When antiquity and modernity meet in the Catholic Church, you get a book on the new English Mass translation written by a computer programmer who emphasizes the importance of Scripture and Latin.

That is the paradox of Jeffrey Pinyan’s first book, “Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People: A guide to the New English Translation of the Mass.” A member of St. Hedwig Parish, Trenton, as well as brother and godson of Father Charles Pinyan, pastor of Guardian Angel Parish, Allendale (Archdiocese of Newark), Pinyan wrote the book in free time he gained from a work hour reduction. It seems to have been time well spent.

With the new English Mass translation expected to be implemented during Advent 2011, Pinyan’s book takes a giant leap forward in building understanding among the laity about changes in the Mass that will take place after 37 years of the current form.

The book explains what’s changing in the Mass and why, with abundant references to Scripture and Church tradition. “The Church is always looking for new ways to present what she’s always had,” said Pinyan in an interview with The Monitor. 

A Deepening Faith 
Pinyan describes his attraction and approach to theology as a refreshing balance between deep-rooted tradition and authentic curiosity.

“I was a Catholic who didn’t take his faith very seriously,” said Pinyan. “I would go to Mass when I was home, but not at college.”

He said that leaving the college environment was a major turning point in his life. “When I moved down to Plainsboro (in 2005) and joined a parish, that’s when I started reading Scripture again and going to Bible studies. It was in 2007 that I really started reading Church documents, and that jump-started me into taking my faith even more seriously.” Pinyan attended a conference on Pope Benedict’s XVI first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, in 2007 and was consequentially challenged to live a more Eucharistic life.

“The Eucharist is the sacrament of charity,” he said, quoting Pope Benedict. “It’s hypocritical to read about the Eucharist and not change my life because of it.”

Pinyan has sold over 1,300 copies of his book in Australia, England, New Zealand and the U.S., mostly by word of mouth. His book is being sold through the Leaflet Missal Catalog, at the National Shrine book store in Washington, D.C.; and it’s being used as reference material at a handful of study groups, where the questions at the end of each chapter provide the substance for group discussion. 

Greatest of All Prayers 
In his book, Pinyan explains how the entire Mass is most certainly a prayer, in fact the greatest of all prayers. He explains how everything from preparation before Mass, to the bodily gestures during Mass to the dismissal after Communion, all have deeper meaning than what meets the eyes and ears.

The word “Mass”, for example, comes from the Latin “missa”, which actually means “dismissal” in ancient Latin; but Pinyan points out, citing Pope Benedict XVI, in the Christian tradition “missa” came to mean a sending forth on a mission.

“The Church never says something out of a vacuum. It pulls from its tradition,” said Pinyan.

“The Catholic Church isn’t about language. It’s about Jesus Christ,” he said. “Language is important, but not as important as the Eucharist.” Pinyan emphasizes how every change in the new Mass translation doesn’t change the essence of the Mass. If anything it makes the realities of the Mass more forthright.

For example, instead of just saying “I am not worthy to receive you” before Communion, the congregation will say “I am not worthy for you to enter under my roof” to help bring home the reality that Christ is coming to dwell in our bodies that are temples of the Holy Spirit, explains Pinyan.

Instead of “one in being” with the Father, in the creed the congregation will say “consubstantial” with the Father. The word may not be used in colloquial English, but there ought to be a “sacral-vernacular” vocabulary reserved for Holy Mass, Pinyan argues.

During the Penitential Rite, the congregation will say “I have sinned through my fault, through my fault, through my own most grievous fault,” instead of just saying “through my own fault” once. This is a return to the original Latin translation, and puts emphasis on personal fault in a public manner.

“Personal prayer isn’t necessarily private prayer,” said Pinyan, pointing out that the new translation intends to make Mass more personal. “Sometimes we need to be reminded of our message and mission.

I think something like this book can help (faithful Catholics) see things they’ve never seen before.”

Pinyan is working on a second book, “Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the Priests.” His first book can be bought at www.prayingthemass.com, and Amazon.com.

David Kilby can be reached at kilby.david@gmail.com