What Does the Prayer Really Say? 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2006
It was on a bitterly cold and frosty morning during the winter of ’97 that I was awakened by a tugging at my shoulder. It was Holmes. The candle in his hand shone upon his eager, stooping face and told me at a glance that something was amiss.
“Come, Watson, come!” he cried. “The game is afoot. Not a word! Into your clothes and come!” (from The Adventure of the Abbey Grange by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
The game is indeed afoot, but nothing is amiss!
Three different well-placed sources I trust in Congregations here in Rome confirmed for me that the Holy Father made the determination that the words “pro multis” in the consecration of the Precious Blood will be properly translated, “for many”, in the upcoming English text now in preparation. I had reason to be optimistic about this quite some time ago, but these confirmations go far beyond previous news. Please note: This is not by any means over. Nothing is certain until the authentic decision is made by the Pope and he makes his will known openly. Nevertheless, I take the news I received as a real benchmark.
A war has been raging in different Congregations about this issue. They will have an advisory role only and Pope Benedict alone will make the final decision about the translation. Translations of sacramental forms are reserved to the Roman Pontiff. We find this in the Holy See’s official instrument of promulgation, Acta Apostolicae Sedis for 28 February 1974 (AAS 66  98-99). This is a circular letter dated 25 October 1973 over the signature of then Secretary of State Jean Card. Villot, countersigned by Archbishop Annibale Bugnini (my translation from the Latin): “The Supreme Pontiff reserves to himself the power of approving directly all translations into vernacular languages of the formulas of sacraments.”
This text bears repeating in the present context. Writing as Joseph Ratzinger the Pope confronted the pro multis question. In this book God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, The Heart of Life (Ignatius Press, 2003) he made three points (pp. 37-8, n. 10): 1) Jesus died to save all and to deny that is not in any way a Christian attitude, 2) God lovingly leaves people free to reject salvation and some do, and 3):
“The fact that in Hebrew the expression ‘many’ would mean the same thing as ‘all’ is not relevant to the question under consideration inasmuch as it is a question of translating, not a Hebrew text here, but a Latin text (from the Roman Liturgy), which is directly related to a Greek text (the New Testament). The institution narratives in the New Testament are by no means simply a translation (still less, a mistaken translation) of Isaiah; rather, they constitute an independent source (emphasis added).”
Many people do amazing scriptural, theological, and philological fan dances to defend the forcing of pro multis to mean “for all”. The convoluted musings are heavily footnoted, but Ratzinger’s argument is the only one that finally carries any weight. In any event, his is now the only opinion that counts.
When I put this news on the WDTPRS blog, a few of the rather more sour stripe observed that there is nothing so special about this, and that this news means little or nothing to people who are interested in the older, “Tridentine” Mass exclusively. To them I would say, first, that what is good for the whole Church is good for them. Holy Church is not to be reduced to the traditionalist minority, as important as it is in some respects. Clearly the traditionalists are not in the majority in the Church today. Thus, vernacular translations impact them more than they might think. The English language clearly dominates the world today. Since liturgical translations in other languages are undergoing revisions, they will be required to follow suit.
It is necessary to continue with prayers for the Holy Father and with raising thanks to God for this important move on his part. We all know that it ain’t over till it’s over. When I see some instrument of promulgation and the Holy Father’s signature, I will finally relax. Nevertheless I am very happy about this news.
Small signs individually might not mean much. When they are collected and pondered, they mean more. Think about it. The “freeing up” of the so-called “Tridentine” Mass seems to be coming soon. A new Traditional community was established in Bordeaux the archdiocese of Jean-Pierre Cardinal Ricard, a member of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” and head of the French bishops’ conference. A group of French bishops published a panicky letter protesting that new community and the possibility that the older Mass might gain status. LibertÃƒÂ©! EgalitÃƒÂ©! FraternitÃƒÂ©! A concrete effort is being made to reconcile the Society of St. Pius X. The Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Francis Cardinal Arinze communicated to the bishops of the United States that lay people may no longer purify sacred vessels. Predictably, some in the USA reacted with the usual angst and have promised to study the situation. Meanwhile, today (31 October) the Holy Father accepted the resignation of the Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Peter, Francesco Card. Marchisano, replacing him with Archbishop Angelo Comastri. Marchisano had restricted use of the older form of Mass to a single chapel in the crypt of the Basilica in spite of the Rescript the Commission’s President, DarÃƒÂo Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos had obtained from John Paul II to let it be celebrated in the Basilica. Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos stepped down from his post at the Congregation for Clergy, he will remain President of the Commission. Elsewhere, the aforementioned Cardinal Arinze gave a speech in France on 26 October to a couple hundred liturgists and a score of bishops for the dedication of a liturgical institute in Paris. He strongly underscored the need for obedience to rubrics and fidelity to the Magisterium. He said:
“Thus, certain abuses have as their origin the practice of giving place to spontaneity, or to creativity, or even to a false idea of freedom, or to that error that has a name, ‘horizontalism’, which consists in placing people at the center of the liturgical celebration instead of drawing their attention upwards, that is, toward Christ and His Mysteries. … That means that institutes of liturgical studies should place at the disposal of the faithful the necessary means so that they will be able to reject vulgarization, desacralization and secularization. The horizontalism, which leads people to celebrate themselves instead of celebrating the Mysteries of Christ, has harmful consequences for Catholic faith and the worship, and this is why it absolutely must be avoided.”
Hmmmm… what form of Mass might help in this regard? Let me see…. Going on, last Sunday (29 October) in St. Peter’s Square during Benedict XVI’s customary noontime Angelus address, the Latin text of the Angelus was displayed on the “maxi-screens” usually used during ceremonies so that people could more easily pray with the Pope in Latin. In the Basilica of St. Peter the normally scheduled daily Masses are now to be celebrated in Latin.
Something is afoot.
Continuing with our theme of liturgical translations, you remember the contribution a few weeks ago of Fr. Anonymous from I can’t remember where. Father was worried after hearing the bitter reactions of the aging hippie set at an annual meeting that some priests, even many, might refuse to implement a new ICEL translation. I had lunch recently with a fine fellow, Fr. FF, who made the excellent observation that the pews in all the churches entrusted to the nay-saying priests will be tricked out with various missalettes. Together with all the appalling hymns those missalettes have spread around, they will eventually have to print the newly revised official translation. If the nay-sayers want missalettes, they will have to use the new translation. I have long been less than enthusiastic about these recyclable booklets since, despite their utility, they lend the impression that the Word of God is disposable. I have new respect for them now.
SUPER OBLATA (2002MR):
Sacrificiis praesentibus, Domine,
quaesumus, intende placatus,
ut quod passionis Filii tui mysterio gerimus,
pio consequamur affectu.
This prayer was the Secret in the 1962MR of the feast of St. Albert the Great (15 November).
To crack this open, we shall consult our prized Lewis & Short Dictionary. We saw the complex verb gero, gessi gestum on the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time where it had a passive form. Today it is active and means “to sustain the charge of any undertaking or business, to administer, manage, regulate, rule, govern, conduct, carry on, wage, transact, accomplish, perform (cf.: facio, ago).” It can also mean “to bear, have, entertain, cherish”. Affectus is an old friend of ours too. Related to the verb afficio, affectus means “a state of body, and especially of mind produced in one by some influence, a state or disposition of mind, affection, mood: love, desire, fondness, good will, compassion, sympathy.”
We beg You, O Lord, be pleased
to give attention to the present sacrifices,
so that what we are accomplishing in the sacramental mystery
of the Passion of Your Son,
we may attain by dutiful loving desire.
It is interesting to consult translations in popular hand missals of yore to see how prayers were rendered into English. In the St. Joseph Daily Missal we find: “Look with favor upon these, our sacrifices, we beseech You, O Lord, that what we set forth in this mystery of the Passion of Your Son our Lord may, by the pleading and example of Blessed Albert, produce in us its pious effect.” There is a construction similar to the last part of today’s prayer in the secret of Wednesday in Holy Week in the 1962MR, where we find: Suscipe, quaesumus, Domine, munus oblatum, et dignanter operare: ut, quod passionis Filii tui Domini nostri mysterio gerimus, piis affectibus consequamur. The St. Andrew Bible Missal renders this as: “Accept Lord, we pray you, the offering that we make to you. In your goodness grant to obtain by our zeal what we celebrate in these mysteries of the passion of your Son” whereas the aforementioned St. Joseph’s Missal says: “Receive, O Lord, we beseech You, the gift which we offer, and in Your mercy, grant that we may obtain by loving affection what we celebrate in this mystery of the Passion of Your Son.”
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
God of mercy,
in this eucharist we proclaim the death of the Lord.
Accept the gifts we present
and help us follow him with love.