What We Say When We Pray

Book Pick: It Is Right and Just: Responses of the Roman Missal

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IT IS RIGHT AND JUST

Responses of the Roman Missal

By John M. Cunningham, O.P.

Newman House Press, 2015

40 pages, $10

To order: amazon.com

 

A key principle of liturgical theology is lex orandi, lex credendi. It reminds us that what we pray, especially in the Sunday liturgy, tells us what we believe. Liturgy is thus the central locus in which we proclaim our faith.

The new translation of the Novus Ordo Missae came into force in the United States in 2011. This very short book focuses on the new order’s prayers to help Massgoers better understand and appreciate what they are praying.

Take “And with your spirit.” That response comes at the four times the celebrant greets the People of God with “The Lord be with you.” The author shows how the phrase is more than just a better translation than “And also with you” of “Et cum Spiritu tuo.”

Citing the Fathers of the Church, the author notes, “The response ‘and with your spirit’ was understood as recognition of the unique role the ordained minister exercised in the sacred liturgy. Indeed, during the ordination of bishops, priests and deacons, the Prayer of Consecration refers to the Spirit bestowed upon the candidate.”

Quoting St. John Chrysostom, he reminds us that “‘nothing human takes place in this sacred sanctuary.’ Although ‘he who is there is a man, it is God who works through him.’ … Understanding the response … in the light of the words of the Fathers of the Church should draw attention to the sacred ministry of the priesthood rather than to the personality of any individual priest.”

The author goes through the entire order, pointing out the roots and spiritual significance of what we pray.

In the Penitential Rite, for example, “I confess” reminds us that “none of us can attempt to seek refuge in a vague collective admission detached from the reality of our own individual sinfulness.” The same is true of the individual profession of faith, “I believe in one God.”

The Profession of Faith is the faith of the Church, but “[t]he new translation allows each person to make a personal act of faith.”

This book also provides a particularly detailed exegesis of parts of the Creed and of the Our Father that can be very spiritually enriching. Indeed, I wish he had explicitly commented on the change that we now “confess our baptism” rather than just “acknowledge” it.

Likewise, I wish the author had also commented more on the title of his book, taken from a revised response in the Preface. “It is right and just” should remind us that the first measure of justice is toward God. Prayer and worship is, after all, something due God: We owe him our worship and obedience.

As an accompaniment to the Mass, this little book can help enrich Catholics’ understanding of what we pray.

Lex orandi, lex credendi — what we pray is what we believe, and we should understand what we believe. Understanding what we pray makes focus easier and meaning deeper.

John M. Grondelski, Ph.D., writes

from Falls Church, Virginia.