What Does the Prayer Really Say? 2nd Sunday of Lent – Station: St. Mary in Domnica
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2003
Feedback is in order. First, from and Italian bishop His Holiness, John Paul II in Rome, speaking on Psalm 150 during his 26 February general audience: “The liturgy unites two shrines, the earthly temple and infinite heaven, God and man, time and eternity…. It is necessary to discover and constantly live the beauty of prayer and the liturgy. We must pray to God not only with theologically exact formulas, but also in a beautiful and dignified way…. In this regard, the Christian community must examine its conscience so that the beauty of music and song return even more to liturgy. We must purify worship from an aberration of styles, of careless forms of expression, of slipshod music and texts that are barely in harmony with the greatness of the act we celebrate." (Emphasis added) NB: The Pope was speaking to whole world and not just WDTPRS, but his comments were so appropriate for what we do here every week that it seemed like he was speaking directly to us. Thank you, Your Holiness.
In the 30 January offering of WDTPRS we had a bit of commentary on the precision of other vernacular translations. To this end, TÃƒâ€œM writes from NY about the Irish Gaelic version saying: “Many thanks for the enlightening articles which keep reminding me that no translation can carry all the innuendoes and echoes and allusions of the Latin. Triste dictu!” Indeed, sad to say. I wish I could do a better job myself. TÃƒâ€œM provided also an Irish version of the prayer from that column which he claims is fairly accurate. Since the Gaelic of this priest of Prussian origin is non-existent, I reproduce here his compliments rather than his Irish text. In the meantime, I offer him a hearty Go raibh maith agat for his efforts.
GL writes via e-mail: “I would like to say how much I enjoy reading your weekly articles in "The Wanderer." It is always one of the first things that I turn to. I know that you hear that often, but I had to say it as well!” Funny… that’s what I do too. At any rate, GL, if you get something from these articles, perhaps others would also. You might think of giving a few gift subscriptions. I know The Wanderer could use them these days. Fr. WR writes via e-mail: “Permit me to begin by thanking you for your interesting and worthwhile articles in The Wanderer. I always read them and often with much pleasure; …. And of course, my gratitude and congratulations are owed almost equally to the editorial policy-makers of The Wanderer for deciding to give you your regular column…. I am a convert from dreary Protestantism, and entered the seminary during Vatican II. I should be grateful, I suppose, for having had even only one year of Latin, but I was really cheesed-off when it was dropped quam primum. Since then I have had to continue making up for this sad lack.” Right, Fr. WR. By denying young Catholic men in seminaries their rights to their Latin heritage they are also denying them the tools they need for their formation. Aside from how Latin trains you to think, by not having this critical language they are effectively made slaves to other people’s translations and opinions. Thus, seminary professors and other “experts” can tell them nearly anything and get often away with it.
CP writes via e-mail: “You mention Quadragesima as the season of Lent…. Can you possibly explain for the readers (many of the younger ones may never have experienced a Latin liturgy; one woman I was talking to was stunned when she found out there had been something else before she was born in 1970) … the whole frame of reference and how the word "lent" came about?” Sure, CP. Historically, the time of the fast and preparation before Easter had different lengths, and at one point it was as long as eight weeks. Today, the Church calculates 40 days from the First Sunday of Lent until Holy Thursday, inclusive. The days of Ash Wednesday and the days of the week before the First Sunday are certainly considered Lent as well, of course, but they are a historic hold over from a series of preparatory days. You can see this reflected in our liturgical books where they are called Thursday, Friday and Saturday “after Ash Wednesday” rather than “of the first week of Lent”. The first week of Lent starts on Sunday. The first four days of Lent once had strong thematic messages to help us enter into the rest of Lent, which until about the time of Pope St. Gregory I, the Great, really began the following Sunday. Lent is an extremely important season in our calendar. It is important for our spiritual lives. In a sense we are readying ourselves for another “baptism” at the feast of Easter. We require a somewhat painful period of penance before we can experience properly the joys that come with the Resurrection.
Forty day periods are commonly found in the pages of Sacred Scripture. The rain of the flood fell for forty days and nights (Gen 7:12) and Noah opened the ark after forty days (Gen 8:6), Moses fasted twice for forty days (Deut 9:18-25) and was on the mountain for forty days (Exodus 24:18; 34:28), spies were in Canaan for forty days (Numbers 13:25), the Israelites wandered in the waster for forty years (Num 34:33), Ezekiel endured the iniquity of Judah for forty days (Ezek 4:6), Elijah fasted and journeyed forty days before he had his vision (1 Kings 19:8), God gave Nineveh forty days to repent (Jonah 3:4), Goliath defied Saul’s army for forty days (I Sam 17:16), and Jesus spent forty days in wilderness praying and fasting before beginning His public ministry (Matthew 4:2). Forty days was the Jewish embalming period (Gen 50:3). Jews could not inflict more than 40 lashes (Deut 25:3). We are called to imitate our Lord. In Lent we go with Him into “quarantine”. As we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "’For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning’ [Heb 4:15]. By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert." (CCC 540). The Lord was seen for forty days after He arose (Acts 1:3).
LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):
Percipientes, Domine, gloriosa mysteria,
gratias tibi referre satagimus,
quod, in terra positos,
iam caelestium praestas esse participes.
This is a new composition for the Novus Ordo based on a prayer in the Gelasian Sacramentary.
Let’s see if we can discovery any surprises in our prayer. With our accustomed diligence we turn again to our heavy and handy Lewis & Short Dictionary. Right away we will notice satagimus and we will instantly suspect that it is interesting. It is so interesting that you will have to look for it under the lemma (entry) satis where you will find satis constructed with ago as sat ago, sometimes written as one word satago. This means, “to have enough to do, have one’s hands full; to be in trouble” and also “to bustle about, make a to-do, be full of business.” In business language it is, “to satisfy, content, pay a creditor.” In other prayers we have seen, and often how gratia is not only “grace” but is also “thanks” when we construct it with a verb such as ago (again) and referro. I suspect we have referro here, instead of ago so that we don’t get bored with a repetition of words.
The verb percipio might be easily mistaken as “perceive” by the incautious, for that is one of its meanings. But we have to consider the context. However, percipio also signifies “to take wholly, to seize entirely” and then by extension “to perceive, feel and “to learn, know, conceive, comprehend, understand.” I will use “grasp” here, but not in the sense of “seize” (as some of the less than perceptive do when the “grasp” Holy Communion). In our prayer today, it is in the form of a present active participle. By “present” we understand that the time of the verb is picked up from, is “contemporary” with, the time of the main verb. Also, remember that the words sacramentum and mysterium are often interchangeable in liturgical prayers and that our old friend gloria is not just “glory” but also a characteristic of God, a transforming power which Himself which He intends to share with us in the world to come. The Eucharist is an anticipation of this gift. Praesto means a range of things, from “to become surety for, to answer or vouch for, to warrant, be responsible for, to take upon one’s self”, and “to show, exhibit, to prove, evince, manifest”, and “to give, offer, furnish, present, expose”. We will need a bit of a circumlocution to get at this.
As we are now grasping, O Lord, the glorious transforming sacrament,
we are busy offering thanks to you,
for you are granting us, placed here on earth,
to be participants of the heavenly mysteries now at this very moment.
The Church has glorious things to offer us from Christ Himself. The content of our prayers, what our prayers really say, hold inestimable treasures for us, if only we can get them open. If only someone will give us a key. The Church’s “liturgical movement” of the early and mid 20th c. began to haul the goods out for us and lay them out for all to enjoy. The majority of the fathers of the Second Vatican Council wanted, I think, continue that process. These prayers, the whole sacred action of the Mass and its chief gift, the Eucharist, are meant to transform us. In the moment in which we hear this prayer, we have just completed the reception of Holy Communion. Hopefully we have been treated to sacred silence or truly sacred music. The times of the verbs and tenses of the prayer are all present, contemporary, referring to moment – the very moment – we hear this prayer. The Blessed Sacrament is still “held” (percipio) within our bodies. We are called on to participate in these sacred mysteries with “full, conscious and active” participation, “grasping” interiorly, in our hearts and minds, what we are grasping interiorly in our bodies. Unlike normal food, which we transform into who and what we are, the Eucharist is the mysterious food which gloriously transforms us into Who It is. We are given a foretaste of heaven. As we hear in the prayer used at Benediction, “Panem de caelo praestitisti eis… He has given us (praesitisti is from praesto) the Bread from heaven, containing in itself all delight….” He has the power the change us, placed here on this earth to serve the Him in all we say and do.
During Lent, I include the new/ancient Oratio super populum now happily restored in the 2002MR. This is pronounced after the Post communio. It should be noted that in the ICEL “Sacramentary” in English there is on Sundays of Lent a “Solemn blessing or prayer over the people”. These are not in the Latin 1975MR.
ORATIO SUPER POPULUM (2002MR):
Benedic, Domine, fideles tuos benedictione perpetua,
et fac eos Unigeniti tui Evangelio sic adhaerere,
ut ad illam gloriam, cuius in se speciem Apostolis ostendit,
et suspirare iugiter et feliciter valeant pervenire.
MY LITERAL RENDERING:
With a perpetual benediction bless, O Lord, your faithful,
and make them so to cling to the Gospel of your Only-begotten,
that they may be able to long for always and happily attain
to that glory whose beauty He showed to the Apostles in Himself.
The verb suspiro means “to draw a deep breath, heave a sigh, to sigh” and thus “sighing after, longing for”.