What Does the Prayer Really Say? 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2003
In a story from Zenit news agency, I read last week that the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences organized a summer school or "Schola Aestiva" from 11-19 September in Sicily having invited 20 students from the Universities of Athens, Greece; Heidelberg, Germany; Helsinki, Finland; Kiel, Germany; and Rome. The director of the program, Giovanni Maria Vian, of the Department of Patristic Philology of Rome’s "La Sapienza" University said that, "without the study of Latin, Greek, and the Classic and Christian heritage, there is the danger of losing the characteristic traces of European identity, precisely at the time when there is a desire to build the unity of the continent." As you know, there is hot debate now whether the constitution being drafted for a more closely united Europe should include any reference to Christianity, which was the foundation or major shaper of nearly every facet of European culture. Meanwhile, Zenon Card. Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, has formed a commission to promote the use of Latin in the Church. This may have been a response to the closure of the very last place in Rome where a person could get a degree in Latin Letters at a pontifical university, the “Salesianum”. Perhaps what we are seeing is a reversal of a trend. New initiatives are being undertaken even as old entities are dropping away. Change is a sign of life, in most cases.
Some e-mail from the Philippines: “I’m Fr. CVR, a priest of the archdiocese of Manila who’s presently assigned at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Minor Seminary. I would like to congratulate you for your excellent work. I’ve been looking for the Latin texts of the Collecta, Super Oblata and Post Communionem for quite a while now and your site has been of tremendous assistance. We celebrate the Mass in Latin every now and then…. Your analysis is also very helpful and I’ve come up with some of my homilies according to your explanations of the prayers.” Thank you Father! Keep up the good work there. It sounds like your seminary needs a copy of the 2002 Missale Romanum.
Our prayer for this week has not been in any edition of the Missale Romanum but it has an antecedent in the 1738 Missale Parisiense.
LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):
Per haec sacramenta, Domine, Christi participes effecti,
clementiam tuam humiliter imploramus,
ut, eius imaginis conformes in terris,
et eius consortes in caelis fieri mereamur.
This prayer has lovely rhythms and alliterations. It reads very elegantly. The parallelism of eius…conformes in terris with eius consortes in caelis is quite nice. To my ears it has more the style of a collect. Perhaps its origin in a non-Roman text accounts for this.
Right away some bells should be tinkling in the halls of your memory. This Post Communion is reminiscent of the prayer spoken by the priest during the offertory time of the Mass when he is preparing the wine and water in the chalice. More on this later.
How would this be WDTPRS without our citations of the precise and trustworthy Lewis & Short Dictionary? Effecti is a form of efficio which is formed in turn from facio (efficio (ecfacio)). It means, “to make out, work out; hence, to bring to pass, to effect, execute, complete, accomplish, make, form”. Imploro signifies “to invoke with tears, call to one’s assistance, call upon for aid; to invoke, beseech, entreat, implore” and by extension “to pray earnestly for, to beseech, entreat, implore, appeal to.”
For the person who is getting a their minimum daily requirement of Latin liturgy it is easy to make a connection between this week’s collect and the prayer said by the priest at the offertory of the Mass when he puts the tiny bit of water (symbolic of our humanity) into the wine (God’s divinity) in the chalice: "Per huius aquae et vini mysterium eius efficiamur divinitatis consortes, qui humanitatis nostrae fieri dignatus est particeps. … Through the mystery of this water and wine may we be made partakers of His divinity, who condescended to become a partaker of our humanity."
Remember that mysterium and sacramentum can be interchangeable in many liturgical contexts. Consors , -sortis, is an adjective meaning “sharing property with one (as brother, sister, relative), living in community of goods, partaking of in common” or a noun meaning “a sharer, partner”. Hence, by extension it signifies “of or belonging to a brother or sister, regarded as common heirs” and “a colleague, partner, comrade”. It can even mean “colleagues in power”. Think of the English word “consort” for a husband or wife and especially the spouse of a monarch and also “consortium” (Latin consortium) for a group of people or institutions sharing resources, etc. The Latin word is formed from con- and sors (“fate”). When you are a consortes you literally are sharing a common fate or destiny.
Having been formed into the participants of Christ through these sacramental mysteries,
we humbly implore your mercy, O Lord,
so that, conformed to His image on earth,
we may merit to made His partners in heaven.
In our prayer we have an elegant request informed with a humility tinged with sorrow (imploro). First, we recognize that the Holy Mass celebrated and the Holy Eucharist confected, the Holy Communion which has just been distributed and consumed by those who presented themselves, is the both the cause and sign of “participation” in Christ. To a certain extent it is indeed our action of going forward and receiving, but the true actor causing the participation is God Himself working in His Church. He initiates the participation and, once we determine to cooperate, He makes us capable.
Second, this old prayer accurately conveys what the Church has always taught about “active participation” in her liturgical documents and in the ordinary magisterium of the Roman Pontiffs. The Second Vatican Council mandated liturgical reforms so as to promote “full, active and conscious participation.” This active participation is not about kneeling, standing, carrying things, singing, clapping or hugging, etc. These are external activities that are not themselves the sum and total of “active participation”. They are outward signs or even outpourings of an interior, spiritual activity. The Council wanted all outward expressions and actions to be authentic expressions of what was happening within. By active participation the Church wants first and foremost what I call “active receptivity”, since the real actor in the sacred action of the Mass is Christ the High Priest. The point of Mass is not what we are doing for Him, but rather what He is doing for us. Thus, we must be actively receptive to His gifts. Furthermore, the Church identifies the properly disposed reception of Holy Communion as the summit, the ultimate form of “active participation”. Truly in making a good Holy Communion we are “formed into the participants of Christ through these sacramental mysteries.”
I am quite moved furthermore by the beautiful and rhythmical little phrase, with its fine cadence, humiliter imploramus. Above I say that this prayer carries a tone of humility tinged with sorrow. This is picked up from the root of imploro. Ploro means, “to cry out, to cry aloud; to wail, lament; to weep over any thing, to lament, bewail.” Imploro, “to implore”, has the overtone of making a request earnestly, urgently, even with tears. Perhaps it is not too much to say that, in this week’s prayer, the priest, even though he is standing nobly before the altar, hands raised and outspread in the orans position, is at least symbolically in the language of the prayer really weeping with his spiritual arms wrapped around the ankles of the Risen Christ glorious with their terrible splendid wounds… entreating God for your sake, O communicant!
Our goals as the result of the good Communion and the transformation we experience in the action of the Holy Mass is two fold, one of them immediate and one to come sometime in the future, is first to become better images of God here on earth – acting, speaking, thinking ever more like Christ would do – and therefore sharers of Christ’s glory in heaven. The word consors hints that we are to share the same fate as Christ. Christ is the “first fruits” (cf. Romans 8:23; 1 Cor 15:20; 1Cor 15:23; 2 Thess 2:13; James 1:8). As He is, so too may we be one day.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
God of mercy,
by this sacrament you make us one with Christ.
By becoming more like him on earth,
may we come to share his glory in heaven.
I think we can do be better than this in the future. We must earnestly pray for graces to be poured out on those preparing the new English translation, perhaps to come 2005. Have you written kind and warm letters of encouragement to your bishop lately? They have the charge of this matter after all. Imagine what it will do to us if we get a poor translation in the future!
A while ago I promised to provide more comments on the volume, Liturgy for the New Millennium: A Commentary on the Revised Sacramentary – Essays in Honor of Anscar J. Chupungco, O.S.B. (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 2000). This “festschrift” concerns in large part issues dealing with the preparation of the ICEL translation of the second edition of the Roman Missal, the 1975MR, which translation was rather abruptly rejected by the Holy See even though it was a lame duck in the face of the imminent release back in March 2002 of the third edition. In the “festschrift” there is an article by Michael G. Witczak on “The Eucharistic Prayer in English: An Analysis and Evaluation of the ICEL Project.” Witczak provides examples from the Roman Canon (First Eucharistic Prayer) of the ICEL translation prepared in 1994 for the second edition. The examples give a taste of what we might have gotten had not Rome intervened so forcefully. For example, at the passage in the Canon Nobis quoque peccatoribus famulis tuis… “For ourselves, too, we ask some share…” we would have been hearing instead: “For ourselves, too, sinners who trust in your mercy and love, we ask some share in the fellowship of your apostles and martyrs….and all your saints. Welcome us into their company, not considering what we deserve, but freely granting us your pardon.” (NB: the Latin of the last part includes the phrase: intra quorum nos consortium. Also, in the article, there is a Latin typo at this point: miserationem rather than the correct miserationum. It’s always one letter that gets you in Latin, friends!) I would direct your attention to the fact that, while better, the proposed 1994 ICEL version was still leaving out key concepts. The Nobis quoque is more literally rendered (not necessarily liturgically better) as “To us sinners also, Your servants, trusting in the abundance of Your mercies, deign to grant some share and fellowship with Your Holy Apostles and Martyrs…, and all Your Saints, amongst whose company we entreat You to admit us, not as an appraiser of our merits, but as a gracious giver of forgiveness. Through Christ our Lord.”
It is not my intention to propose in these articles smooth liturgically appropriate translations. However, I would settle for that literal version if the alternative would have to be like the 1994 ICEL proposal. As we draw toward the end of this year’s cycle of WDTPRS articles on the Post communion prayers, perhaps we might consider tackling the Eucharistic Prayers next year? [NB: Which is exactly what happened!]