What Does the Prayer Really Say? 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2007
With the close of the Advent/Christmas cycle, we move into what was once called the Season of Epiphany, which we now call the Tempus per annum or “time through the year”, otherwise called Ordinary Time. This season does not have a penitential/festal character, as the Lent/Easter cycle which Ordinary Time embraces like bookends. Pre-Conciliar liturgical books called the Sundays after Epiphany and the Sundays after Pentecost the Tempus per annum… and this terminology was retained in the Novus Ordo.
The root of the term “ordinary” is the Latin ordo which the orderly The Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary indicates is “a regular row, line, or series, methodical arrangement, order”. We use this concept in many ways in our Catholic way of thinking. For example, I am right now looking at a book on my desk called the Ordo Missae Celebrandae et Divini Officii Persolvendi secundum Calendarium Romanum Generale pro anno liturgico 2006-2007 … The Order of Masses to be celebrated and of the Divine Office to be discharged according to the General Roman Calendar for the liturgical year 2006-2007. This handy book indicates what feasts must be observed or what optional or votive Masses can be chosen. It lists the particulars such as colors of vestments or certain things that are permitted or forbidden, such as the prohibition against musical instruments during Lent except only to sustain congregational singing (p. 59). A local Ordo or that of a religious order might also include the names of deceased priests or members. Speaking of clergy, Holy Church “ordains” chosen men by the sacrament of Holy Orders in three grades of deacons, priests and bishops. Through these Holy Orders spiritual power is handed on and grace is conferred for the celebration of the sacraments and proper orderly life of the Church. Orders should bring order, the proper disposition of a multitude of things and persons in some kind of unity. Some clerics, such as diocesan bishops, are called “ordinaries”, because they exercise jurisdiction. We also speak of religious orders, which are institutes in which members take vows to live according to certain rules. There are, moreover, orders of chivalry or knighthood, which sought to blend in some way the monastic life with the military life. A vestige of these orders is found in honors given by the Holy See to people who give distinguished service to the Church. We also talk about the Ordinary of Mass which consists mainly of the parts of Mass that are for the most part unchanging. Usually we say that the 1970 Missale Romanum contains the “new order” of Mass, or Novus Ordo.
By calling this time of the liturgical year “Ordinary” we are not thereby saying that it is commonplace or characterless. With this Sunday we enter the liturgical span stretching from the preparation of the birth of the Infant King all the way to the last Sunday of the year, Christ the King, celebration the King of fearful majesty who will come as judge to usher in the unending reign of peace.
The “prayer after Communion” for this Sunday was in the 1962MR on Friday after Ash Wednesday. Long before the Roman Missal was put together it was in the ancient Veronese, Gregorian and also Gelasian Sacramentaries.
POST COMMUNIONEM (2002 Missale Romanum):
Spiritum nobis, Domine, tuae caritatis infunde,
ut, quos uno caelesti pane satiasti,
una facias pietate concordes.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
you have nourished us with bread from heaven.
Fill us with your Spirit,
and make us one in peace and love.
The aforementioned L&S can take us beyond the surface meanings of the words. Pietas is not just a nice feeling. Outward conduct reflects interior pietas. Our outward conduct as Catholics manifests our recognition of the different relationships we have with the objects of our pietas. Who am I before God? Before parents? Before benefactors and or superiors? What is my authentic part to play in these relationships? How are they bound in pietas to behave toward me? We also speak of God having pietas though He is not bound by any duty. Pietas applied to God in liturgical prayer refers mostly to His mercy towards us. Our times are rife with informality and egalitarianism. On the other hand, the original Latin prayers, now being retranslated, are expressed in courtly language pointing to an ordering of the cosmos. We must get words like pietas straight if we are to have any hope of knowing what the prayer really says.
At the end of our prayer we find concordes, from concors, “of the same mind, united, agreeing, concordant, harmonious.” Concors is a fusion of the preposition cvm with cor, cordis, “heart”. This word leads us to consider the very makeup of man. In the theology of man’s make up teased out from the writings of the blessed Apostle Paul, we find distinctions about what man is, though Paul does not provide a clear theological anthropology. Rather, Paul hints at what man is through man’s relationships with God and the world around him. He uses terms such as “body” (Greek soma), “soul” (psyche), “spirit” (pneuma), “mind” (nous), “heart” (kardia), “flesh” (sarx), which all point to different aspects of a whole person, not just the parts he is made up of. For example, psyche “soul” is not simply the vital life force making the biological flesh live but also a whole person, particularly identified in his consciousness, his intellect and his power of willing things. For Paul, psyche is a natural rather than supernatural life principle. Thus, someone living without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a psychikos, a materially spiritual person rather than a supernaturally spiritual person. Paul uses pneuma “spirit” both for the Holy Spirit and also for man. In the case of man, when pneuma is joined to soma “body” and psyche “soul” it designates that dimension of man capable of receiving the Holy Spirit, a pneumatikos man. Nous or “mind” is for Paul the knowing powers, the intellect which understands and makes judgments. There is a close tie between nous and kardia, or “heart”, the more affective dimension of man. “Heart” is like one’s interior emotional landscape, the part of us that loves and grieves and fears and suffers and dreams. This is the “heart” that can be “hardened” (cf. 2 Cor 3:14) or “strengthened” (cf. 2 Cor 1:20-22). Thus, in trying to render concordes in our prayer today, I say “one in heart and mind” because I want to blend the different interior landscapes of a baptized person.
Much of our Catholic technical or theological language sounds strange to people today because they don’t grasp meaning of Latin roots behind the vocabulary. We saw the impact of ordo and concors above. Here is another case. Infundo is “to pour in, upon, or into” and in the construction infundere alicui aliquid, it has the impact of administering a medicine to someone. Infundo is also “to pour into, spread over, communicate, impart.” The sacrament of baptism is conferred by “infusion”, that is, water is poured onto (not into) the person, made to flow across the skin. On the other hand, we speak of the theological graces of faith, hope and charity being “infused” into someone at baptism (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1813). Think of the English word “infusion” for tea or coffee, made by pouring water over them and then letting them permeate the water with their oils and essences.
Infuse in us the Spirit of Your charity, O Lord,
so that those whom You have filled with the one heavenly bread,
You may cause to be one of heart and mind in one sense of dutiful conduct.
Our prayer has a Trinitarian character, since we are praying to the Father about receiving the infusion of grace by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our reception of the Son in the Communion just made.
In today’s prayer there is for me a powerful image of the pouring and the infusing of the grace charity into us by the Holy Spirit. Charity is not simply “love”. “Love” today is an equal opportunity word, applied evenly to spaghetti, Fluffy the cat, a new movie, or your God, spouse and children. The love which is charity, as Pope Benedict reminds us in his first encyclical Deus caritas est, is simultaneously oriented to God and to our neighbor, as prescribed in Christ’s command. Charity describes a two-fold bond. Charity is sacrificial love, exemplified most perfectly by Christ upon His Cross. This kind of love always considers the good of the other. It is a choice, not a sentiment.
Without this bidirectional love of charity, our “prayer after communion” is just a still life rather than a living landscape. It is like a painting of a glorious bowl of fruit beginning to rot, rather than a vista in which life thrives. The Italian term for a still life is “natura morta”, a “dead nature”. It is a beautiful, but dead. All our prayers can have a lovely ring to them, but without charity and the proper sense of order the ring is that of the struck brass of St. Paul’s gong in 1 Cor 13: “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” Charity calls us to act outwardly as we ought according to our interior disposition and vocation.
Pour into us, O Lord, the Spirit of Your love,
so that as You satisfied us by the one bread of heaven,
You may make us of one heart in devout life.
The word pietas can help us focus properly at this moment in Mass. Does not pietas, with its concept of duty, drive us to a deep examination of conscience? We must be honest about who we are and who we aren’t. Placed with concors and caritas, pietas challenges us to be real, vital, well-integrated images of God in our words and actions. We are to be like a beautiful portrait rather than a mere still life. This is true for every aspect of our active participation in the liturgy. Holy Mass is not so much about us and what we do, but about who God is and what He does for us.
Our participation at Mass during Ordinary Time can help us to see and to seek order in our lives. We have a duty to act according to the truth of who we are (and who we are not), who our neighbor is, who God is, and what is really going on in the Mass of Holy Mother Church. Let our outward celebration of Mass reflect its inward reality just as our conduct in life should reflect the beauty of a holy member of Christ’s Mystical Body.