Sunday, October 09, 2011

Guided Missal 3: Introductory Rites

“Et cum spiritu tuo” and Other First Impressions

The following anecdote is an old one, related to the implementation of the Novus Ordo Missae forty years ago. I did not remember all of it, so I will give a link to the good Dominican friar who does.

There is a story about one of the first Masses where microphones were used. The priest began Mass is the usual way with the sign of the cross. However, he didn't hear his voice echoing throughout the church as he expected. So he tapped on the microphone and hearing nothing said, "There's something wrong with this microphone." Not hearing what the priest said, the congregation replied in unison, "And also with you."

Throughout this series, we will feature the official chants associated with the revised English translation of the Order of Mass (Novus Ordo Missae, the "ordinary form" of the Roman Rite). Unless otherwise noted, they are produced by the Church Music Association of America ( The reader will see and hear them, as they are to appear in the new Roman Missal.

Entrance Antiphon (Introit)

Some Catholics are old enough to remember when certain chants were assigned to the Mass of the day. These were known as "propers" because they were proper to that occasion. The chants were for the Entrance, the Offertory, and Communion. This is the Entrance Antiphon for Trinity Sunday, and is derived from the same antiphon in the Traditional (Latin) Mass. It will surprise people to learn, that the General Instruction of the Roman Missal presumes the use of these chants to be the norm, as opposed to metrical hymns which appear to fit the occasion.* The GIRM, last published in English in 2002, has been re-translated to accompany the new Roman Missal. The relevant paragraph says thus:

In the Dioceses of the United States of America, there are four options for the Entrance Chant: (1) the antiphon from the Missal or the antiphon with its Psalm from the Graduale Romanum, as set to music there or in another setting; (2) the antiphon and Psalm of the Graduale Simplex for the liturgical time; (3) a chant from another collection of Psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including Psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms; (4) another liturgical chant that is suited to the sacred action, the day, or the time of year, similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.

Compared to the former translation (check them out side by side either here or here), the 2010 edition is more likely to translate the Latin word "cantus" as "chant" rather than "song." It can go either way, but in this context "chant" is more accurate, as it represents a clearer, more narrow interpretation of what is to be done. Unlike the Traditional Mass, these propers include more than one Psalm verse in the middle, restoring a more ancient usage, and one which allows the faithful to sing those verses as well. (An antiphon, that which begins and ends the chants, are themselves are more complex, and are best sung by the cantor and/or schola).


Arriving at the sedilia (the chair), the celebrant begins as always ...

In nòmine Patris,
et Fìlii,
et Spìritus Sancti.

+    +    +

In the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.

... followed by three options for the greeting itself. For each example in this series, we begin with the Latin text, followed by the 2010 translation, with the changes highlighted. (To compare the revised translation with the current one, it is helpful to have the current text of the Order of Mass handy.)

Gràtia Dòmini nostri Jesu Christi,
et càritas Dei,
et communicàtio
Sancti Spìritus
sit cum òmnibus vobis.
Et cum spiritu tuo.

+    +    +

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the communion
of the Holy Spirit
be with you all.
And with your spirit.

This greeting (Form A) is taken directly from the conclusion of Saint Paul's second letter to the Corinthians. The replacement of "fellowship" with "communion" is more than just faithful to the Latin text. The gathering of the Church is more than just a gathering of people, but one that is in communion with the Divine.

Gratia vobis et pax a Deo Patre nostro
et Dominio Jesu Christo.
Et cum spiritu tuo.

+    +    +

Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ
And with your spirit.

With this greeting (Form B), the former translation did not distinguish between "grace" and "peace." In the scripture verse that inspired this greeting (Phil 1:2), there is such a distinction. Further, there was an original response composed for this greeting ("Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.") which could be used instead of "Et cum spiritu tuo." This is confusing, and possibly why this option was rarely used. Finally, unlike Form A, Form B does not invoke the entire Trinity. (Personally, I'd take it out, but hey, that's just me.)

Dominus vobiscum./Pax vobis.
Et cum spiritu tuo.

+    +    +

The Lord be with you./Peace be with you.
And with your spirit.

This greeting (Form C) is best used in its latter form ("Peace be with you.") which is reserved for a bishop.

That there is more than one option -- this occurs at other times in the Order of mass as well -- invites the improvisation of celebrants who are not necessarily liturgists, or are just lacking in good judgment. If they asked me (and they didn't, no surprise there), Form A alone would be sufficient for Sundays and Solemnities, and Form C for both weekday Masses (especially those which are not sung, or are offered downtown during the lunch hour) and those celebrated by a bishop. Form B could well be eliminated from the original Latin text, and I imagine few would miss it.

Penitential Rite

There was always only one option in the Latin text for inviting the faithful to acknowledge their sins, so there is now in the English text as well. The following was definitely not one of the "adaptations" originally inserted by the previous translators:

agnoscàmus peccàta nostra,
ut apti simus
ad sacra mystèria celebrànda.

+    +    +

Brethren (brothers and sisters),
let us acknowledge our sins,
and so prepare ourselves
to celebrate the sacred mysteries.

While the parenthetical address is acceptable, it is apparent that "Brethren" is preferred, as it is more suited to the formality of the text. It is also a generic term, not limited only to males. Most important is that the revision is a more faithful translation of the Latin text.

There are three options (there's that word again) for this part of the Mass, same as before. Form A is known as the "Confiteor," from the Latin "I confess."

Confìteor Deo omnipotènti
et vobis, fratres,
quia peccàvi nimis
cogitatiòne, verbo,
òpere et omissiòne,
mea culpa, mea culpa,
mea maxima culpa.
Ideo precor beàtam Mariam
semper Virginem,
omnes Angelos et Sanctos,
et vos, fratres, oràre pro me
ad Dòminum Deum nostrum.

+    +    +

I confess to Almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me
to the Lord our God.

Here, there is good news, and there is bad news. The good news is, the three-fold "mea culpa" striking the breast each time, long a feature of the Catholic heritage -- how many times have you heard or read someone refer to their "mea culpa," I ask you? -- has made its return. The bad news is that "cogitatiòne, verbo, òpere et omissiòne" is translated more accurately as "thought, word, deed, and ommision." The two lines that remain in their place -- "in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do" -- are not only less succinct, but are a remnant of the dumbing-down that the present wordsmiths wished (indeed, were directed) to avoid.

Form B has arguably been the least-employed of the three, if only because it was so awkwardly translated, as if deliberately. If only for this example (not to mention most of our readership's unfamiliarity with it), we will compare the Latin text to both the 1973 and 2010 translations.

Miserere nostri, Domine.
Quia peccavimus tibi.

Ostende nobis, Domine, misericordiam tuam.
Et salutare tuum da nobis.

+    +    +

Lord, we have sinned against you. Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord, show us your mercy and love.
And grant us your salvation.

+    +    +

Have mercy on us, O Lord.
For we have sinned against you.

Show us, O Lord, your mercy.
And grant us your salvation.

The revised translation is, overall, a marked improvement in terms of fidelity to the Latin text (and we're not exactly dealing with a real brain-twister here, either). The exception might be the second versicle "Ostende nobis, Domine, misericordiam tuam." The Latin word "miserecordiam" translates literally as "mercy of the heart," but even that does not do it justice. Some would translate this as "mercy and love" (as was done before) or "loving kindness." Although retaining "mercy" is preferable to omitting it, the translators might have been better to leave this line as it was.

(Ironically, this option was most commonly used when the Novus Ordo Missae was celebrated in Latin, especially when the "Liber Cantualis" book published by Solesmes was used.)

Form C uses a set of three invocations, each followed by the responses "Lord, have mercy. / Christ, have mercy. / Lord, have mercy." This is the most ancient use of the Kyrie, as responses to a series of petitions, which is still a prominent feature in the Eastern churches, most notably the Byzantine Rite. It is the only part of the Roman Mass which is in Greek, and the only text of the translation which, up to now, uses the option of Greek along with the vernacular.

Qui missus es sanare contritos corde: Kyrie elèison.
Kyrie elèison.

Qui peccatores vocare venisti: Christe, elèison.
Christe, elèison.

Qui ad dexteram Patris sedes, ad interpellandum pro nobis: Kyrie elèison.
Kyrie elèison.

+    +    +

You were sent to heal the contrite of heart: Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

You came to call sinners: Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

You are seated at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us: Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Note the third invocation, where "plead" is replaced by "intercede." The former implies the same appeal that any mere mortal would make. To "intercede" connotes a more proactive role, which is exactly what it is, as opposed to merely "plead." It also enforces the place of Christ as the Son of God, especially His relation as One Person of the Trinity. This is a typical case where the clarity of the Latin is actually supported, not lost, in translation.

It is generally known that the final prayer of the Penitential Act is unchanged from the 1973 translation. What is less well known, is how it was nearly approved in the 2008 "almost final" text. Below is the Latin, followed by the 2008 text, and finally the 2010 rendering.

Misereàtur nostri omnìpotens Deus
et, dimìssis peccàtis nostris,
perdùcat nos ad vitam aetèrnam.

+    +    +

May almighty God have mercy on us
and lead us, with our sins forgiven,
to eternal

+    +    +

May almighty God have mercy on us,
forgive us our sins,
and bring us to everlasting life.

The 2008 translation is hardly an improvement, thus any potential for awkwardness in its rendering is not reinforced by the need for fidelity to the Latin text. Unfortunately, the bishops conference in South Africa decided to use the 2008 version of the Order of Mass in their territory on a provisional basis, before the final recognitio. (Nice move, guys.)


Whenever the Mass uses Form A (the Confiteor), it is followed by the Kyrie. This melody, as printed in the new Missal in the main portion of the Order of Mass, is from Mass XVI in the traditional Kyriale. It was set aside for ordinary ferial day (regular weekday without a commemoration) Masses. It was also produced with the composite "Jubilate Deo" setting by Pope Paul VI in 1974, which explains its use here.

As was the case before, there are still three options to use. Unfortunately, the choice is left to either the celebrant, or a collection of dilettantes more commonly referred to as "the parish liturgy committee." This writer recommends that Form A be specifically reserved for penitential seasons (Advent, Lent, and WHEN they make a comeback, Ember Days)**, Form B for weekday Masses, and Form C for most Sundays and Solemnities.

Gloria (Incipits)

As with the Nicene Creed, the canticle first heard on the night of Christ's birth begins with the intonation of the celebrant, or the "incipit" (from the Latin "incipere," to begin. See also "inception"). As you can see and hear from the accompanying video clip, there are different incipits for different settings of the Gloria, which are variously used depending on the occasion. This demonstrates that options can be directed properly, and that such direction has a long history with the Roman Mass. If only ...


The 1973 translation of the Gloria was part of an ecumenical effort to standardize texts used among various liturgically-centered Christian confessions, ostensibly in the hope of Christian unity. It was also easier to adapt the text to metrical hymns, without the reliance on chant. Whether the soon-to-be-former translation facilitated accord among Christians is a matter of some conjecture, but it was disregarded here, once again, in the interest of fidelity to the Latin text.

(Glòria in excèlsis Deo)
et in terra pax homìnibus bonae voluntàtis.
Laudàmus te,
benedìcimus te,
adoràmus te,
glorifcàmus te,
gràtias àgimus tibi
propter magnam glòriam tuam,
Dòmine Deus, Rex caelèstis,
Deus Pater omnìpotens.

Dòmine Fili unigènite, Jesu Christe,
Dòmine Deus, Agnus Dei, Fìlius Patris;
qui tollis peccàta mundi,
miserère nobis;
qui tollis peccàta mundi,
sùscipe deprecatiònem nostram;
qui sedes ad dèxteram Patris,
miserère nobis.

Quòniam tu solus Sanctus,
Tu solus Dòminus,
Tu solus Altìssimus, Jesu Christe,
cum Sacto Spìritu in glòria Dei Patris.


+    +    +

(Glory to God in the highest)
and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you,
we bless you,
we adore you,
we glorify you.
We give you thanks for your great glory
Lord God, heavenly King,
O God, almighty Father.

Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world
have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world,
receive our prayer;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father,
have mercy on us.

For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father.


The reader will note from the video clip, that the choice of setting for this canticle is from Mass XV (Dominator Deus), which is traditionally for weekdays in Christmas season. This setting was chosen for a number of reasons, mainly its being relatively easy to learn the first time around, especially since the singing range is limited for the most part to three notes.

As for the text itself, roughly half of it has been changed, not only out of fidelity to the Latin text, but for theological clarity. As the psalmist wrote: "You are my son; this day I have begotten you." (Ps 2:7) Jesus Christ was not created, for He is God and Lord as is the Father, yet he was "begotten," which is to say that He really is the Son of the Father. Later in the text, Christ is addressed three times, not twice as in the 1973 translation, as a petition to "have mercy on us" and "hear our prayer." Sets of three petitions or other three-fold references appear throughout the Order of Mass -- in the Confiteor, the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I), and elsewhere.

The downside of this text is the concession to the politically-correct, in rendering "homìnibus" as "people" instead of "men," as has been the generic reference in English for over a thousand years. The result makes the first two lines a little less poetic. Like they say: "A camel is a horse designed by a committee." Fortunately, most such attempts for this new translation of the Order of Mass were prevented.


The introductory rites of the Order of Mass have been greatly improved here, but there is an opportunity that is still missed.

Find any parish or other faith community which tends to get "creative" with the liturgy, and you find that this part of the Mass is the most susceptible to unwarranted innovation. Leaving the options or "Form" to the imagination of the imaginative is a disservice, and may eventually give reason for a tightening, not only of the General Instruction, which has already been done, but of the rubrics within the Order of Mass as well.

Next week's installment of this series will continue our exploration of the Introductory Rites, with a special focus on that which concludes this part of the Mass, namely the Opening Prayer. Stay tuned.

* This was the result of a phenomenon known as the "four-hymn sandwich" that was popular in the traditional (extraordinary) form of the Low (spoken) Mass. The postconciliar liturgical reform was implemented on a practical level with little regard for any other approach to music in the liturgy, and the faithful do not so much sing the Mass, as they do sing at Mass.

** The Confiteor is, in the traditional (extraordinary) form of the Roman Rite, part of the "Prayers at the Foot of the Altar," and is a private devotion of the priest and his attending ministers. It was never intended as a public confession of sin, at least not in this location.

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