What Does the Prayer Really Say? 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2006
I have some clerical matters to resolve before we begin our week’s work. Some clerics have kindly sent correspondence.
Fr. DC of OH writes by e-mail (edited): “I’ve enjoyed reading your column on WDTPRS over the years. … For the past year or so I’ve been offering the Tridentine (indult) Mass a couple of times a month. In getting to know the people, many of whom came from the St. Pius X group, a good number say they do not think that the Novus Ordo Mass is valid because of the faulty translation of ‘pro multis.’ My thought is this: If Pope Benedict XVI were to mandate that the correct translation be used, this would undermine the argument many traditionalists have against the Novus Ordo Mass (or, as Fr. Frank Phillips of the Society of St. John Cantius in Chicago calls it, the ‘Missa Normativa’). I think this is an added argument for a correct translation on this point, which can supplement your already eloquent and convincing arguments. … Let us pray for a good translation, and that Pope Benedict issue a document based upon the synod last year that will bring about an authentic, and much-needed, reform of the reform.” Thanks, Reverend and Dear Father for those good comments. Thanks also for being generous with your time and energy in celebrating Mass for people who desire the 1962 Missale Romanum. I agree that a correct translation would take a little of the steam out of some of our more traditionally oriented brothers and sisters. However, my experience is that some of them would immediately batten onto another flaw they find in the Novus Ordo and continue to pick at it. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Nevertheless, your point is very good. I would add another point. The phrase in the consecration pro multis must be translated correctly not just because it would help to bolster ecumenical efforts (don’t forget the Orthodox), but especially because it’s the right thing to do.
Fr. TJ of ND has also sent an electronic missive (edited): “I know this is kind of old news; but I had missed reading through a few copies of The Wanderer from the time I was on vacation last May. I really liked your in depth exposition of the Easter Mystery in the WDTPRS column for the Fourth Sunday of Easter (4 May 2006). May I print it in the weekend bulletin of my parishes this coming Easter 2007? I can hardly wait. I want to go ahead and transcribe it into my Easter 2007 Bulletin template on my PC.” Sure, Father, it would be an honor. I remember working on that for a long time. I found a couple typos in that copy, however. I can send you a cleaner, revised version. Moreover, may I kindly ask that you refer to the fact that it was printed in The Wanderer and was not merely online? Perhaps your parishioners would enjoy the opportunity to get copies of The Wanderer through your parish. You can contact the offices of the The Wanderer to find out how to make that happen.
I received a substantial number of messages about the “consubstantial” issue. Here is one from frequent correspondent Fr. TJ of ND (edited): “There is no argument, ‘consubstantial’ is a great word. However, I was thinking about a couple of possible alternatives that might convey the meaning and have a ‘historical’ precedent: I am referring to the translation from 1963 or 1964 … of the Creed as it appeared in the 1964 Roman Missal and again in the 1966 Sacramentary. Moreover, I found in my vintage People’s Mass Book hymnals of the same era the phrase: ‘Begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father.’ As well, I wondered whether the phrase: ‘One in substance with the Father’ (replacing the word ‘being’ in the current version of the Creed with the word ‘substance’) might also capture the same sense and meaning, without the four syllable, compound word ‘consubstantial’.” Thanks, Fr. TJ, for the good observations. I think we need to avoid the word “being” and opt for “substance” and some way to communicate “with” (which is what “consubstantial” does).
On this same note, JH writes by e-mail: “As a boy in the Augustana Lutheran Synod I was given a book of church history that had a word I have always loved and seen as the sign of Orthodoxy. I refer to homoousian. The word, in my naivetÃƒÂ© as a child, seemed perfectly clear and I also developed a life long admiration for Athanasius, the young hero of the Constantinople Synod. Why not insert it at that point of the Creed? Whatever happened to the Athanasian Creed, by the way?” Well, JH, you are demonstrating what I have said all along in these columns: people aren’t stupid. Give them a challenge, and they will rise to it. Dumb everything down and they will drift away. That said, I am not so sure I would insert the Greek technical term into the English text. Furthermore, that simply isn’t going to happen. We need an English solution unless we are going to use the Latin text. Since most of us are of the Latin Rite, that is a good option, no? What does it mean for us Latins that so many of us virtually never hear the language of our Rite?
The so-called Athanasian Creed (or Symbolum Quicumque), probably came from 5th century Latin Gaul and was attributed to the Greek speaking St. Athanasius of Alexandria (+373). The eminent Patristic scholar J.N.D. Kelly, who wrote a book on this Creed, suggests that St. Vincent of LÃƒÂ©rin (+c. 435) might have been the author. The Creed is marvelous for its clarity. Pope Paul VI quoted it in his wonderful Credo of the People of God. The Athanasian Creed was composed to combat the heresies of Arianism and Monophysitism. For centuries it was recited for the liturgical hour of Prime. We do not use the Athanasian Creed now in the post-Conciliar liturgy, probably because it is a purely Western text, having no common counterpart in Greek. Still, this beautiful and clear Creed could be a wonderful starting point for study, prayer and meditation.
We now move on to our examination of what ICEL called the “Prayer over the gifts” for the upcoming Sunday’s Mass.
SUPER OBLATA (2002MR):
Propitiare, Domine, supplicationibus nostris,
et has oblationes famulorum tuorum benignus assume,
ut quod singuli ad honorem tui nominis obtulerunt,
cunctis proficiat ad salutem.
This prayer, which is at least as old as the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary, was in the pre-Conciliar editions of the Missale Romanum as the Secret of the 5th Sunday after Pentecost. In the more ancient form, however, the priest said “famulorum famularumque tuarum”. In a way that is more “inclusive” in that it has both the masculine and feminine forms of famulus. *gasp*! The Novus Ordo version left out the women! Actually not… you all know by now that Latin masculine plurals include both sexes.
The Lewis & Short Dictionary, no doubt on the desks of every member of ICEL, tells us that propitio is a verb meaning “to render favorable, to appease, propitiate”. Propitiare (a second person singular present passive imperative) means something like “be thou appeased”. I suppose that if ICEL is not using “deign” in the new translations, they might not use “appease” either. We shall see. Supplicatio is from supplex, which the etymological dictionary of Latin by Ernout and Meillet says describes one who is bending his knees in the attitude of a suppliant (humbly begging). The root plico means to fold or bend. Supplicatio means “a public prayer or supplication, a religious solemnity in consequence of certain (fortunate or unfortunate) public events; a day set apart for prayer, either by way of thanksgiving or of religious humiliation, genuflection.” So, inhering in the very fabric of this prayer is the concept of the Church making its humble petition on bended knee. If the priest is standing while pronouncing this prayer and in the Novus Ordo the congregation is standing, they are very soon required by the rubrics to kneel. And if this is the attitude when raising the offering, how much more ought it be when receiving the fruits of that offering at Holy Communion?
We have described famulus quite a few times in these columns. If you, like Fr. TJ, save them check out the 19 July 2001 issue of The Wanderer or consult the internet archive for WDTPRS on the Collect of the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time. I described famulus, “servant”, and its origin in great detail.
Be appeased by our humble solemn prayers, O Lord,
and kindly accept these the sacrificial gifts of Your servants,
so that what individuals raise up unto the honor of Your Name,
may for all people be profitable unto salvation.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
hear the prayer of your people
and receive our gifts.
May the worship of each one here
bring salvation to all.
In this lame-duck ICEL rendering, now in use, there is no hint of humility in the prayer other, I suppose, than the fact that we are bothering to pray at all. Notice how this version strips the original of most of its content, including the fact that we are supplicants before God’s majesty.
Look for a moment at the translation of today’s prayer in the
1959 Saint Joseph Daily Missal:
Be propitious to our supplications, O Lord,
and graciously receive these oblations of Your servants and handmaids,
that what each one offered to the glory of Your name,
may profit all to salvation.
Okay, this version admittedly could be a little too “Latinate” for our tastes today, but it does not attempt to evacuate the content or attitude of prayer. Let’s see a different rendering from another old “hand missal”.
1962 Saint Andrew Bible Missal:
O Lord, be pleased by our prayers,
and in your goodness accept these gifts from your sons and daughters.
May the salvation of all be assured
by what each has offered to the glory of your name.
I don’t like the division into two sentences, which ruins the flow of the prayer. Again, the translator did not attempt either to excise our humble attitude or lobotomize us as participants. All the elements of the Latin original are there and it is properly terse.
A priest friend who is a professor of Scripture often urged me to introduce into these columns a version that was not so slavishly close to the Latin original. I don’t know if this is interesting to you readers or not, but here it is.
A SMOOTHER WDTPRS VERSION:
Look favorably upon us, O Lord, for our humble prayers,
and in Your kindness accept these sacrificial gifts
Your servants are now raising up to You,
so that what each of us as individuals will offer in honor of Your Name
may advance the salvation of us all.
One of the things I love about this prayer is how it underscores our unity as baptized members of the Body of Christ. The actions of an individual affect the whole. When we sin, we harm the whole Church. When we live according to the life of grace and fulfill our vocations, we build Christ’s Body. The way we celebrate Mass and participate in the sacred mysteries truly makes a difference.