the old translation: what i will miss

The Catholic Church in the U.S. is on the cusp of change. Starting on Sunday, the new translation of the Roman Missal will go into effect, and all of us in the church – from pastor to pew – will begin learning new prayers and responses.

Last week I wrote about my need to grieve the loss of the well-loved words I won’t hear anymore, in order to turn and embrace new words. So today I give you a few of the changes that I’ll leave behind with longing…

[Words in bold are the part of the old translation that will be changed.]

We believe in one God…

I know that by definition, the “credo” of the creed means “I believe.” Yet I can’t help but miss how it feels to stand in a full church, shoulder to shoulder with family and stranger, and declare what we as a people hold true. Especially in a world as divided and contentious as ours, there is something powerful about proclaiming the truths that a wide and diverse group holds as sacred. We are liberal and conservative, we are practicing and lapsed, we are certain and unsure, but we all stand together and share the beliefs that make us church.

…by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

The loss of “born” (in favor of “was incarnate”) is one that I especially grieve. I love the moment in the creed when we bow in reverence of Jesus’ conception and birth, not only because it honors the wonder of the Incarnation but because it honors Mary’s role in God’s great plan. Ever since the births of my own babies, I have barely been able to speak the words of how Jesus was “born of the Virgin Mary” without a lump in my throat. To learn all that bearing and birthing a baby demands from a woman, to have lived through the pain and the power of those moments – I felt that I was honoring Mary and her strength every time I prayed those words of the creed.

Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

Powerful and poetic, simple and succinct. Yes, there are many ways to proclaim the mystery of our faith, but I’m saddened that I’ll never hear these three phrases prayed in the Mass again. They always reminded me of the constancy and consistency of Christ: everywhere and always, in time and beyond time, past/present/future.

Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.

At a family wedding years ago, I overheard the guest behind me whisper to her date right after the assembly prayed these words before Communion. “That is my favorite part of what Catholics say at church,” she said. “I don’t really get what they’re saying a lot of the time, but I love that part – ‘I’m not worthy to receive you, but I shall be healed.'”

I never forgot her words, how she recognized the power of humility and certainty of faith, all wrapped into one. At times in my life, I didn’t feel worthy to receive – but I could, so I did. Unworthy but grateful and hopeful – and therefore worthy in ways I couldn’t see. I know that the change to “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof” is more Scripturally sound, but I mourn the loss of the intimacy of simply saying “receive you.”

These are just a few of the changes come Sunday, words that will pass from everyday use into the history books. But they are words that shaped my faith, prayers that guided me through dark moments and showed me glimmers of light. Maybe it’s not too dramatic to say that losing them is like losing an old friend. Because words matter. And we loved the ones we lost.

What words will you miss?

8 thoughts on “the old translation: what i will miss

  1. I feel very similarly about the upcoming changes and I am mourning a new loss at a time when familiarity is like balm. However, I take comfort in the fact that after a while, the new will be old and the experience will be one to share with my son when he is older and possibly confronting something like this. The favorite part I will miss, too, is: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed”… for I always felt like I heard Christ say, ‘Then come.’

  2. I’m going to miss “seen and unseen,” which is being replaced with “visible and invisible.” I love the flow of “seen and unseen,” and its hint of mystery.

    Also, “consubstantial with the Father” is just so clunky. (My husband tells me that “one in being with the Father” was practically heresy, but still — it *sounds* so much nicer!)

    This will be a challenge for me, that’s for sure! At least I know I’m not the only one.

    1. Those are two I’m really going to miss, too, Ginny. (I limited myself to four in this post, lol!) When I was pregnant, I especially loved “seen and unseen” because it reminded me of the unseen baby within me. “Invisible” just doesn’t seem the same.

      And oh, “consubstantial.” I am struggling with that one. It’s a word none of us have ever used before! Shouldn’t liturgical language speak to – and from – the people?

  3. I too miss the familiarity of “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you.” The simplicity of it is beautiful. Today’s gospel is, oddly enough, the story of the centurion. As I reflected on the reading today, I thought about these words and the faith that the centurion had. It’s a faith I’ll try to emulate during this transition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *