What Does the Prayer Really Say? 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2006
Even as I prepared breakfast one day for my friend and recent guest Fr. GW of MN, he pointed out an error in my Latin version of the Super Oblata for the 26th Week. I transcribed “…per ea nobis fons omnis benedictionis aperiatur”, instead of “per eam…”, which refers back to the feminine oblatio. So, dig out that article from your pile of WDTPRS clippings and pen in the correction. My error in the Latin, however, does not make a difference to my translation, which was accurate. Remember, folks, WDTPRS is more than just a good source for breakfast conversation.
A notice in the German language Kathpress-Tagesdienst (Nr. 230 – Sunday, 1 October 2006) reports that Viennese professor of Church History Rupert Klieber stated that, “In the debate over the Christian roots of Europe we theologians today must be one thing above all else: a good translator.” His point is that the Church has a magnificent treasure to share with the world. It must be shared in a way that is appropriate to a modern context. Otherwise, the Church runs the risk of receding into a ghetto. What the Church has to give to the world must be inculturated. This WDTPRS series aims at opening up more of the actual content of the Church’s liturgical prayers through accurate translation. This is also the goal of Liturgiam authenticam (LA) from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. Remember that LA was fifth instruction “for the right implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council”. The fourth instruction in 1994 was called Varietates legitimae which was about inculturation in the liturgy. Translation and inculturation are inextricably woven together. This is part of what makes translating ancient Latin prayers into Modern English so very difficult. We must always make sure that the translated prayers are not in language so remote from the listener that their content fades into obscurity. At the same time, the translations must not be rooted in the passing fads of daily speech.
Fr. Anonymous sent a note expressing a measure of pessimism about a future reception of the new translation on the some priests. Here are his comments (edited heavily to protect the innocent): “I just finished up with the annual (clergy meeting) in my diocese. Me and my big mouth! I talked to a few of my brother priests of the ‘older generation’ who did not seem one bit pleased about the forthcoming new and improved translations of the Roman Missal. In fact, this issue is such a deep wound for some of these gentlemen, that they remained visibly shaken, angry, and cold toward me throughout the days of our conference because of my enthusiasm and support for the new translations.” Right, Fr. Anon., I know exactly what you mean. I too have been treated like a slug on a sidewalk by men of that same “generation”. These aging hippies are toting more baggage than the Titanic ever did.
Fr. Anon. elaborates: “An older priest mentioned that the current response ‘And also with you’ is a much more ‘natural’ response to the greeting ‘The Lord be with you.’ I interjected: ‘Had not people already been trained to say ‘And with your spirit’ from about 1965 thru about 1972, and that the English translation had been in fact CHANGED in about 1973 to what it is now.’ He was not impressed with that insight. At the time I didn’t think to mention that since dialog in the Mass comes forth from a formal act of DIVINE Worship of Jesus Christ we ought to consider something not necessarily ‘natural’ but maybe ‘supernatural’ (e.g. ‘And with your spirit’); but I did not say it at the time, which was probably just as well.” Yes, Father, but he wouldn’t have been convinced even had you managed to levitate as you said it.
Father “Anonymous” continued: “Honestly what I described frightens me. I wonder whether some clergy or groups might just outright refuse to use the new translation. Will the Church experience the ‘shoe on the other foot’? Will we have a ‘Society of Archbishop Bugnini’ demanding an indult for the use of the 1973 ICEL translations because of their ‘attachment’ to that particular usage? God help us!” Don’t be despondent Fr. Anonymous. The next time you are with these folks, just remind them that, unless they hurry, we will be compelled to use the new translation for their funerals. “Society of Archbishop Bugnini”! Good one! I was about to quip something about imagining what their liturgies would be like, but on further reflection most of you don’t need to imagine. Or want to.
Imagine now that we finally get around to this Sunday’s “Prayer over the gifts”. This was the Secret of the 1962MR’s Tuesday in the Octave of Easter and the Fifth Sunday after Easter and it remains for the Seventh Sunday of Easter in the Novus Ordo. However, in most places we now have Ascension Thursday Sunday on the Seventh Sunday of Easter, so I guess most people won’t be hearing it more than once a year.
SUPER OBLATA (2002MR):
fidelium preces cum oblationibus hostiarum,
ut, per haec piae devotionis officia,
ad caelestem gloriam transeamus.
The sound of those a’s with m’s in the last line invoke wonder. The end has a delightful cadence: trans-e-ÃƒÂ¡-mus.
We dealt with officium last week, so I refer you to that article. The monumental Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary shows that transeo means “to go over or across, to cross over, pass over, pass by, pass; be changed into any thing.” Pius means something closer to “dutiful”, in regard to us, and “merciful” in regard to God. We have also studied gloria many times. Latin gloria (translating Greek doxa and Hebrew kabod) is a divine characteristic. St. Hilary of Poitiers (+367) taught that gloria or claritas is a transforming power God will share with us. When God shares His divine splendor with us, we will through eternity be transformed and “divinized”, always shining more and more brilliantly as God’s reflections, His images, forever becoming more and more like Him.
The L&S says devotio comes from the verb devoveo meaning, “to vow, devote (usually to a deity)” and such things as “to promise solemnly” and “to devote to the infernal gods, i. e. to curse, to execrate” and thus, “to bewitch by conjurations”. In a more Christian sense someone who is devotus “is pious, devout” or “obedient to authority.” The adverb devote is in Adoro Te devote, the familiar hymn of St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274): “I adore/worship You faithfully/devotedly”. Devotio, then, has similar meanings including “a devoting, consecrating” and “featly, allegiance, devotedness”.
Take up, O Lord,
the prayers of the faithful with offerings of sacrificial victims
so that, through these services of dutiful devotedness,
we may pass over unto heavenly glory.
In 1985 the Association for English Worship (AEW) made a booklet with some possible translations, comparing them to the ICEL version. For the most part the AEW provides a …
Lord, with this sacrificial offering
receive the prayers of the faithful,
so that through this act of worship and devotion
we may be drawn towards the glory of heaven.
We must linger over the fascinating word devotio. In ancient Christian Latin devotio can understood in many ways, such as Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son Isaac (cf. Ambrose, Hex 5, 21, 66), an interior faith expressed outwardly even unto martyrdom (cf. Cyprian ep. 55, 11), a seasonal fast or liturgical action (cf. Gelasian and Veronese Sacramentaries), among others. Centuries later St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae describes devotio as an “active” virtue. In regard to meditation and contemplation the Angelic Doctor wrote: “The intrinsic or human cause of devotion is contemplation or meditation. Devotion is an act of the will by which a man promptly gives himself to the service of God. Every act of the will proceeds from some consideration of the intellect, since the object of the will is a known good; or as Augustine says, willing proceeds from understanding. Consequently, meditation is the cause of devotion since through meditation man conceives the idea of giving himself to the service of God” (STh II-II 82, 3 ). A few more centuries later devotio is developed in Jesuit spirituality: devotio refers to our duty. Our devotions must lead or help the soul to keep the commandments of God and the duties of one’s state of life, one’s vocation, before all else. Each of us has a God-given vocation to follow. We must be devoted to that state in life and the duties that come with it as they are in the hic et nunc, the “here and now”.
A person must not focus on the state he had in the past, or wishes he had, or should have had, or might yet have someday. Those are unreal and misleading fantasies that distract us from reality and God’s will. When I am truly devotus in fulfilling the duties of my state as it truly is here and now, then God will give me every actual grace I need to fulfill my vocation because I am fulfilling my proper role in His great plan. Thus devotio makes each of us actively receptive to what God wills and gives, no matter what it is.
This is a key to understanding our roles, especially of lay people, in the sacred action of the liturgy. True “active participation” is first and foremost interior active receptivity. Can you see the connection between your “pious devotions” and your being devout in devotio? With this virtue in place we are made authentic “collaborators of God” (1 Cor 3:9; cf. 2 Cor 6:1-2). As devout Catholic we go into the world bringing our own part of God’s plan for the salvation of all to fruition in everything we say and do. All that we do is transformed.
Today’s prayer recognizes our deep and unavoidable obligation before God, our sacred duty. As His people we are capable of receiving a share of God’s transforming glory. Remember that transeo can mean also “be changed into something”. The word devotio invokes an entire world view. The virtue of devotio leads us always to say, with the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30 RSV). Our lives must be evaluated in light of our obligations under God’s plan and providence. Our prayer, then, firmly expresses the nature of the relationship we have with God. We are not equals. We rely on him totally and every good thing we have comes to us from on high. If we faithfully fulfill our God-given duty, He will share with us His own transforming glory for eternity.
Here is how the St. Andrew Bible Missal (1962) rendered this prayer: “Lord, accept the prayers of the faithful with the offering of sacrifice. While we pay you our duty of loving devotion, may we gain the glory of heaven.” All in all that is pretty good, even though it splits the sentence. I wonder if we will find the same content in the lame-duck version from…
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
accept the prayers and gifts
we offer in faith and love.
May this eucharist bring us
to your glory.