Revising the Mass and the Ecumenical Protestant Liturgy

David Koyzis at First Things comments on the recent changes in the Catholic mass. Last weekend, the Catholic Church adopted an English translation of its liturgical texts that more formally resembles the Latin originals. The previous English texts, which had been in use since 1973, were intended to render the ancient liturgy into more natural English. It’s the old “formal equivalence” versus “functional equivalence” argument in translation.

Koyzis notes that “many other church bodies followed the Roman example during the 1970s, adopting the texts of the ordinary of the mass for their own use.” Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans and others all adopted very similar “ecumenical” versions of the liturgy. The texts in my own denomination’s Book of Worship are closely linked to the Roman liturgy as it was revised in 1973. Koyzis wonders “whether other denominations will eventually follow the Roman lead once again and bring their own liturgies into closer conformity with the new, more accurate, texts.” As one who fell in love with the ancient liturgy of the church after 1973, it is the ecumenical English texts that have ingrained themselves in my imagination. One of the beauties of the historic liturgy is that it becomes a part of you after years of repeated use. To change the words now would be very unsettling. (The same is true for hymn lyrics, by the way.)

You can compare the 1973 and 2011 versions of the mass here.