Transcript of CS#134: A Biblical Walk Through the Mass with Dr. Edward Sri

Transcript of Interview with Dr. Edward Sri about A Biblical Walk Through the Mass. This interview and others like it can be found at http://www.catholicspotlight.com

Listen Now to the audio version of the show.

A Biblical Walk Through the Mass is available at The Catholic Company.
http://search.catholiccompany.com/search?w=biblical+walk

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Chris: This is the Catholic Spotlight, the show where we talk about what’s new, cool, and exciting in the Catholic marketplace. I’m your host, Chris Cash, from the Catholic Company, your source for all your Catholic needs. Today in the spotlight, we have Dr. Edward Sri. He has written a great new book on A Biblical Walk through the Mass and a Guide to the New Translations of the Mass. This is a really relevant topic because I know a lot of our listeners are very concerned about what’s going on with the new translation and how is this going to affect the mass and how is this going to affect the great resources we’ve got out there in terms of missals and books and other things that have parts of the Mass in it. So, Dr. Sri, thank you for coming on in the show!

Dr. Sri: Oh, great to be on your show.

Chris: All right, can you tell us about what inspired you to write this book in the first place?

Dr. Sri: For many years, I’ve been giving talks on the bible and the Mass, particularly a biblical walk through the Mass where I go through all the Mass parts from the sign of the cross, the Lord be with you, the Lord have mercy, all the way to the closing, thanks be to God, walking through all of the prayers and the rituals of the Mass and exploring the biblical background. It’s been a lot of fun and packed for the people, the biblical roots of what we say and do in the liturgy because many of us would go to Mass. We know these words by heart and we know them out of routine but do we really understand what they mean and so I really wanted to put a book together that would help unlock that for Catholics so they can enter more deeply in the Mass and I was about two-thirds of the way through the manuscript last April when the Vatican did something that made me have to go back and rework the book a little bit. And you know what that is, of course, that’s the announcement of the new translation finally coming but with great timing in the sense that I was able to early enough in the process, I was able to incorporate the new Mass translation and then really focus in on the most significant changes that we’re going to notice when we start going to Mass on this first Sunday of Advent in November when the new Mass translation will be formally implemented.

Chris: So what are these big changes that are coming?

Dr. Sri: A lot of them are going to really bring out the scriptural allusions that you find in the Liturgy. They’re going to bring out a lot of important theological points. I can give you two examples, the most famous one is “And with your Spirit.” At the beginning of the Mass, the priest says, “The Lord be with you.” And then we reply, we have been replying, “And also with you.” But what’s really happening here is two things. First of all, when the priest says, “The Lord be with you,” that’s not just an ordinary greeting, that’s not just, “Good morning, congregation.” And if we understand those words biblically, we see that they’re very profound. They’re used in the Old Testament, when God is calling certain men and women to play a crucial role in His plan of salvation. They’re about to embark to on a very daunting mission, whether it’s Joshua when he was about to go lead the people to the Promised Land or Gideon, when he’s being raised up to go fight off the foreign nation that’s oppressing Israel or Moses of the burning bush, when he is called to go confront the pharaoh and lead the people out of slavery in Egypt. All of these figures are told, “The Lord will be with you.” Mary was told this at the Annunciation. So why do we hear these words at the beginning of the Mass? It’s not simply to say, “Good morning.” It’s to put us in the shoes of Moses and Joshua and Gideon and Mary. It’s to remind us, we are embarking upon a very important mission from God, something that’s going to be very daunting and what is it? We are about to enter the Sacred Mysteries of the Mass. We are about to hear the Holy Word of God spoken to us through the Liturgy of the Word and we’re preparing ourselves to encounter the very body and blood of Jesus. The Living God is about to enter our very souls in Holy Communion. And so the priest, when he says, “The Lord be with you,” is reminding us of this solemn sacred mission that we are about to begin. Well, when we, in return, say, “And with your spirit,” in the new translation, we’re saying something very profound back to the priest. We’re not simply saying, “Oh, may God be with you too, Father.” What we’re doing there is acknowledging the unique activity of the Holy Spirit in the life of the priest, the unique work of the Holy Spirit in the priest that enables the priest to consecrate the Host, to change the bread and wine into the very Body and Blood of Christ, to offer up the Holy Sacrifice in the Mass. Now, while we all have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us by virtue of our baptism, only the priest has the Holy Spirit within him to offer up the Mass and so, when he says to us, “The Lord be with you,” it’s a summons to prepare us for the holy mysteries we’re about to celebrate. As lay people, we in return say, not just simply, “And also with you,” but “And with your Spirit, Father,” that unique activity of the Holy Spirit may be with you so that you can offer up the Mass. And I think that is something beautiful that we’ll have in the new translation. It’s something most languages around the world actually say but English translated after Vatican II simply is, “And also with you.” And I think with that, we lost this important theological point about the priest preparing us and us encouraging the priest, as we begin the Sacred Mysteries of the Liturgy.

Chris: Now, to an average Catholic in the pew, I’m sure we’re all aware that a lot of that is just going to go away over most people’s heads, are the majority of the changes that are occurring this November, are they going to be simple changes that are of great spiritual significance like this one or are there going to be any larger changes that the person in the pew is really going to stand up and take note of?

Dr. Sri: Well, I would say on a basic level, everyone’s going to notice that the Mass is…

Chris: Well, it’s going to be hard not to notice because especially if you go to Mass every week, you’re going to say, “Wait a minute, that’s different.”

Dr. Sri: Absolutely. This is going to be really the most significant change in the Liturgy in the English-speaking world since Vatican II. When you show up at Mass in the first Sunday of Advent in November, you’re not going to be able to follow along unless you’ve been prepared, unless you have a guide to help you through the retranslated prayers. So everyone’s going to notice the changes and then, in terms of the significance of these changes, I think they’re quite profound. People are going to have to ponder, “What does this mean? Why did we change this?” And I know that US Bishop’s Conference has been doing an excellent job sponsoring conferences around the country in various dioceses to prepare the priests, the religious, diocesan leaders to help the people get ready for the new translation. And my hope is that as we approach November, that many parishes will be preparing the people. In the process, they won’t just prepare them in terms of the mechanics of the new translation. Here’s the new words you need to say. I am hopeful that this will be a time of spiritual and catechetical renewal, that as we take time to walk through, okay, now we’re going to say, “And with your spirit,” we’re not just going to leave it there. We’re going to say, “And this is why we’re saying this. This is the meaning of this prayer.” So we realize that what we’re really saying and doing in the Liturgy and I hope line by line, as we walk through and prepare people for the changes, we’ll explain the profound spiritual significance of this. And I think this is a great opportunity, a unique opportunity for renewal in our worship of Our Lord at Mass because like I said at the beginning, so many of us know these prayers out of routine. If I say, “The Lord be with you,” the average Catholic just instantly says, “And also with you.” And we know these words, but we don’t know what they mean and now that we’re going to be taken out of our routine, now we’re going to be challenged to look at new words, get used to new prayers and I think there’s a unique opportunity here as we’re taken out of the routine to be able to ponder anew the meaning of these words.

Chris: And what are the challenges that we have been facing especially at the Catholic Company and other Catholic stores around the country is that these books containing the new translation have not been finalized and taken to print yet so there’s really nothing available to the wider market other than your book and a few other commentaries on the new Mass translation that are available but going forward, we’re waiting for the new missals and for the translation to be integrated into all the books that we use for things like First Communion gifts and confirmation gifts and the like. How is someone who purchases, say, a First Communion gift this spring, say to get a Mass book, are they going to be able to continue using that Mass book on past November?

Dr. Sri: Well, that’s an interesting thing because the current books that are out there, most of them are of course, still using that older translation. So in a certain sense, people may want to wait until the translation has been put into these books. You mentioned a First Communion book, for example. I wonder if by the time we get to First Communion, we’re getting there soon, if those little books that you can give to kids will include the new translation. I don’t know.

Chris: They’re not. The soonest that anything including the new translation I’m aware of is going to be October, before they’re available.

Dr. Sri: That’s right.

Chris: So we’re really under a crunch, in a sense, in the publishing world. The bishops have not even presented the full and finalized translation to the publishers to start printing yet.

Dr. Sri: Right. I think part of that is the bishops, the translation is done. It’s completed. You can get it on the website and if you wanted to look at it, and I have it in many parts of it in my book I had mentioned. But it’s out there but I think the bishops are concerned that if, they don’t want people to just start using the new translation all independently on their own. They want it to be a unified effort so that on the first Sunday of Advent, that’s when the new translation will be implemented across the board in the United States. So I think that’s part of what we’re running up against and so I can understand. I have a child that’s going to be preparing for First Communion this spring and I buy them a book that has the old translation, I know this book is only going to have about six months to use and then afterwards, we’re going to have get a new one. But I think in this time here, and this is, I think could be a great chance for us as Catholics to really study the new translation and that will help us to be more devoted to the Mass. I think this is a great time for parents to start getting ready for their own children. I would anticipate in the fall, many parents wanting to sit down with their children and start talking about the parts of the Mass and preparing them for the new words. So while yes, it is going to be a bit awkward moment here on some levels as the transition here and get ready, I would want to look at some of the positive benefits with the new translation coming up. I would envision, I’m picturing in my own home, for example, sitting down with my kids and almost doing a little bible study on the Mass or have them have the bible, open it up, they look up some passages that are behind the words particularly of the new translation and help them to see on their own, the connections between oh, we used to say, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive You,” but now we’re saying, “Lord, I am not worthy to have You come under my roof.” Right away, why do you think he’s talking about that and then have my kid look up this passage in Matthew’s gospel chapter 8 where the Roman centurion wants Jesus to come heal his servant that this Roman centurion who works for the oppressors, the Romans, and he’s a Gentile, he’s not even a Jew. He doesn’t feel worthy to have Jesus come to his house and so he says, “Lord, I’m not worthy to have You come under my roof but only say the word and my servant shall be healed.” And I think the new translation’s going to really make that connection much clearer and I’m looking forward to taking time with my own kids and be able to walk them through that a little bit so that once again, they’re not just given, “Here’s just a bunch of new words.” They have a better understanding of the why.

Chris: I think that’s a great analysis there. And I’m looking forward to seeing all the new materials myself. I have not had a chance to review it yet but I think especially in terms of when people are thinking about your First Communion gifts and your confirmation gifts and RCIA gifts coming up, I’m definitely seeing to get a message here that it would be better to stick to prayer books and gift items this spring as opposed to getting Mass books and maybe send something supplemental in the fall.

Dr. Sri: There you go, yeah, that’s right. Now I would say, that might be for the little children, I do think of our materials that could be used for people that are older. I have had many people purchase my book, for example, on the Mass for confirmation gifts already.

Chris: I was going to suggest that in a second.

Dr. Sri: Okay.

Chris: Your book would probably be an excellent confirmation gift coming up this spring.

Dr. Sri: Yeah, the book…I’ll tell you what it does. It walks through every little part of the Mass, so the sign of the cross; it has a little short chapter reflecting on the meaning of the sign of the cross. What does it really mean to say, “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit?” What does it mean to cross ourselves physically and these have profound roots in the early churches, what the early Christians did. But it even goes farther back into the Old Testament, it’s for shadowing of the sign of the cross which in the Book of Ezekiel was given as a sign of divine protection over God’s faithful people. So when we make the sign of the cross today, this isn’t just some empty ritual. This has great significance. We’re saying, “Lord, we want to be like the faithful Israelites in the time of Ezekiel who did not go along with all of the corruption in society. They were loyal to you. We want to be loyal to you. But we need your help and we make the sign of the cross as a sign of protection. We say, “Lord, protect us from all temptation. Protect us from harm. Protect us from evil because that’s what the sign of the cross was understood to be in the early church and in Ezekiel, it was a sign marking out God’s faithful people and protecting them from all harm. So it’s beautiful when you can walk through line by line of the Mass, the Gloria, the Creed, the Eucharistic Prayer and just see over and over again, just how these have reached in the Sacred Scripture and that helps us to understand the meaning. And even in my own process of writing the book, doing the research for it, while I had studied the Mass a lot in graduate school, there were many moments still where I had some aha moments of, “Wow! That is so cool. I didn’t realize this about what this meant in the prayer.” So for example, I give one example here. At the very beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer, we all stand up and the priest says, “The Lord be with you.” And then, we will say, “And also with you,” then the priest says, “Lift up your hearts.” That’s a very simple line in the Liturgy and we all respond, “We have lifted them up to the Lord.” But what does it mean to really lift up the heart? As I was exploring this, in the bible, the heart if the center of all of one’s…a person’s desires, their attention, all of their actions flow, their thoughts flow from the heart so when the priest says at Mass, “Lift up your hearts,” he is summoning us to give our fullest attention to what is about to happen now as we approach the most sacred part of the Mass, the Words of Consecration, when the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. And so when I was looking into this, I saw a number of church fathers had commented on the beauty of this prayer. There was one, St. Cyril of Jerusalem that talked about how at this moment when the priest says, “The Lord be with you,” he is exhorting us to lay aside all the cares of life, all domestic worries and direct our hearts to God in heaven. And I think about it now, how many times we all get distracted. We start thinking about things at work or things with our family, or the football game in the afternoon, or the donuts after Mass, and who knows we get so easily distracted throughout the Mass and it’s hard to pay attention for a full hour.

Chris: Especially if you have children.

Dr. Sri: Especially if you have kids, that’s right. But when the priest says, “Lift up your hearts,” it’s as if he’s reminding us, “All right, you may not have been able to give out your fullest attention up to this point but right now, if there’s ever a moment to give God your best, it’s right now. Cyril of Jerusalem goes on, he says, “Let there be none among you who shall confess with his lips. We have lifted up our hearts but allow those thoughts to remain with the cares of life. I remember being just personally convicted by this and I thought, “Wow, how many times have I gone to Mass and the priest said lift up your hearts and I said, oh, we’ve lifted it up to the Lord,” but I really hadn’t lifted my heart up to the Lord. I just went on, there’s this daydreaming or thinking about these other things and I really did not lift up my heart to God at this moment. So that was one of these moments in just studying the Mass but seeing it in light of the Scripture, in light of the tradition, that when I hear those words at Mass now, it’s a different experience. I feel like the priest is saying, “Ted, wake up, right now, give God your best.” And I think you could go through the entirety of the Mass and have many aha moments like that. if we can understand the biblical background especially in the areas where we find the new translation, you’ll see the Scriptures really shining out much more brilliantly.

Chris: Now the book you have here, The Biblical Walk through the Mass, this is part of a larger project, right?

Dr. Sri: Yeah, like I mentioned, originally, it was just the book Walking Through the Mass, making these points like we just talked about here with the lifting up of your hearts, but then with the new mass translation coming out, we incorporated it and based it all on the new translation. So I made a lot of comments on the areas that we’re going to notice the most in terms of the changes in the translation. And given that many parishes, dioceses, families, individuals are going to be starving for information on the new translation, Ascension Press; the publisher expanded the project and put in a lot of other pieces to it. So there’s the book which could stand all on its own and that’s probably the centerpiece of everything but there are a lot of people that are interested in using this book for adult faith formation and so Ascension Press developed a number of other supplemental materials that could be used for adult faith formation. For example, there are student workbooks where people can use this for small group study and it’s basically a bible study of the mass. They go through different parts of the mass, they look up scriptural passages. They have maybe in the workbook, a quote from the Vatican or a quote from a saint to really bring out the meaning of this particular word from the Mass and then they could come together in their small group and talk about it and Ascension Press put together an excellent, very easy to use Leader’s Guide. So someone doesn’t have to be a theological expert. They can just…they’re going to have all the materials they’re going to need to make it very easy to lead an engaging dynamic discussion that helps draw people into the beauty of the Liturgy. A third piece they put together with the adult faith formation pieces was a DVD set where they videotaped me teaching on the Mass. So it’s a five-week study and people can come together in small groups and at the end of the small group discussion, they can play the video and DVD of me presenting on those parts of the Mass and going a little bit deeper and once again, this just makes it so easy so that the volunteer at the parish doesn’t have to again be a theological expert, they can use them, the resources and then have me presenting on DVD at the end, if they wanted. So there is the book and then now, there are these adult faith formation elements as well. One other thing Ascension Press put together and I thought this was an excellent idea, is a little question and answer booklet. So they had me write a little booklet called A Guide to the New Translation of the Mass. This is like those little pamphlets you see in the back of the church and it has questions and answers about the new translation. Why do we need a new translation? Who did the translation? How would the translation improve our worship? And then it gives a number of examples of the new translation and explanations and then what I really love about it, at the very end, the back cover actually has a perforated edge to it where you can tear off the back cover and the back cover serves as a card that you could take with you and put in your wallet, put in your pocket and the card has all of the people’s parts for the new translation of the Mass. So you could have that with you every time you go to Mass. So I think that’s something, a little pamphlet, very small, very inexpensive that they’re selling in bulk right to parishes that could also be a very helpful resource in the time of transition.

Chris: I think people are going to be begging for that probably. Now you mentioned several times, adult programs. Is there anything Ascension is doing for children or for the younger people in the parish?

Dr. Sri: Well, I don’t know if there’s like something specifically for like only for the children but I do know that a lot of the materials that are being put together will give adult catechists or parents in the home the resources, the background they need to be able to explain the new translation to younger people. I think some of the high school kids and junior high kids could probably access the materials that I mentioned were the adult faith formation. They’re really written at a very level that’s very easy and accessible and engaging. But if you’re looking at younger kids, like kids preparing for First Communion, I don’t know if…I don’t think that’s there any material developed specifically for that age group but I would say that the materials that are there could really help and equip the adult leaders to be able to take it down to the level of a second grader, say.

Chris: So, Matt, if you’re listening, I think the message here is you should get something out there for the kids. Well, it’s been a lot of fun talking to you, Dr. Sri. Was there anything else you wanted to share with our listeners before we finish up?

Dr. Sri: I would just want to encourage all of us here in these months ahead to really prepare ourselves for the new translation. I think a lot of our friends and people we know may not be aware that there’s a new translation coming up and the Lord could use us as an instrument to help let them know about it and help them get excited about it, and help prepare them as well. And so, definitely take time to study the new translation so that you’re equipped to then pass it on to others but the biggest thing we really want to do is pray. I think if we grow in our devotion to Jesus and the Eucharist, we grow in our devotion to Jesus in the Mass in these months ahead, that’s the most important thing we could do to prepare ourselves. We’re going to be much more receptive to the new translation and able to enter its depths in splendor, the more that we are spiritually ready.

Chris: Well, thank you, Dr. Sri for taking this time to talk with us. We certainly appreciate it. Everybody out there, you definitely want to go check out A Biblical Walk through the Mass, Dr. Sri’s book, it is an excellent resource and there just are not a lot of other resources out there that are going to walk you through this is in this much depth and with this much insight. So you definitely want to check this one out. It should be at the top of your list of summer and spring reading and inspires your spiritual development. Thank you so much, Dr. Sri. You have a great day and God bless!

Dr. Sri: All right, thanks so much. God bless!

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Transcript of Interview with Dr. Edward Sri about A Biblical Walk Through the Mass. This interview and others like it can be found at http://www.catholicspotlight.com

Listen Now to the audio version of the show.

A Biblical Walk Through the Mass is available at The Catholic Company.
http://search.catholiccompany.com/search?w=biblical+walk

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