Sunday, November 27, 2011

Revised English Missal in India

"Through these sacred texts and the actions that accompany them, 
Christ will be made present and active in the midst of his people."

27 November, the First Day of Advent 2011 is finally here, awaited in most parts of the English speaking world as the date on which the revised English translation of the Roman Missal ("new Missal") would be used for the first time. It is but right for us to pause for a moment and thank God for the long labours of all those involved in making this happen.

First and foremost we must be grateful to those bishops who, out of love for the Church and her worship, expressed their dissatisfaction over the previous translations made in the decade following the Second Vatican Council. Their desire for a more faithful translation was blessed with the Holy See's document, Liturgiam Authenticam (2001) that made such an undertaking a necessity, all the more so with the release of the 3rd Edition of the Missale Romanum.

Since then, for almost a decade, there has been the toil of so many bishops, liturgists, translators, reviewers, musicians, composers, various experts, and others across the world, who along with the Holy See have laboured to bring the English language liturgy to this its Vatican II moment. Should we not spend a moment thanking God for all of them and for those who in various capacities saw to its implementation?

Painful moments of polemics have also accompanied the whole process. Unfortunately, some of this still continues, especially among the clergy who overtly or covertly continue to discredit the work, defy legitimate authority, and even instigate the lay faithful against the new Missal.

My thoughts at this moment, turn to those holy and zealous foreign missionary priests of the last century who served the Church in our country. They had all their seminary formation in Latin and knew it like their mother tongue. And yet when holy mother Church decided, at the Second Vatican Council, to permit the introduction of the vernacular in parts of the liturgy, these faithful sons brought up in her Latin tradition, set aside all their personal differences to utter their humble "yes" to the Church. It is that spirit of fidelity to the Church that must be recalled today by those on both sides of the new Missal debate.

Back to the implementation, I cannot say that the revised Missal made a smooth landing here. Even if October was the planned delivery date, the pre-ordered Missals reached parishes too late. One priest informed me that his pre-order copy reached him only at 7pm yesterday, i.e., 26 November. If that is any indicator, I wouldn't be surprised if there are more parishes, and chapels of convents and other Catholic institutions that are yet to receive the new Missal or even order for it. To the best of my knowledge there was no Pastoral Letter from the country's Episcopal Conference nor a 'Decree of Proclamation' announcing the date of implementation of the new Missal; just a simple news announcement that was easy to miss and leave the faithful unaware.

Until about a week ago, hardly any parish had any printed resources ready for its parishioners. A diocesan pew card containing the people's parts highlighting changes, bears an Imprimatur dated 20 November 2011. I doubt if English choirs across the country have received the music for the new mass either. In any case, what one of the choirs sang at Mass today was ‘Praise and Worship’ hymns for the entrance and communion, and a non-Psalm hymn in place of the responsorial Psalm. Such liturgical celebrations hardly reflect the spirit of the new Missal, which unfortunately in many places is seen only as a matter of getting people to say the new prayers and responses. The priest-celebrant today, who cleverly avoided the new Confiteor using the third option in the Penitential Rite, later looking away from his Missal ended up reciting the “old” Sanctus instead.

Elsewhere in the country, I am told, people heard the announcement about the new Missal for the first time today and await its implementation next Sunday. But on the West coast, the Archdiocese of Bombay, seems to have done a better job overall in creating awareness (through a pastoral letter, magazine articles, parish seminars) and preparing for the implementation of the new Missal. So also some of the dioceses in the North East.

For a country that recognizes 18 official regional languages and speaks over a thousand others, English may appear as just one of the other languages. That of course would be a deception since English is the lingua franca for the Church in India and the only language in which seminary and religious formation is offered, at least in the country’s Latin church. Revised Missal translations of other vernaculars too largely need to consult the English Missal in a Latin deficient country. Therefore to downplay or ignore the implementation of new English Missal in India is to downplay the importance of the liturgy itself.

Speaking to the English Bishops last year, Pope Benedict said, "I encourage you now to seize the opportunity that the new translation offers for in-depth catechesis on the Eucharist and renewed devotion in the manner of its celebration" (19 September 2010). That opportunity is for all the English speaking world, India included. The fruits of the new Missal will begin to appear once we move from a mere mechanical implementation to a truly catechetical one. In the meantime we pray, Maranatha! "Our Lord, come!"

UPDATE: 29 November 2011

The Hindustan Times and CathNewsIndia report that the Archdiocese in the Capital missed the implementation date and has set for itself another date, 8 January 2011 (Solemnity of the Epiphany). Unlike other places which allowed the choirs and the people to progressively learn the new musical settings, Delhi will have to be ready for the Gloria and other liturgical music demanded by the Solemnity on day 1 of its new Missal implementation. However Mumbai and Kolkata managed to keep the date with the help pamphlets and pew cards, probably Pune too.

Are you a Catholic reader from India? 

If so, do comment in the space below about when you first heard about the revised translation of the English Missal, when it was implemented in your parish, and how well your parish prepared for it.

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1 comment:

Deven Sequeira said...

I fully agree with your points. The dioceses in Maharashtra seem to have done an extremely good job of implementing the new missal. What I heard is that preparations took place even one month in advance. In Tamil Nadu, especially the main Cathedral church of Santhome, people just seem unawares. Forget about people being unawares, this morning I was surprised hardly anyone in the church had the write up of their parts and responses were from the old missal. The choir members at least should have responded as per the new mass, even they did not seem to have copies. I think it is high time the priests in charge take a serious look and get people to respond and continuously announce and make available pew prints on the responses expected at the mass.