What Does the Prayer Really Say? 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2005
AB of MO sent me this via e-mail (edited): “My wife and I have subscribed to The Wanderer for a year now and always go first to WDTPRS. Thank you for your commitment to the true translation of the Latin. You have inspired us to begin a home study of Latin. After three weeks of study, we have found that the classes we took to learn NT Greek are very useful in learning Latin. … Can the USCCB English translation [of the Compendium to the Catechism of the Catholic Church] coming out in October be trusted to be an accurate translation of the original Latin? And, would you know how we might obtain an original Latin version of the new Compendium?” I think, AB, we have to “trust but verify”. I don’t believe too many translation shenanigans will be permitted after the dust-up some years back over the Catechism itself and, more recently, the liturgical texts coming from the USCCB and ICEL. For a Latin edition, maybe keep an eye on the website paxbook.com. It isn’t there at the time of this writing, but it probably will be.
It must have been Missouri week. Rev. Mr. SM writes, also from MO (edited): “Thank you so much for your intelligent and prayerful column every week in The Wanderer. You help to make present the fierce and passionate love of God for His people.” You have perfectly grasped the point of the articles, SM. Hopefully, people will desire to know more about Holy Mass, love it always better and participate at Mass more perfectly.
Here is Fr. RF (edited): “I suspect you can answer a question I have wondered about for a long time. In the second Eucharistic prayer, ‘astare coram te’ seems inescapably to mean ‘stand’. From what I have read of Hippolytus’ Apostolic Tradition, that phrase is appropriate because the section is after the ordination of a bishop – who would be standing. Lo, these many years when using that Canon, I have wondered why ‘they’ didn’t change it to something like ‘be in your presence and serve…’ so as to include everyone not standing (i.e. the laity) in that sentiment. Unless ‘they’ were working for the day when universally the rubrics would change to have all standing throughout the Eucharistic prayers. Comment? By the way, I am a recent Wanderer subscriber. Ordained 27 years, I read your article every week, because after buying the Missale Romanum and beginning to make comparisons, I have lost all faith in the English speaking Bishops’ ability to translate Latin. I am heartened to hear the ‘alternative’ opening prayers will be eliminated, but I am still afraid of what will happen in the next translation.” First, Fr. RF, I will not rush to claim that the translation choices made in the late 60’s and early 70’s were entirely without guile. Second, from what I have seen of the working draft translation, I think you will be pleased with the improvement. Now we must do our part to help those making the final decisions about the translation to screw their courage to the sticking place lest they lose their resolve under the relentless onslaught of those clinging to the old ICEL style. They think we are too stupid to understand what the prayers really say and will do all they can to scuttle the improvements being made according to the norms of Liturgiam authenticam.
To your question about astare: I wrote about this in the series on the Eucharistic Prayers in June 2004. The Preface of the 4th Eucharistic Prayer uses similar vocabulary. I wrote in these WDTPRS pages last year but, Fr. RF, you made me dig a little more. Some might not immediately recognize asto as adsto, which the precious Lewis & Short Dictionary says means, “to stand at or near a person or thing, to stand by”. The L&S will also make clear that asto has the synonym adsisto. If you have ever heard the phrase “to assist (adsisto) at Holy Mass” this is the concept: you are present and actively participating. Also, during the Roman Canon the priest describes the people as circumstantes, literally “standing around”. This doesn’t mean ought to be physically standing around the altar with their hands in their pockets (though I must confess I have seen precisely that). Rather, they are morally and spiritually “around” the altar, participating each according to their vocation and capacity. In his supplement to L&S, A. Souter says that adsto is the equivalent of sum. A. Blaise, on the other hand, says liturgical adsto is “to be nearby; to serve”. The same goes for adsisto. I think anyone who would try to use this as a defense of standing during the consecration would be using a terribly superficial argument. Moreover, whatever the translation says, the Church’s clear liturgical law says that at that moment, unless they are impeded, everyone must be kneeling at the time of the consecration in most of the world’s dioceses. In the USA people must kneel from the end of the Sanctus, through the whole of the Eucharistic Prayer, to the end of the great “Amen” (GIRM 23). This adaptation was purposely sought by the bishops of the USA and it was approved by Rome. Are people kneeling?
COLLECT – (2002MR):
Deus, per quem nobis et redemptio venit et praestatur adoptio,
filios dilectionis tuae benignus intende,
ut in Christo credentibus
et vera tribuatur libertas, et hereditas aeterna.
This is also the Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Easter. It was not in a previous edition of the Roman Missal, but it was in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary found in a section for evening prayers during paschaltide. Take note of the lovely chiasms: redemptio venit…praestatur adoptio (subject verb… verb subject) and also vera libertas…hereditas aeterna (adjective noun…noun adjective). Vocabulary connections suggest to me some Patristic sources for this prayers (e.g., in Hilary of Poitiers, de trin 6, 44; Ambrose of Milan, ep 9, 65, 5).
Our consultation of the thick Lewis & Short Dictionary convinces us that the correct praesto must be chosen for us to understand what our prayer really says. Praesto, iti, atum means effectively “to stand before or in front”. It has a wide range of meanings, however, including “to fulfill, discharge, maintain, perform, execute” and concepts surrounding the same, making praesto a little confusing. The lexicographer Souter says that praesto meant in about the 2nd century, “lend” (like French “prêter”) and from the 4th century onward “offer”. Cassiodorus and other authors use praesto for “help, aid, give”. A. Blaise suggests French “accorder” when it concerns God. Some weeks ago, (19th Sunday) I addressed at some length the word adoptio. Hereditas can be, “heirship, inheritance” or the inheritance itself, patrimony.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
God our Father,
you redeem us,
and make us your children in Christ.
Look upon us,
give us true freedom
and bring us to the inheritance you promised.
O God, through whom both redemption comes to us and adoption is guaranteed for us,
kindly give attention to your beloved children,
so that both true freedom and the inheritance everlasting
may be bestowed on those believing in Christ.
By that fact of our unity with Christ in His and our common human nature, the way to divine sonship was opened up to us by the Father in Christ. Christ is the Father’s Son by nature, we are sons and daughters by grace. Our adoption through grace is “perfect” (adoptio perfecta) because it complete. Perfecta is from perficio, “bring to an end or conclusion, finish, complete”. From God’s point of view our adoption is perfect because He puts His mark upon us, especially in baptism and confirmation. Since God is not limited by time and for Him there are no past or future distinct from the present, He sees in perfection the results of every gift of adoption. From our point of view adoption will only be completed when we see Him face to face. Because of baptism the Father’s mark is sealed into us forever. In this marvelous adoption the Holy Spirit brings the Father and Son to us when He takes up His rightful place in our souls, thus creating the perfect communion, even family, within our souls.
Today’s Collect has its foundation certainly in the New Testament imagery of adoption, but I think it also flows out of ancient Roman legal concepts of manumission and adoption, freeing of slaves and adoption of heirs. Our adoption by God takes us out of slavery and gives us a new status as free members of the Church and as sons and daughters. Baptism confers this freedom, membership, and adoption. Even natural children of a father in Rome required the father’s recognition before they were legally considered to be his legitimate children and heirs with any rights. Adoption could grant those same rights and privileges. Roman adoptio removed a person from one familia and put him in another while adrogatio legally placed people not under the power of a parent into a familia, thus placing them under the authority of the paterfamilias. In Latin, a familia is a house and all belonging to it, a family estate, family property, fortune. A familia had a head, the paterfamilias (or familiae, this being a Greek genitive), the master of the house.
The baptized are no longer subject to Satan and destined for hell, but are now under new mastership of God. In Rome there was also an “adoption” by being named an heir with the right of taking the name of the one bequeathing the patrimony. However, this was not a complete adoption, in the fullest sense: you became heir of the father’s name and property without the other powers of a paterfamilias until they were confirmed by magistrates, etc. Even after baptism our state can be deepened through confirmation. Ancient slaves could be freed, but that did not make them Roman citizens with the greater rights. By baptism, we become citizens of heaven, members of the family of the Church. Not only are we free, but we gain even the chance of eternal salvation. In ancient Roman a slave could become a citizen through certain types of manumission, by adoption, through military service, or a special grant to a community or territory. In a way, we have undergone all of these: by laying His hand on us (manus “hand”), we have been freed. We have been made sons and daughters of a heavenly Father. We are now soldiers in the Church militant. By membership of the society of the Church, a holy and priestly People, we gain privileges and obligations. God has recognized us as His own children with a perfect adoption. This is true freedom and true heirship, excluding nothing and, in some sense, lavishing on us even more than we might have had before we fell under the Devil’s dominion through sin.
This is a difficult mystery to grasp: we are already sons and daughters in a perfect sonship by adoption, but that sonship is not yet complete: we lack the final essential component, that is, perseverance in faith and obedience for the whole course of our lives and their ratification in death and our particular judgment. It is through many trials that we come to the perfection of adoption which we now share in an imperfectly perfect way. These wonderful collects during the summer, during Ordinary time, contain reminders of who we are and, therefore, what we are to do. Christ reveals both.