What Does the Prayer Really Say? 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2003
A veteran WDTPRS reader alerted me to the comments of in the July/August issue of Adoremus Bulletin made by Fr. Gino Dalpiaz, C.S. of the Italian Cultural Center in Stone Park, IL, with a query about my own experience: "When I compare the ICEL translation of the liturgical texts we’ve been using these past thirty years with the translation found, for example, in the magnificent Italian Missal I’m very familiar with, I get extremely upset. ICEL did not translate. It made up prayers from whole cloth under the guise of translation. ‘Truth in advertising’ meant nothing to ICEL. It was a bait-and-switch thing. Most of the time there was no similarity between the English and the masterful Italian translations of the Mass prayers. I felt cheated because I wanted to know exactly what the original Latin prayers given us by the Church meant, not what a group of so-called translators wanted me to believe. These are not ‘trifling’ matters.”
Indeed, these are not trifling matters, Reverendo Padre! Davvero, mica sono sciocchezze! The issue of translation is of critical importance. Christ continues to work through the Church to give us what we need for our journey through life and come through to the happiness of heaven. The Sunday Mass and its prayers are indeed the sole contact many Catholics have with Christ’s voice speaking today in a living Church. We need good translations. While no translation is perfect, which we will always grant, with care and prayer we can craft texts which convey with transparency the content of the Latin originals.
I would say in reaction to the statements of Fr. Dalpiaz in Adoremus that the Italian translation of the Missale Romanum is far in a way superior to the early ICEL work in respect both to its accuracy and beauty. The Italian is not perfect, but it is better. Furthermore, I think it is right to feel cheated, not only because he should have been able for decades now to hear the content of the Latin prayers through good English translations but also because in order to get at the content of the Latin he had to go to the Italian, itself a translation. So, everyone, be hopeful, but also persevere in prayer and writing kind letters of encouragement to those who have the care of this difficult matter.
I read on the website of one the largest dioceses in the world, the Archdiocese of Milan (http://www.diocesi.milano.it), that Dionigi Card. Tettamanzi (whom many consider a frontrunner among the papabili), on 8 September, feast of the Nativity of Mary, has initiated a missionary-style program of conversion there parish by parish. His Eminence has issued for this purpose a major pastoral letter entitled "Mi Sarete Testimoni…You Will Be My Witnesses" (cf. Acts 1:8) outlining a three-year plan. In his homily for the feast of the Nativity of Mary, Card. Tettamanzi stressed the importance of assuring that celebration of Sunday Masses, especially, was characterized by a very highly quality so that people could truly experience an encounter with God and thus be more able to give themselves over to Him in obedience. In response to the problem of so many people being sacramentalized but not actually, interiorly evangelized, the Archbishop of Milan also stresses the frequent reception of the sacraments in a way that is lived. Moreover, he urges the presence of solid practicing Christians in every aspect of the life of society. We cannot opt out and we must bring something new and fresh to the world. In his presentation of his program Card. Tettamanzi seems to be making an integral connection between what we receive through Holy Mass and the graces that come from the other sacraments, and the mores and trends of society as a whole. As the one goes, so goes the other. His Eminence is also basically saying that what has been going on as a routine for a long time now is no longer adequate. He is shaking things up in Milan.
Scholion: In reference to my mention last week of the famous phrase of the ancient Latin poet Horace, “Nunc est bibendum…”, did you know that the name perhaps the most recognizable product images/characters in the world, the bulging white pile of tires referred to as “The Michelin Man” is Bibendum? He got this name through a series of circumstances. The maker of the pneumatic tire AndrÃƒÂ© Michelin was defending its advantages by saying that “the tire drinks obstacles”. The following year the brothers Michelin were at an exposition in Lyon and, seeing a stack of different sized tires, Eduoard quipped to AndrÃƒÂ©, “If it had arms it would look like a man.” In 1887 the illustrator Marius Rossillon (aka O’Galop) showed the brothers Michelin an advertising poster (remember that Michelin also did the travel guides which gave restaurants their coveted star ratings) depicting a fat Bavarian beer drinker raising a tankard and saying Horace’s famous phrase “Nunc est bibendum!” AndrÃƒÂ© made the connection between the drinker, his own phrase that pneumatic tires “drink obstacles”, and the pile of different tires. So, in 1897 the same O’Galop made a new poster from the directions of AndrÃƒÂ© showing a man made from tires at a banquet table raising a glass full of the tire’s perennial nemeses (nails and broken glass) offering a toast “To Your Health! Michelin Tires Drink Obstacles!” Soon after the poster came out, someone who saw AndrÃƒÂ© Michelin passing by exclaimed, “There’s Bibendum!” This name quickly passed to the chubby tire character and the soubriquet stuck. And for the sake of being inclusive, Bibendum has a wife and child: Bibette and BÃƒÂ©bib. And now, I will put the brakes to this digression lest you tire of this trivia, and move on to this week’s…
LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):
Quos tuis, Domine, reficis sacramentis,
continuis attolle benignus auxiliis,
ut redemptionis effectum
et mysteriis capiamus et moribus.
This was the Postcommunio in the 1962MR for the Mass for the conferring of Holy Orders (in collatione Ordinum). There are some ear catching sibilant s’s in the first part of this prayer and the first line has a lovely cadence: reficis sacramentis… long short short long short long long.
I am certain that your own copy of our bastion of clarity and bulwark against obfuscation the Lewis & Short Dictionary, which we are happy to extol, has already discovered to you that the verb attollo means “to lift or raise up, raise, elevate, lift on high” and also “to enlarge, aggrandize, to render prominent or conspicuous, to extol”. We often see in these Post Communion prayers forms of the verb reficio, which refers to refreshing and nourishing, strengthening with food, and so forth. Continuus, a, um is an old adjectival friend applying to time/space phenomena. For space ideas it means a “joining, connecting with something, or hanging together, in space or time, uninterrupted, continuous.” For time notions it is “following one after another, successive, continuous” in the sense of unending or incessant. Auxilium, from the verb augeo, means “help, aid, assistance, support, succor” and in the plural, auxilia, etc., it is “auxiliary troops”. In medical terms it signifies “an antidote, remedy”. Auxilium is a familiar word for those who have the opportunity to participate at Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament when the O salutaris Hostia, the customary hymn of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), is sung: “O salutaris Hostia / Quae coeli pandis ostium. / Bella premunt hostilia; / Da robur, fer auxilium… O saving Victim, who opens the gate of heaven. Hostile wars are pressing us; Give strength, bring aid….” As we have seen several times already in these columns, capio is an extremely polyvalent word, with meanings ranging from, basically, “to take in hand, take hold of, lay hold of, take, seize, grasp” to, by extension, “to win, captivate, charm, allure, enchain, enslave, fascinate” and “to deprive one of his powers or faculties, to harm”. In our prayer today we hear something like “to take, seize, obtain, get, enjoy, reap”. A very important word today is mos, moris, meaning “manner, custom, way, usage, practice, fashion, wont, as determined not by the laws, but by men’s will and pleasure, humor, self-will, caprice” and therefore also in a moral point of view “conduct, behavior; (in plural) manners, morals, character”. You will remember the cry of M. Tullius Cicero while he was consul (B.C. 63) in his first great diatribe against Lucius Sergius Catilina, the chief of a group of conspirators against the state: O tempora! O mores! (1 Cat. 2). “Mores” is also an English word. Regular readers of WDTPRS instantly recall that mysteria and sacramenta are often interchangeable.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
help us with your kindness.
Make us strong through the eucharist.
May we put into action
the saving mystery we celebrate.
Usually ICEL is content to chop the periodic sentence of the Latin original into two sentences. Today’s ICEL version uses three, making it even more haltingly awkward than usual. While in these weekly columns we are not attempting to produce a translation which is in every respect suitable for use in the Mass, perhaps we can nevertheless do better even when providing something quite literal.
Kindly raise up, O Lord, with unending helps,
those whom you renew by your sacraments,
so that we may grasp the effect of redemption
both in the sacramental mysteries and in conduct of our lives.
Consider that this prayer was part of a Mass for conferring Holy Orders, sacramental ordination. Now it is used in a very different context, a Sunday Mass in a parish church. Given the origin and previous application of this prayer it may be useful for the laity in the pews listening to it to be sharply aware of their own mode of participation in the priesthood of Christ through their own baptismal character. If lay people do not offer sacrifice in the manner of the ordained priest, they are nonetheless called upon in Mass to unite their sacrifices to that which the priest offers. They must exercise their own mode of priesthood. This does not end at the doorway of the church. Our baptismal character is an integral part of who we are every moment of our lives and, indeed, into eternity. I have always though it significant that Holy Communion takes place so close to the dismissal from Mass. While you are hopefully waiting respectfully for the priest to leave the sacred precinct of the sanctuary and are then offering a good and recollected act of thanksgiving after Mass’s close, it seems as if no sooner as we receive the Body of Christ in Communion then we are out the door and back into the world God sends us out to work in.
In our prayer today there is a theme of continuity. We even have a form of the word continuus. In the beginning of the Post communion Father refers to the constant helps we depend on from the actual graces God confers upon us. The effect of redemption will be eternal and unending. In the final line we hear of that eternal effect linking and yoking together our participation in the sacred sacramental mysteries we experience in Holy Mass, on the one hand, with the conduct and mores of our lives on the other. For the baptized Catholic Christian there must be continuity between our reception of the sacraments and the way we live.
At the time of the second anniversary of 11 September 2001, as we watch the cultural trends and the present burning debates in society, can we… ought we… as Catholic Christians bring something new and fresh to the public square? Dear friends, “Bella premunt hostilia”! If we are going to dare to receive Holy Communion at Mass, we need to be more than simply “properly disposed” regarding our Eucharistic fast and the state of grace. In keeping with the themes of “salt and light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-16) each one of us must be prepared also to be beacons of Christ outside the confines of the parish church too, beaming by our words and actions what we gain from the Eucharist into the world’s every niche and corner where we may have influence.