What Does the Prayer Really Say? 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2003
I have been getting a good deal e-mail from you all these days, and less of your conventional or “snail” mail. I assume that some letters may be piling up in the office of The Wanderer. Be patient. Also, if you are writing, keep in mind that the paper goes to press on Thursdays: I need to have things prepared in advance.
TF of IL writes via e-mail: “I am writing to thank you for your fine column in the recent issue of the Wanderer. As a classical philologist who attends a Tridentine Mass, with the blessing (the) Bishop…, I have thought that a Latin column is exactly what traditional Catholics need these days.” Great minds think alike TF. Thanks for the feedback. CGZ of KY writes: “In the last few years I have had friends who subscribe to the Wanderer provide me with copies. I have greatly enjoyed reading your column, and have come to a deeper understanding of my faith and the immense task ahead of those of us who are musicians serving in the Church. I look forward to getting greater access to your column even though I have moved away from those friends who supported my growth with copies of the Wanderer.” CGZ thanks. As I have said before, “The most important goal of this series, however, is to inspire a greater love of the riches presented to us by Holy Mother Church in our beautiful sacred liturgy, both in Latin and in English.” I also want hereby to inspire you the readers to support in the positive ways of prayer and concrete encouragement the bishops and others who are responsible for preparing the new English translations of the liturgical books in use today. Also, may I make a suggestion, CGZ? How about subscribing to The Wanderer? That way you not only do you a) not have to depend on other people giving it to you, but you can also b) support the continuation of the paper (and thus the column) and c) spread the joy to others (read: gift subscriptions). For a weekly newspaper The Wanderer is very affordable. I can’t tell you how many people write to say that they get it from someone else, take a copy from church, etc. I respond saying that, if you want The Wanderer you must all support it – just like anything else.
JS writes, via e-mail: “I have a Latin question. What does "P.P." stand for with the papal signature; Ioannes Pavlvs p.p. II?” This is an abbreviation for the word “Papa” which means “Pope”. Thus, on documents which the Holy Father signs and in inscriptions from the past that you might read on the buildings and fountains of Rome you may see this “PP”. Effectively it means, “John Paul, the second Pope of that name”.
Speaking of the walls and fountains of Rome, from time to time (both in the interactive Forum I moderate on the internet and also through your e-mails) I receive requests or hints about my leading a pilgrimage to Rome. A pilgrimage is something that might be arranged if enough people express concrete interest. Such a pilgrimage would involve daily Mass in Latin (newer and older rites), visits to the major basilicas, churches, and other monumental sites with an explanation of their history and the art within them, a daily spiritual conference, confessions, time to sit at a cafÃƒÂ© on a piazza and sip some wine, a papal audience, and a plate or two of spaghetti…. Be prepared a) not to see everything there is to see, b) to spend money, c) and to walk… a lot. Perhaps you might drop a line to The Wanderer if you are interested. That will provide an indication of whether or not we should pursue a trip for small groups. It is one thing to dream or imagine and quite another to make it work.
LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):
Quos caelesti recreas munere,
perpetuo, Domine, comitare praesidio,
et, quos fovere non desinis,
dignos fieri sempiterna redemptione concede.
In the 1962MR, in the section Orationes diversae, this was the Postcommunio of the Mass no. 6, “for Prelates and the Congregations committed to them”. In other words it was one of a set of prayers that could be added in addition to those of votive or other Mass being celebrated. It might seem strange to those habituated to the Novus Ordo and the present anti-Roman attitudes of many in the “American Church” to be praying for the men who work in the Roman Curia, but that is what these prayers are for. As a matter of fact, in these WDTPRS columns I have often asked for you to pray for those preparing the new liturgical translations. That would include officials of the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith and of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. It is interesting, therefore, to reflect on this prayer now in light of the placement it had for so long.
In our weekly (daily?) ritual we open the cover of the colossal Lewis & Short Dictionary in search of insight into the vocabulary and thus what the prayer really says. We begin with the verb recreo which means, “to make or create anew, to remake, reproduce, restore, renew” and it applies to both mind and body. Thus we have the word “recreation”, the restorative activity such as play, which restores Jack when he is in danger of becoming a “dull boy”, as the proverb has it. L&S indictes it is like reparo and reficio (from reficio there derives the word “refectory”, a place where meals are taken in seminaries and religious houses). Recreo is used poetically by authors such as Sedulius and Paulinus of Nola for the renewal or transformation of baptism. This makes sense, given that this verb is a composite: re-creo, creo meaning “to create”. In baptism we are “re-created” as the new creations of which Christ is the first fruit. Recreo is clearly connected to eating in Latin, as far back as the rather wild and popular playwright Titus Maccius Plautus (+ c. 184 B.C.) who gave us through the mouth of the character Peniculus: illic homo homines non alit, verum educat / recreatque … he does not merely feed men, but fattens and transforms them (by much eating)” (Menaechmi – “The Twins”: 1, 1, 23). — Indeed, at the risk of seeming irreverent (for the comic plays of Plautus are decidedly not virtuous in most respects) the monologue of Peniculus is not without application to approach to Holy Mass:
The people who bind captives with chains, and who put fetters upon runaway slaves, act very foolishly, in my opinion at least. For if bad usage is added to his misfortune for a wretched man, the greater is his inclination to run away and to do amiss. For by some means or other do they release themselves from the chains; while thus fettered, they either wear away a link with a file, or else with a stone they knock out the nail; ’tis a mere trifle this. He whom you wish to keep securely that he may not run away, with meat and with drink ought he to be chained; do you bind down the mouth of a man to a full table. So long as you give him what to eat and what to drink at his own pleasure in abundance every day, i’ faith he’ll never run away, even if he has committed an offence that’s capital; easily will you secure him so long as you shall bind him with such chains. So very supple are these chains of food, the more you stretch them so much the more tightly do they bind. But now I’m going directly to Menaechmus; whither for this long time I have been sentenced, thither of my own accord I am going, that he may enchain me. For, by my troth, this man does not just nourish people, but he quite rears and reinvigorates them; no one administers medicine more agreeably. (adapted trans. by Henry Thomas Riley).
Consider how, when we come to realize what food for body and soul we have in the sacred sacrificial banquet of Holy Mass, how the devout servant and loving disciple of Jesus, freed from the chains of sin, will be ever more and more chained to his Table with longing and in gratitude for the Lord’s own generosity. We are not merely fed by Christ. We are reared and nourished. When we go directly to Him in the Eucharist, we are quite “remade”.
Praesidium is a “a presiding over; hence, defense, protection, help, aid, assistance; especially of soldiers who are to serve as a guard, garrison, escort, or convoy”. Think of the Presidio of San Francisco in California. It is thus by extension “aid, help, assistance of any kind”. In our Latin liturgical heritage we Catholics sing the very ancient hymn, coming from the time of terrible persecution of the Church “Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genitrix... Under your protection we fly, O Holy Mother of God….” Comitor (comito) means “to accompany, attend, follow”. The word we find here, comitare is the imperative of the deponent verb, which is passive in form and active in meaning.
Accompany, O Lord, with your continual protection,
those whom you have refreshed by this heavenly gift,
and grant that those whom You do not cease to cherish,
may become worthy of eternal redemption.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
you give us the strength of new life
by the gift of the eucharist.
Protect us with your love
and prepare us for eternal redemption.
One can make a few quick observations about the differences between these versions. First, the use of “protection” (praesidium) suggests that there is something hostile out their while “strength of new life” does not. “Protect” is included later in the ICEL version while the Latin brings it in immediately. A “heavenly gift” (which is the Eucharist we have just consumed) blends into the prayer a vertical emphasis (a divine dimension) while ICEL’s “gift of the eucharist” may admit a more horizontal (human) view of what happens at Mass. While in the Latin God does “not cease to cherish” us communicants and participants at Mass, there is no emphasis on the unceasing love of God in the ICEL version. ICEL says “prepare us” for redemption while the Latin asks God to make us “worthy” in an ongoing way (dignos fieri) implying a degree of manifest humility before the great mystery and gift of the Eucharist. Also, “may become worthy” (which we beg God to “grant”) hints at our role in the process while the ICEL “prepare us” seems to leave the process entirely to God. That is a bit of a change, since one often picks up hints of nearly Pelagian self-reliance in the ICEL versions. Also, note that in the Latin prayer, the priest is clearly speaking in his role of mediator. While the priest is clearly included in the group for whom he is praying, it is almost as if he is alone, speaking intimately with God for the people present and absent. The ICEL version, though it can be read in the same way, strikes me as more egalitarian by the priest using a general “us”.
Our Latin prayer for today conveys a deep sense of total reliance on Almighty God. We need His protection as we face the vicissitudes of life. We know that the Enemy prowls, seeking to devour us (cf. 1 Peter 5:8). If we are honest, we see our present defects and remember our past delicts. With the knowledge that only the pure will see God in His heavenly City, of which our Church is a shadow (cf. Rev 21:27). We are shaped and readied for this reward through grace and elbow grease. God prepares us in His own ways. He also makes us capable of fulfilling our own part, according to our will and intellect by which we shape our words, deeds and that dimension of our spiritual landscape that we command. Through all the challenges this earthly journey brings, the Eucharist is the concrete demonstration that, while there is breath in our bodies, God never ceases to cherish each one of us.