It becomes part of us; we become part of it until our whole lives “become an offering in spirit and truth” (cf. Jn. 4:).


To summarize, then, before we take a look at some of the newly translated prayers, new to us now, but which will become familiar, as have the current ones over time. Those new words have the potential to help us discover afresh what we have been praying for these many years.

  1. The Mass, known by different names over the course of history, but with us from the beginning, in which we partake of the Real Presence of the risen Lord, is connected to life. We are to become, in the world and for the world, the presence we receive in the Eucharist. Benedict XVI recently put it this way, “Here the usual contraposition [separation] of ethics [how we live] and worship simply falls apart. Eucharistic communion includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn. A Eucharist that does not pass over into the concrete action of love is intrinsically fragmented” (God is Love #14). In other words, if the Eucharist does not lead us to live more as Jesus did, we have not let it be all it is meant to be.
  2. At the heart of our praying the Eucharist together is our offering ourselves to the Father, through Christ, in the Spirit, and our being transformed, little by little to become more like Christ Jesus. That is how the liturgy, wherein Eucharist holds pride of place, is summit and fount of our lives. We can do nothing greater than giving ourselves to God, and the life of Christ, deepened in us through that self-offering in the Eucharist, is the means through which we can allow him to work in us for our own good and for the salvation of the world.
  3. That is the work of God in us, but we give ourselves to that through our external and internal full conscious active participation in the liturgy.
  4. That participation is supported in many ways—one of great importance is the words we use, words that for the past several generations we have been speaking and singing in our own language.
  5. Those words are important because they both express and nourish the faith we have received from those who came before us, and are an essential means through which we, like Paul, hand that faith on to the generations that will follow us.

Reflections on the Text

A. “And with your spirit” One of the changes that will be noticed when the new English translation of the Mass comes into effect in Advent of this year is the assembly’s response to the priest’s greeting, “The Lord be with you.” Those who remember the changes immediately after Vatican II will recall the new response, “And with your spirit,” from those days. Some languages, such as French, have continued to use the equivalent expression since that time. “With your spirit” is biblical in origin, used by the epistle writers in the New Testament to close such letters as Philippians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Philemon. St. John Chrysostom, in the 4th century, taught that this dialogue serves to remind us that what happens in the Mass is rooted in the presence of the risen Lord. The greeting and its response convey a mutual desire, on the part of presider and gathered community, that the life of the risen Christ touch our deepest depths—individually and communally. Reaching ahead to the sign of peace that will be exchanged, and to our unity in Christ that will be expressed and effected in our reception of the Eucharist, it implies our commitment to live with one another, and in the world, as witnesses to the Lord’s presence and care.

B. “I confess…that I have greatly sinned…” These words are part of the Penitential Act in the new translation of the Mass. Not strikingly different from the words we say now. None of us is comfortable with admitting we have done wrong. Yet, as we stand in the company of one another in the presence of God, we acknowledge in truth and humility that our lives and our world are not all God hopes them to be. And without making excuses, we admit—individually and together—that we have contributed to this painful reality. We have sinned. As one, we express our sorrow and our desire to become more like Christ Jesus. That’s one aspect. The other: as St. Paul assures us, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” In other words, no matter my personal sin or the communal sin to which all of us contribute—“in what I have done and in what I have failed to do”—God’s mercy is infinitely greater. Our Penitential Act, though distinct from sacramental reconciliation, is our being embraced by God’s transforming forgiveness. Our confession of sin is our renewed commitment to live in his grace as the New Creation.

C. “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…” Those who remember the English translation of the Mass immediately following Vatican II will recall a similar wording of this acclamation, which we say together immediately prior to our reception of Holy Communion. As is the case with some of the other changes we will notice when we begin to use the revised Mass prayers, this text resembles more closely its scriptural origin than does the current one. It repeats the words of the Roman centurion, who came to intercede with Jesus on behalf of his dying slave (See Luke 7:2—10). His belief in the power of Jesus to speak the word of salvation occasioned Jesus to remark, “Not even in Israel have I seen such faith!” We seek the faith of the centurion. As the slave was healed, so also do we, through our participation in the Eucharist, seek healing at all levels from the “Healer of our every ill.” So too, do we commit to be the healing presence of the Lord in our personal relationships, our community of faith, our places of work and recreation, in the larger world.

D. “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts…” With this acclamation, the liturgy retrieves another biblical reference (See, for example, Isaiah 6). “God of hosts” speaks of the majesty and magnificence of God, who holds everything in heaven and earth in his hands, who stirs up in us a sense of wonder and awe. At the same time, our God who is higher than the highest heaven knows us by name, and came to us in Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who is referred to in “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” We recall these words from the first Gospel of Palm Sunday, as the crowds hail him at his entrance into Jerusalem, before his saving death and resurrection. This acclamation reminds us of two important things our faith teaches us about God: God’s might, and God’s nearness and care for us. We acclaim Holy, Holy, Holy… together, reminded that we will be sent from the Mass to go into the world “in the name of the Lord,” bringing the saving Presence we have received everywhere we go.

E. “…this family you have summoned before you…” One of the things we will notice in the new translation of the Roman Missal is a more formal and reverential tone in addressing God in our prayer. In this quote from Eucharistic Prayer III, the word “summoned” helps us recognize God’s authority in calling us together for worship. By the fact of God’s creative act in bringing us and all of creation into being, and the even more wondrous work of re-creating us in Christ, we owe devotion to God—in our words and with the lives he has given us. That’s what we’re saying in our response at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer, when the presiding priest invites us, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,” and we respond, “It is right and just.” There’s more to it, though. Hear what is said immediately following “summoned before you”: “…in your compassion … gather to yourself all your children scattered throughout the world.” God summons us as his family out of our isolation.
God calls us together so we might learn of his compassion, for where would we be if we didn’t know of that? God sends us forth to be the face of that compassion, the image of the risen Christ in and for the world.

F. “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ…consubstantial with the Father…” These words come from an ancient creed that is one of the options provided for the profession of faith in the revised translation of the Roman Missal. We commonly refer to it as the “Nicene Creed,” though it is officially entitled the “Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.” The fundamental message intended by the unfamiliar word “consubstantial” is that Jesus is equal to the Father from all eternity. Jesus shares the nature of God, as well as of humanity. The equality of the Spirit with the Father and the Son is later affirmed with these words: “I believe in the Holy Spirit…who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified…” One God dwells as a perfect unity of Three Persons. In the Eucharist, we are healed by being more deeply brought into the life of the Trinity, and sent forth, empowered to bring that healing unity to the world.

Informative Articles

The National Liturgy Office of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has several informative articles as well as a comparison between the present and revised translations on its website. Visit On the left of your screen, click on “Roman Missal.” See below “Resources.”