What Does the Prayer Really Say? 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2006
PM writes via e-mail (edited): “Thank you for all of your great work with the blog. You have inspired me to write to the appropriate bishops regarding the new translations and I pray that all of our efforts are successful.” Thanks for that, PM. Remember that the vote taken by the American bishops a couple weeks ago was just the beginning. They voted on draft of the Ordinary, which they proposed for Rome’s consideration. The prayers of the Proper must be prepared as well. The 62 amendments to the draft sent by the USCCB must be reviewed by the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS). Meanwhile, it looks like the Canadian and Australian bishops have also moved beyond this obstacle. Do you get the sense that Rome has turned by the heat? Continue to pray for the members of the CDWDS and for the members of the Vox Clara Committee, who will meet in Rome in July.
In the left-wing English The Tablet (June 24, 2006), there is an interesting bit about the “pro multis” issue. To wit (emphasis mine): “Turning down some proposals, the bishops noted the ‘expressed intention of the Holy See’ to decide in short order on the issue of ‘for many’ as opposed to ‘for all’ in the consecration. Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney and the chairman of Vox Clara – the Vatican body that oversees ICEL’s translations – welcomed the USCCB’s decision.”
In his weekly Word From Rome piece, the ubiquitous fair-minded correspondent of the lefty National Catholic Reporter, John L. Allen, Jr., had an interesting interview (June 23, 2006) with The Chair, His Excellency Donald W. Trautman, head of the USCCB’s Committee on Liturgy (BCL). You will recall that His Excellency has been a long-time proponent of inclusive language and “dynamic equivalency” and an opponent of the norms for translation established by the CDWDS in Liturgiam authenticam. Bishop Trautman worked to obtain as many amendments as possible to ICEL’s latest draft, which, once amended, was sent on to Rome. Here is Bishop Trautman on the matter:
What needs to happen for successful implementation of the new Mass?
What’s required in the first place is a great motivation for priests to take on a major catechetical effort. I would say that we’re at least two years away from [the translation] becoming reality, but we have to gear up for that. I’m not in favor of any catechetical effort, however, until the whole Roman Missal is ready. Only then will be we able to see the big picture. Then we can talk about the catechetical effort. There’s still a lot of material to be prepared, such as the collects, prefaces, and other texts. We’ve sent a strong message to ICEL … that the collects in their present form are not worthy. They’re too long, they use a sometimes incomprehensible vocabulary, and they follow the Latin word order too closely. There’s a lot of work to be done.”
On another note:
Any other observations on the implementation process?
To date, what has been missing in all of this is the lay voice. It’s just not in the process. Some bishops on their own have sought it out, but at least formally it’s missing. In the United States, we have outstanding scholars in liturgical theology, and we should be using these experts. That needs to be done for the next steps.
I remember that when LA came out, the ex-chief exec of ICEL John Page complained that the “wider church” had not been brought into the conversation. By coincidence, there appeared a gushy little editorial in a newspaper The Floridian by a young woman of 35 who used all of His Excellency’s arguments. For example, as a convert to the Catholic Church she has been using the present text for sixteen whole years, which ought to be good enough reason not to change it. She complains that lay people were not asked for their opinion.
The most ridiculous bit was her complaint that we may be asked to respond “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.” She sputters, “My roof? Where is the emotion in that? Where is the feeling? What does it even mean?”
Does this remind you of anything? Before the recent USCCB meeting The Chair was quoted as saying: “It’s a literal translation, and it doesn’t mean anything to Americans,” Bishop Trautman said. “The ‘dew’ of your Spirit — what does that mean?”
I have a great deal more about this and many other things on the WDTPRS internet blog (http://www.wdtprs.com). On the blog I have lately been exploring what the Fathers of the Church taught about “dew” as an image of the Holy Spirit’s gentle action and about the meaning of “enter under my roof” uttered by the Centurion in his great act of faith before Jesus.
Let’s move along to this week’s so-called “Prayer over the gifts”.
SUPER OBLATA (2002MR):
Oblatio nos, Domine, tuo nomini dicata purificet,
et de die in diem ad caelestis vitae transferat actionem.
This elegant little prayer, which was in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary, was the Secret of the Second Sunday after Pentecost in the pre-Conciliar Missale Romanum.
Our by-now-familiar Lewis & Short Dictionary will help us unpack some vocabulary. For example, that dicata can be confusing at first. This is from dico, avi, atum (not dico, dixi, dictum) which means first, “to proclaim, make known” and, in a religious context, “to dedicate, consecrate, devote any thing to a deity or to a deified person” (for synonyms cf.: dedico, consecro, inauguro). Another important word herein is actio, which means in the first place “”a doing, performing, acting, action, act”. Thereafter, it means also “public functions, civil acts, proceedings, or duties” especially in the juridical sense and in public oratory. In Christian Latin it can mean “our action, conduct” and by extension the “action” of Holy Mass. Transfero is “to bear across; to carry or bring over; to convey over, transport, transfer”. But it also means a range of things from “transplant” (as in plants), “copy” (as in writing and manuscripts), “translate” (as in languages) and rarely “carry along in public, bear in triumph”. It has the nuance as well of change in such as way as “to apply, make use of (for a new purpose).”
May this offering consecrated to Your name purify us, O Lord,
and from day to day convey us over unto the proceedings of heavenly life.
From this starting point we can spin out some ideas. That phrase de die in diem can be rendered into English in many ways. We could say “from day to day” or maybe something like “day in and day out” or even a paraphrase like “each passing day”. I don’t think “everyday” is good. It seems to me important to get a sense of the passing of time in a continual forward flow. This is one reason why I chose “proceedings” for the tricky actio. This life is has its continuous movement and process. Actio also has its overtone of ceremony. In heaven too there will be an ever deepening process of transformation as God shares His own glory with us. In heaven we will be participants in the eternal liturgy before God’s throne.
The Eucharistic Prayer is called the actio of Mass. In this sacred actio there is but one true “actor”, the High Priest Jesus Christ. We participate in that actio in different modes through our baptism or also by Holy Orders. Actio has significance for our gestures and words of in public worship: Christ the High Priest makes our gestures and voices His own in the re-presentation and continuation of the saving actions at Calvary. Knowing this ought to help us participate actively at Mass. We are “active participants” according as we are lay faithful or priests. A proper sense of “active participation” must be founded on our baptism and membership in Christ’s Mystical Person. We must be actively receptive to all the true Actor is giving us through the rites of the Church. Authentic active participation depends first on our baptism and then on how we unite our minds, wills and hearts to what is taking place even before we get to all the singing, moving, standing, kneeling, carrying things, etc. Do you see how good and accurate translations of the prayers are critical for our authentic active participation in what Christ is doing through the mediation of His Church? In our sacred actio in our parish church we are asking God to bring us to the actio of heavenly life. There must be continuity between the two.
In heaven we will behold God “face to face” as participants in the heavenly liturgy. Mass is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, an anticipation of what will be opened to us in the next life. This is so much a part of our Catholic identity that we for centuries placed the words porta caeli … “the gate of heaven” over the doors of churches. Our architecture, art, music, the language itself, even the solemn ritual gestures with their courtly dignity always reflected a Catholic understanding of what we long for: heaven. That subtle nuance in transfero contributes to this image of being “borne along in solemn triumph” with the proper accompanying ritual gestures toward the final goal and victor’s reward a crown of glory.
The loss of dignified and accurate liturgical language (in the present inadequate translation) dealt us a great blow. The blow upon the bruise was the destruction of sacred architecture and the erection of new and unworthy churches, the sweeping aside of sacred art and installation of strange works, the locking of the Church’s treasury of sacred music and the imposition of jingles often poorly played, the loss of dignified ritual gesture and the pirouette toward rubrical disobedience or illicit creativity. In many places people have had to endure liturgies resembling picnics or pep rallies in place of the Church beauty Roman Rite to which we have a right. This injury to our Catholic worship has in many cases eroded our Catholic identity making it so much more difficult to live “day in and day out” in this complicated world.
Catholics are called to shape and transform the passing world around us, each and every passing day, each according to our vocations, making present here and now the Kingdom of Heaven by our words and deeds. Our membership in Christ’s Church bears us along in triumphant glory already, even while we remain for now in this veil of tears where this world’s “prince”, the enemy of our souls, attacks us and plays on our wounded nature. How are we to be who we must be authentically? How do we attain that unfading crown awaiting us? We need the sustaining and forming aid given to us by the action of the High Priest in His Church. We want the real content of the prayers Holy Church gives us. We do not want any longer to be held back or cheated of our right through the building of churches that smack of the secular, music reminiscent of elevator tunes, sacred ministers who behave like game show hosts, or dumbed-down translations which leave us without inspiration or food for thought.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
let this offering to the glory of your name
purify us and bring us closer to eternal life.