June 11, 2011: Pentecost Sunday (vigil) in a local western Sydney parish brought with it the first in-liturgy use of the new translation. Members of the assembly listened ahead of Mass as the liturgy coordinator reminded them that today was when we would begin using the prayer-cards found in the pews to aid us in praying the new translation. The assembly’s new responses would also be flashed up at the appropriate times on the overhead screen. The parish leadership team had made the decision to introduce all of the new text in one hit. For some weeks prior, the parish priest had taken a little time after the homily to give the assembly an opportunity to practice reading through its new prayer-responses together, which meant these were not completely unfamiliar to those gathered.
The nervous parish priest did his best to pray the still unfamiliar presidential texts (including Eucharistic Prayer III), stumbling over the wording from time to time, head buried in the folder holding the new translation. His optimistic ‘let’s have a go’ attitude helped the assembly to do just that in this liturgy. His acknowledgment that this was going to take some getting used to for everyone, permitted the assembly to learn in situ and to make mistakes without being overly concerned, as it was a first-time through. Heads were buried in pew-cards and there was some fumbling as people learned when they would need the new text in front of them and when it was unnecessary. Because only some of the assembly’s responses were different, while others remained the same, confusion as to what exactly had been changed, remained. At times there was a smattering of simultaneously prayed old/new responses as habit and familiarity overruled even the best intention to try the new translation. Most people kept the prayer-card handy throughout the liturgy up to the Sign of Peace and Lamb of God. Because the Lamb of God was unchanged, most did not realise that the Ecce Agnus Dei and response would be different, and the only two voices in the church that spoke the final “and my soul shall be healed” were those of the 2 liturgists present – everyone else had prayed the old translation and finished earlier.
How much actual praying went on for much of this liturgy was hard to say as levels of discomfort and unfamiliarity prevailed among the assembly, except during the readings and those parts of the translation that remained unchanged. When a group knows that something is different but is not exactly sure of when the next different part is to come, uncertainty is only to be expected. This uncertainty will lessen as the assembly gains confidence in the new translation with practice. The liturgy had more of a feeling of ‘classroom’ than prayer-event at times. There was muted conversation among the assembly throughout much of the liturgy, as well as lots of shifting in place, movement of prayer-cards, and a distinct lack of unison in the spoken responses (especially in the Nicene Creed). It will take time and repetition for the local assembly to find its new prayer rhythm with these texts.
Fortunately the new musical settings of the Ordinary had been introduced during the first 6 months of the year, and the assembly was finding its way to confidence with elements of those sung prayers. Higher levels of familiarity with these musical settings will take more time and repetition to attain. Wisely, given all that was new in this liturgy, the hymns chosen for the liturgy were very familiar to the assembly and it was during the singing of these hymns that the full confident voice of the church at prayer could be heard.
Overall, this was a fair attempt for a first-try at praying this text by the local parish. It would have been very interesting to hear the content of the muted conversations that accompanied its praying.