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Recently I have been particularly struck by the opening prayer at Mass, especially this one from the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time a few weeks ago:
God our Father,
open our eyes to see your hand at work
in the splendour of creation,
in the beauty of human life.
Touched by your hand our world is holy.
Help us to cherish the gifts that surround us,
to share your blessings with our brothers and sisters,
and to experience the joy of life in your presence.
I realised that the presider has been using the alternative opening prayers provided in the present Missal and was sorry to think that these prayers will be heard no more once the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal has been fully implemented. Where did these alternative opening prayers come from and why are they not included in the new Missal?
From its inception, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) worked not only on translating the Latin texts of the Roman Rites into English but also on the provision of original prayer texts in English to be included in the official liturgical books. ICEL’s Episcopal Board authorised it to develop alternative prayers and to include them in the body of the Missal. The English language Missal of 1973 was the only vernacular translation of the Missale Romanum to incorporate original compositions in a first edition.
The Alternative Opening Prayers are among these original ICEL compositions. They were based on the Latin prayers but reflect considerable original elaboration and development of the Latin.
The Foreword to the Missal says: “The alternative opening prayers are not direct or faithful translations of the corresponding Latin text. They follow its theme or are inspired by it, but they are generally more concrete and expansive.”
These prayers represented a first step toward the celebration of a fully renewed liturgy and the first significant attempt to produce worship texts that were adapted to the culture of a people.
Now that ICEL's function has been restricted to faithful translation of the Latin texts and original prayer texts in English are not permitted, the collect or opening prayer for the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time in future will be this and only this:
O God, protector of those who hope in you,
without whom nothing has firm foundation, nothing is holy,
bestow in abundance your mercy upon us
and grant that, with you as our ruler and guide,
we may use the good things that pass
in such a way as to hold fast even now
to those that ever endure.
What have we gained? What has been lost?