Wednesday of the 3rd Week of Lent

Rock TumblerCOLLECT
Praesta, quaesumus, Domine,
ut, per quadragesimalem observantiam eruditi
et tuo verbo nutriti,
sancta continentia tibi simus toto corde devoti,
et in oratione tua semper efficiamur concordes.

St. Leo the GreatA bit strange in its style, no?   Well, this is of new composition for the Novus Ordo.  It takes some inspiration from Sermon 40, 4 of St. Pope Leo I "the Great" (+461).

Erudio is "to polish, educate, instruct, teach".  Rudis is an adjective for "unwrought, untilled, unformed, unused, rough, raw, wild".  Someone who is rudis is "rude, unpolished, uncultivated, unskilled, awkward, clumsy, ignorant; hence (like ignarus)".  People must be brought out of this state by being polished.    St. Augustine (+430) wrote a work called De catechizandis rudibusEruditio refers to the whole culture and formation of a Catholic.

Observantia is certainly an "observance", but also "an observance of religious duties, divine worship, religion".  For example, the Theodosian Code speaks of "fides Catholicae observantiae" (16, 5, 12, § 54).  

Grant, we beg You, O Lord,
that we, having been polished by means of the Lenten observance
and nourished by Your word,
may by holy continence be consecrated with our whole heart,
and we may be made always harmonious in Your prayer.

Day by day our Lenten observance ought to be a polishing not a torture.  Sometimes people make the mistake in the spiritual life of putting themselves on the rack.  The rock tumbler is a better model than the rack.

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7 Responses to Wednesday of the 3rd Week of Lent

  1. martin says:

    to my mind, fr. z, your literal translation strikes the wrong note with “polished”.

    we have had “erudior” once before (wednesday in the 2nd week) where the phrase was “familiam tuam bonis . . operibus eruditam”. now we have ” per quadragesimalem observantiam eruditi et Tuo verbo nutriti”. both times you went for “polished”.

    im centring this post on the english word you have used. so you can see where im going, I think “trained” or “improved” is a much better literal translation. in this context, “polished” is an over-translation, as I will try to show.

    “rudis”, as you say, describes something in its natural state (not necessarily a bad thing, except in the case of humans, probably) and in english there is a wealth of synonyms: raw, crude, rough, unformed, coarse, brutal, wild, savage, primitive, and, by extension: harsh and unfeeling, and rude. all with negative connotations.

    “rude” has a double sense: one weak, and one strong. the strong sense is now obsolescent in eng. eng. – “like a rude and savage man of Inde”, or “rude boy” which was a term for street toughs from shakespeare until the 19th c. displaced in the 20th c. by punk or “bovver boy” (altho, apparently, it survives in jamaican english with the sense of young man who hangs around the street looking for trouble). the weak sense is “unmannerly” or “badly-behaved” and (particularly of language) “vulgar”.

    “e_ruditus” is the condition of one who has left the state of being “rudis”. this is achieved by the process now denominated by “culture” in its widest sense. but its a long hop from the basic process whereby the “rudis” is educated/ formed/ trained/ improved, to the condition of cultural refinement which “polished” denotes. in eng. eng., at least, the words “polished”, “refined”, “cultured”, have the connotation of something “over-developed” about them and hence, well, “unnatural” or “forced”. we find more than a hint of this in “cultured pearls”, “polished rice” etc. these are random examples. im just sketching the semantic field of the word “polished” and its cognates relevant to the translator’s art.

    the primary antithesis, however, isnt between a lower and a higher state of education or between low culture and high culture (which are qualitatively different), but between ignorance and knowledge. thats where St Augustine’s “de catechizandis rudibus” comes in: its the transition from darkness to light. “polished” also has the unfortunate connotation of a “finished” article as opposed to a work in progress. when something is “polished” there is nowhere left to go (except become highly-polished, I suppose). I dont see lent as time for “polishing” anything or anyone. the notorious “spring-clean” which coincides with lent is about something much more basic and down to earth than polishing. its about opening windows and brushing away cobwebs and sweeping and shaking and sorting and throwing away. the house turned upside down, like the actions of the apostle which caused the thessalonians to exclaim on his arrival there: “qui orbem concitaverunt isti et huc venerunt”. “polished” isnt in it!

    in fact semi-polished is the best we can aspire to “sub caelo”. as it happens, that is what your accompanying image shows: stones which have been churned so as to remove their rough edges and prepare them for the final stage of polishing (the purification which is to come).

  2. Henry Edwards says:

    ICEL version:
    during this lenten season
    nourish us with your word of life
    and make us one in love and prayer.

    There it is once again. But today the usual question, whence “love” from the Latin, may be a bit more interesting than usual.

  3. martin says:

    on a rough and ready analysis of “erudio” (in all its forms) in the vulgate, I found 75 instances, of which 54 (72%) are in a clear context of knowledge, instruction or training.

    with docere, [cog]noscere, intellegere, scire

    or in association with sapientia/ iudicium/ disciplina/ veritas/ prudentia,

    or in opposition to stultitia,

    or in a phrase referable to learning such as “ad id quod utile est”,

    or linked with praecepta/ mandata/ leges/ doctrina,

    or where verbal or practical instruction is otherwise indicated as in “eruditus in verbo”, “eruditque ad proelia”, “qui ad iustitiam erudiunt”, “erudiens nos ut abnegantes impietatem”, vel sim.)

    this is clearly the dominant sense.

    needless to say, usages shade into each other so that alternative arrangements are possible and valid, and some usages overlap. but persisting with my analysis, I group the use of the word in the vulgate in three divisions:

    (1) training/ knowledge/ instruction (as above);

    (2) “discipline” in the sense of correction, chastisement of the young (and servants) and in the sense of “warning”/ “challenge” (15 instances altogether); and

    (3) a residual miscellaneous group deriving mostly from prudential advice in sirach:

    (a) generically “wise”, dan.11:35
    (b) applied to the anima of a mulier sensata et tacita, sir.26:18 (14)
    (c) in the section on table manners, well-bred/polite, sir.31:22 (19)
    (d) sensible/discreet (linked with probabilis), sir.42:8
    (e) with no obvious colouring except careful/prudent, prov.15:24
    (f) as opposite of rude language, sir.23:20 (15)

    of these, perhaps (b), (c) and (f) could be translated by “polished”, but they are all aspects of “character” rather than refinement as such. some parts of the text are muddled, which is why I give in brackets the references to the english translations.

    the analysis is weighted by the fact that I searched erud* in all its verbal forms. a search of eruditus* (in all its forms) produces 24 instances. 2 fall under my group (2); 2 fall under group (3), and the rest are group (1) (83%).

    QED, no?

  4. martin says:

    im in danger of overstaying my welcome today, but henry makes a fair point about the increasing frequency of “love” in the ICEL prayers. 6 out of the last 10 collects have mentioned “love”. today its a reasonable approximation to “toto corde devoti”, but it undershoots the fervour of
    the latin and shifts the emphasis from our response to God to our response to each other (unity supplants devotion).

    in the lenten collects so far, ICEL use “loving care” where the latin has “benigno favore”; “your commandment of love” for “pietatis tuae mandata”; “propitiatione perpetua” becomes “unfailing love”; “Deus innocentiae restitutor et amator” becomes “God of love” (a hopeless fudge) ; and “open our hearts to Your love” and “love and sincerity” come from (?) “sinceris mentibus”.

    this week, sunday’s “misericordia” and tuesday’s “gratia”
    are equally “love” (with some, but not overwhelming, justification), and today
    we have “toto corde devoti” translated by “make us one in love”. the objection is the very process of rock tumbling (applied to words instead of stones) which fr. z has illustrated for us today. the supreme truth is that God loves us and the supreme command is love, but God is also “benignus”, “misericors”, “pius” and “propitius” etc. the latin exults in a variety which the english disdains. but we are only half-way as yet.

  5. UK/Ireland Breviary

    Schooled by our Lenten observence, Lord,
    and nourished by your word,
    may we gave you whole-hearted service through our self-denial
    and through our prayer become one in heart and mind

    I note that ‘oratione tua’ is here rendered ‘our prayer’… Does that make things clearer or does it obscure what the Latin is trying to say?

  6. Zadok: Good question. On the one hand, the Latin is pretty clear. On the other, this is found in the context of concordes. Furthermore, I think we can safely say that we ought to pray in the way God wants, and this He communicates both through the instruction of His Son and continuously in the Church.

    Rambling aside, praying as one, should lead us to be one. Right? Lex orandi, lex credendi. Not that that is “magic”, by any means. There must be substanntial unity of belief for prayer to by unifying. I have in mind, as a quick example, how Mormons and Christians use some of the same terms in completely different ways. We might say some of the same things, but there is no unity, no concordia.

    I think it is better to retain “Your prayer” than say “our prayer”. Let’s keep the focus where it ought to be.


  7. Henry Edwards says:

    it … shifts the emphasis from our response to God to our response to each other

    This is the real point, Martin. In varying degrees, your remark here applies to most of ICEL’s 1973 paraphrase of the 1970 Roman Missal, not merely to its overuse and misuse of the single word “love”, this being merely a particular symptom of the general problem.