Column: While words of the Mass will change, the mystery will not

Michael Podrebarac is the archdiocesan consultant for the liturgy office.
Michael Podrebarac is the archdiocesan consultant for the liturgy office.

by Michael Podrebarac

Most of us are aware by now that, in a little over a year — Nov. 27, 2011, to be exact — the words we use to pray the Mass are going to change. The nearly 10-year translation process is finally complete, and the time to prepare for the new missal has arrived. Changes are indeed coming, and yet change is something we don’t always like.

So let’s take comfort in the fact that while the words of the Mass will change, the mystery of the Mass will not. The outward expression of the Mass will change, but not the reality of the Mass. The Mass will still be the same, just as it always has been, and always will be.

The Mass will still make present Christ’s sacrifice on the cross under the sacramental signs of bread and wine. It will still be the same perfect sacrifice that Jesus has given his church to offer to the Father. The eucharistic sacrifice will still invite us to offer ourselves to God.

The Mass will still make manifest the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ under the appearance of bread and wine. Jesus will continue to fulfill in the Eucharist the promise he made to his apostles: “I am with you always, until the end of time.”

The Mass will still be, in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, a “sacred banquet, in which Christ is received.” We will still be called to receive him as food — to eat his flesh and drink his blood. The sacramental grace we receive in the eucharistic banquet will remain our most intimate contact with Jesus, preserving us from sin, commit- ting us to service, and visibly demonstrating our unity.

The Mass will still be a foretaste of the heavenly banquet we hope to share someday with all the saints. It will still unite heaven and earth, providing us a glimpse into the eternal reality of the kingdom of God.

The Mass will still be the source of all of the church’s grace and power to do that which the Lord has commanded it. It will still send us into the world to live as disciples of Jesus Christ, following his commandment to love God above all things and, in that love, to love our neighbor as ourselves.

The Mass will still be the single greatest prayer we can offer. It will still be the church’s most sacred earthly experience and our most important endeavor as Catholics. Whether in the beautiful and time- honored “traditional Latin Mass” or one of the ancient and poetic Eastern rites or in the “new and improved” English translation, the Mass is still what is, ever was, and what it will ever be.

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