New translation of the missal: The Preface

The new translation of the Mass will express the connection between the Liturgy in heaven and our celebration on earth. This will be seen clearly in the Preface, which is the part of the Mass that begins the Eucharistic Prayer in which the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.

The Preface starts with the greeting, “the Lord be with you.” Here too the response will be, “and with your spirit.” It is at this point in the Mass that “spirit” gains its deepest meaning because the priest is able to repeat the words of Christ over the bread and wine to effect their change only because of the special grace of the Holy Spirit given him at his ordination.

The priest then instructs us to, “lift up your hearts.” This is an ancient Jewish phrase used to describe the tension between our attraction to the things of this world that so often distance us from God. We lift up our hearts to God as a reminder that He is ultimately the source of everything we could ever want or need.

The priest then says, “let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” The word “Eucharist,” is Greek for thanks. We give thanks to God for sacrificing His Son for our forgiveness and for giving us His body and blood. The response made by the congregation will be shortened to the much more terse reply “it is right and just.”

This expression is found all throughout both the Old and New Testaments. In Proverbs 1:3 Solomon says “it is right and just” that people know wisdom and discipline.

The Scriptures tell us that wisdom is knowledge of the purpose and plan of God.

Jesus expressed God’s plan for us in asking that we “do this in memory of me” because, as He said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Since God has revealed what we need for our salvation through His Son, it is right and just to thank Him endlessly.

The Preface uses rich vocabulary. This is the part of the Mass during which heaven cracks its door wide open for us.

Since in the “Holy, Holy, Holy” we sing on earth the same song as that of the angels and saints in heaven, each preface concludes with words like, “with angels, archangels, with thrones and dominions, and with all the hosts and powers of heaven, we sing the hymn of your glory.”

Thrones, dominions and hosts are ancient ways of describing the innumerable. St. Paul uses this language in the Letter to the Colossians: “for in Christ were created all things in heaven and on earth, whether thrones or dominions or principalities, powers or heavenly hosts.”

The prophets Daniel and Isaiah as well as the apostle John all use words like these to describe the multitude they see praising God in heaven.

The countless armies of angels, archangels, saints and powers of heaven cannot stop rejoicing to be in God’s presence. The Preface of the Mass gives us an opportunity to express our excitement to be a part of the multitude that sings God’s praises and receive His presence.

This is the cause of our joy in the Mass.

Father Babick is the vicar for Divine Worship and the Sacraments for the Diocese of Charleston.