What kind of God do the new Mass texts imagine?

I had a chance to peek at the new liturgical texts, coming this Advent. Here's one for you, a prayer over the people for one of the weekdays of Lent:

Prayer over the people, Tuesday of the 5th week of Lent:

O God, who chose to show mercy not anger to those who hope in you, grant that your faithful may weep, as they should, for the evil they have done, and so merit the grace of your consolation. Through Christ our Lord.

There's a lot going on in that prayer, and I'm not sure much of it is good. Like most of the prayers, it focuses more on sin than anything else, and there's little recognition that we are already baptized, already redeemed.

Or this one, a prayer over the gifts (or, rather, "offerings" in the new translation):

Be pleased, O Lord, we pray, with these oblations you receive from our hands, and, even when our wills are defiant, constrain them mercifully to turn to you.

I'd have to think about that one for a bit to figure out what it means, in fact I had to consult a dictionary more than once to figure out some of them. They are also disturbingly heretical: lots of “meriting” and “earning” in them (Pelagianism), lots of spirit/body dualism. What these naked translations really reveal is how imperial and pagan these prayers really are—you could substitute “Zeus” for “Lord” in any of them. In fact, they use “Lord” so often that it is hard to tell if we are praying to Jesus or the Father. (All Roman liturgical prayers, with rare exception, are addressed to the Father.) To me it seems not only that we shouldn’t be using these translations, we shouldn’t be using most of these prayers at all anymore. They simply reflect an approach to God–a distant, imperial God to whom we must beg for mercy–and an understanding of the church–sinful, unworthy, unredeemed–that I think we have left behind. Unless we want to recover that approach…

We commissioned our May cover story on prep for the new Roman Missal to see how parishes were preparing the faithful for this new way of praying, but I don't see how you can prepare people for these prayers. They are exceedingly hard to understand, and often don't make much sense when you say them aloud, as priests have to do.

But I am also worried about people's tolerance for this sort of thing. Many already tune out during the longer prayers, but what will happen when they become even more unintelligible?

Guess we will find out this Advent.

About the author

Bryan Cones

Bryan Cones is a writer living in Chicago.