As I walked into church Sunday morning I was well aware that I was taking a risk, but then again, I've always lived life on the edge. I had read all the warnings about the corrected translation for Mass, and the consequences of implementing it on the First Sunday of Advent and I was prepared. Upon waking, I made sure I said extra prayers in hopes that the heavenly hosts would protect me against what I now knew to be the beginning of the end of the one, true Church that I've always known and loved. I blessed myself twice from the font of holy water...just in case.
As I genuflected and proceeded to sit in my pew, I immediately noticed and acknowledged with a slight nod, an elderly lady that I often see at the eight o'clock Mass. I wasn't sure if this frail woman was aware of the possible catastrophe that was about to happen, so I sat a bit closer to her than I usually do. Not too close, but close enough for me to be able to reach out and catch her should she fall over when we responded, "and with your spirit". If she survived that response, I knew "cosubstantial" would probably be the fatal blow, and I began thinking that if I did catch her before she keeled over, it would probably be too late anyway. The damage would have already been done. But one must try n'est-ce-pas?
As the opening strains of "Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel" began, the alter servers led the way with Father Dennis bringing up the rear of the procession. Father Dennis is a good priest and very compassionate. Though I couldn't see clearly as I sat at a distance from the main aisle leading to the alter, I was sure Father was sweating bullets as he knew full well that what he was about to do would cause many in his flock to fall away from their faith, or at the very least, cause them to write to the National Catholic Reporter of the liturgical abuses that occurred on this First Sunday of Advent.
"The Lord be with you.....", I watched the old lady next to me. Her lips parted as she was about to respond to the priest. My body poised and tense, ready to pounce to her aid, heard the old woman reply, "and with your spirit...". Nothing. She did not even flinch as she responded with the corrected translation, but I, in my total concern for her safety, had inadvertently responded with " and also with you..." falling back to the familiar. A quick look around me told me no one seemed to had noticed my faux pas. No matter, it was for a good cause.
As Mass progressed, I quickly surmised that this elderly lady was not paying attention to the Mass. The corrected translation flitted off her tongue as if she had been saying these words her whole life. I realized then and there that she probably had never really paid attention in Mass before, so she thought these new words that we were now forced to utter, had always been said: she just didn't remember the old ones. So sad....
I now began to look at others around me, the young and old alike, as they were holding up the pamphlets that were placed in the pews and contained the corrected translation for the people to follow during Mass, and realized that the damage was taking place. I didn't see any of the elderly reeling and swaying from the onslaught of "big" words, or children tugging at mama's dress while their little fingers pointed to a new word they were about to say, their faces pleading, "Whats this mama??" No, it was very subtle. I waited for the children to wail when we struck our breasts, "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault!!" What horror this did to the self-esteem of our children may never be known in full. We were warned.
There! I heard Father Dennis falter while reading one of the new prayers of the corrected translation, instead of reciting the old and familiar prayers he had memorized during his time as a priest. There was no one to break his fall should he succumb to this pressure. The alter servers were the only ones close enough to help him, but they were much too young and weak to catch such a big man. I had to trust God in this as Father Dennis continued his prayers and then fed us with the Body of Christ.
The damage was now in full swing. The faithful had all become mind-numbed robots, responding in unison...like automatons, never seeming to realize what was happening. Didn't they know, as I had read somewhere, that this correct translation was "fraught with danger"? Weren't they aware of the gravity of what was happening to their souls? Oh! the humanity!
Though I hadn't quite heard it, I knew there must have been a collective sigh emanating from everyone present as we were dismissed from the Mass. It was finally over. As the priest processed back out and the people followed, I knelt back down and prayed that God, through his mercy, had protected most of us this morning, and had kept the damage to a minimum. I wasn't damaged (I was prepared remember?) and I thanked him for that. I prayed for the strength and courage to return here next week for the second Advent Mass. I looked at all the empty pews and realized they would probably never be filled again.
I am man enough to admit, that in my concern for my fellow parishioners, I had missed several new responses, reverting to the old instead. But I was sure God would forgive me for I had placed my own life in the balance, while protecting theirs. There is no greater love...