Friday, November 25, 2011

Australia Day: New Mass Texts

Having had a chance to examine the Australian edition of the new Missal, I note that the prayers for Australia Day, the 26th of January, have been changed, and in particular the proper Preface.  Herewith, a short comparison of the old and the new orations – the latter from the new Missal itself, the former from a hand-missal published in 1998:

1. Collect

Father ever generous, enlighten us with new vision to see your shaping hand at work in all the gifts to our country with which your providence frames our lives.  

Grant, we pray, O Lord our God, that as the Cross shines in our southern skies, so may Christ bring light to our nation, to its peoples old and new, and by saving grace, transform our lives.  Through our Lord...

It may be seen that the old prayer is almost Deist, addressed to the Father indeed, but with an emphasis on Providence sounding rather eighteenth century, whereas the new prayer is splendidly Christocentric, alluding to the all the varied peoples who dwell in Australia, and asking that the one Saviour grace and transform all.

2. Prayer over the Offerings

God of all power, accept the gifts we offer with ourselves to become the pure bread of Christ and the new wine of the kingdom.

As we come before you with the fruits of the earth, tended by our hands, O Lord, we pray that these offerings may bring a blessing on our land and peace to all who dwell here.  Through Christ our Lord.

Unfortunately, while Jesuit hands (or those of their wage slaves) tended the vines at Sevenhill in South Australia from which our altar wine comes, so far as I know the hosts used in parishes throughout this Great South Land are imported from a factory in the U.S. before being sold on by the good monks at Tarrawarra Abbey, so it is not exactly true that we present unto the Divine Majesty the fruits of the earth tended by "our", that is, Australian, hands; the wheat is North American.

I must say, I actually prefer the former prayer!  That said, the latter prayer does have a more sacrificial orientation, given that it prays "that these offerings may bring a blessing".

3. Preface

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks.
Out of your infinite glory you have given us the power through your Spirit for our hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in our hearts through faith. [Cf. Eph. iii, 16f.]
Through him you have blessed our land.  The fierce flood of your grace sweeps away all barriers, and soaks deep into our being, so that the desert blooms with the life that lies in wait.
You will give us the strength to grasp the breadth and the length and the height and the depth of the utter fulness of your love which surpasses all knowledge. [Cf. Eph. iii, 18f]
With all the hosts of heaven, we give you glory from generation to generation in our song of praise:

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, and to praise, bless and glorify your name through Christ our Lord.
For from ancient times you made this land a home for many peoples, and became their rock of strength; when they were hungry, you gave them food, and when thirsty, water even in the desert. To all, your providence has proclaimed the Good News of Jesus Christ, your Son, sent by you to be the Saviour of all the world, who has brought peace by his sacrifice on the Cross.
And so, we lift our voices to you this day and with the people you have made your own, from every race and tongue, every place and time, we join in the song of the Angels in heaven, as in exultant praise we acclaim:

The somewhat embarrassingly "Aussie" faux-bush-poet tenor of part of the old Preface, sounding like a clumsy rehash of "I love a sunburnt country" with its reference to deserts blooming after flooding rains, has mercifully been replaced with more appropriately Scriptural allusions, while the rest of the old Preface, being but a nice but not immediately relevant quotation from Ephesians iii, 16-19, has been cut out, in favour of another robust reference to Christ our Sacrifice and Saviour, Whose Holy Gospel has been preached even here, at the very end of the earth.

4. Prayer after Communion

All-provident God, through these sacraments of your love grant us always to live in this land united in purpose and freed in the Spirit until the final feast at heaven's table.

May our partaking of this sacrificial meal, O Lord, grant us strength to walk together in the ways of justice, and behold one day the new heavens and new earth you prepare for us in Christ your Son. Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Both prayers, to be fair, are quite decent; both have a good eschatological focus.  Having had far too much social justice guff rammed down my throat as a lad, I get instantly offput when I see any reference to justice in prayers, but I try not to react too much.

Overall, the new prayers are an improvement.

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