What Does the Prayer Really Say? 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2006
We have known ever since the close of the Synod of Bishops in October 2005, which discussed the Eucharist, that Pope Benedict would more than likely issue a post-synodal document on liturgy. The committee which was assigned the task of preparing the Synods summary document completed its work and handed it in to the Pope. So now the Holy Father is working his own document. The Secretary of the Congregation for divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, gave an interview to La Croix (25 June 2006) and provided a glimpse into the papal document (emphasis mine):
Today, the problems of the liturgy center around language (vernacular or Latin) and the position of the priest, whether he faces the assembly or faces God. I will surprise you here: nowhere in the conciliar decree does it say that the priest must face the assembly, nor that the use of Latin is forbidden! If the use of the common tongue is permitted, notably in the liturgy of the Word, the decree is very clear that the use of the Latin language should be maintained in the Latin rite. We are waiting for the pope to give us his guidelines on these subjects.
Can you imagine this sort of talk, open talk, from a highly place curial official even ten years ago? Going on:
I have noticed how much the young priests here love to celebrate the Tridentine rite. It must be clarified that this ritual, following the missal of Pius V, has not been “outlawed.” Should its use be encouraged even more? That’s for the pope to decide. But it is certain that a new generation is seeking a greater orientation toward mystery. This is not a question of form, but of substance.
Long-time reader and now frequent participant on the WDTPRS internet blog, HE of TN, sent a note via e-mail relative to this interview. Here is HE (edited): “…the notorious pessimist Prof. L. Perrin has a … post today including this claim: ‘As Abp Ranjith is stressing, a Latin versus Deum Novus Ordo Mass is entirely faithful to the Vatican II Constitution, even more faithful. But what Abp Ranjith is ‘forgetting’ is to mention the 3rd edition of [the Missale Romanum] (2002) is pushing for versus populum … against the two previous Pauline editions and Vatican II.’” Then HE asks me directly: “Do you know anything in the 3rd edition of the Missale Romanum that says this? Aside from the well-known mistranslation of GIRM #299 that you have discussed several times? Anything in the MR 2002 rubrics themselves? For instance, does it still say several places that the priest is to turn and face the people?”
Indeed, HE of TN, Yes. Welcome to “What Do The Rubrics Really Say?” There are still indications in the rubrics of the 2002MR which presuppose that the priest is celebrating ad orientem. Here are two examples. In #132 we find:
Sacerdos genuflectit, accipit hostiam, eamque aliquantulum elevatam super patenam vel super calicem tenens, versus ad populum, clara voce dicit: Ecce Agnus Dei,…. The priest genuflects, takes the Host and, holding it raised a little way over the paten or over the chalice, having turned toward the people, says in a clear voice: Behold the Lamb of God….
The people make their response and then in #133 we find:
Et sacerdos, versus ad altare, secreto dicit: Corpus Christi…. And the priest, having turned toward the altar, says silently: May the Body of Christ…
In these two rubrics there is a specific order of actions. First, the priest turns to the people. Then, he turns to the altar. This is only possible if the priest is celebrating Holy Mass facing the altar and the people are behind him facing the same direction as the priest. The rubric is clear in this moment before Communion.
Somewhat less immediately clear is the rubric at the Orate Fratres in #29, which says that the priest, while standing at the middle of the altar, turns to the people (versus ad populum) to say “Pray brethren, that my sacrifice and yours…”. Then in #30 the priest is directed to speak the Super Oblata prayer, but there is no indication that he turns back to the altar: there is no second versus. Why? The priest, turning to the people to invite their response, simply continues to turn in the same direction back to the altar. The single versus in this case indicates a completed turn in circle. In #132 and #133 (above) the two different instances of versus indicate two turns, one toward the people by the priest’s right and one toward the altar by his left. There is no complete circle. In this way the Novus Ordo is consistent with the older “Tridentine” Rite at this same moment in Mass. In the older, traditional way the priest turns by his right away from the altar and toward the people. He speaks the invitation. He turns back to the altar, always by his right, in the same direction, thus completing the circle. The rubric in the 2002MR has language very similar to the corresponding rubric in the 1962MR. Thus, HE of TN, we have clear support in the 2002MR for ad orientem celebration.
However, in the so-called “Green Book” of the draft translation (recently emended and then approved by the bishops of the USCCB) those abovementioned instances of versus were incorrectly rendered as “facing the people”, thus introducing an ambiguity and eliminating the clarity about Mass being said ad orientem. We shall have to see what Rome does with that.
Let’s move on to this week’s “Prayer over the gifts” or
SUPER OBLATA (2002MR):
Respice, Domine, munera supplicantis Ecclesiae,
et pro credentium sanctificationis incremento
An ancestor of this prayer is in the ancient Gregorian Sacramentary. This is also more or less the Secret of the Third Sunday after Pentecost in the 1962MR: Respice, Domine, munera supplicantis Ecclesiae: et saluti credentium perpetua sanctificatione sumenda concede which the 1959 St. Joseph Daily Missal renders as, “Regard with favor, O Lord, the gifts of Your suppliant Church, and grant that they may avail to the salvation of the faithful who partake of them.” I like that “regard with favor” for respice.
The word sumenda is a little hard to put into smooth English. This is neuter plural in form and it refers to the elements that are being offered, the munera to be transformed at the consecration, which will then be consumed. The form here is what I call a “verbal –nd”. It is used for gerunds and gerundives. The gerundive (verbal adjective) is often used to express necessity, duty, purpose, etc. In later Latin it developed into a future passive participle. We have to stretch sumenda into a phrase in English. We also need to consider the verb sumo itself, and not just its form. Sumo means principally “to take, take up, lay hold of, assume” (synonym capio). By extension it means, “choose, select”, “use, apply, employ, spend, consume”, and “undertake, begin, enter upon.” Sumo can also be used for “consume” in the sense of eating. Indeed Blaise/Dumas indicates that sumo can mean “receive the Eucharist”. Think of the antiphon for Corpus Christi, used also for distributing Holy Communion outside of Mass: O sacrum convivium, in quo Christus sumitur… O Holy Banquet, in which Christ is received…”.
We must consider also the meaning of the preposition pro. Your well-thumbed L&S reveals about fifteen different shades of meaning, such as “before, in front of”, “on behalf of, in favor of”, “in place of, instead of”, “for, just the same as”, “on account of, for the sake of”, and “in proportion to, in comparison with.” With this in mind, we can attempt putting this into English. Remember, in this WDTPRS series we are not trying to develop translations suitable for liturgical use. We are trying to get at the raw meaning of the prayer.
Regard with favor, O Lord, the gifts of the supplicant Church,
and grant that they be undertaken
for an increase of the sanctification of believers.
SMOOTHED OUT ACCURATE VERSION:
Regard with favor, O Lord, the gifts of the Church now humbly in prayer,
and grant that they may be received
as an increase of the sanctification of those who believe.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
accept the gifts of your Church.
May this eucharist
help us grow in holiness and faith.
The Latin says that, as a Church, we make this request of God in the posture of one kneeling or bent down in humility (“supplicant”). We are begging. The language reveals an understanding of our dependence on God’s graces, particularly the graces we have access to through the sacraments. The entire process of our sanctification, which begins with our baptism and continues through our lives, is God’s own doing. He makes it possible and begins it. He makes us strong enough to do our part. Then, when we have collaborated with Him in our own way and in our own degree of ability, He brings it to completion according to His will. This is more than “help” from God.