What Does the Prayer Really Say? 4th Sunday of Easter
Last week we recommenced our comparison of the first draft of the ICEL translation of ordinary prayers of Holy Mass, the second draft, and our own WDTPRS version which we worked through in fourth year of this series (2003-04). We have reached the Unde et memores. WDTPRS LITERAL VERSION: Wherefore, O Lord, mindful of the blessed Passion of the same Christ Thy Son, our Lord, and likewise mindful of His resurrection from the nether realm of the dead, but also His glorious ascension into the heavens, we Your servants but also Your holy people, offer up unto Your beautiful majesty from Your own gifts and grants, the sacrificial victim which is pure, the holy victim, the victim stainless, the holy Bread of life everlasting, and the Chalice of eternal salvation. 1st NEW ICEL DRAFT: Wherefore, Lord, remembering also the blessed passion, the resurrection from the dead, and the glorious ascension into heaven of Christ, your Son, our Lord, we, your servants and your holy people, offer to your glorious majesty from your own gifts and bounty the pure victim, the holy victim, the spotless victim, the holy Bread of eternal life and the Cup of everlasting salvation. 2nd NEW ICEL DRAFT (variations emphasized): Therefore, O Lord, as we remember the blessed passion, the resurrection from the dead, and the glorious ascension into heaven of Christ, your Son, our Lord, we, your servants and your holy people, offer to your glorious majesty from your own generous gifts, the pure victim, the holy victim, the spotless victim, the holy Bread of eternal life and the Chalice of everlasting salvation.
Hey look! It’s Cup v Chalice again! Last week we reviewed what His Excellency Donald W. Trautman has been saying about the draft translation and Liturgiam authenticam, the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments document establishing norms for liturgical translations. His Excellency, the Erie bishop in Pennsylvania is chair of the Bishops Committee on Liturgy of the USCCB. He is the foremost episcopal promoter of inclusive language and opponent of Liturgiam authenticam. As such, His Excellency is in the position to complicate and delay the efforts underway to produce a new English text for Holy Mass. This appears to be what he is doing, given the speeches he has been making around the country, as reviewed in these inky pages.
SUPER OBLATA (2002MR):
Concede, quaesumus, Domine,
semper nos per haec mysteria paschalia gratulari,
ut continua nostrae reparationis operatio
perpetuae nobis fiat causa laetitiae.
This prayer was originally in the 1962MR as the Secret of the Saturday after Easter. The far older Gelasian Sacramentary had this prayer on the Thursday during the Octave of Easter.
The renowned Lewis & Short Dictionary gives us a definition of gratulor: “to manifest one’s joy, i.e. to wish a person joy, to congratulate; or to rejoice” and thus a mostly late classical meaning, “to give thanks, render thanks, to thank, esp. a deity, = grates, gratias agere.” This leaves us with a dilemma. Do we say “grant that we always rejoice” or “grant that we always give thanks”? The dictionary of liturgical Latin Blaise/Dumas suggests in the first place “rÃƒÂ©jouir (des fêtes)” and then “render grâces”. Since we are in the offertory section of the Eucharistic (i.e. “thanksgiving”) Sacrifice, we could underscores the thanking dimension and also the joy due to the Easter season by saying “give joyous thanks.” Reparo means “to restore, repair, renew” or in merchantile language “to procure by exchange; to purchase, obtain with something.
The very interesting word operatio means primarily “a working, work, labor, operation.” It also indicates in ancient inscriptions, “a religious performance, service, or solemnity, a bringing of offerings.” The L&S also says that in Christian authors it is “beneficence, charity”. The aforementioned Blaise/Dumas shows that operatio concerns mostly divine acts. It can, for example, be the “effect” of the sacrament of the Eucharist.
By the English word “continuum” the seasoned Catholics understand “an uninterrupted whole or a series of things without a break”. Those of us who are of the Star Trek generation know that “continuum” refers to a time/space phenomenon which, though incredibly rare, figures in episodes about every other week. An imbalance in the time/space continuum will usually destroy the whole galaxy, which would be very bad. To prevent this bad thing the Captain and crew must “reverse the polarity” of a gizmo with a long name, often the big dish on the front of the ship. They have only five seconds left before the ship explodes and everyone everywhere dies. The unflinching Captain tells someone sporting a forehead with ridges or bluish skin to do an amazingly risky thing, which the first officer must passionately question. The risk works miraculously, probably because there are more episodes left in the season, and the time/space continuum is restored to its proper order. Everyone throughout the galaxy are safe until the next week. Now, you would think that after saving the galaxy, the galaxy saviors would get more recognition from saved. They should all be offered their own luxury resort planets or, if that sounds too much like Mormon afterlife, at least some stock options or a medal or… something. Maybe a high school named after them. I don’t get it. In any event, I digress….
Getting back to the liturgy of the Catholic Church, the Latin adjective continuus, a, um, also applies to time/space phenomena but in a somewhat less galaxy threatening way. In reference to space, continuus means a “joining, connecting with something, or hanging together, in space or time, uninterrupted, continuous.” In relation to time, it is “following one after another, successive, continuous” in the sense of unending or incessant. Something which is temporally continuous with what goes before is “immediate”. I will opt for continuus as “continual” so as to balance perpetuus, “perpetual”. When applied to the Sacrifice of Holy Mass, continuus connects us back to the Passion of the Lord while perpetuus draws us forward into the future until the Second Coming.
We beseech You, O Lord, grant
us always to render joyous thanks by means of these paschal mysteries,
so that the continuous ritual offering of our renewal
may become for us the cause of unending joy.
The bloody Sacrifice of Calvary occurred at a single point in the continuum of both time and physical space, upon a Cross outside the walls of Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago, according to some on Wednesday afternoon of 5 April 30 (A.D.). Similarly, the Last Supper occurred, historically, the night before. Nevertheless, the Sacrifice of the Cross transcends all time and space. They are “once for all time” events. Christ Jesus has made it possible for the same realities to be renewed and presented anew to the Father through the constant and offering (operatio continua) of His Church, His own Mystical Person continuing in this earthly realm. Both the Cross and Supper still taking place upon our altars during Holy Mass, through God’s power, even though they are historically completed and past.
Holy Mass is both the Last Supper and Calvary continued and renewed. The first Mass of Christ historically began during the Last Supper and ended on Calvary. In the upper room Christ transformed the elements of bread and wine into His own Body and Blood in separate acts of consecration as a sacrificial offering to the Father. He commanded the Twelve to do the same, not just at the moment but also afterward in His memory. The Lord gave to them and their successors His own power and authority to do so thereafter. The sacramental separation of His Body and Blood in the upper room preceded their physical separation the next day on Calvary. The transubstantiation of bread and wine into His Body and Blood in the Last Supper and the Sacrifice of the Cross are thus one continuous, uninterrupted act. Thus we say that the first Mass began in the upper room in Jerusalem and it finished on Golgotha outside Jerusalem’s walls. Because Christ gave power to His Apostle’s to do as He was doing at the Last Supper, and in them also to their successors, in each Mass when the elements of bread and wine are transformed, the Sacrifice of Calvary is renewed as well. It is not necessary during Mass both to consecrate bread and wine and also to nail some victim to a cross. In the two-fold consecration, the entire Sacrifice, that which took place on the wood of the upper room’s table and the on the wood of the Golgotha’s Cross, are truly represented. Look at it this way. Christ The Last Supper prepresents the Cross, and thus is continuous with it. Holy Mass represents the totality of the Sacrifice, Supper and Cross together.
At the ancient celebration of a Passover meal, there were four cups to be drunk; one was consumed at the blessing, one for the beginning of the meal when Ps 113 was sung, one during the meal, and lastly one after the singing of the Hil-el psalms 114-118. It was the fourth and last cup that Jesus refused to drink at the Last Supper (“I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” Mark 14:25 – RSV). Christ finally drank the last “cup” of the Passover liturgical meal while hanging upon the Cross. He took the wine mixed with myrrh from the sponge on the end of the hyssop wood pole and then said “It is finished” (John 19:30) and died. The Last Supper was a meatless meal, since the Passover lambs had not yet been slaughtered. The Passover lambs had to be slaughtered while the priests in the Temple sang through the Hil-el psalms three times. Given the empty streets of Jerusalem and the silence of the ancient world without machines, it is likely Jesus could hear the Hil-el psalms and the cries of the lambs echoing from out the Temple as He suffered on the Cross. Jesus Himself was the unblemished Lamb of the anticipated Passover in the upper room as well as the Lamb of the perfect Passover of the New Covenant. You can see the perfect continuity, the continuous character, of the Last Supper and Calvary. This is the perfect act of restoration of man’s soul to a state of justification and sanctity. It is the ultimate “reparation”. In Holy Mass, God in His mercy is still renewing the act of reparation He began in the upper room and completed on Calvary for our sins.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
restore us by these Easter mysteries.
May the continuing work of our redeemer
bring us eternal joy.
By His Sacrifice Christ reversed the course (the “polarity”?) of the human race which was hurtling headlong into the destruction and the hellish separation from God that sin deserves. He saved more than the galaxy. Now all peoples of all times and places have the opportunity of salvation, even though they have no idea of whence it comes. And yet Sunday after Sunday so many of those who actually do know Him blithely go on their way without so much as a “Thank you, O Lord, for the unfathomable act of self-emptying in the brutal, painful death by which you saved us from the hell our sins merited.”
In my opinion, the texts of Holy Mass deserve a beautiful and accurate English translation. Unreasonable delays do an injustice both those who mandated the translation and the faithful who await it.