My new Sunday Missal is the Christmas present I will cherish most

Catholic Truth Society's altar missal (this one, in white, was presented to the Pope). Photo: Pierpaolo Finaldi

Courtesy of the Catholic Truth Society I have received my first Christmas present; it will also be the present I shall cherish the most and use most continuously. This is not to decry any gifts my dear children or husband might give me – but I can’t see anything trumping a handsome edition, hardbound in joyful red, of the Sunday Missal with the new translation of the Mass. The “feel” of the paper it is printed on, as well as the tassels, the typeface and the illustrations taken from a medieval psalter, complete the sense that this is something to be treasured.

The Mass itself is written in Latin as well as in English (as in the days of the old Roman Missal) and so are all the antiphons and collects; musical notation is included for a sung Mass. Special feasts and liturgical seasons are introduced with short extracts from the writings of Pope Benedict. For the Third Sunday of Advent, Year B, he explains that “The Church, illumined by the Holy Spirit, already at that time understood increasingly better that God’s ‘closeness’ is not a question of space and time but rather of love: love brings people together…” This might seem obvious to some, but certainly not to all who squash into the pews on a Sunday.

I understand the retail price is £18: what better Christmas present could one give to loved ones?

It seems that not everyone thinks so. Stuart Reid, in last week’s Herald, mentions certain “new traditionalists” who feel “betrayed” and “disinherited” at the changes. And a letter in the Tablet for November 12 informs us that its author remains “quietly angry during Mass and keep my lips firmly sealed. From being a joyful experience it has become almost unpleasant. Certainly one not to experience daily as I was wont to do.” So this person is prepared to forego daily Mass altogether because of a translation which, by general agreement, is a vast improvement on what went before? Whatever annoyances of the translation now replaced – and certain other irritations emanating from the lectern in a church not a million miles from where I live, which I won’t go into – they would never stop me from attending Mass. There’s no pleasing some folk.

I agree with Mac McLernon’s article in the Herald’s special Advent Magazine: she writes, “The new translation has restored the sense of the sacred to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” The Confiteor, and the prayer before Communion in particular, take me straight back to my childhood and the old Latin Mass; in the intervening years (too many of them) the Mass, as Mac McLernon points out, “had been impoverished and it had lost the sense of the sacred” – which, I take it, is the raison d’etre of the liturgy in the first place.

The CTS has also produced a short booklet (£1. 95) by Dom Cuthbert Johnson OSB, Understanding the Roman Missal, which explains very simply the reasons for the new translation. It is designed “to help the reader reflect upon the texts of the Order of Mass in order to enter more deeply in the celebration of the Mystery of Faith”. Perhaps the Tablet’s Mr Angry should read it?