The introduction of the new translation of the Roman Missal is not just a chance to learn new words, but will hopefully be an opportunity to come to a deeper understanding of the Mass.
When the priest invites us to enter into communion, we respond by saying we are unworthy to receive Christ in the eucharist, but will accept God’s desire to heal us of our human frailty. This response has been revised in the new translation, and probably sounds the strangest of the Mass texts to those who haven’t heard it before or are not aware of its origins:
Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
While we are about to receive communion, the “roof” in this response has nothing to do with the roof of our mouths! Like other texts that have been revised in the new translation of the Missal, this response bears a scriptural image that has been restored in this edition.
This response to the invitation to communion finds its origins in chapter 8:5-13 of the gospel according to Matthew. A Roman centurion appeals to Jesus to heal his servant, who is ill. Despite the centurion being symbolic of the “enemy” is this occupied Jewish territory, Jesus is willing to fulfil the request, and intends to visit the servant at the centurion’s home. The centurion responds, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed.”
As such, when we respond to the priest’s invitation to communion, we echo the thoughts and the words of the centurion’s servant. We are not worthy to receive the body and blood of Christ in holy communion. Yet this is also a reminder and acknowledgement of the remarkable gift we receive. We are truly healed, strengthened and nourished for the Christian journey. As St Augustine once described it, we “become what we receive”, or “say ‘Amen’ to that which we are”, the body of Christ.
And as Jesus explains at the end of this encounter with the centurion, God’s will is done within us because of our faith.