Yesterday, the first sunday in Advent, our English-speaking Roman Catholic brethren began using a newly revised liturgy that is closer to the Latin texts than the previous 1973 version in use for nearly four decades. Liturgy Training Publications has posted a comparison of the two texts for those wishing to see the differences side by side. Perhaps the most immediately noticeable change comes with the greeting at the beginning of the eucharistic prayer, which runs as follows in the old version:
“The Lord be with you”
“And also with you.”
This now reads:
“The Lord be with you.”
“And with your spirit.”
This brings the English liturgy into closer conformity, not only with the Latin of the Novus Ordo mass, but with its translation into other languages as well, for example, French and Spanish. This month’s issue of First Things carries Anthony Esolen’s fascinating discussion of the new English texts: Restoring the Words.
Many other church bodies followed the Roman example during the 1970s, adopting the texts of the ordinary of the mass for their own use in, for example, the Episcopal Church’s 1979 Book of Common Prayer, the Anglican Church of Canada’s Book of Alternative Services and the Lutheran Book of Worship. Our own congregation yesterday celebrated the Lord’s Supper with the now familiar greeting: “The Lord be with you.” To which we responded: “And also with you.” This new disparity in our liturgies prompts me to wonder whether other denominations will eventually follow the Roman lead once again and bring their own liturgies into closer conformity with the new, more accurate, texts.
At this point I am reluctant to speculate on this question. Official ecumenism has fallen on hard times in recent decades, as various denominations have gone their own way on a variety of divisive issues, seemingly unconcerned with the impact on their sister churches, and sometimes even on their own communions. A more practical consideration is that composers have used the 1973 texts for their own mass settings, which are in use in countless congregations throughout the English-speaking world. Without a Vatican-style authority to impose a different translation on them, force of habit will likely incline them to stick with what they have. In the meantime, as of yesterday we are all just a little further apart, liturgically speaking.