What Does the Prayer Really Say? 4th Sunday of Lent “Laetare” – Station: Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2005
I want to get to something before Holy Week arrives. Many have asked WDTPRS and the ASK FATHER Question Box (askfather.net) about a translation point regarding the optional rite of washing feet (the “Mandatum” or “Command” – whence the word Maundy) on Holy Thursday. In many places women are invited to have their feet washed. This is against the Church’s laws based on Scripture (cf. Matthew 20:28). Two main excuses are offered in defense of the abuse. The first excuse concerns a false sense of service and charity: “hospitality” suggests women must be “included”. In the USA some might obtusely cite a note having no canonical authority from the (then) NCCB’s Committee on Liturgy in 1987 which uses this “hospitality” argument. The second excuse stems from “inclusive” language: the English words in the ICEL Sacramentary, “men” and “man”, can’t possibly mean “males”. That would be sexist! Therefore women must be included. On the contrary, the Latin rubrics for the foot washing rite has words viri selecti, “chosen men”. Vir means “a male person”. If you have been properly informed about this, to insist that “men” (viri) means “men and women” is really to lie. This whole debate has been cleared up more than once by the Holy See, especially in the 1988 document Paschales sollemnitatis of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. The rubrics of the 2002 Missale Romanum retain the viri selecti. There is no way around this. Legally, linguistically, and theologically the issue is clear. No conference of bishops, individual bishop or priest has the authority to change this without specific permission of the Holy See.
Readers sent me copies of the letters they wrote to the Prefects of the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Joseph Card. Ratzinger, and of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS), Francis Card. Arinze. Here are two excerpts. First, how HE expressed his desires: “So let me beg you to stand fast against adverse influences and firmly support correct English translations in the pro multis consecration formula, the Credo, and other key passages at which people will look for confidence that the new missal is authentic. Both fidelity and beautiful sacred language throughout will inspire the celebration of Holy Mass with reverence and solemnity.” Next, how JB expressed his support and prayers: “It seems certain that you will face much advice to incorporate language that is deemed inclusive or politically correct and other deviations from these beautiful payers. We pray that you will be able to remain firm. My wife and I are unsure what our faith would be if it were not supported by the beauty of these prayers as they should be. May God bless you in this endeavor. My entire family will believe what it prays in these new prayers for generations to come. We will keep you and this very important work in our prayers throughout this year of the Eucharist.”
The nickname Laetare originated from the first word of the Introit chant for the today’s Mass, “Rejoice!” On Laetare Sunday there is a slight relaxation of Lent’s penitential spirit, because today we have a glimpse of the joy that is coming at Easter, now near at hand. Today we may see rose colored vestments and hear instrumental music played (during Lent instruments may not be played and organ cannot be used except only to sustain congregational singing). As WDTPRS has explained before, the custom of rose vestments is tied to the Station churches in Rome. The Station for Laetare Sunday is the Basilica of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem where the relics of Cross and Passion brought from the Holy Land by St. Helena (+c. 329), mother of the Emperor Constantine (+337), were deposited. It was the custom on this day for Popes to bless roses made of gold, some amazingly elaborate and bejeweled, which were to be sent to Catholic kings, queens and other notables. The biblical reference is Christ as the “flower” sprung forth from the root of Jesse (Is 11:1 – in the Vulgate flos “flower” and RSV “branch”). Thus Laetare was also called Dominica de rosa…. Sunday of the Rose. It didn’t take a lot of imagination to develop rose colored vestments from this. Remember, the color of the vestments is called rosacea, not pink. This Roman custom spread by means of the Roman Missal to the whole of the world.
Our Collect is a new composition for the 1970MR and subsequent editions of the Novus Ordo based on a prayer in the Gelasian Sacramentary and a section of a sermon by St. Pope Leo I, the Great (+461). There is some similarity between this Collect with those of Advent. On the 2nd Sunday of Advent, we heard: in tui occursum Filii festinantes… “those hurrying to meet your Son.” On the 3rd Sunday (this Sunday’s fraternal twin Gaudete, the only other day for rose vestments) we heard: votis sollemnibus alacri laetitia celebrare…”, to celebrate…with eager jubilation by means of solemn offerings.” There is rosy anticipation in today’s Collect just as there was in Advent. Without further delay, here is the beautiful Latin followed immediately by the atrocious ICEL version.
COLLECT – LATIN TEXT (2002MR):
Deus, qui per Verbum tuum
humani generis reconciliationem mirabiliter operaris,
praesta, quaesumus, ut populus christianus
prompta devotione et alacri fide
ad ventura sollemnia valeat festinare.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Father of peace,
we are joyful in your Word,
your Son Jesus Christ,
who reconciles us to you.
Let us hasten toward Easter
with the eagerness of faith and love.
I try to be positive in these columns. I really do. But this makes you want to pound your head against the table. What would happen if we translated the ICELese back into Latin? If the ICEL were accurate, you might expect some similarities, right? WARNING: Do not attempt this at home. Spiritual harm and damage to property can be caused by thinking about these ICEL versions. Leave this sort of thing to trained professionals and people with tough foreheads.
LATIN REVERSION of the ICEL:
in tuo Verbo, Iesu Christo filio tuo,
qui nos tibi reconciliat, laetamur.
Fidei studio et amoris
ad diem Paschalis festinemus.
Oookaayyy… ‘nuf said about that, I think.
Sollemnia is the neuter plural of the adjective sollemnis meaning “yearly”, that which is established to be done each year. In religious contexts, it comes out as “religious, festive”. As a substantive, it is “a religious or solemn rite, ceremony, feast, sacrifice, solemn games, a festival, solemnity”. Sollemne, the neuter noun, is also, “usage, custom, practice”. In legal contexts, it can be “formality”. In later, Christian Latin words related to sollemnis came to indicate the celebration of the Eucharist. Alacer is “lively, brisk, quick, eager, active; glad, happy, cheerful”. Promptus, a, um is from the verb promo. Promptus indicates, “brought to light, exposed to view” and by extension “at hand, i. e. prepared, ready, quick, prompt, inclined or disposed to or for any thing.”
O God, who by Your Word
wondrously effect the reconciliation of the human race,
grant, we beg, that the Christian people
may be able to hasten toward the upcoming solemnities
with ready devotion and eager faith.
Note the marvelous parings of alacer fides and prompta devotio … “eager faith” and “ready devotion”. We know that fides “faith” can refer to the supernatural virtue which is given to us in baptism and also to the content of what we believe. This content must be understood as both the things we can learn and memorize with love, but more importantly the divine Person whom we must learn and contemplate with love. There is a faith by which we believe, the virtue God gives us, and a faith in which we believe, the content of the Faith. On the other hand, whereas fides is a supernatural virtue, devotio is an “active” virtue according to St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica. The Angelic Doctor wrote: “The intrinsic or human cause of devotion is contemplation or meditation. Devotion is an act of the will by which a man promptly gives himself to the service of God. Every act of the will proceeds from some consideration of the intellect, since the object of the will is a known good; or as Augustine says, willing proceeds from understanding. Consequently, meditation is the cause of devotion since through meditation man conceives the idea of giving himself to the service of God” (STh II-II 82, 3). The Jesuit preacher Louis Bourdaloue (1632-1704) underscored devotion as especially “a devotion to duty”. What we do, including our “devotions”, must help us keep the commandments of God and stick to the duties of one’s state in life before all else. There is an interplay between our devotions and our devotion.
Each of us has a state in life, a God-given vocation we are duty bound to follow. We must be devoted to that state in life, and the duties that come with it, as they are in the here and now. That “here and now” is important. We must not focus on the state we had once upon a time, or wish we had, or should have had, or might have someday: those are unreal and misleading fantasies that distract us from reality and God’s will. If we are truly devoted and devout (in the sense of the active virtue) to fulfilling the duties of our state as it truly is here and now, then God will give us every actual grace we need to fulfill our vocation. Why can we boldly depend on God to help us? If we are fulfilling the duties of our state of life, then we are also fulfilling our proper roles in His great plan, His design from before the creation of the universe. God is therefore sure to help us. And if we are devoted to our state as it truly is, then God can also guide us to a new vocation when and if that is His will for us. Faithful in what we must do here and now, we will be open to something God wants us to do later. This attachment to reality and sense of dutiful obedience through the active virtue devotio is a necessary part of religion in keeping with the biblical principle in 1 John 2:3-5:
“And by this we may be sure that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says ‘I know Him’ but disobeys His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in Him: he who says he bides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.”