Liturgical Q&A

Liturgical Q & A

Today I share with readers two interesting liturgical questions I have been asked recently and the responses I gave.

Q. I am a Religious Education co-ordinator preparing a school Mass for next week. The liturgical calendar says the psalm for the day is Psalm 95: 10-13 with the refrain “The Lord comes to judge the earth”. I looked up my bible to get the verses and discovered that the words “The Lord comes to judge the earth” appeared nowhere in Psalm 95 and, what’s more, it finishes as verse 11!

A. This confusion about psalm numbering is not uncommon. The popular psalm, “The Lord Is My Shepherd”, is generally known as Psalm 23. I think that many people would be surprised to learn that it is labelled Psalm 22 in the Lectionary and in Sunday missals.

The problem comes about because, since the promulgation of the Latin Bible (Vulgate) in the 6th century, the Roman Catholic Church has followed the numbering and division of the psalms used by the Greek translation of the Scriptures (known as the Septuagint). The versions of the Bible used by other Christian traditions follow the division and numbering of the psalms in the Hebrew text. (It has always struck me as strange that anyone would change the numbering system used by the Jewish people whose prayers the psalms are anyway!)

Psalms 9 and 10 in the Hebrew text were combined into one psalm in the Greek Bible, so from Psalm 9 onwards, the Roman Catholic psalm numbers are one less than those in other versions. Because Psalm 147 of the Jewish psalms is split into two separate psalms in the Septuagint, the total number of psalms in both finishes up being the same - 150. However, only the first 8 and the last 3 psalms agree in numbering.

Hopefully, this area of confusion will be rectified when the Lectionary for Mass is revised.

Q. With the new Mass translation, will it be possible for the congregation to hear the words of the Offering of the Gifts? We used to hear them, and then they went silent for either music or a hymn. Only those celebrating weekday Mass ever hear them now. I feel that we miss a vital part of the liturgy.

A. The present Order of Mass says this about the prayers of preparation over the bread (and wine):
The priest, standing at the altar, takes the paten with the bread and, holding is slightly raised above the altar, says inaudibly:
Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation…..
Then he places the paten with the bread on the corporal.
If no offertory song is sung, the priest may say the preceding words in an audible voice; then the people may respond:
Blessed be God for ever.

So the norm is that the prayer is said audibly and the people respond only when there is no song during the procession and presentation of the gifts.

The revised translation is identical to this except that the word ‘inaudibly’ has been replaced by ‘in a low voice’.

One reason for having instrumental music only and no singing at this part of the Mass is that it does allow the assembly to hear and respond to the prayers of preparation over the bread and wine.

Elizabeth Harrington