At a 9.15am memorial mass yesterday in the Broken Bay diocese (neighbouring diocese to Sydney, Australia), I was surprised to find that the new translation of Eucharistic Prayer III was prayed (without prior announcement that this would be the case). The celebrants’ parts of the prayer were prayed in full according to the new translation, while the assembly responded using the MR2 responses (including the memorial acclamation: Christ has died – one of the last times this will be heard). The ritual discord caused by this mixture of prayer translations was distracting and was noticed by more people than just the liturgist in the pews.
In Australia, the bishops made the decision at the national level not to begin using the new translation until Pentecost 2011, at which point the assembly’s responses would be introduced, and later in the year when the published MR3 book is available, the celebrants’ sections of the liturgy will begin being introduced. While Pentecost is only a few weeks off, the fact that this priest appeared to have jumped the gun by praying the new translation of EPIII was disconcerting.
Perhaps he imagined his choice would pass unnoticed? Perhaps he thought that a small Saturday-morning Mass would offer a good opportunity to get in some ‘in-ritual’ practice? Perhaps he uses the new translation all the time in his parish now that it has been distributed to all priests in the Broken Bay diocese (presumably for practice purposes rather than ‘in-ritual’ use yet)?
Of course, given that the final full version of the new translation is still to be published officially, the question of ‘which’ version is being used must be asked. As a visitor to this parish and diocese I am uncertain of the answers to these questions. What was certain was that while the principal celebrant prayed the new translation of EPIII quite well, the visiting concelebrant stumbled several times and was clearly uncertain of his sections of the prayer. One wonders whether he had been given any notice of its intended use (or time to prepare to proclaim it) prior to the liturgy.
There were a few lessons to be learned from this experience.
- It is important to remember that the Eucharistic Prayer is not the province of the celebrant alone: it is the prayer of the entire assembly. Choosing to utilise the new translation without announcing to the assembly that this was going to happen, is disrespectful of the assembly.
- Approaching this central prayer of the Eucharist with a mix-and-match mentality in terms of translation/edition (i.e., celebrant prays his parts of the prayer according to the MR3 while the assembly prays its parts utilising the MR2) feels inherently disjointed and somewhat alienating from the perspective of the assembly (when the decision to pray this way goes unannounced). It would have felt more logical to have prayed the MR3 assembly’s parts in response to the celebrant’s MR3 parts.As there will be various approaches taken to introducing the MR3 in different parishes (some will use the entire new translation all at once while others will implement in stages for purposes of simultaneous catechesis), a feeling of disjunction needs to be anticipated (and prepared for) when choosing to introduce sections of the MR3 while continuing to pray sections of the MR2. This feeling of disjunction can be lived with, so long as what is going to happen is announced ahead of time rather than imposed without notice. Also, if a parish decides to use a staged-implementation approach, it may be better to do this in whole sections of the Mass (e.g., the entire new Eucharistic Prayer translation, celebrants’ parts and assemblies’ responses) rather than a hybrid of the two translations in the one section of the Mass. There was clear hesitation on the part of the assembly regarding when to start the Lord’s Prayer, as the MR3 invitation is different from that of the MR2. MR3: “At the Saviour’s command, and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say: Our Father…”
- While regular parishioners may have been used to using the new translation of the Eucharistic Prayer, as this was a gathering of folk from many different places, some sort of announcement that the new translation would be used should have occurred, out of courtesy and as a sign of hospitality to the visitors, if nothing else.
- While most assemblies likely will grant latitude to presiders who are still learning how to proclaim the new translation, attempts to lead the assembly’s prayer which are under-rehearsed and stumbling will distract the assembly from its prayer, as occurred in this case.
- When proclaimed well, as were the principal celebrant’s sections of the new translation of EPIII at this Mass, the new translation of this prayer flows quite easily, and beyond the repetition of ‘chalice,’ three times within the space of two sentences, (which is probably always going to be a source of distraction to me: ‘he took the chalice…,’ ‘he gave the chalice…,’ ‘for this is the chalice…’), the prayer overall did not cause undue concern, though it did feel slightly ‘stuffy’. What did strike me on hearing this prayer prayed in context (without having the prayer text in front of me) was that in terms of its ‘aural sense,’ the prayer is still recognisably EPIII, just slightly re-worded. It will be interesting to hear reactions from the pews come Pentecost, as the new translations of the people’s parts are introduced.