What Does the Prayer Really Say? 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2003
Here is some of your correspondence, which always… well almost always… brightens my day.
KP writes via e-mail: “I faithfully read "What Does the Prayer Really Say" each time the Wanderer comes out and I want to say thank you and God Bless. I cannot begin to tell you what a blessing your work has been, which kind of leads me to my question. Can you recommend a faithful English translation of the Code of Canon Law?” Well, KP, this is a bit outside my bailiwick but, since Cult (worship/liturgy), Code (law) and Creed (the doctrine of faith), are all inextricably linked together, and since Bl. Pope John XXIII announced a revision of the Code of Canon Law and the same moment that he announced the Council which would revise the Church’s liturgy about which these WDTPRS articles are concerned, I will give this a shot.
First, I assume that you are talking about the Code now in force for the Latin Church, the 1983 CIC, rather than the older 1917 CIC or the present 1990 Code for the Eastern Churches. Just in case you mean the older Code, there is a new edition by Edward Peters, Curator, The 1917 or Pio-Benedictine Code of Canon Law in English Translation with Extensive Scholarly Apparatus, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2001). For the newer 1983 Code there are the useful English versions, The Code of Canon Law: New Revised English Translation (London: Harper Collins, 1997) and also the Code of Canon Law: Latin-English Edition (Washington D.C.: Canon Law Society of America,1983). If you want to get into it more, look at J. Coriden, et al., eds., The Code of Canon Law: A Text and Commentary, commissioned by the Canon Law Society of America (Paulist Press: New York/Mahwah, 1985). This is somewhat dated and not really complete, since much if it was drafted during and soon after the promulgation of the 1983 and also not always terribly objective, since clearly authors had dogs in the fight concerning new canons. Still it is quite useful, especially in showing the differences of the older CIC and the newer. Also very good are E. Caparros, et al., eds., Code of Canon Law Annotated, prepared by the University of Navarre (Spain) and Saint Paul University (Canada), (Wilson & Lafleur: Montreal, 1993). This corrects the rather euro-centric approach of the first version and it is very useful for N. Americans. Also see, G. Sheehy, et al., eds, The Canon Law: Letter & Spirit, prepared by the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland, in association with the Canadian Canon Law Society (Michael Glazier Book of Liturgical Press: Collegeville MN, 1995). This is quite reliable concerning the intent of canons. There really are differences in translations, since translation is a tricky undertaking. In the matter of law, you must strive to reach the intent of the lawgiver without confining the lawgiver’s intent too closely.
Most of the translations available are adequate for the purposes of most lay people. Remember, however, that the Latin text is always the official text and it always must be consulted in every official context. This is one of the reasons why the 1983 CIC c. 249 says that seminarians must be very well trained in Latin (linguam latinam bene calleant). They must be able to read the foundational texts of the Roman Catholic theological tradition as well as the canons that govern the daily life of the Church and reflect thereby on the mind of the lawgiver (the Roman Pontiff). This is honored more in the breech than in the observance in seminaries these days, alas. At the same time, I am of the opinion that men going into seminary should be well trained in Latin before they are admitted to theology studies. It seems to me that major seminary is too late to try to learn Latin: there is simply too much else to do. So, we need a radical rethinking of seminary training as a concept, rather than remedial classes in Latin once they get there. Is there a good solution here? I don’t know and the whole question is far far above my pay grade.
Now back to something I know something about. J writes via e-mail: “I am teaching the "Panis Angelicus" to a group of homeschool children. I have seen your column in the "Wanderer" and was wondering if you could give me a literal translation for the "Panis Angelicus." I have tried looking on the internet, and know just enough Latin to know they’re not literal.” I know, J, that I am late in responding and that Corpus Christi was a while back now, but here is my quick attempt at the penultimate stanza of St. Thomas’ hymn called Sacris sollemniis composed for the abovementioned feast:
Panis angelicus fit panis hominum;
dat panis caelicus figuris terminum.
O res mirabilis: manducat Dominum
servus pauper et humilis.
The bread of angels becomes the bread of men;
The heavenly bread provides a conclusion to the foreshadowings.
O wonderous thing: the poor and humble servant
sups upon the Lord.
Figura here refers to all the Old Testament prefigurings that pointed to the Eucharist of the New Covenant in Christ: the manna given to the people in the desert and the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament were advance glimpses of what was to come. The Eucharist, therefore, is the terminus of those figures. Thus, the “heavenly” (caelicus) conclusively supplants the “earthly” at the same time heaven itself (God’s presence) is given to earth bound men to eat. Second, we may be very (overly) influenced by the musical rendering of this great stanza by the French composer CÃƒÂ©sar Frank (1822-1890). Hearing that in our head as we read this may cause us to loose the spectacular rhythm of the meter as Aquinas wrote it. Note that it has the quality of a solemn religious dance summoning to mind the choruses of ancient Greek theatres in which the audience could hear the rhythmic pounding of the feet of the chorus as they sang to the ringing of drums and flutes. Note especially how the last line changes from dactyls (trimeter – three syllables – ÃŒÂÃ‹â€¡Ã‹â€¡) into iambs (dimeter – two – Ã‹â€¡ ÃŒÂ). It nearly hurls you in a new direction. Read it aloud right now with some speed to see what I mean: DUM dum dum, DUM dum dum…PAnis anGELicus FIT panis HOminum;/ DAT panis CAElicus FIguris TERminum. / O res miRAbilis: MANducat DOMinum // serVUS pauPER et HUMilIS. Incredible. This is beauty in form, intent and content.
LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):
Tantis, Domine, repleti muneribus,
praesta, quaesumus, ut et salutaria dona capiamus,
et a tua numquam laude cessemus.
Having some ancestry in the Gelasian Sacramentary, in the 1962 Missale Romanum this was the Postcommunio of the Mass of the First Sunday after Pentecost. But, you will be saying, isn’t that Trinity Sunday? Indeed it is. However, the texts of the Mass of the First Sunday after Pentecost are what you would use during the weekdays that follow Trinity Sunday (the first Sunday after Pentecost). Trinity Sunday was a relatively late addition (14th c.) to the Roman calendar. It was first used in Canterbury under St. Thomas Becket and spread to the rest of the Church after that. In England before the Reformation and, I believe, still among Anglicans of the Church of England – and in the Catholic Dominican Rite, Sundays after Pentecost are counted as Sundays after the octave of Trinity.
If you are in any way hesitant about the meaning of any of the vocabulary the astounding Lewis & Short Dictionary will be of great utility. Cesso, for example, means “to stand back very much; hence, to be remiss in any thing, to delay, loiter, or, in general, to cease from, stop, give over” indicating a blamable remissness. You might be familiar with the Latin proverbial saying “Ubi maior, minor cessat… Where the greater thing is, the lesser gives way”. For example, when the sun shines during the daylight hours the stars, otherwise visible at night, give way and are no longer to be seen. The detailed L&S, however, does not indicate that cesso is constructed with the preposition a. So, assuming that this usage is medieval (and thus outside the time range covered by L&S) at the earliest, we need to be flexible in our approach to it. Capio is an extremely polyvalent word, with meanings ranging from, basically, “to take in hand, take hold of, lay hold of, take, seize, grasp” to, by extension, “to win, captivate, charm, allure, enchain, enslave, fascinate” and “to deprive one of his powers or faculties, to harm”. In our prayer today we hear something like “to take, seize, obtain, get, enjoy, reap”.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
may we never fail to praise you
for the fullness of life and salvation
you give us in this eucharist.
Having been filled, O Lord, with such great gifts,
grant, we beg you, that we may both grasp the saving gifts
and also never cease from your praise.
Frankly, this prayer is tricky to put in to English smoothly without using some circumlocutions and paraphrases. First, we run the risk of sounding repeative by saying “gifts” (munera) and “gifts” (dona) in such close proximity. Also, numquam cessare a laude tua clearly means “never cease/quit praising you” while “cease from your praise” though clear in its intent is awkward. Moreover, capio with its vast range of meanings is a deep enough word that a single English word hardly suffices to get at what it drives at. I try to solve this by just taking capio as “grasp” and hoping that we can simultaneously “grasp” on to it as meaning both an intellectual “grasping” of the mysterious moment of Communion, if you “grasp” what I mean, as well as a more affective “grasping” after the sole source of our salvation, the Man God Jesus Christ who is really and truly present in the Host we have just consumed moments before this prayer is uttered. If I were challenged to more fully develop this as a smoother and more liturgical prayer I might write something like:
Having been filled, O Lord, with gifts so great as these,
grant, we beseech you, that we may both grasp these salvation bringing gifts
in our hearts and aspirations,
and we may also never cease from rendering to you by all means the praise which is your due.
When I hear a phrase like ut numquam cessemus a laude tua, which is a result (ut with the subjunctive), my mind quickly sorts through the reasons for the result. We have just been given a share and foretaste of the heavenly life being extended to us by God. A gift as great as that, the bread of angels become the our spiritual and even physical nourishment, undeserved as it is on our part, demands from us who receive it a response that encompasses our whole person, body and soul. In heaven, certainly, we will “never cease or leave off from the praise” of God, whom we shall see face to face. But we are not in heaven now. We are still here on earth. Holy Communion requires a response of praise here and now. How can we praise God in response to the divine gifts He gives us? As the priest would quote (cf. Ps 116) before his own Communion at Mass, “What shall I give back to the Lord for all the things He gives to me?” We must praise Him. And not in words or thoughts only, but also in outward, concrete deeds as well, even if, especially when, it also means taking up the chalice He offers daily.