What Does the Prayer Really Say? 6th Sunday of Easter
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2003
Some feedback from you treasured readers: Fr. C of PA writes, “I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoy reading your column…. Having studied in Rome for seven years (for Theology and Church History) under such greats as Father Witte in Liturgy and Father Friedrich Kempf in Church History–all of whom taught in Latin only and made us go directly to the original sources when I was a student there before and during the Council, I not only appreciate your linguistic abilities but the historical content of your articles as well. You certainly do have a real sense of meaning of the Latin words and your explanation of the prayers shows wonderful scholarship. Keep up the great work.” I intend to, as long as God gives breath to my body and the publisher provides the column inches.
JF of IL wrote via e-mail about my claim that the Latin text of the Holy Father’s newest encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (EdE) is available online: “Re. 8 May 2003 WDTPRS - I have tried to get the Latin text on the Vatican Web site and only find the English text. How do you get to the Latin text of Vatican documents? Any help will be appreciated. Thanks again for your columns.” JF, go to the Vatican website (and pick your language. Look for the option called “Archive” amidst the round-shaped menu buttons (not the “Vatican Secret Archive”). Click “Archive”, then click “The Holy Father” (left menu-bar), then click “John Paul II”, and then “Encyclicals”. Find all the languages there.
Take note when you read EdE (in any language) of what the Holy Father has done: he has powerfully reestablished, in order of logical priority, consideration of the Eucharist from the point of view of sacrifice and then adoration and then Communion. In many ways this sets what has been going on for decades amongst “liturgists” on its ear. In my opinion, one conclusion that must be drawn from EdE is a return (over time) to an ad orientem altar. Also, note that the Pope gives us quite a new point of Marian/Eucharistic interest in EdE 57, though he laid the ground for it some time ago. Since the Eucharist makes present the entire Passion of the Lord, then necessarily in the Eucharist “all that Christ did with regard to his Mother for our sake is also present.” The Eucharist also represents to us the giving of Mary and the disciple John to each other. In our reception of Communion we can explore our relationship with Mary, Mother of the Church and our Mother. In the Eucharist, in which Christ is received, we hear also and echo of the words, “Behold your mother” (cf. John 19: 26-27). She accompanies us with every Holy Communion and redirects our gaze to her Son.
LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus,
qui ad aeternam vitam in Christi resurrectione nos reparas,
fructum in nobis paschalis multiplica sacramenti,
et fortitudinem cibi salutaris nostris infunde pectoribus.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Almighty and ever-living Lord,
you restored us to life
by raising Christ from death.
Strengthen us by this Easter sacrament;
may we feel its saving power in our daily lives.
Today’s Post communion was based in part on a prayer in the Gelesian Sacramentary. I suspect that we can find some true gems of spiritual insight in the Latin version if we will only seek what the prayer really says.
In the prestigious Lewis & Short Dictionary we search a fuller grasp of the verb reparo. Within our favorite lexicon’s venerable pages we discover its lemma (“headword”) entry and see that it connotes in its basic meaning, “to get, acquire, or procure again; to recover, retrieve; to restore, repair, renew” and also in mercantile language, “to procure by exchange; to purchase, obtain with something.” Multiplico is “to multiply, increase, augment.” This is related to multiplex the adjective for something “with many folds” or which has “many parts”, as in a theater multiplex having a dozen different films. Plico means basically “to fold, to lay or wind together, to fold up, double up”. Thus, when we are “supplicants”, we humbly bend ourselves and/or our knees and beg. Infundo means “to pour in, upon, or into”. From thence it is “to pour out for, to administer to, present to, lay before” (as in to give someone poison, or a cup to drink – in construction with dative and accusative: infundere alicui aliquid). Also it is “to pour into, spread over, communicate, impart.” In medical contexts it signifies “to administer to a person, for a disease”. Pectus has different meanings for physical and mental references. In physical terms it means, “the breast, in men and animals” and in mental terms, again with a moral content, “the seat of affection, courage, etc., the heart, feelings, disposition” and “the soul, spirit, mind, understanding.” Along with “breast” pectus can be “stomach”, in both the physical and moral sense. Think of having the “stomach” for something. Fortitudo might look to some like a first person form of a verb, but it is a feminine noun meaning fundamentally, “strength.” Thus, in physical/material terms, it indicates the strength of both humans and animals. In mental/spiritual terms it is “firmness, manliness shown in enduring or undertaking hardship; fortitude, resolution, bravery, courage, intrepidity.” Thus, fortitudo has, in classical Latin, also a moral connotation.
On the other hand, in Christian parlance fortitudo is both a virtue and a gift of the Holy Spirit. All virtues are habits, because they “dwell” in us in a stable way. So, if something is hard for you to do, you don’t have the virtue yet. We pray today for fortitudo the virtue, the supernatural habit that, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, strengthens the soul to practice of every type of virtue and to overcome the dangers and obstacles we will face. The gift fortitude affects all the heroic actions of the other virtues, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Fortitude the gift is the Holy Spirit working in our souls so that we have unshakable confidence that we can overcome great dangers and any obstacles in our path. Fortitude the virtue is the strength we need while the gift is the confidence. Pagans can have mighty strength and the will to do great things, but Christians have this strength and purpose elevated to a divine plane. Fortitude thus makes us able to endure terrible toil, pain or danger with a holy motive (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, q. 139, a. 1). Fortitude gives us the strength to persist in the practice of other virtues, it overcomes tepidity in our service of God in our vocations, it makes us valiant in the face of the attack of an enemy, human or diabolical, it makes able to suffer pains with patience and even with joy for the love of the Cross, and it gives us a heroic perseverance in things both great and small, from doing the laundry to submitting the martyr’s blade. Opposed to the virtue of fortitude is the vice of timidity or inordinate fear, including being enslaved to the niggling doubts that turn people into squeaky little spiritual gerbils. In order to foster the virtue of fortitude we must get into the habit of fulfilling exactly our duties in our state in life without a spirit of repugnance or resentment. (Does this all sound like the devotio we have explored in WDTPRS many times?) We must not ask God merely to remove our Crosses, but rather beg the strength to carry them. We must practice voluntary mortifications. We must seek in the Eucharist our strength of soul.
Almighty and everlasting God,
who in the resurrection of Christ restore us unto life eternal,
multiply in us the fruit of the mysterious paschal sacrament,
and pour the strengthening power of this saving food into our souls.
There are many ways we can render some of these words and thus tease out nuances of meanings. I am glad I don’t have to produce in WDTPRS a liturgically final version. I can be both terse and literal or, when I wish, a little wordy. So, once again I remind you that sacramentum and mysterium are intimately interconnected in liturgical language. This is why I usually say “sacramental mystery” and not just “sacrament”. For fortitudo I choose “strengthening power” instead of simple “strength” so I can involve the concept of a virtue. At the moment the priest is raising this prayer heavenward the Host is intimately, even physically, within us, within our pectus! Therefore, when I get to nostris pectoribus, while I stick here with “souls” I would rather write, “hearts, minds and wills” so as to elaborate the depth of the word pectus and give a larger view of all the dimensions affected by a good reception of Communion.
After investigating these prayers each week, having all the various nuances and wrinkles of meaning of the vocabulary fresh in my mind, I begin to hear more than just the bare words. There is a great deal going on in each Latin prayer, friends. But the task of translating these orations so that they are beautiful, memorable, accurate and concise is daunting in the extreme. The people entrusted with this Herculean task need the support of prayers and positive comments when they have been successful.
We should arise from our Communion simultaneously as gentle as doves before our neighbor, as clever as serpents before the workings of the world, and as indomitable as lions in the face of the evil one (described also as a lion seeking to devour us – 1 Peter 5:8), ready to do battle against every kind of evil attack. When receiving Communion and in the subsequent period of thanksgiving, have an explicit intention, with the help of Mary, to ask God for the virtue of fortitude and the increase of that homonymous gift of the Holy Spirit. A Christian’s choice: lion or gerbil?
Speaking of lion or gerbil, I read a report (13 May) by Robert Moynihan on the website of Inside The Vatican called “Return of the Latin Mass?” claiming an exclusive interview with the Vatican’s new liturgical lion His Eminence Francis Card. Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW). This is interesting. As attentive readers of the Pope’s new encyclical EdE noticed, the CDW is supposed to issue a document of a disciplinary nature concerning liturgical norms, abuses, etc. The Pope wrote in EdE 52: “Precisely to bring out more clearly this deeper meaning of liturgical norms, I have asked the competent offices of the Roman Curia to prepare a more specific document, including prescriptions of a juridical nature, on this very important subject. No one is permitted to undervalue the mystery entrusted to our hands: it is too great for anyone to feel free to treat it lightly and with disregard for its sacredness and its universality.” Card. Arinze says it will come out between October and Christmas. Perhaps in reference to the “universal indult” for all priests that is rumored in many circles to be on the horizon, Mr. Moynihan reports that Card. Arinze says the document will promote far wider use of the “Tridentine” Mass, even perhaps on a weekly basis, in every parish in the world. (I will believe that when I see it!) Card. Arinze told Mr. Moynihan (and I can picture him shaking his mane while he said it), “We want to respond to the spiritual hunger and sorrow so many of the faithful have expressed to us because of liturgical celebrations that seemed irreverent and unworthy of true adoration of God. You might sum up our document with words that echo the final words of the Mass: ‘The do-it-yourself Mass is ended. Go in peace.’”
Your Eminence, WDTPRS is not convinced that that is what the “Ite, missa est!” dismissal really says but… thanks be to God Almighty… it’ll do!