What Does the Prayer Really Say? 3rd Sunday of Lent – Station: St. Lawrence outside the walls
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer IN 2003
I now have confirmation that the offices of The Wanderer are doing some Lenten house cleaning: feedback dating November of 2001, yes… ’01 has been forwarded. Fr. JS wrote: “I recently read your articles on the use of Latin. I’m looking forward to the day when you publish “the Wanderer” in Latin. In that way you would help us to understand more fully what are the contents of your articles. Why are you still using English? That is when we will know that you are really serious about helping us more and helping us appreciate our rich heritage of Latin.” Better later than never, right? First, Fr. JS, I note that you wrote to me in English. Second, if there is any doubt about whether or not I am interested in promoting our Latin liturgical heritage, I hope in the intervening year and a half you will have been convinced that I mean business. If you are still with us, Fr. JS, accept belated thanks for the note.
Closer to the time of this writing, TT of CA writes: “During WWII the Church provided us with a handy pocket missal with the Latin text on the verso, English translation on the recto, and following the Mass was simple and easy. Thousands of G.I.s did it every Sunday.” Yes, TT, this is not really as hard as “liturgists” pretend. We soliders of the Church militant, GI’s and officers together, carrying our daily burdens and fighting the good fight, are smarter than they think. And thank you for your service as a soldier.
Fr. CM, S.J., a former Latin teacher and theology prof who taught in Latin, writes: “I wish I had time to study your column in greater detail. I think you are doing a great work and service to many. I particularly liked the last part of your column on the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time. It was marvelous.” Heartfelt thanks, Fr., for the experienced praise. He also informs me of the volumes of his confrere Martin D. O’Keefe, S.J. entitled Oremus: Speaking with God in the words of the Roman Rite (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Studies,1993) and the newer Exsultemus: Rejoicing with God in the Hymns of the Roman Breviary. Thanks much, Fr. I knew about the former, but not the later – which I do not have. Oremus is good and useful. It constitutes O’Keefe’s translations, without commentary, for the entirety of the Missal. I look at Oremus now and then to see what O’Keefe did. For the most part the translations are good, though he tends, like ICEL, to split the periodic sentences of the original Latin into more than one sentence in English and he paraphrases a bit for the sake of style. Since I am not trying to provide smooth and stylish translations, I can avoid that even at the cost of producing something a bit awkward. I would be nice to see the newer volume Exsultemus, which I am sure is excellent.
Many thanks also to the folks who sent me copies of the comment on the Collect written by “a Fraternity Priest”. I will look it over. You collaboration and support makes this labor of love easier to bear. And now for this week’s prayer, which is a new composition for the 1970MR based on a prayer in the Veronese Sacramentary.
LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):
Sumentes pignus caelestis arcani,
et in terra positi iam superno pane satiati,
te, Domine, supplices deprecamur,
ut, quod in nobis mysterio geritur, opere impleatur.
As always we should be sure of our vocabulary. The inestimably functional Lewis & Short Dictionary discloses that sumo means “to take, take up, lay hold of, assume” while by extension it also signifies “to take for some purpose, i. e. to use, apply, employ, spend, consume”. Given the context of this moment of Holy Mass, when we have just “consumed” the Host, and heading off those who might claim that this supports Communion in the hand, we must be mindful that “take” in English can mean “eat”. While Americans may be less familiar with this meaning, if you have ever lived with English speakers from Africa or Asia, you will hear it used often in this sense. Pignus, which we had in a prayer not long ago, is “a pledge, gage, pawn, security, mortgage (of persons as well as things).” The basic meaning of the adjective arcanus, a, um (related to the verb arceo) is “shut up, closed” and thus “hidden, concealed, secret, private.” It is used in the neuter as a substantive, “a sacred secret, a mystery”. Supernus, -a, -um is an adjective applied to something “above, on high, upper; celestial, supernal.” Impleo is “to fill up, fill full, to make full” and “to fill with food, to satisfy, satiate” and thus with the accessory notion of activity, “to fulfill, discharge, execute, satisfy, content.”
Taking the down payment of the sacred heavenly mystery,
and, placed on earth, having been filled already with bread from on high,
we kneeling in entreaty beseech you, O Lord,
that, what is being accomplished in us by the sacramental mystery, may be brought to fulfillment by work.
This prayer is an excellent example of the mysterious effects of the Eucharist for the properly disposed baptized man, woman and child, and the responsibilities that derive from our daring to approach so great a gift. First, please note that that word pignus, “pledge, token” indicates that what we have just “taken” is merely a foretaste of what is to be offered to us in heaven. Our prayer today says that we here on earth are “already” filled. At the same time it clearly points to the fact that we do “not yet” have the complete fulfillment of mystery, which will be found only in the celestial banquet of heaven in the sight of God. We have here, as it were, a kind of manna dropping to us from heaven, crumbs from the Father’s feast, though the slightest and tiniest crumb might suffice as the ransom, token, pledge, down payment for every sin committed by every person who has ever lived or ever will live. If this is not enough to make you kneel and beseech God in thanksgiving, then I can’t imagine what will. And if that were not enough, we can look at the mysterious effects of this great Sacrament in us. God desires to share His own transforming glory with His good, but fallen, images – us. To this end, while we are here on earth to do His will and work toward the fulfillment of His eternal plan, He nourishes us with Himself. He bears us up and supports us. When we partake of regular food, our bodies transform it into what we are. When we partake of the Eucharist, it transforms us into who It is. We become one in an intimate unity. Filled and transformed in this way, we have a responsibility to live our vocations well and properly in this fleeting time on earth. What we do and what we say redounds, or should so, to the glory of God. Our deeds must reflect the saving and transforming might of the Eucharist. They must be consistent with Who the Eucharist is and the reason for which He gives Himself to us in this mysterious way.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
in sharing this sacrament
may we receive your forgiveness
and be brought together in unity and peace.
I had to double check to make sure that I copied the ICEL version from the correct Sunday.
During Lent, I have been including the Oratio super populum now restored in the 2002MR. The priest says this, or will when he uses Latin, after the Post communio. It should be in a future English translation.
ORATIO SUPER POPULUM (2002MR):
Rege, Domine, quaesumus, tuorum corda fidelium,
et servis tuis hanc gratiam largire propitius
ut in tui et proximi dilectione manentes,
plenitudinem mandatorum tuorum adimpleant.
MY LITERAL RENDERING:
Direct, O Lord, we beg, the hearts of your faithful,
and propitiously grant this grace to your servants,
that, remaining in the love of you and neighbor,
they may bring to fulfillment the fullness of your commandments.
Notice the use of adimpleo, “to fullfil”. “Fulfillment” in various senses – to complete and to be satisfied by being filled – seems a major point for Holy Mother Church this week, given the final positions of those “filling” verbs in the two final prayers of Mass this Sunday.
If you recall the description of this “prayers over the people” which I presented a couple weeks back, these prayers are spoken to God by the priest for the sake of the people. Thus, he is not speaking for the people present at Mass, he is rather speaking for himself and asking God to do something for the people for whom he is alter Christus. The two prayers at the end of Mass remind me of the statement of the great N. African bishop and doctor, St. Augustine of Hippo (+430) on the anniversary of his ordination. He refers in his sermon to the heavy weight of his duties as bishop, which he calls a sarcina – the heavy Roman soldier’s military backpack – and of the how his vocation and that of the people are intertwined. In his anniversary sermon, Augustine describes the dutiful living out of their respective vocations in connection with what Christ does for us, the aid and strength he gives us together with the heavy task we are to fulfill in His service. He says,
“This burden (sarcina) of mine, about which I am speaking, what other is it than you yourselves? Pray for me strength, as I pray that you not be heavy! For the Lord Jesus would not have spoke of his burden (sarcinam suam) unless He was going to carry the one carrying it. But if you would sustain me, that we may bear our burdens for each other according to the precept of the Apostle, then thus we will together and for each other be fulfilling (impleamus) the law of Christ” (cf. Gal. 6, 2). If He does not carry it with us, we will sink under its load (succumbimus); if He does not carry us, we die (occumbimus). In the times when I am frightened that I am for you, I am then consoled that I am with you. Vobis enim sum episcopus, vobiscum sum Christianus… I am a bishop for you, I am a Christian with you” (s. 340, 1 – date uncertain).
In speaking of the Church, Augustine distinguishes Christ the Head, Christ the Body, and the whole Christ (Christus totus). In this sermon, we can see how Christ the Head (in the person of the priest) and Christ the Body (in the people gathered around the priest) form one Christ (totus). They are with each other and for each other, with quite different roles but with one single aim: the salvation of souls – their own and of their neighbors. Augustine says in another homily, when he is taking his people to task, “I do not want to be saved without you” (s. 17, 2). The priest and the people must sustain each other each in their own way, according to their proper roles, and form one Christ in doing so. These realities can also be a starting point for consideration of what it means to participate at Holy Mass. Perhaps in the years to come, when people far and wide will have also the benefit of the Oratio super populum, accurate translations will support the reality of different roles in the liturgy, of the priest, of the congregation, and help them not to be respected and not confused. They are complimentary and not interchangeable.