Q: One of my students claims that the priest does not join with the people in the memorial acclamation. The Missal says: “The people continue”. I have always taken that to mean joining the priest. Who’s right?
A: Your student.
But your answer was correct prior to the revised English translation of the missal.
Formerly, the rubric instructed the priest and people to sing the acclamation, and you recall that the priest’s invitation used to be “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith” – including himself in the command.
However, what the Consilium gave us after Vatican II was a dialogue begun by the priest and picked up by the people. The translation we have now is not only more linguistically accurate but theologically more profound. The memorial acclamation is addressed to Christ, but the eucharistic prayer is a seamless address by the priest to God the Father. Even the institution narrative is addressed to the Father. The priest simply announces “The mystery of faith” – similar to statements such as “The Word of the Lord,” “The Gospel of the Lord,” “The Body of Christ,” and “The Blood of Christ.” He does not really address the people. He certainly does not shift his focus to Christ. He stays centered on his prayer to the Father. When the people complete the acclamation, he resumes his prayer.
It’s quite similar to the concluding gospel dialogue. When the priest or deacon says, “The Gospel of the Lord,” the people address Christ: “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ,” because he is present in the room in his word. And the memorial acclamation is also addressed to Christ because he is present in the eucharist.
I find all this quite beautiful, but there’s little hope in getting priests to change because so many of us start the memorial acclamation. If we don’t, the people don’t know which one to say. At daily mass, I sometimes encourage people to use one acclamation for a whole season. That way, they know which one to use, and my voice remains silent. In Spanish, the cues of the priest change for each acclamation. And in Vietnamese people always sing the same one. But in English some other solution needs to be worked out when the acclamation is spoken.