What Does the Prayer Really Say? 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2005
I received a wonderful message via e-mail from JB of NE. He asked good questions about how in the past I translated votum. Here are some of his other interesting comments (edited): “I am a convert of some 30 years standing from Episcopalianism, and I am now a ‘Traditionalist’ Catholic attending the indult Latin Mass parish (FSSP). I have subscribed to The Wanderer for 15 years, though I almost quit a few years ago when the paper went through a phase of vicious traditionalist-bashing. Your column, always fair to ‘Traddies,’ is the main reason I stay with The Wanderer, and reading it is my weekly delight. I do not share your hopes for eventual good translations of the new Mass, but I admire greatly your guts, and indeed your plucky optimism in the face of the antics of such figures as Bishop Trautman of Erie. … Though I am old and weary, and a pessimist about the whole state of the Church, I am sustained by people like you, who never cease to fight the good fight. Your inspiring and courageous column may not suit the taste of all, but it is surely ‘pro multis’, emphatically including myself!” Thanks, JB, your comments made my day. I hope to get to your concerns about votum in the not too distant future.
This is still the Year of the Eucharist proclaimed by the late Pope. Also, the Synod of Bishops is meeting in Rome right now to discuss matters related to the Eucharist, which is “source and summit”. During the Synod meeting, bishops and other delegates from around the world give brief speeches, meet in small groups to discuss certain themes, and do a lot of mixing. As the synod progresses a message is prepared for the Holy Father’s consideration. In the past John Paul II wrote post-synodal documents dealing with synod’s theme. Pope Benedict will probably follow this pattern.
Although at the time of this writing there have only been a few days of speeches, some themes are emerging as common concerns on the part of the attending bishops. We will look at these in the next weeks. For now, however, the issue of the effect of Communion in the hand has been raised and it is worth looking at what was said. His Excellency Jan PaweÃ…â€š Lenga, M.I.C., Archbishop of Karaganda (Kazakhstan) gave us of the materialistic West something to ponder (my translation): “Among the liturgical innovations that have grown up in the West, there emerge two in particular which obscure in a certain sense the visible dimension of the Eucharist in regard to its centrality and sacred nature; these are: the removal of the tabernacle from the center and the distribution of Communion in the hand. When you remove the Eucharistic Lord, ‘the sacrificed and living Lamb”, from the central position and when in the distribution of Communion in the hand there is undeniably increased the danger of losing particles, of profanations, and of a virtual reduction of the Eucharistic bread to the level of ordinary bread, you create unfavorable conditions for a growth in the depth of faith and in devotion. Communion in the hand is becoming common, and is even more and more becoming dominant as the easiest way to go, almost as a kind of fad. … I therefore want humbly to make the following concrete proposals: that the Holy See might establish a universal norm according to which the official manner of receiving Communion would be on the tongue and kneeling. Communion in the hand would be reserved to clerics. May diocesan bishops where Communion in the hand has been introduced, work with pastoral prudence gradually to lead back the faithful back to the official rite of Communion, valid for all the local Churches.”
Since JB of NE (above) brought up Bishop Donald W. Trautman, the Erie Bishop of Pennsylvania (head of the USCCB’s Liturgy Committee and alternate bishop named to the Synod on the Eucharist) in the left-leaning Jesuit weekly America (3 October) criticized the Synod’s working document or Instrumentum laboris (find it on the website of the Holy See) much in the same snarky way he criticized the norms for liturgical translation in Liturgiam authenticam (LA) the 2001 document of Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW). Bishop Trautman thinks the Instrumentum pays too much attention “looking in the rearview mirror” and too little attention to the “pivotal problem of the lack of priests”. His Excellency’s main prop for his criticism of the document and his views of today’s challenges seems to be that people have an “absolute right” to the Eucharist. Based on that “absolute right” I guess we have to agree that any obscure old-fashioned view of priesthood and liturgical practice posing an obstacle to that “absolute right” ought to be set aside. By the end of this op-ed piece you have the sense that only by throwing off the past and greater subsidiarity with all manner of forward-imagining and blue-skying will we able to meet our challenges. Personally, I think that being in the state of mortal sin, lacking reason or will, adhering to heterodox doctrine or being excommunicated diminishes one’s “absolute right” to partake of Holy Communion in the Catholic Church, but I hope to be corrected on this point.
Bishop Trautman’s op-ed aims at so many things at once that it is hard to know just what he thinks the Instrumentum ought to have been. I do, nevertheless, agree completely with His Excellency when he says we already have now all the theological and disciplinary documents we need. He says that we should “enforce”, yes… “enforce” the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, “the authoritative document on the correct celebration of the Eucharist”. I couldn’t agree more, Your Excellency! As far as his “rearview mirror” is concerned, I humbly offer a comment: at one parish I know of in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Church of St. Agnes where the tabernacle is at the center of the church, people kneel and receive Communion on the tongue, Mass is often celebrated in Latin and always ad orientem, only boys and young in cassock with surplice men serve, and the rubrics of Mass are obeyed. I think His Excellency would consider this all very “rearview mirror” stuff. Despite this retrograde approach, St. Agnes’ parish has been producing on average a new priest ordained every year for nearly thirty years. So, if you want more priests…. The old ways work and are good ideas for the future too. Why is this all so hard?
COLLECT – (2002MR):
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus,
fac nos tibi semper et devotam gerere voluntatem,
et maiestati tuae sincero corde servire.
Those of you who are able to enjoy approved celebrations of Mass also according to the 1962 typical edition of the Missale Romanum will recognize that this is the Collect for Sunday in the Octave of the Ascension.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Almighty and ever-living God,
our source of power and inspiration,
give us strength and joy
in serving you as followers of Christ.
In your trusty Lewis & Short Dictionary you will learn that the complex verb gero means many things though basically it is “to bear, wear, carry, have”. However, in the supplement to the great L&S, Souter’s A Glossary of Later Latin, we find that after the 3rd century A.D. it is “to celebrate a festival, etc.”. This is confirmed in Blaise’s work on liturgical Latin vocabulary; we again find that gero is “celebrate”. The L&S says that in a construction with a dative pronoun (such as tibi) and morem (from mos as in the infamous exclamation O tempora! o mores!) it can mean “perform someone’s will.” It might be today’s tibi…gerere substitutes devotam voluntatem for morem. A close examination of L&S shows also that servio (“serve”) is one of those verbs constructed with an “object” in the dative case rather than accusative. This is the reason for the dative case of maiestas in our prayer.
Do you remember that maiestas is often synonymous with gloria? Early Latin writers such as Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose and in early liturgical texts, use this concept for far more than simple fame or celebrity or splendor of appearance. A liturgical Latin gloria can be the equivalent of biblical Greek doxa and Hebrew kabod. Latins also translated doxa with the words like maiestas and claritas. This “glory” and “majesty” is a power of God that transforms us into what He is. It is a sharing with us of His own glory. Our contact with Him through the sacraments begins a transformation which will continue in the Beatific Vision. When God wished to speak with Moses His Presence would descend on the tent/tabernacle in a cloud of glory (Heb. shekina). Moses’ face would shine radiantly from his encounters with God and had to be covered with a veil. The shekina remains with us architecturally in our churches even now… in some places at least. More than the burning presence lamp, a baldachin or a veil covering the tabernacle is the true sign of the Real Presence. When we enter the holy precincts of the church, our encounter must transform us. We must thus be well prepared to meet the Lord there. Good translations or good use of Latin with excellent hand missals would be of great aid in that preparation. It would also help to have the tabernacle front and center, and kneel at Communion rails, but I digress. And I will be punished for it, you can be sure.
Almighty eternal God,
cause us always both to bear towards you a devout faith,
and serve your majesty with a sincere heart.
Today’s Collect brings to my mind a beautiful fresco by Piero della Francesca in a little town near Arezzo, Italy called Monterchi. The unique fresco is called “La Madonna del Parto”. This important work shows Mary great with Child, a subject rare in Renaissance painting. One meaning of the Latin verb gero is precisely “to be pregnant” as in gerere uterum or partum. In the fresco, on both sides twin angels in Renaissance dress delicately lift tent-like draperies to reveal La Madonna standing with eyes meditatively cast down, one hand placed for support on her hip, as women are wont to do in later weeks, and the other hand upon her unborn Child. The fresco, this incredible depicting of Life, ironically originally in a cemetery chapel, evokes a baldacchino and the veil of the tabernacle. It calls to mind the tent in the wilderness where the Ark with the tablets and its golden angelic cherubim were preserved, where Moses spoke to God and his face shown with God’s splendor. Mary also is Ark of the Real Presence, the Tabernacle in which Christ reposed. She, like the tent of the Ark, was overshadowed. Our Collect this Sunday can remind us to look to Mary, the Mother of God and Mother of the Church, our Mother. She is the perfect example of service coming from bearing a devout faith. In the faithful way she lived her life Mary gives us a model of preparation for service.
Finally, I want to remind you all that these articles aim at stirring greater interest in what the Church’s prayers really say. Here is another invitation to pray for bishops who have the task of overseeing the development of accurate and beautiful vernacular translations. LA was issued over four years ago. Have the whining wails about LA drowned out the cheers? There a real war going on over the implementation of of LA. It is naive to think the nay-sayers will implement the document … or enforce other existing norms. I think that we who long for serious changes are being held at bay through the usual tactics of delay and earnest declarations that everything “is being studied.” Dear friends, ask the guardian angels of these our shepherds to open their hearts to us their people. Promise them … promise our prayerful support for their positive response to their duty. Don’t let them think we have forgotten anythign. Remind them now. Let’s start writing letters again, positive, supportive, respectful letters:
Francis Card. Arinze
Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship
and Discipline of the Sacraments
Palazzo delle Congregazioni
00120 Vatican City