Auxiliary Bishop of Denver James D. Conley praised the new translation of the Roman Missal, calling it the Church's “gift to our generation.”
“In order for the Church to realize the full potential of this gift, it is vital that we understand why we need this new translation,” he pointed out.
“The changes are not superficial ritualism,” Bishop Conley said in an April 25 address to the Midwest Theological Forum in Indiana. “There is a deep liturgical and theological aesthetic at work.”
The U.S. bishops have announced that parishes will begin using the new translation in Advent of 2011. While the essentials of the Mass have not changed, the bishops say the new translation offers a richer way to explain and proclaim the Catholic faith.
Bishop Conley clarified in his remarks on Monday that he is committed to the new order of Mass that emerged from the Second Vatican Council's liturgical reforms.
“I was ordained a priest and a bishop in the Novus Ordo,” he said. “I have spent my entire priesthood praying this Mass with deep reverence.”
The Novus Ordo “has helped the Church to rediscover the Eucharist as the source and summit of our lives” he said. It has also “nourished and sanctified the spiritual lives of countless souls over the past 40 plus years,” including “two great figures of our generation – Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the soon-to-be Blessed John Paul II.”
However, Bishop Conley explained that the subsequent translation of that Mass into English has been problematic.
“Something has been lost,” he said. “Something of the beauty and grandeur of the liturgy. Something of the reverence, the mystery, the sense of the transcendent. This has been a persistent criticism since the Council – and not only from so-called traditionalists.”
The “problem is not the Novus Ordo – but the license that people sometimes take in celebrating it.”
“There is a banal, pedestrian quality to much of the language in our current liturgy,” he said. “The weakness in the language gets in the way and prevents us from experiencing the sublime spiritual and doctrinal ideas woven into the fabric of the liturgy.”
Bishop Conley also said that the use of “abstract terms” in the current translation affects how “we speak of God” and presents the danger of “undermining our faith in the Incarnation.”
He praised the new translation of the Mass instead, saying that it “restores this sense of the liturgy as transcendent and transformative” and “restores the sacramentality to our liturgical language.”
He gave an example from the new translation of the Communion Rite, which says, “Blessed are those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb.”
“For the last 40 years we have erased this heavenly reference in the Communion Rite with our bland translation: Happy are those who are called to his Supper,” he said.
“The Mass is truly a partaking in the worship that St. John saw around the throne and the altar of God,” Bishop Conley noted. “This is not a beautiful idea, but a sacred reality.”
He went on to emphasize that the “essential matter” of the Eucharist is its participation in the liturgy of heaven. “In other words, that’s what the Eucharist is all about. The Eucharist we celebrate on earth has its source in the heavenly liturgy.”
“Yet how many of our people in the pews – how many of our priests at the altar – feel that they are being lifted up to partake in the heavenly liturgy?” he asked. “This is why this new translation is so important.”
The Mass is “not only about praying beautiful words,” Bishop Conley said. “In the liturgy, we are praying to God in the very words of God.”
“They are not words alone, but words that have the power to do great deeds. They are words that can accomplish what they speak of.”
“As Pope Benedict has said, our Eucharistic mystagogy must inspire 'an awareness that one’s life is being progressively transformed by the holy mysteries being celebrated,'” Bishop Conley said.
“That is the great promise of this new translation and new edition of the Missal. The promise of a people nourished and transformed by the sacred mysteries they celebrate.”