I have a soft spot for songs that people are willing to sing, no matter how hokey. I guess that’s why yesterday I looked out over an assembly gathered for mass, heartily singing the Holy Holy from the Mass of Creation and was nearly moved to tears, despite being more than a little tired of that particular mass setting.
The group had gathered for a memorial mass on a chilly fall morning. People were in various stages of grief and reflection, and no one had to think about what we were doing. These acclamations were so deeply ingrained in them that they could just pour out, while our minds and hearts did what they would.
In two weeks that all changes for English speaking Catholics, as we finally take the plunge into the controversial new translation of the liturgy that we’ve been hearing about for years. I’m not one of the prophets of doom who is strongly opposed to the change. I suppose I’d rather not have to deal with it, but I don’t think it is terrible. There will be some catechesis needed, and there will be new words to get used to. There will be weeks of muddling through our “begottens” and “consubstantials” and forgetting that God is now a God of hosts rather than of power and might. It will be difficult. We’ll survive.
But for a while we will lose that “knowing-by-heart” that allows us to find comfort in ritual because we don’t have to think. I’m not against thinking, and I love the idea that this change will encourage us to bring more intention to our worship. But I mourn the loss of familiarity, the putting away of what we know and what we thought might be immutable.
This is the perfect time of year for an endeavor such as this, when the leaves fall and the energy of summer seems so far gone that it might as well never have happened. This is when we remember that nothing lasts. This is when we learn again that everything we thought we knew could fall away in an instant. And if we’ve been around the block a few times, we have learned to glance from time to time at that small crackling flame that stays lit through the cold winter, the one that can survive anything. We know we will get through the changes, no matter how distressing.
The new translation of the Nicene Creed concludes “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come”, adding a few words to the current translations’ “We look for the resurrection of the dead…” Not a big change, not a cataclysmic one, but enough to get me thinking.
It’s nice to see the good in what we have. It’s nice to linger in it for a while. But when it falls away we have to keep looking forward, doing our best to be God’s hands in the world that we have. We’re going to be fine.