What Does the Prayer Really Say? 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2006
What does the GIRM really say? His Holiness the Pope has directed that “lay ministers”, or better “Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion”, not be permitted any longer to purify sacred vessels used during Holy Mass. The American bishops had originally requested the extension of an “indult” for this. One of WDTPRS’s favorite people, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, His Eminence Francis Card. Arinze, sent a letter dated 23 October to His Excellency the President of the USCCB, Most Reverend William Skylstad, Bishop of Spokane, with a clear “No”.
Noting that the General Instruction of the Roman Missal says that the sacred vessels are to be purified by the priest, the deacon or an instituted acolyte, in other words by “Ordinary Ministers” and not “Extraordinary Ministers”, Cardinal Arinze also restated what every well catechized Catholic child knows about Christ being fully present under each species even though Communion with both species offers a more complete “sign” of Christ’s presence.
It seems to me that what is happening is the slow squeezing of the paradigm about “ministry” back to its proper shape and dimensions. For decades the very concept of “ministry” has been drawn into question by rendering everyone into a being a minister of something or other. The result has been, in some places at least, a blurring of the distinction of the priesthood of the baptized and the priesthood of the ordained. Before his election to the See of Peter, Pope Benedict had addressed this issue several times in his writings.
In any event, His Eminence the Prefect also reminded the His Excellency the President that Communion by intinction “with reception on the tongue always and everywhere” was a good possibility to provide that fuller sign when numbers of people made distribution of the Precious Blood impractical.
In the meantime, the Bishops Committee on Liturgy (BCL), headed up by His Excellency Donald W. Trautman, issued forth to the bishops a letter entitled “Seven Questions on the Distribution of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds.” According to the BCL, Communion under one kind alone or Communion by intinction makes the purification of vessels by priests, deacons or instituted acolytes alone “pastorally problematic.” I am not sure why that may be, but there it is. It strikes me that both intinction and Communion under one kind would reduce the number of vessels and complexity of purifying them.
Fr. FS of NY has written with a welcome correction (edited): “In the last paragraph of your column for the 29th Sunday you wrote that clavus means both ‘key’ and ‘nail’. I believe ‘nail’ is clavus (2nd declension) but clavis, is (3rd declension) is ‘key’; e.g., Matthew 16:19 says, ‘…et tibi dabo claves regni caelorum…’ in John 20:25, the doubting Thomas said, ‘…nisi videro in manibus eius figuram clavorum et mittam digitum meum in locum clavorum…’ (Vulgate) Forgive me if I am incorrect. Thank you for your work.” You are quite correct, Fr, FS. I conflated the two words. Your correction is much appreciated. It also spurred me to look up the words again in lexica of later Latin to see if any authors conflated clavus and clavis as I did. I found an interesting connection between them. In what we call Blaise/Chirat in these WDTPRS articles, the Lexicon Latinitatis Medii Aevi, I found that while clavis can stand for the purple band decorating a vestment, much as it did on the ancient Roman toga, a clavus is the red stripe on a dalmatic, the vestment of a deacon. Furthermore, while a clavis was a musical key, a clavus could be part of a stringed musical instrument. Looking in the etymological dictionary of Latin by Ernout/Meillet we find both clavis and clavus under the same entry. Here I found that clavis, once written also as clavos was a primitive key shaped like a spike or nail which fastened something shut by being inserted into a ring. It is fun to see the connections between words.
I received very good news. Three independent and well-placed sources confirmed a matter of great relevance to this WDTPRS series and you readers. It is best not to publish too much about it before it is brought to light by the proper authority. I am really not trying to be cagey about this or merely tease you. Sometimes because people want a “scoop” they rush to publish things before the prudent moment. In doing so, they create unnecessary complications. My motive in bringing out this vague news now is to enlist your prayers of thanksgiving and praise to the Almighty for this and other blessings in your lives. All along I have asked you to pray for those in charge of liturgical translations and for your bishops and priests. If we then obtain what we hope will be conceded, the glory is properly attributed to God. Since the day of this writing is the Feast of Sts. Crispin and Crispinian, made well-known by the famous “Agincourt speech” in Shakespeare’s Henry V, IV, iii, I will again borrow the Bard’s words and repeat: “Do we all holy rites; Let there be sung ‘Non nobis’ and ‘Te Deum’” (VI, viii). Here is a prayer for you to say right now. It is the Collect of the Votive Mass Of Thanksgiving in the 1962 Missale Romanum and was commonly intoned at the end of the Te Deum:
Deus, cuius misericordiae non est numerus,
et bonitatis infinitus est thesaurus:
piissimae maiestati tuae pro collatis donis gratias agimus,
tuam semper clementiam exorantes;
ut, qui petentibus postulata concedis,
eosdem non deserens,
ad praemia futura disponas.
On 19 October during his meeting in Verona with the Fourth National Ecclesial Convention in Italy, Pope Benedict XVI said that, “adoration must precede our every activity and programme, that it may render us truly free and that we may be given the criteria for our action.”
O God, of whose mercy there is no reckoning,
and whose treasury of goodness is infinite:
always imploring Your clemency
we give thanks to Your most gracious Majesty for the gifts that have been conferred,
so that, You who grant the things petitioned to those seeking them,
even as You never abandon them,
may ready them for the rewards to come.
You will hear in this beautiful prayer an echo of Wisdom 7:14: “For she [Wisdom] is an infinite treasure to men: which they that use, become the friends of God, being commended for the gifts of discipline….”
Let us now move along to this coming Sunday’s “Prayer over the gifts” as the lame-duck ICEL version calls it. This prayer is a new composition for the Novus Ordo. Though it is new, here is the unmistakable influence of a sermon by Pope St. Leo the Great (440-61).
SUPER OBLATA (2002MR):
Fiat hoc sacrificium, Domine, oblatio tibi munda,
et nobis misericordiae tuae sancta largitio.
I said this is founded on a sermon of Leo. Here is the bit the author employed: “Beloved, promptly expressing this profession of faith with your whole heart, spew out the impious comments of the heretics, so that your fasting and almsgiving may be polluted by the contagion of no errors. For then both the offering of sacrifice and the holy bestowing of mercy is clean…(sacrificii munda est oblatio et misericordiae sancta largitio)” (s. 91, 3: CCL 138A, p. 566; PL 54, 452 AB). This sermon was pronounced during the fast time of the seventh month in the year A.D. 453.
The last time we looked at this prayer in 2002 I explained what was going on in 453, when Leo delivered his sermon. It deserves a recap. Attila the Hun, aka the Scourge of God, was ravaging the lands. In the 440’s the western part of the Empire was disintegrating. Burgundians had invaded Gaul but were driven off by the powerful general Aetius. In 439 Geiseric conquered Carthage in North Africa. In 441 he defeated a Roman force sent against him. The West was suffering from a critical shortage of military manpower and they were beset everywhere (sound familiar?). In 450 the Eastern Emperor Marcian cancelled the annual bribe to the Huns, which the Huns did not find amusing. It happened that the Emperor Valentinian III was trying marry off his sister, Justa Grata Honoria, to an elderly dignitary. She had other ideas. Honoria sent a ring to Attila, King of the Huns. Attila took this as an offer of marriage and demanded half the Western Empire as a dowry. He then invaded Gaul. In 451 near modern Châlons, the general Aetius defeated Attila who, instead of withdrawing back into Germany, moved into defenseless Italy in 452. Aetius was unable to stop him. The Huns sacked Milan, destroyed Aquileia, began to march on Rome. Nothing stood in Attila’s way.
In living memory Rome had been sacked in 410 by Alaric the Visigoth. You can still see coins from fused into the marble floor of the Basilica Aemilia in the Roman Forum. The Sack of Rome had a more profound impact on the Romans throughout the West than 9/11 had on the USA and its allies. In fact, the year 410 in part provided St. Augustine of Hippo with the inspiration to write The City of God, which changed the course of Western civilization. However, in the 450’s, Italy was nearly prostrate and no army could rescue Italy from Attila the Hun. The only figure of any prestige in Italy at the time was the Pope of Rome, Leo. Leo rode north from Rome with a small group of followers and met with Attila before he could reach City and pillage it. They had a private conversation, legend has it. We have no idea what Leo said to the Hunnish King, but immediately thereafter Attila turned his army around, left Italy.
In the Vatican Basilica of St. Peter, in the “Cappella della Colonna” we see the tomb and altar of St. Pope Leo the Great. Over the tomb is a marble relief by Alessandro Algardi (made in 1646-50) depicting the moment of the colloquium of the Saint and the Scourge. Attila is reeling backward from the sight of the menacing and heavily armed Sts. Peter and Paul swooping down from heaven behind Leo’s shoulder. A frowning Peter points authoritatively at Leo while the glowering Paul is aiming his finger in a classic “scram” signal. In 453 (the year Leo gave the sermon that influenced our prayer this week) Attila was heading back through Eastern Europe in preparation for another assault on the Byzantines. He set up camp so that he could get married, drank himself unconscious and promptly did everyone a favor by drowning in his own blood from a nosebleed. Attila’s empire fell apart almost at once and the Hunnish menace dissipated as swiftly as it had arisen. All this in 453 when Leo said: “Beloved, promptly expressing this profession of faith with your whole heart, spew out the impious comments of the heretics, so that your fasting and almsgiving may be polluted by the contagion of no errors. For then both the offering of sacrifice and the holy bestowing of mercy is clean.”
O Lord, let this sacrifice become a pure offering to You,
and the holy bestowing of Your mercy to us.
There is nothing especially difficult about the vocabulary today. Largitio in the thick Lewis & Short Dictionary is “a giving freely, a granting, bestowing, dispensing, distributing, imparting.”
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
God of mercy,
may we offer a pure sacrifice
for the forgiveness of our sins.