What Does the Prayer Really Say? 8th Sunday in of Ordinary Time (or Quinquagesima)
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2003
GJB, who clearly picked up my play on words with the “Big Apple” and Callimachus’ adage about the “mega kakon” hollers from the hollers via e-mail: “I’m just a country boy who loves the back roads and hollers of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The thought of going to the Magnum Malum causes me to tremble…. Scriptiones tuae in Peregrinatore mihi delectant….You put a lot of work into your columns. It is appreciated.” And I appreciate your kind words, GJB. HE of TN also offers me e-mail and information: “The current February 2003 issue of the FSSP newsletter includes an article "The Collect II: The Oration" by "A Fraternity priest".” I didn’t know there was a “Collect I” article, much less a “II”. I do not get that newsletter. Hopefully I will scare up a copy of those articles or someone will be kind enough to supply me with them. They sound interesting.
We have all often had the feeling, I think, that the processes of the Church seem unending, like Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce revived. But it also happens that, when things seem quite bleak in the God’s house, Rome can surprise the dickens out of us and act decisively and for the good.
Most of you will remember some time back reports that the Holy See’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) issued stunningly strong, even stinging, letters to a bishop in a diocese where English is spoken regarding how a priest had refused Holy Communion to a communicant who had knelt. The CDW letter of 1 July 2002, over the signature of the former Prefect Jorge Card. Medina-EstÃƒÂ©vez Further, said that it is never permitted to refuse communion to a Catholic who wants to receive it during Mass, except when it poses the danger of grave scandal to other believers: “Priests should understand that the congregation will regard future complaints of this nature with great seriousness, and if verified, it intends to see disciplinary action consonant with the gravity of the pastoral abuse.” In the weeks that followed reports of that letter, some people with whom I spoke poohpoohed the report, suggesting with the old liberal saw that it hadn’t been published in the proper instrument of promulgation etc. Well, no more. It is now available in the November/December number of Notitiae, the official publication of the same CDW. Also in that same issue of Notitiae we find a letter of the CDW’s undersecretary Fr. Mario Marini to someone who had written to the Congregation to complain of the same problem: Fr. Marini writes: “In consideration of the nature of the problem and the relative likelihood that it might or might not be resolved on the local level, every member of the faithful has the right of recourse to the Roman pontiff either personally or by means of the dicasteries or tribunals of the Roman Curia.” He goes on: “Please be assured that the congregation takes this matter very seriously, and is making the necessary contacts in its regard.… At the same time, this dicastery continues to be ready to be of assistance if you should need to contact it again in the future.”
Do you need to write?
Francis Card. Arinze
Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship
and Discipline of the Sacraments
00120 Vatican City
Always be respectful in tone regarding everyone about whom you write, especially the offending priest, etc. Keep it very brief – one side of one sheet if possible. Provide facts about what happened before anything else (date, time, place and exact names). Provide how it made you feel in one separate brief unexaggerated statement. Do not teach the CDW its job (which it knows already) or the law (it wrote it). If you can include letter(s) of others to corroborate what happened, all the better. Do not hand write it if you can help it: Europeans and others from around the world learn a different style of handwriting and thus the hand of foreigners is often hard for them to read – type or word process it if possible. Keep a copy of everything you send. These are good rules of thumb when writing to anyone who is constrained by duty to pick through papers in greater quantities than you can imagine.
LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):
Satiati munere salutari,
tuam, Domine, misericordiam deprecamur,
ut, hoc eodem quo nos temporaliter vegetas sacramento,
perpetuae vitae participes benignus efficias.
This prayer appears to be composed for the Novus Ordo, though it may have some roots in the Veronese Sacramentary.
Let us get at some vocabulary first, using as always our comfy Lewis & Short Dictionary. We had the verb vegeto as recently as the Post communion prayer of the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time. It meant then what it means now: “to arouse, enliven, quicken, animate, invigorate.” The only use of vegeto I found in Sacred Scripture was in Gen 9 in the story of how God wiped everyone out but Noah, et al., and then, when the chastisement was over he set a rainbow in the sky as a sign of his pact that He would not do it again: et recordabor foederis mei vobiscum et cum omni anima vivente quae carnem vegetat et non erunt ultra aquae diluvii ad delendam universam carnem…. (Gen. 9:15).
The adverb temporaliter is an adverb from the adjective temporalis from the noun tempus (“time”). Temporaliter means “for a time, temporarily”. I think we must be a little careful not to confuse this with English “temporally”, which has to do also with boundaries of space and time as well as with material things, “temporal” or “secular” things. On the other hand, the adjective perpetuus, a, um means “continuing throughout, continuous, unbroken, uninterrupted; constant, universal, general, entire, whole, perpetual.”
Satio, as you might guess, is the verb meaning basically “to fill, satisfy; to sate, satiate with food”. Related is, of course, the adjective satis, “enough, sufficiently (objectively, so that one needs nothing more; whereas affatim subjectively, so that one wishes nothing more).” Today, as I read this, there leapt to mind the elegant phrase of Horace at the beginning of the Epodes (1,32): “satis superque me benignitas tua ditavit…. Enough and more than enough has your kindness enriched me.” The word satis is often found with superque through all ages of Latin literature and common speech (it is found in Plautus, for example). While it was originally applied to the poet’s famous patron Maecenas, could we not say the same for the Eucharist?
Having been filled to satiety with the saving gift,
we beg, O Lord, your mercy,
that by means of that same sacrament by which you are enlivening us now for a time,
you will kindly make us participants of life everlasting.
We find in this the brilliant contrast of differing time streams, one which is interrupted and one which is uninterrupted. The contrast hinges on the words temporaliter and perpetua. We receive the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist occasionally even if (in terms of our earthly life) frequently. In other words, our reception of God in Communion is interrupted, both in the sense of the once (or, according to Canon Law, twice) a day when we are properly disposed and also in the sense that we will one day die and then not be receiving Communion in the Blessed Sacrament any more. In this moment of Holy Communion we recognize in this prayer that we are looking forward to a reception of God in the celestial liturgy of the Heavenly Banquet in a way that is uninterrupted, both in the sense that our communing with God will be continuous and also that it will never need to end in death or anything else forever. Our reception of Holy Communion, when we are baptized and properly disposed in the state of grace, is the height and perfect mode of our “full, conscious and active participation” so desired and enjoined upon us by Holy Mother Church. It is a foretaste of what is to come. It is the food for the journey here that simultaneously fills us and leaves us with the knowledge that, while it contains everything, even the very divinity, the very Person, of the one whom It symbolizes, we are destined for something even greater than Holy Communion… if that can be imagined. We have it all “already, but not yet.” Our Holy Communion leaves us with great expectations.
I think it is not by accident that, because of satiati, I was reflecting on the word satis which I looked up again in our mutual friend L&S though I knew its meaning well. Once again my old curiosity was rewarded: satis indicates the sort of fullness by which we no long need anything more, whereas another related word, affatim is used to describe the sort of fullness by which we no longer wish for anything more. I grant that this limps a little, but could this distinction not describe the sort of satisfaction we have in this earthly life and the kind we will have in the life to come? Could we translate today’s prayer something like this?
Having been filled to satiety with the saving gift,
we beg, O Lord, your mercy,
that by means of that same life-giving sacrament by which you are enlivening us now in a way that is by its very nature interrupted both by the course of the earth’s revolution and also the terminus of death,
you will kindly make us participants of the kind of unending life which is not ever to be interrupted either by momentary breaks or even a final cessation.
Having gone through this examination and exploration of vocabulary, and having made some associations with Scripture and with other literature, that version above is more or less what I hear in my head now when I read aloud our sonorous Latin. Never let it be said that the new compositions for the Novus Ordo are lacking in depth and dignity. I find this Latin prayer deeply satisfying indeed. It does not leave me wishing for more. Then I read the version we still, alas, hear in our churches on Sunday and I am brutally snapped back into these hard times of ours as if by the cold damp thwack of the twist in a kitchen towel:
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
God of salvation,
may this sacrament which strengthens us here on earth
bring us to eternal life.
Like hungry Oliver extending his poorhouse bowl and fearing the blow about to fall, I am begging, please, Your Excellencies,… may we please have some more?