Traditional Latin Mass

Latin Mass

Tridentine Mass in a chapel of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston. (Wikipedia)

Last Sunday I attended my first traditional Latin Mass, at a local parish in Alabama while I was home visiting my parents. I had been meaning to check it out for a while. It was considerably different than what I’ve been used to; though I could still observe the basic form of the Mass. I wanted to briefly share my thoughts and observations.

What is commonly referred to as the “traditional” Latin Mass is also known as the Tridentine Mass (Tridentine from Tridentinus, belonging to the city of Tridentum — or Trent) — the Mass that was in use from the Council of Trent (1545–1563) until the revision of the Mass following the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). The Mass liturgy we use today is known as the Mass of Paul VI. There is actually a bit of disagreement about what to call the pre–Vatican II Mass. The Catholics who hosted this Mass I attended were Traditionalists, and so referred to it as the “Traditional Latin Mass.”

But “Traditional Latin Mass” is something of a misnomer, I discovered. The liturgy was traditional, certainly; but the form that was presented was essentially 1962 frozen in time. I was kind of expecting something more ancient — traditional music and chant forms, in particular — but the music felt like the 1950s. It was pretty, don’t get me wrong; but it wasn’t “traditional.” My parish, especially before the recent Mass revisions, was much more traditional in its music.

Mantilla

Something like this.

It was immediately apparent, as soon as I entered the church, that these people were Traditionalists. All of the women wore headcoverings, mostly in the form of lace mantillas. This was kind of neat; though besides it being in the Bible (1 Corinthians 11), I don’t understand the reasons for doing it. (Is that the only reason? They argue that the requirement of headcoverings is still binding today.) If the idea of headcoverings is modesty, I must confess, like many modest fashions, I found it rather alluring, wondering what the ladies’ hair and faces looked like underneath their headcoverings.

Another thing I noticed is that the church was packed. It wasn’t a very large church, but the pews were mostly full. A man was leading the Rosary. At my church, we also pray the Rosary about thirty minutes before Mass, but there are usually only a handful of people there then. Here, everyone was praying. It was rather moving.

But here I noticed another aspect of Traditionalism: at every iteration of the Glory Be, the orator invoked the “Holy Ghost,” rather than the “Holy Spirit” as I’m used to. Throughout the entire meeting, the name “Holy Ghost” was consistently used in English (in the priest’s homily, too — this was Pentecost, so he talked about the “Holy Ghost” quite a lot). This seems to me a rather pointless traditionalism just for the sake of traditionalism. Why insist on the Germanic “ghost” rather than the Latinate “spirit” — when the Latin of the Mass, which this gathering was supposed to preserve, refers to the Spiritus Sanctus?

A couple of other aspects of the priest’s homily grated on me. He referred several times to Pentecost as the birth of the Catholic Church, and to the Holy Spirit as a gift to Catholicism; he never once used the word “Christian.” His words seemed chosen specifically to separate and exclude all others but Catholics from the celebration of the Holy Spirit — and, I suspect, he would have privileged Traditionalists if he’d had the chance.

On to the Mass itself: I picked up a little booklet that contained the Latin liturgy and an English translation on the opposite page. Now, my Latin is fairly good, though pretty rusty. But the priest celebrated the Mass ad orientem, and spoke his Latin very fluidly and not distinctly. I was almost immediately lost, and struggled to keep up in the book throughout the liturgy. I wasn’t in a very good position to see what he was doing, either, since he was facing away and I wasn’t very close, so I didn’t have any visual cues. It was very much like experiencing a liturgy in an unknown foreign language. I suppose that those who attend Latin Mass every week probably have a much easier time following and understanding — looking around, none of the regulars had the little liturgy books — but I didn’t feel that I had taken much of a part.

But that’s just it — no one really did. It was true what I had heard — that before Vatican II, the congregation didn’t really have much to do or say; that they mainly just watched the priest. The liturgical reforms of Vatican II restored many of prayers and responses of the faithful that had fallen into disuse and been transferred to the priest over the centuries; in this Mass, he said nearly all of them. The main response the people consistently had was to answer “Et cum spiritu tuo” (“And with your spirit”) to the priest’s “Pax vobiscum” (“Peace be with you”). At several other places — the Pater Noster, the Credo — the choir sang, and the faithful could sing along if they liked, but not many people did.

I also didn’t get the feeling that even the priest was speaking the Latin with a grasp or appreciation for its sense and meaning. The words were rote, for both the priest and the people. They may have known what they meant, but they didn’t act like it. A prime example that stood out to me: When the priest spoke, “Oremus” (“Let us pray”), he didn’t actually pause for anybody to pray. He did this consistently throughout the liturgy.

In the second part of the Mass, the Mass of the Faithful (so called because the non-baptized were once excluded from it; in some places they still are) — what’s known in today’s Mass as the Liturgy of the Eucharist — the priest more or less conducted the liturgy privately. His prayers were low and inaudible (at least from where I was sitting), and the sense was that he was praying for the consecration of the Host in his own intimate communion with God. The faithful weren’t a part of this.

And that, I think, is what bothered me the most. The participation of the faithful throughout the Mass — and most especially at that intimate moment of consecration — is one of the most important aspects of the Mass to me. It’s at that moment that I feel the most connected, the most in communion, with the Church and with her members and with all believers over the ages. I respect the mystery of the liturgy; I know that in the medieval church, the rood screen separated the people in the nave from the priest in the sanctuary, and that Orthodox churches have an even more solid separation in the iconostatis — but I feel, as the Vatican II Council Fathers felt, that the people should not be excluded from the liturgy. The liturgy is the work of the people; we are the people of Christ. I go to Mass to be a participant, to practice my worship actively; not to be a spectator.

One thing I liked, and this is minor, and not exclusive to a Traditionalist Mass: in receiving Communion, we went to kneel at the altar rail, and the priest walked by to communicate us. It was much more solemn and humble than our usual habit of lining up, efficient though it may be.

Missale Romanum

Overall, my experience at the “Traditionalist” Latin Mass was one of intriguing cultural reconnaissance, and a peek into the past, though it was the not-too-distant past: the way a Catholic would have experienced Mass in 1962. I decidedly prefer today’s Mass, especially since the recent revision. The Tridentine Mass is beautiful, and its tradition is valuable — but tradition shouldn’t stand in the way of the faithful approaching God. I think, in some basic respects, the Mass of Paul VI is more conducive to our corporate worship.

I don’t understand the Traditionalists’ objections; I admittedly haven’t read much about that. But I get the feeling that they object to change just because it is change. I do think the intentions of the Vatican II Council Fathers were good, that the reforms were needed, and that the letter of their voices in the documents is true and faithful to the tradition of the Church. The Church today is making steady progress to undo the abuses and mistakes that were wrought by modernists “in the spirit of Vatican II.”

On the Place of Latin in Our Liturgy

I value the Latin of the liturgy a lot. Contrary to popular conceptions, Vatican II didn’t eliminate Latin as the language of the Mass. Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, firmly states (36),

Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites. But since the use of the [vernacular] tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. . . . These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority . . . to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used . . .

“In the spirit of Vatican II,” modernists have run a lot further with this than they should have. The use of the vernacular language is certainly advantageous to the people. The faithful need to understand and take part in our worship and devotion. But the Latin of the Mass is our glory and our heritage, and it should be preserved and celebrated. Again, Sacrosanctum Concilium (54):

In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their [vernacular] tongue. . . . Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.

When I first started attending Mass in my parish, this is what we did. We sang in Latin, in traditional chant forms, much of the Ordinary of the Mass: the Kyrie (in Greek), the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei. And the people loved it and embraced it; it was never an impediment but an ornament to our worship. Now, since the new Mass settings ordered by our bishop, we only have the Agnus Dei in Latin. (We also still sing the Salve Regina and the other seasonal Marian antiphons in Latin.) But I would love so much to reincorporate more Latin.

What I would really like to experience, in fact — and I don’t know of anybody around here who does this — is the whole of the ordinary form of the Mass celebrated in its underlying Latin.

Advent, and the New English Translation of the Missal

AdventToday is the beginning of Advent, the liturgical season of expectation and preparation for the Nativity of Christ on Christmas. I’ve never celebrated Advent before, that I recall. (I remember the celebration of Advent from the year or two we attended the United Methodist church when I was a child. We had an Advent wreath at home. But I don’t remember any personal participation or devotion to it.) So this will be a new experience for me, discovering the prayers and the mindset and heartset of the expectation of Christ, as I continue to be molded to Christ and to the life of the Church.

The church distributed our Little Blue Advent Books a couple of weeks ago at RCIA. I’m looking forward to its devotional guidance. Last year I followed the Little Books for Lent and Easter, and grew more as a Christian during those seasons than I think I ever have before. It was during that time that God confirmed that my path was leading into the Church.

Advent also marks the beginning of the liturgical year, and so accordingly, we moved as a whole church body into the long-heralded new English translation of the Roman Missal. We’ve been transitioning slowly for some time. As a diocese, we adopted new musical settings of the propers of the Mass in September; since October, Father Joe has been gradually introducing more and more of the new translation into our weekday daily Masses. This morning was the first time the whole church used the new translation in its entirety; it was the first time I had used the new Confiteor and Credo. By and large, it went off without a hitch. I heard some people who, all through the Mass, kept slipping up and giving the responses they knew by heart (admittedly, I slipped up right along with them). For many, these words were what they’d known all their lives.

Missale RomanumThe more I’ve gotten used to it, the more I like and prefer the new translation; the more I read about its rationale, the more I value it. As a Latinist and traditionalist, I certainly value a return to closer adherence with the Latin Mass in all its catholicity.  That is, I’m a little-t traditionalist, meaning someone who is faithful to Church tradition, as opposed to a big-T Traditionalist, meaning someone who perceives rupture in the Church since Vatican II and demands reversion. Speaking of Traditionalists: I wonder how they are taking this? This new translation, as I understand it, is in fact a reversion, a turning back of many of the mistaken and misguided departures the English translation of the Mass made from the Latin. It strives to be a return to unity and catholicity, doctrinally and liturgically, with the rest of the Catholic world.

Will any of the Traditionalists be appeased? Will any of the schismatic ones return to communion with the Church? It’s times like these I wish I wasn’t so overwhelmed by the blogosphere, and was more in touch with prominent bloggers of different liturgical positions. (For that matter, I wish I wasn’t so overwhelmed by different positions. Right now, I’m still trying to bring myself to orthodoxy with the Church.) I tend to think that some who found issue with the substantial departures in the previous English translation from the Latin might find the new translation more acceptable. As much as I love Latin and value it in the Church and in the Mass, those Traditionalists who cling unyieldingly to the Latin Mass itself, rejecting any liturgical use of the vernacular at all, seem about as unreasonable to me as the Protestant King James Only adherents. I suppose there were other changes between the Tridentine Mass (the traditional Latin Mass) and the Mass of Paul VI (introduced in 1969) to which some Traditionalists object. I haven’t researched this. Can any reader key me in?

A piece I heard on NPR the other day about this was food for thought. I thought it did a good job of presenting both sides without bias. But I must say I was amazed at the ignorance — or is it willful innovation? — of the dissenting positions represented. I quote:

Trautman says sometimes the new translation is not faithful to the Bible. For example, it has Jesus, a poor carpenter, sipping from a precious chalice during the Last Supper.

“Any Greek dictionary will tell you, it’s a drinking cup,” Trautman says, “It’s a vessel. It’s not a chalice.”

Trautman says even Indiana Jones got that one right; the rugged historian selected a rough cup as the Holy Grail.

This is where churchmen should not take their Bible scholarship from Hollywood. Trautman is correct that the original Greek text of the Bible uses the word ποτήριον (potērion) in the accounts of Last Supper, from the Greek verb to drink, cognate with English potable, etc., and meaning literally, according to the LSJ and BDAG, a cup or drinking vessel. But if Trautman wants to take issue with the use of the word chalice in English, he should take it up with St. Jerome, not with anyone today. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate translates ποτήριον, in all four accounts (Mark, Matthew, Luke, and 1 Corinthians), as calix, from which chalice is a direct translation. Calix also translates literally, according to Lewis and Short, as a cup or drinking vessel. It’s only in English, liturgical usage that chalice has come to connote an ornate or luxurious cup; in Latin, it was just a simple cup.

(For what it’s worth, and this is extra: Latin calix derives from a different Greek word, κύλιξ [kulix], which still means a cup, especially a wine cup. So this was certainly a defensible translation choice for St. Jerome. A more direct translation from the Greek would have been poculum, which, similar to ποτήριον, derives from the verb to drink [poto].)

But Trautman’s concerns also go beyond vocabulary to theology. He cites where the new translation says Jesus died “for you and for many.”

“In preaching, we will hear that Jesus died for all people, but at the altar we will hear it Jesus died for many,” he notes. “For whom did he not die?”

Again, I wonder if this guy has ever actually read the Bible (or spoken to a Calvinist). Matthew’s Gospel, at Matthew 26:28, and most modern translations, both Protestant and Catholic, agree, reads “this is my blood of the covenant, which will is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (ESV). The Greek, without dispute, reads περὶ πολλῶν, for many. Christians can debate the theological significance of this, but that’s what the Bible says.

The Rev. Michael Ryan, the pastor of St. James Cathedral in Seattle, has similar reservations. “It seems that the Latin is more important than the theology; that’s a pity,” Ryan says.

This is the part that troubles me. The last time I checked, the Church Fathers, and churchmen of all the ages, including the pope today, have written our theology in Latin. What theology is he concerned about apart from Latin? Is not closer adherence to the Latin also closer adherence to orthodox theology?

“The Second Vatican Council talked about language that would exhibit ‘noble simplicity,’ ” Ryan says. “This is anything but that. No, it’s a total move away from the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.”

Personally, I find a lot of “noble simplicity” in this new English translation. The “noble simplicity” is inherent in the original text, and this translation grasps it even more fully than the previous one. If anything, we had lost that “noble simplicity” before for vagueness and fuzziness. If this is a “total move” away from Vatican II, it’s only from the mistaken “spirit of Vatican II” that some modernists have interpreted.

“We’re dealing with a power play on the part of certain people in Rome who wanted to make changes in order, I think, to bring under greater control people in the English-speaking world.”

If this is designed to bring anyone “back into line,” it’s because some liberals have taken the “spirit of Vatican II” and the flawed, older English translation of the Mass and taken the Church in directions she wasn’t meant to go.

Semper reformanda: The Continuity of Vatican II with Catholic Tradition

Pope John XXIII

Blessed Pope John XXIII.

Last week I met briefly with Father Joe for my first RCIA interview. The biggest question I’ve been having, I told him, was about the Second Vatican Council. I posted about these thoughts recently. Tonight at RCIA, as if in answer to my prayers, we had a guest speaker, Father Scott, who spoke at length on Vatican II. He answered my every concern. Between Father Scott and Father Joe, I received what I was hoping for: a firm position, from the inside, on how, as conservative, traditional, orthodox Catholics, to view and understand Vatican II.

Father Scott is a young priest who received his vocation while a member of Father Joe’s flock. He appeared wearing a black cassock — a symbol and reminder, he said, that the priesthood and his vows are something not of this world. “The call from God — you can’t really get away from it,” he began. He addressed Vatican II in its context, as the first ecumenical council called in a century, the first since the abortive Vatican I, which had been interrupted by war and the occupation of Rome before it could address the issues of modernity it hoped to address, the great issues of the nineteenth century: liberalism, nationalism, rationalism, humanism, and Darwinism. Papal infallibility was the only doctrine it had been able to promulgate, reasserting the Church’s authority in the face of so many challenges. Eighty years later, after so many more challenges — after two world wars, and so much global devastation and anguish and disillusionment — Pope John XXIII, who was supposed, at his election (after twenty-five votes), to be only a short-lived, transitional, stopgap pope, called the Second Vatican Council within the first three months of his papacy. According to popular myth, Pope John is supposed to have said that he wanted to “throw open the windows” of the Vatican “to let in fresh air” — or, as Father Joe interjected, to let the world back into the Church. (Apparently, Pope John is unlikely to have said anything of the sort — coming from good, peasant stock, he understood the dangers of letting in drafts.)

According to Father Scott, Pope John had three reasons for calling the council:

  1. To bring about the spiritual renewal of the Church.
  2. To update pastoral practices for dealing with the modern world.
  3. To promote a restoration of unity among all Christians.

In the first document Pope John issued as pope, in fact (I’m going to guess the encyclical Ad Petri cathedram), he was the first pope to directly address Protestants.

Pope Paul VI

Pope Paul VI, who re-called the Second Vatican Council following the death of Pope John XXIII in 1963.

Father Scott then led us through the highlights of the Vatican II documents — the key to understanding what the council actually said. So many, at the time of the council and especially since, have gotten the idea that the Church was changing — “but they’re just reading the headlines, not the documents,” he said. Father Scott demonstrated that the word of the documents demonstrates nothing but continuity with the 2,000 years of Catholic tradition. The documents cite, at every turn, the Council of Trent, the Church Fathers, and everything in between. The Vatican II Council Fathers were renewing the Church, not creating a new one.

He addressed the divide in the interpretation of the council, from ultraconservative Traditionalists, who were so convinced of the council’s rupture with tradition that they broke away to form the Society of St. Pius X, to liberals, who, reading only the “headlines,” seized upon the “spirit of Vatican II” to proclaim things that the documents didn’t actually say, such that Latin was no longer the language of the Church or that the Church hierarchy was no longer in place — but the council documents in fact affirm these things. Their liberal, modernizing vision for the Church was to move her away from Christ’s mission of salvation and justification, and towards social reform — not to transform the world to more closely adhere to Christ, but to transform the Church to more closely fit the modern world.

In particular, as I was concerned, and as many others have been concerned, the constitution Sacrosanctum Consilum, the first constitution issued by the council, addressed the reform of the liturgy. It reaffirmed that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, that it needs to be understood and celebrated by all, and that all should participate actively. There has been much contention about the definition of that “active participation” — but nothing in the council documents eradicated Latin as the liturgical language, or even insisted on a versus populum orientation in the Mass. Versus populum was an “experiment” after the fact of the council, one that was deemed to be “pastorally advantageous,” and suggested “for the good of the people.”

Second Vatican Council

The Second Vatican Council, assembled in St. Peter's Basilica.

As far as revising the liturgy, the intent of the Council Fathers was to eliminate repetition and redundancy that had grown in the Mass, and to bring back meaningful prayers and lay participation that had fallen out of use over the centuries. Every effort was made that nothing was invented, and nothing was lost — that the revisions brought about only renewal. The promulgation of the revisions was overly hasty, however — the new Roman Missal in 1970, and an English translation only three years later. In this rush, the text lost much clarity and unity, approximating only the “gist” of the Latin Mass. The new English translation, in being a more faithful rendering of the Latin, aims to recover what was lost.

Father Joe ascribes particular blame for this rush, for this getting carried away, for this tendency to read “headlines” and not the words of the documents themselves, to the rise of great publishing companies in the 60s, who seized upon the opportunity of Vatican II to capitalize on a myriad of books, pamphlets, tapes, workshops, and endless other products to help Catholics, priests and laypeople alike, understand the changes of the council — only they spread much misinformation, misunderstanding, and wrongheadedness, in the “spirit of Vatican II” — and many Catholics who have grown up in the post-Vatican II era have never recovered.

It was a great council; it just came at the worst possible time — in the heat of the Civil Rights Movement and the Sexual Revolution and the Vietnam War and worldwide social upheaval of every kind. In the face of such upheaval, the world needed the reassuring voice of the Mother Church more than ever; and the Second Vatican Council meant to offer that voice. The documents themselves speak to such reassurance for the modern world; but in the momentum of so much other reform, activists seized upon “sound bites” and “headlines” of the council to take the Church in directions the Council Fathers never intended. “The Council Fathers wanted to welcome the modern world,” Father Scott summed up, “but they were not modernizing the Church so much as they were working to sanctify the world — to bring the world into the Church.”

It is indeed an exciting time to be entering the Church. “The Church is always correcting herself; always reforming herself.” Vatican II was not in itself a rupture — there is no rupture in the 2,000 years of Church tradition — but the Church is now, as only now we begin to understand the Second Vatican Council, moving to correct the mistakes that have been made in the council’s wake.

Semper reformanda

Blessed Pope John XXIII

Blessed Pope John XXIII.

Today is the liturgical celebration of Blessed Pope John XXIII (1881-1963, r. 1958-1963). I note that the date of his celebration is not the day of his death, but that of his historic opening of the Second Vatican Council on 11 October 1962. I don’t remember “Good Pope John,” but from all that I’ve read he was indeed a good and beloved man.

As a newcomer to the Church, I don’t know what to make of Vatican II. I feel like I’ve walked into the room in the middle of a conversation. Most of what I hear about Vatican II is filtered through the media from disgruntled Traditionalist Catholics. Lately, I have heard some more mixed criticism among friends at church, and on the one Catholic blog I have been reading regularly (recommended by both Audrey and Brad), New Liturgical Movement.

My basic understanding of the liturgical reforms of Vatican II comes from Dr. G, my undergraduate mentor and doctor in Latin and history, who is not Catholic but Lutheran in background. According to him, Vatican II allowed (or ordered?) the Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular. This, to me, seems a good thing, in encouraging the participation and understanding of the Mass by the lay faithful. It also, I understand, simplified the liturgy of the Mass considerably. Also, according to Dr. G, it required Mass to be celebrated versus populum (toward the people) rather than ad orientem (toward the East), resulting in some awkward and unattractive arrangements in the grand churches of Rome — tables set up in front of the altars, since the altars themselves were built for ad orientem. This prescription, apparently, is a part of the 1970 Roman Missal, rather than Vatican II proper. (The 1970 Missal must be what I’ve seen referred to by an author on NLM as “the great mistake of 1970.”) Personally, I like the versus populum Mass, but also respect and value ad orientem, especially in the grand old churches. Father Joe celebrates the evening Sunday Mass ad orientem; this was the first time I’d ever seen an ad orientem Mass, or even realized that it was still allowed. Is my understanding of the changes correct? What is it that has Traditionalists so upset?

NLM ran a piece the other day that provoked a lot of thought about this for me, an interview with Dr. Alcuin Reid entitled “The Council, Organic Development, Rupture, and Continuity.” This introduced me to some of topics of the ongoing debate, especially the idea of whether Vatican II represents continuity or rupture with tradition, in terms of liturgical development:

3. Continuity or Rupture? Could one say that “traditionalist” Catholics agree with the thesis of a rupture?

I am not a “traditionalist”. I am a Catholic. I am also a liturgical historian. As the latter I can say that there is evidence that those responsible for the reform intended rupture – ritual and also theological. They did not want what was handed on in tradition. They did not want to develop that. They wanted something new, something that would reflect ‘modern man’ in the 1960’s and what they thought he needed.

This is an historical reality, not an ecclesio-political position. Liturgists from ‘both sides’ agree that the reform was radical and a rupture. As a Catholic I regard this as a significant problem, because it is unprecedented in liturgical history and it is not what the Council, out of respect for liturgical tradition, called for.

This troubles me. Certainly, one of my primary affinities for the Catholic Church is the sense that it represents liturgical and theological continuity. Has there been a rupture? More important, can it be repaired? I have gotten the sense that the present pope, Benedict XVI, has been working, cautiously but deliberately, to return the Church to her traditions, to recover what may have been lost at Vatican II. Am I right in this understanding?

I have been trying to do some research — which has been difficult, since views on this controversy are so wide-ranging, from Traditionalists to Liberals, and I don’t know who to listen to. I trust, on its face, NLM, based on the recommendations of my friends, and on my agreement so far with the views and attitudes it has espoused. I trust, perhaps naïvely, Wikipedia, on the belief that on such controversial subjects, the Wikipedians do well to police themselves and find a middle ground.

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI.

I trust the pope. The more I read of Benedict’s writings, the more I admire him and am glad for a Holy Father of such deep intelligence and erudition, and of such thoroughgoing conservatism and commitment to the faith of the Church. In his 2005 Christmas address to the Roman Curia, he spoke of how to interpret Vatican II, in either a “hermeneutic of continuity” or a “hermeneutic of rupture.” He explained the reasons for the council, its challenges and issues, and its outcomes:

The Second Vatican Council, with its new definition of the relationship between the faith of the Church and certain essential elements of modern thought, has reviewed or even corrected certain historical decisions, but in this apparent discontinuity it has actually preserved and deepened her inmost nature and true identity.

The Church, both before and after the Council, was and is the same Church, one, holy, catholic and apostolic, journeying on through time; she continues “her pilgrimage amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God”, proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes. . . .

This dialogue must now be developed with great openmindedness but also with that clear discernment that the world rightly expects of us in this very moment. Thus, today we can look with gratitude at the Second Vatican Council:  if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church.

Is the new English translation of the Roman Missal a part of that continuing renewal? I have read some critics of the changes, calling them awkward or even promoting theological confusion, but others, such as the writers on NLM, have praised them for their accuracy and dignity.

If my understanding is correct — if Pope Benedict, and other forces within the Church, are working to restore the continuity and dignity of our liturgy, where it may have been compromised — then this is an exciting time to be entering the Church. I look forward to the full transition to the new Missal in a few weeks. I also look forward to Brad’s and Father Joe’s take on Vatican II when it is taught in RCIA. The Church moves at a glacial pace; but I pray that it is moving in the right direction.

Update: See my follow-up to this post, after getting some answers: “Semper reformanda: The Continuity of Vatican II with Catholic Tradition.”