1st Sunday of Advent: POST COMMUNION (2)

What Does the Prayer Really Say?  1st Sunday of Advent – Station: St. Mary Major

ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2006

Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year.  We prepare for the coming of the Lord with a season of joyful penance.  Last Sunday, the Solemnity of Christ the King, we underscored the final coming of the Lord as King of Fearful Majesty, the Just Judge who will reign forever in glory.  That joyfully sobering reflection should lend a penitential spirit to our joyful preparation for the First Coming at Bethlehem, Christmas.  Advent weds the end of the world with the world’s rebirth in the new Adam, Emanuel, the Incarnate Word who is with us still.  Advent is about all the ways our Lord comes to us: His coming at Bethlehem and at the end of the world are echoed in other moments of our Christian life.  Jesus comes in actual graces.  He comes in the words of Scripture.  He comes to us in Holy Communion.  He comes to us in the person of the needy.  He comes at the words of the priest… “this is my Body… this is the chalice of my Blood … poured out for you and for many for the remission of sins.”

“For many”

The Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze, at the direction of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, has sent a letter dated 17 October 2006 to the various conferences of bishops in the world informing them that the words “pro multis” in the consecration of the Precious Blood are to be translated more precisely as, for example, “for many” or a similar form and not as “for all”.  The Protocol Number is 467/05/L.  This directive applies to all vernacular versions.

In his letter, Cardinal Arinze provides some of the chief reasons for a more precise translation.  They will sound very familiar to readers of WDTPRS.

First, the Greek of the Gospel accounts in Matthew and Mark have the word “many” (pollôn).  The Gospels could have had some other form, but they didn’t.  The Greek account is faithfully translated in most modern versions of the Bible.  WDTPRS exposed how Lutheran biblical scholar Joachim Jeremias argued that Christ really said “for all” in Aramaic, which would consequently and impossibly make the divinely inspired Greek words of Scripture wrong. 

Second, the Roman Rite in Latin has always said “pro multis” and never “pro omnibus” in the consecration of the chalice.  WDTPRS showed you a paragraph in the Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent which clearly explained why “pro omnibus” was not an option.

Third, the anaphoras (Eucharistic Prayers) of the Oriental Rites in Greek, Syriac, Armenian, and the Slavic languages, all have an equivalent of Latin “pro multis”.  WDTPRS found Eastern Catholic priests who all said that their translations have “for many”, not “for all”.

Fourth, “for many” is a faithful translation of “pro multis”.  “For all”, as Cardinal Arinze wrote, is “an explanation of the sort that belongs properly to catechesis”.  WDTPRS has always argued that we must give people what the prayer really says, with translations faithful to the original. If those prayers and concepts are difficult, explain them in sermons and ongoing liturgical catechesis.  People aren’t stupid.  Help them understand the hard things, but this one isn’t so hard.

Fifth, “for many”, is open to the inclusion of every person, but it does not suggest that all people are actually saved.  WDTPRS has repeatedly presented how Christ died for every person who ever lived but, sadly, some reject the Lord’s saving gift.  I suggested a phrase like “for the many” or “for the multitude”, as it is in French, which could indicate an unimaginably vast number, so immense that it could be everyone who ever lived minus one.  If even one person refused His gift, many, not all, will be saved.

Sixth, the document establishing the translation norms, Liturgiam authenticam, mandates that texts must be more faithful to the Latin original.  WDTPRS has pounded this every week for six years.

My dear readers, translations of sacramental forms are reserved to the Pope himself.  Cardinal Arinze in his letter said that he was writing at the Pope’s direction.  This means that the Supreme Pontiff has made his determination.  His decision cannot be voted on by any conference of bishops or reviewed by any Vatican congregation.

It is done. 

Writing that phrase to you just now… well… Christmas came early for me this year.

In the past you have written hopeful letters to officials.  It is now time to write to express your thanks.

Reactions to the correction in the erroneous translation of “pro multis” are pouring in from the blogosphere and the “trad” press.  Contemplate this howler from The Remnant which someone alerted me to (emphasis mine): “Yet, over the past forty years, neo-Catholic defenders of the postconciliar novelties in the Church, such as The Wanderer … have consistently defended the error [of the translation], ….”  That’s just weird.  Maybe they ought to subscribe to The Wanderer?

Meanwhile, I recall to your minds the controversy surrounding the late Pope John Paul II’s 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia in which the incorrect words “pro omnibus” appeared in the first, unofficial Latin version.  The Vatican website initially would not provide a link to the Latin text.  Then the words were corrected in the official Latin version in the Acta Apostolica Sedis.  Presto chango, a link to the Latin text then appeared on the website.  Now Pope Benedict XVI has made his decision.  The link to the Latin version of Ecclesia de Eucharistia has once again vanished though the place for the link remains!  “Curiouser and curiouser!”, cried Alice.  Oddly, of the late Pope’s fourteen encyclicals the only one with a working link to the Latin text is Fides et ratio of 1998.  Fides et ratio is also the only encyclical with a link to a translation in Arabic.  Benedict XVI’s first and only encyclical, Deus caritas est, has a working Latin link.

The concrete verification about “pro multis” fittingly comes to us on the cusp of a new liturgical year when we launch into the seventh year of our ongoing WDTPRS project.  In the first and fifth years we read the Collects (“opening prayers”) of Sunday Masses.  In the second and sixth year we studies the Super Oblata (“prayers over the gifts”).  In the fourth we looked at the four Eucharistic Prayers and in the third the Post Communions.  For the sake of completeness, we must now turn to the Post Communions again.

Joseph A. Jungmann’s magisterial work The Mass of the Roman Rite: Its Origins and Development (1949, English trans. 1953-5, reprinted in 1986, vol. 2, pp. 419-25) helps understand what a Post Communion prayer is all about.  Jungmann writes: “Even the earliest expositions of the liturgy, after speaking about the Communion to which all the faithful are invited, do not forget to admonish them to make a thanksgiving.”  St. Augustine of Hippo (+430) distinguished four sections of the Mass, the last of which is called the gratiarum actio, the thanksgiving after Communion (cf. ep. 149,16).  The Latin Rite originally had a double closing for Mass consisting of a prayer of thanksgiving and a prayer of blessing.  The thanksgiving prayer was called the post communionem in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary, a building block of the Roman Rite as it is today.  The post communionem prayers have virtually the same style as the Collect and the Secret (now called the Super Oblata), addressed to God the Father, through Christ….per Dominum nostrum….

The context of the Post Communion in the Mass is similar to those of the Collect and Super Oblata. In each case there is outward activity with movement (processions at the entrance procession, offertory and Communion).  In each case, and originally only at these three points, a choir sang a psalm with an antiphon.  In each case the priest has silent introductory prayers (his prayers before the altar, his preparation at the offertory, and his devotional prayers during the ablutions after Communion).  The theme of the prayer refers to the Holy Communion just consumed moments before and to its effects and benefits in us.  It focuses on the Communion of all the faithful who received, not just that of the priest.

Today’s “Prayer after Communion” is of new composition for the Novus Ordo (1970MR, 1975MR and now 2002MR), but it is rooted in two prayers in the ancient Veronese Sacramentary.

POST COMMUNIONEM (2002MR):
Prosint nobis, quaesumus, Domine, frequentata mysteria,
quibus nos, inter praetereuntia ambulantes,
iam nunc instituis amare caelestia et inhaerere mansuris.

This is a wonderful prayer to sing, which is as it should be.  The alliteration of frequentata mysteria gives it a powerful staccato balanced by the assonance of “ah” and “a” sounds.   The phrase ínter praétereúnti(a_á)mbulántes is glorious, as is the final cadence, inhaerére mansúris.   

Over thirty years ago, the bishops of various conferences in the English speaking world took the advice of the old incarnation of ICEL and caused the following to be printed and, sadly, used in our churches to the present day.

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Father,
may our communion
teach us to love heaven.
May its promise and hope guide our way on earth.

Is this what the prayer really says?  When the English is shorter than the Latin, friends, you know there’s trouble.  The lame-duck ICEL prayers of the sacral cycles of Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter are generally more accurate than those of Ordinary Time.  Nevertheless, this is so bad I was tempted to triple check that I got the right prayer from the correct Sunday. 

The Dictionary, the mighty Lewis & Short, helps us to understand that prosint is the third person plural present active subjunctive form of prosum, profui, prodesse, “to be useful or of use, to do good, benefit, profit”.  There is a custom in Roman sacristies after Mass.  Servers and sacred ministers line up in two rows and wait for the celebrant to enter and bow to the Cross.  As he removes his biretta and bows to the Lord, they all say “Prosit!”, that is, “May what you have just done be of benefit for you!”  The celebrant responds “Vobis quoque!” (singular “Tibi quoque!”), “And to you!”.   This is about the only time Catholics accurately say something like, “And also with you!”

Frequento is “to visit or resort to frequently, to frequent; to do or make use of frequently, to repeat” and also “to celebrate or keep in great numbers” as in the observance of public festivals.  Praetereuntia, the present active participle of praeter-eo, “to go by or past, to pass by; “to be lost, disregarded, perish, pass away, pass without attention or fulfillment (late Lat.)”  Mansuris is a plural future participle of maneo, “to remain, last, endure, continue”, and thus means “things that are going to endure”. 

LITERAL TRANSLATION:
We beg You, O Lord, may they be profitable for us, these oft celebrated sacramental mysteries,
by which You established that we, walking amidst the things that are passing away,
would now in this very moment love heavenly things and cleave to the things that will endure.

A SMOOTHER VERSION:
May these mysteries we so often celebrate
redound to our benefit, O Lord, we entreat You,
since by them You instruct us to love
the things of heaven and cling to what endures
as we journey in the midst of this world which is passing away.

When the priest intones this Post Communion, the Eucharistic Christ is within you.  A church’s tabernacle is no more a dwelling of the Real Presence than you are at that moment. 

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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