The Catholic Mass

Order of Mass

Roman Missal

When we talk about a Missal we are generally talking about one of two books:

  • the Roman Missal the official liturgical book which contains the texts prayed by priest and people at every celebration of Mass.
  • a Sunday or Weekday Missal which is a compilation of texts from the Missal (the prayers) and the Lectionary (the readings) brought together to assist people’s participation in the Mass.

Slightly confusingly there is a third definition for the Missal in the Roman Liturgy which is the overall volume or section of the liturgical rites. The Roman Missal covers the liturgical books used at Mass: the Missal and the Lectionary. In some countries in the past they have used the term Sacramentary to distinguish between the two uses but the Holy See have asked that the title Roman Missal be kept.

The 3rd edition of Latin Missale Romanum was published in 2002. The number of changes since the 1st or 2nd editions is not large. Indeed, it is worth remembering that the structure of the Mass we celebrate every day remains the same. The 2nd Latin edition was published in 1975 so the new Missal incorporates additions which have been made since then: Saints who have been added to the Universal Calendar, texts from liturgical rites which have been published since then. One example might be Eucharistic Prayers. The 2002 Missale Romanum was the first Latin edition to include the Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation and those for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions — and so, they will be included in the new English edition.

The readings we hear proclaimed at every Mass are not part of the new translation of Missal and so our current Lectionary remains the same both the selection of readings and the scripture version.

A new publication of the Lectionary is in preparation. The selection of readings will remain the same but the text will be drawn from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible and the Grail Psalter. Both of these translations however have to be considered in the light of Liturgiam Authenticam. There is no date yet for the new publication of the Lectionary.

About the Translation

A new translation of the Mass has been prepared for the English-speaking world. The current translation used in parishes in Malaysia was prepared in the late 1960s following the renewal of the liturgy after the Second Vatican Council.

We use a translation of the Latin Missal. The Latin Missal or Missale Romanum is the foundation document for translations into other languages. It means that across the world though the language and local customs may be different the form of the Mass and the content of the prayers is the same. The Missal is therefore a sign of the unity of the Church.

There was a great desire following the Second Vatican Council to celebrate the renewed liturgy in the vernacular, for people to pray the Mass in their own language. The initial translation, which we now have been using for about 40 years, was produced quickly in response to this demand. From the beginning it was recognised that the translation would need to redone.

It is widely recognised that though our current has served the Church’s prayer for the last 40 years it could be improved. The original translators following the Church’s guidelines on translation chose a direct, plain style. This was achieved by often simplifying the texts of the prayers. One thing that people will notice with the new translation is that it is richer in style, in content and in such things as scriptural allusions.

There have two further important developments that highlighted the need for a new translation. The Holy See published a new, third edition of the Latin Missal (see more details below) and it also produced new guidelines of translating liturgical texts – Liturgiam Authenticam. The guidelines stressed the need for translations which are faithful and accurate, which respect the structure and the content of the Latin text and find ways of doing this in the vernacular which can ‘pray well’ in the liturgy.

The translation has been prepared by ICEL. The International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) was founded in 1964 by a group of English-speaking bishops at the Second Vatican Council. They recognised that the need for an English translation was one that should be shared across the countries.

ICEL is a mixed commission of 11 English-speaking Bishops’ Conferences which is responsible for translating into English liturgical texts issued by the Holy See.

The 3rd edition of the Latin Missale Romanum was issued in 2002 and since then ICEL has be working on the English translation following the guidelines of Liturgiam Authenticam. The translation goes through a number of stages which are produced by ICEL and reviewed and commented by members of the Bishops’ Conferences and their advisors. The first text was issued to bishops in February 2004 and the last text was voted upon in November 2009.

The starting point of this translation is the Latin edition of the Roman Missal. Every text has been newly translated following the guidelines of Liturgiam Authenticam. This means that many of the texts said by the people at every Mass will be different. One example would be the Gloria which by following the Latin text more closely is more expanded. The texts of the priest, such as the Collects and the Eucharistic Prayers, have also been re-translated.

The Holy See’s document on translation, Liturgiam Authenticam, asks Bishops’ Conferences to retranslate all liturgical texts. So, other language groups are also reviewing and retranslating their liturgical books. However, it is fair to suggest that for many Asian languages, at least, which have either had a translation of the 2nd edition and/or one which closer to the fullness of the Latin text from the beginning the changes may not be as significant.