He took what? A Chalice?

I’ve just been listening on the Radio to the new revision of the English translation of the Latin Mass of the Roman Catholic Church. It is being introduced this weekend across England and Wales and the service was obviously meant to showcase it.

I wouldn’t normally be that interested in the liturgical goings on of another denomination, after all, liturgical change is all around us all the time. However, this one is worthy of comment.

A new edition of the mass in any church is always likely to have its cheerleaders and its detractors. Such is the nature of the process. In this case, I feel a bit sorry for friends in the Roman Catholic church who can see the clock being very gently and very firmly turned back from Rome. Partly as a consequence of reintroducing archaisms that are really long gone from the way people speak, the “new” mass does occasionally sound rather clunky.

However, that is not my greatest regret. I’m saddest most of all because for several sweet decades, our liturgies were converging. We used the same texts for significant parts of the service and prayed the same prayers. More specifically, we sang the same canticles and composers could compose services which Roman Catholics and Anglicans (and no doubt others) could pick up and use easily. Now we can’t because the texts have been unitarily changed by Rome. Very many Roman Catholics pitch up at St Mary’s and find it hard to know which church they are in. (Curiously, quite a few foreign Roman Catholics make it to the end of the mass without realising they are not in a Roman Catholic service even when one of my female colleagues is celebrating, and I don’t understand that at all).

Now, Rome can do what it likes. That’s the point, I suppose. However, the current time when we begin to diverge again should not pass without a lament.

The mass on the radio was dignified and well done. There was just one moment when one could hear the sound of spluttering cornflakes in rectories across the land.

“He took the chalice….” said the priest, reciting the canon of the new mass.

He did what?!

It we are in that business, I’d suggest a better translation might be:

“He took the Holy Grail..”


  1. I am in agreement with you on “Chalice”. It made me think of an Indiana Jones movie, where he was searching for the Holy Grail. Lots to choose from, golden, bejewelled “chalices”. But hidden, in full view was a simple grail. The cup of a carpenter.

    …and what was with the response And with your spirit to the calling The Lord b with you

  2. RevJulia says

    And perhaps the response to that should be “The liturgists chose … poorly” 😉

  3. Rosemary Hannah says

    Um I suspect the clothes (that is vestments) etc etc and the conscious and unconscious preoccupations of the mind praying, means that the gender of the celebrant is one of the last things one notices.

    You will know I did a modern translation of a Passion for Ruth, aimed at children – and stopped dead took ‘the cup’ because they and I know what this looks like. It is smaller than a mug and has a handle and a saucer. I think I went for goblet. But, no, I was not at all tempted by chalice.

  4. Stewart, “and with your spirit” is used as a response to “the Lord be with you” at Evensong all the time.

  5. Ritualist Robert says

    I think we Anglicans may well get a small influx of Roman Catholics who can’t stand such supposedly more precise latinate language and would rather have their mass in a more immediate, perhaps intimate, form of English. To me the ‘new’ missal’ just seems to be tinkering for tinkering’s sake.

  6. I sat up also when chalce was said, and I think that I like it, not that it sounds new and trendy, but it has more significance in remembering the pasion of Christ.

  7. Robin says

    I prefer the new translation of the Roman Mass to the old one. But then, I would, since I’d swap the Blue Book for the Grey Book (and, better still, the 1966 version) any day. I attend what prides itself on being the most liberal church in Edinburgh, and a fortnight ago it fell to me to read the OT lesson, Isaiah 51.1-6. I gave it to them in the Authorised Version, and they loved it!

    De gustibus, and all that.

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