Monday, December 6, 2010

Bishop Kmiec's Pastoral Letter on the Roman Missal, 3rd. Edition

Throughout its entire history the Roman Catholic Church has found its strength in the sacred mysteries celebrated in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist. It has nearly become cliché to say that “the Liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed, at the same time it is the font from which all the Church’s power flows” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council n.10) Such phrases become cliché because they so ably express commonly accepted truths. The liturgy celebrates God’s plan of salvation, fulfilled by Christ, the Lamb of God.

Through His sacrifice on the cross, in which He shed the blood of the new and everlasting covenant, Christ Jesus leads us to the New Promised Land of the heavenly kingdom. This is our faith. This is our hope. All Christian activity is expressive of that truth. The graces imparted through our sacramental rites empower us to act in the world as God would have us do. As Church, we, its members, are unified by this truth that we recall and celebrate at every liturgy. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that every liturgy be celebrated with great care and reverence. This includes actions performed sincerely and meaningfully, and words chosen carefully.

From the earliest experiences of Church when the faithful gathered for the telling of the Good News, the breaking of the bread and the sharing of prayers (Acts 2:42), through the early formulations of liturgical texts and councils that developed our Creed, to the 16th century Council of Trent that produced the first universally adopted missal, to the Second Vatican Council that initiated a new era of liturgical renewal, up to the present day with the third typical edition of the Roman Missal, the Church has been developing itself and expressing itself through a recurrent effort to refine our ritual practice.

Many of the texts in the missal find their roots in the words of Sacred Scripture, patristic writings and the earliest prayers used in the first centuries of Christianity. This means that the words take us back to the origins of our liturgical prayer and our roots as the people of God. We are tied, through text, to all of the faithful in our Church from the earliest beginnings through to the present era. Languages have changed, text has been translated, but the truths expressed remain unchangeable. The truth known and celebrated in the age of the apostles is true for us today. In each age and in each language the Church strives to revere and celebrate appropriately the truths of faith. The words that we use in our age and in our language are chosen carefully to preserve the meaning and essence of that truth which we celebrate.

The Roman Missal Third Edition will be implemented on the First Sunday of Advent 2011The scholars associated with the International Commission on English in the Liturgy and Vox Clara in Rome have worked in consultation with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to produce an English translation that invites the faithful of our country to become more fully engaged, with deeper understanding in the sacred mysteries that we celebrate. This text is comprehensible for our people, while remaining faithful to the tradition of the Church, noble in language and accurate in liturgical theology.

With the publication of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal and its English translation for use in the United States of America we are embarking on a new moment in the centuries-old process of liturgical refinement and renewal. This revised translation is an invitation to participate fully in the faith, tradition and theology of the universal Church as it has been handed down through the ages. As we become familiar with the new text we must be careful to avoid focusing on individual words. It is the context and the liturgical action that enrich the meaning of these words while the text helps to amplify and explain the ritual action of the liturgy.

I encourage all in our diocese to study the new texts and prayerfully reflect upon their meaning. When the time comes to use the Third Edition of the Roman Missal, let us all unite in a sincere celebration of the sacred mysteries praying the words of the new text faithfully.
These prayers are our inheritance from all who came before us, and the legacy that we hand on to those who will follow us. Thus, we continue to be the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” In obedience to the teaching authority of our Church, let us avoid straying from these words that were chosen carefully.

Our diocesan Office of Worship and our Liturgical Commission will help us to understand and implement the new Roman Missal. The Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship has worked with the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions to produce materials for use throughout the country to help us in this effort. As we enter this next stage of liturgical refinement in our Church, let us seek to enrich our own appreciation of the sacred mysteries that express sacramentally who we are as God’s holy people.

Be assured of my profound gratitude and appreciation for all the clergy, religious and laity of our diocese for all that you do each and every day to build up the Body of Christ in our diocese.

May God bless you all! 

Most Rev. Edward U. Kmiec

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