New Words for Worship

New Words for Worship:Revision of the Missal

Most regular Sunday Mass goers would be well aware that a process has been in place for some time to produce a new Missal for use in Australia. While the term “Missal” usually refers to the liturgical book that contains both the prayers and the scripture readings for Mass, in this context it means the book of prayers and instructions for the celebration of Eucharist. It does not contain any readings.
A new English translation of the Roman Missal is being compiled for several reasons. While there have been three Latin editions of the Roman Missal since the Second Vatican Council, the English text we presently use is a translation of the first edition. This translation was only ever intended to be provisional. The Missal and all the other liturgical books were translated from Latin into English very quickly, and those first translations have been used since the late 1960s. Very early on, it was recognised that there would have to be a revision.
This revision began in 1983 and a new Missal was presented to the Holy See for final approval in 1998. Rome did not approve that revision and a new one was commissioned. The new project has worked on different principles of translation which are intended to ensure that the English is closer to the Latin original.
Producing liturgical texts in English is the responsibility of ICEL, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. The Vox Clara Committee, a body of English-speaking bishops, advises the Vatican on translations and assists in reviewing the versions approved by national bishops' conferences.
The work of ICEL is guided by Liturgiam Authenticam, the document published by the Congregation for Divine Worship in 2001. The emphasis in Liturgiam Authenticam is on an accurate, even literal, translation of the Latin. It advocates a ‘vernacular of a sacred style’ that differs from the usual manner of speech. Readers may have heard of or read about some of the proposed changes to the Mass texts. There is no doubt that the language of the new Missal will be different from what we have known.
The translation process is systematic and slow. ICEL uses colour coding to indicate at what point the process has reached. The initial ICEL draft, called a "green book," is sent to English-speaking bishops and members of Vox Clara for comment. The final ICEL draft, called a "gray book," is sent to all members of English-speaking bishops' conferences for final action, which may include amendments and changes specific to their country.
The complete text requires a two- thirds majority in the voting before it can be submitted to Rome for recognitio. The text approved by a bishops' conference and sent to Rome is known as a "white book." When recognitio is granted, the Missal can be published and implemented.
At the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference meeting in November 2008, approval was given to a number of liturgical texts for the new missal.All “Grey” books have now been voted on by Australian Bishops except the Australian supplement which will be voted on in May. Current indications are that the new Missal will be published towards the end of 2010.


Elizabeth Harrington