What Does the Prayer Really Say? 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2006
The 11 October edition of the Italian daily Il Giornale had a fascinating article about the rumored document of Pope Benedict XVI which would, in effect, “free up” use of the so-called “Tridentine Mass” in such a way that diocesan bishops would have a very much harder time forbidding its use. Here is my translation with my emphasis, followed by my comments:
The Mass in Latin returns – The Pope’s decree is ready
by Andrea Tornielli
Rome – The text is ready, and it lacks only the Pope’s signature. Benedict XVI could publish a "Motu proprio", even before the end of 2006, with which the use of the pre-Conciliar Missal would be freed up, thus allowing groups of faithful to request the celebration of the old Mass without encountering negative responses, often unjustified, from individual bishops. The document will “rehabilitate” the Mass, sometimes called that “of Saint Pius V”, celebrated in the Latin Catholic Church until 1969, and never declared abrogated, defining it as an “extraordinary” universal rite, alongside the ordinary Roman Rite, which is the post-Conciliar one. In this way, the old Mass would return to full citizenship, just as other Catholic rites enjoy, such as the Byzantine, Mozarabic or Syro-Antiochian. And bishops would not be able to refuse its concession, as often happens today.
The thought of Pope Ratzinger about this matter has been known for a long time now: in the liturgical sphere a real break with the past has been substantiated and the reform following Vatican II not only went far beyond the letter of the same Council, but also was and still is badly implemented in many countries, where many liturgical abuses take place which wind up reducing Mass to a show. Thus, just about anything is being tolerated at the altar, but the doors are slammed on those faithful who, also because of these abuses, have remained attached to or have rediscovered the old Rite. “Unfortunately for us”, Cardinal Ratzinger had asserted some years ago in the book length interview Salt of the Earth, “there is a nearly limitless tolerance for spectacular and adventurous alterations, while effectively there is none at all for the older liturgy. We are in this way surely on the wrong path”. The future Benedict XVI also added, “Personally, I maintain that there is needed a more generous attitude in granting the old Rite to those who desire it. You just can’t see what could be so dangerous or unacceptable in that. A community calls itself into question when it suddenly considers forbidden what until just a little before seemed sacred and when it makes the very desire for it seem reprehensible. Why must these things still be believed? Isn’t it possible that what is being enjoined today will be forbidden tomorrow?”
After having consulted the cardinals of the Roman Curia and having posed the question also to the Consistory of last February [sic], clearly stating that the theology of the Tridentine Mass cannot be defined as “reductive” [NB: this means characterized as too narrow, more on this below], Benedict XVI charged DarÃƒÂo Cardinal CastrillÃƒÂ³n Hoyos, Prefect of [the Congregation for] Clergy and President of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” with moving forward. Subsequently, a first draft of the text was composed, which the Pope then forwarded to the Congregation for Divine Worship [and Discipline of the Sacraments]. Here the progress of the decree was made more difficult, due to various internal obstructions at the dicastery [i.e., the Congregation]: it was initially thought to fix a minimum number for faithful making the request at 100, which was then lowered to 30, and references to liturgical abuses were removed from the draft. The text was thus returned to the Pontiff and to “Ecclesia Dei”. In addition to CastrillÃƒÂ³n, JuliÃƒÂ¡n Cardinal Herranz, President of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, was also engaged in drafting the text.
The “Motu Proprio” for the liberalization [“freeing up”] of the new [sic] Missal, an initiative encountering considerable resistance inside and outside the Roman Curia, ought to facilitate also the achieving of full communion with the Lefebvrites of the Society of Saint Pius X, who have always fought for it [that is, “freeing up” of the use of the older Missal]. Obviously, if the Pope signs the document, as he seems disposed to do, it will not mean that the average member of the faithful will in his parish find Mass celebrated in the old way overnight. It will be necessary to balance the needs of the traditionalist faithful with those of other parishioners.
I must expand on Pope Benedict’s affirmation that the theology of the older form of Mass is not “reductive”.
Consider that the rite of Mass, with its texts and rubrics, both reflects the Church’s Faith and undergirds the Church’s Faith. Lex orandi – lex credendi … the way the Church prays has a reciprocal relationship with what she believes. If we believe certain things, we will pray in a certain way. If we pray a certain way, we will more strongly hold to certain things. So, when someone makes the accusation that the so-called “Tridentine” edition of the Roman Missal was “reductive”, that levels a serious accusation of narrowness, or lack of enlightenment, against the Church herself for, literally, centuries. Benedict XVI had been trying to dismantle that false accusation for decades. Thus, he says that the theology of the older form of Mass is not, in fact, “reductive”. What does this mean?
This “reductive” in Italian, is a hard word to translate. The impact of saying that the theology of the pre-Conciliar Missale is not "reductive" (“la teologia della Messa tridentina non può essere definita «riduttiva»”) means that many of the old chestnuts progressivists or modernists, or whatever you want to call them, toss around about the old Mass are simply not true. You will often hear that the older form of Mass is "too vertical", while the newer form is more “horizontal”, that the older form places too much emphasis on the sacrificial dimension and not enough on the “meal” aspect, that the older form does not take into account a true necessity for “active participation” as a constituent element of liturgical action, that the older Mass reduces people to “passive spectators” (that makes me CRAZY!), while the newer Mass “allows” people to “participate actively”. To say that the theology of the older Missale is not “reductive” is to say that these things are no more true about the “Tridentine” Missale than they are about the Novus Ordo. Both editions of the Roman Missal, old and new, must be given a fair shake. This is the beauty of the Pope’s argument for years now, nay decades. Setting the two editions, Tridentine and Novus Ordo, on a much more equal footing will reveal that much of the progressivist criticism has no foundation while showing at the same time that the Novus Ordo clearly opens up for us some advantages, from which even those attached to the older form can benefit.
For what it is worth, in another Italian paper, La Stampa, Marco Tosati offered on 11 October something about the internal battle in the Roman Curia over the draft. Here is my translation and emphasis:
When some time ago Benedict XVI sent the draft of the “Motu Proprio” to the Congregation for Divine Worship, the “anti-liberalizing” party, with the tacit endorsement of the Prefect, Cardinal Arinze, rushed to work on attaching restrictive modifications (for example, the need to raise the number of those making the request from 30 to 100), and sought in the doing to bypass the Secretary [of the Congregation, Archbishop Malcolm] Ranjith; who, however, managed to attach to the document, which was supposed to go back to the Pope, a long series of notes and marginal comments in order to bring the text back to its original meaning.
You will remember that His Excellency Archbishop Ranjith has the reputation, even among members of the SSPX, as a defender of the older form of Mass. Knowing His Eminence Card. Arinze, and having heard many positive things about Archbishop Ranjith, and having heard him speak in a reasoned and measured way about this matter, I have a hard time believing that this is a devious war between Arinze and Ranjith. Between others in the CDWDS and Ranjith? Certainly.
Furthermore, Tosati mentions in his article a possible (optimistic) date of 8 December, Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In any event, nearly all the coverage mentions that it could come before the end of the year.
Keep in mind that Benedict’s project is not just a sop to throw to “ultra-conservatives”. This is part of a larger plan to reinvigorate the Novus Ordo and reattach it to its sources. What happens in this regard is very important to us, even in the scope on this WDTPRS series because it concerns precisely what the prayer of the Mass really says. Let us now move along to our examination of this week’s “Prayer over the gifts”, as the lame-duck ICEL version calls it, but what in Latin is the
SUPER OBLATA (2002MR):
Tribue nos, Domine, quaesumus,
donis tuis libera mente servire,
ut, tua purificante nos gratia,
iisdem quibus famulamur mysteriis emundemur.
This prayer was in the ancient Veronese Sacramentary in the month of April. I once thought this prayer was of new composition, and said so when I dealt with it several years ago, but I was wrong.
Our trustworthy Lewis & Short Dictionary shows that servio basically means “to be a servant or slave, to serve, be in service.” Again, it is one of the verbs commonly constructed with its object (a person or thing) in the dative case: “to be devoted or subject to; to be of use or service to; to serve for, be fit or useful for; to do a service to, to comply with, gratify, humor, accommodate; to have respect to, to regard or care for; to consult, aim at, to accommodate one’s self to, etc.” We could opt for the shade of meaning “to have respect to, to regard or care for” and eke by. However, it seems to me quite important to keep a closer connection in English between the words servio and famulor. Clearly that was the author’s intention. We must make a distinction, also, between the two related verbs, the active famulo and the deponent (passive form but having an active meaning) famulor. Famulor means, “to be a servant, to serve, attend, wait upon.” Famulo is, “to use as a servant, to make serviceable”. I think in our prayer today we must have the deponent famulor which, like servio, can take a dative object. Let us start piecing this together. Remember our pairings: servio…famulor, purifico…emundo and also, our mens and God’s gratia.
We beseech You, O Lord, grant
us to serve Your gifts with a free mind,
in order that, as Your grace is purifying us,
we may be cleansed by the same mysteries which we are serving.
We pray, O Lord, that You allow
us to serve You in Your gifts with our hearts and minds made free,
so that, once purified by Your grace,
we may be cleansed by the very same mysteries in which we are serving You.
A proper understanding of how both servire and famulor are used here can give us the key to unlock this prayer. Consider for a moment the imagery we are given. We have two main ideas: service/freedom and cleansing. By our sins, beginning with original sin, we were in chains of slavery. By the cleansing of baptism and our continued nourishment by the Eucharist and other sacraments we are set free from bondage. Contrary to the way the world sees service, our faithful and humble submission to God sets us free in a way that the world and its hellish prince can neither offer nor comprehend. In His service, as His “slaves” (famuli), we have true freedom. The key that unchains us is the Precious Blood flowing from Christ on the Cross. Clavus, the Latin word for “key” is, by the way, also the word for “nail”. May the Precious Blood of Christ always purify us from our sins as well as our selfish willfulness, a horrible result of man’s original fall from grace.
[I made a mistake here. I conflated clavus "nail" and clavis "key")
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
may the gifts we offer
bring us your love and forgiveness
and give us freedom to serve you with our lives.