Friday, November 19, 2010

Advent 2010 Message:
A new beginning — and a time of preparation and renewal

By Cardinal Roger Mahony

The Preface for Mass for the First Sunday of Advent helps us focus upon the deep meaning of our Advent journey: "When Jesus humbled himself to come among us as a man, he fulfilled the plan you formed long ago and opened for us the way to salvation. Now we watch for the day, hoping that the salvation promised us will be ours when Christ our Lord will come again in his glory."

Advent is rightfully called a "new beginning" since God's plan of salvation in our lives is given new clarity and strength through these four weeks of preparing for the Birth of our Messiah, Jesus Christ.

But Advent 2010 has added importance since we now begin a year-long preparation for the introduction of a new English translation of the Roman Missal which we use at Mass. The new translation from Latin to English is more accurate and theologically correct than the former translations. This third edition of the Roman Missal in English will be used starting with the first Sunday of Advent 2011.

I recall being ordained a priest in 1962 in the midst of the Second Vatican Council. One of the Council initiatives was to make the celebration of the church's sacraments and liturgies available in the language of the local people. When the first full English translation of the Roman missal was published in 1973 — and revised in 1985 — there was no preparation of any kind for the celebrating priests of our liturgies nor of you, God's people. As soon as the English missals arrived, we just started using them.

This time, we are hopeful that far more thorough preparation and catechesis will result in a broader understanding of the newer translation by all of us.

Priests, deacons, religious, various ministers, choirs and all of the Catholics of our archdiocese will be given special sessions to prepare to celebrate the Mass in English according to the new translation. The new translation has many word changes because this translation is more fully faithful to the original Latin text.

Preparing ourselves for new wording and new responses at Mass is only part of the "new beginning" which we will celebrate as Advent 2011 begins next year. I am hopeful that these months of catechesis will help us renew our understanding of the Eucharist in our lives as Catholics. As Catholics, we are singularly a "Eucharistic Church." Our celebration of the Eucharist from the earliest days of the apostles, and down through history, distinguishes us from all other churches who call themselves Christian.

The Eucharist is one of God's greatest gifts to us in and through his Son, Jesus Christ. Recall the two men journeying to Emmaus on that first Easter Sunday afternoon who encountered the risen Jesus without knowing it was him, and then their eyes were opened as he sat at table with them and "broke the bread" for them — then vanishing from their sight.

We must recall that in the consecrated bread and wine, we truly receive Jesus Christ, body and blood, soul and divinity. The bread and wine are totally changed from the appearances of bread and wine into the very body and blood of our risen savior, Jesus Christ.

As Catholics, our faith in the total transformation of the bread and wine distinguishes us from many other Christian churches. We do not believe that the bread and wine simply serve as "reminders" or "symbols" of the Last Supper. Rather, we believe that the bread and wine are changed substantially into Christ's body and blood — usually referred to with the term "transubstantiation."

The Advent season we begin this year will be a time of preparation and renewal of our love for the Eucharist. The changes in wording and translation are only secondary to the great mystery of our faith — receiving the sacred body and blood of Jesus Christ!

Cardinal Roger Mahony is archbishop of Los Angeles. He blogs at

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