Here is an excerpt from my WDTPRS article in the current issue of The Wanderer. The articles are available on line through The Wanderer’s subscription website.
What Does the Prayer Really Say? “Low” Sunday – “in albis” (1962 Missale Romanum) - Roman Station: St. Mary Major
The Pope has something up his sleeve, so to speak.
As Anna Arco points out so well (emphases mine):
Pope Benedict’s renewed use of older forms of liturgical vestments is more than just a taste for showy clothes and is in keeping with his concept of the liturgy, which is informed not by a nostalgia for an older Church or by an elaborate "aestheticism" but by his profound understanding of the reforms instituted by Vatican II and what he sees as their place in both the long history of Church tradition and its philosophical and theological underpinnings.
As the Australian theologian and philosopher Dr Tracey Rowland argues in her excellent new book Ratzinger’s Faith; The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI, beauty plays an important role in Pope Benedict’s faith, not as an optional pedagogical tool or a "question of taste" but as an integral part of his understanding of Christ. While Dr Rowland does not write about vestments, she outlines Pope Benedict’s theology and how it informs his understanding of the liturgy. Beauty and God are inseparable and for Pope Benedict the liturgy is "a living network of tradition which had taken concrete form, which cannot be torn apart into little pieces, but has to be seen and experienced as a living whole".
Summing up Pope Benedict’s attitudes both to some of the liturgical malpractices which came out of certain interpretations of Vatican II and the need for beauty in the liturgy, Dr Rowland writes: "Beauty is not an optional extra or something contrary to a preferential option for the poor. It is not a scandal to clothe silken words in silken garments. Catholics are not tone deaf philistines who will be intellectually challenged by the use of a liturgical language or put off by changeless ritual forms. However, banality can act as a repellent."
“It is not a scandal to clothe silken words in silken garments.” Well said!
We must “enflesh” the Word who seeks to act in our midst sacramentally. All the words and gestures of Holy Mass are the dicta et acta of the Risen Lord. He acts and speaks now as the Head of the Body, the Church, in the person of the priests who is alter Christus, now as the Body joined to the Head in the voices and gestures of the congregation, and then as Christ one and whole, Christus totus, when they both act and speak together. It may be that the Novus Ordo manifests this reality somewhat more clearly. The sacred words and deeds should reflect outwardly their inner beauty and power to transform. They demand from us our very best and brightest.
Pope Benedict has given us a tremendous gift with Summorum Pontificum. The use of the older form of Mass in more places will help us recover a sense of who we are as Catholics, how we worship, what reverence is. His choices of vestments of historic cuts, both new and lifted from the too-long locked cupboards of the papal sacristy, his recovery of ad orientem worship and even small details like the seventh candle for papal Masses, all speak to the need for continuity with our deep Catholic tradition.
What we have done in the first seven years of WDTPRS is try to show how we should clothe the “silken words” of the liturgy with…well… silken words and not the lame-duck ICEL sow’s ears. This year in this series we have turned our attention a bit more to the prayers of the older form of Holy Mass, in the 1962 Missale Romanum. However, we have not lost sight of the need to keep hammering for good translations of the Novus Ordo. We know that the translation revision is well underway, but it is taking a ridiculously long time.
In the post-Conciliar calendar this is the “Second Sunday of Easter”. In traditional parlance today is called “Low Sunday” or sometimes “Thomas Sunday” because of the Gospel reading about the doubting Apostle. It is called “Quasimodo Sunday” for the first word of the opening chant, the Introit (cf. 1 Peter 2:2-3). According to the post-Conciliar way of speaking, it is often called “Mercy Sunday” because of the emphasis on the merciful dimension of God’s redemptive act celebrated at Easter: the new Collect (based on a prayer in the Missale Gothicum) for the begins by calling God merciful. The newest, third edition of the Missale Romanum of 2002 specifically labels this Sunday: Dominica II Paschae seu de divina Misericordia.
However, since ancient times this Sunday is called “Dominica in albis” or also “in albis depositis”… the Sunday of the “white robes having been taken off.” 1 Peter 2:2-3 says: “Like (Sicut modo (Vulgate) or Quasimodo (pre-Vulgate Latin) newborn babes (infantes), long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation; for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” Some of our antiphons for Mass, such as today’s which starts with the more ancient Quasimodo, reflect a Latin Scripture version predating St. Jerome’s (+420) Vulgate.
In the ancient Latin Church the newly baptized were called infantes. They wore their white baptismal robes for an “octave” period after Easter during which they received special instruction from the bishop about the sacred mysteries and Christian life to which they were not admitted before the Vigil rites. On this Sunday they removed their robes, which were deposited (albis depositis) in the cathedral treasury as a perpetual witness to their vows. They were then “out of the nest” of the bishop, as it were, on their own in living their Catholic lives daily. St. Augustine of Hippo (+430) uses the imagery of spring and compares his newly baptized infantes to little birds trying to fly from the nest while he, the parent bird, flap around them and chirp noisily to encourage them (s. 376a).
The Collect found in the Extraordinary Use of the Roman Rite today comes at least from the 8th century and is found in the Liber sacramentorum Gellonensis. The Gellonian Sacramentary … well… one of these days I’ll get into that.
Praesta, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus:
ut, qui paschalia festa peregimus;
haec, te largiente, moribus et vita teneamus.
The first meaning of perago in our very much present Lewis & Short Dictionary, is “to thrust through, pierce through, transfix”, but it comes logically to mean also “to carry through, go through with, execute, finish, accomplish, complete”. This past tense drives home that are at the end of the Easter Octave. This prayer survived into the Novus Ordo. It is found on the Saturday after Ascension in the 7th Week of Easter. In other words, peregimus points out that Easter season is over.
SUPER LITERAL VERSION:
Grant, we beg You, Almighty God,
that we who have carried through the paschal feasts
may, You bestowing it, hold to them in morals and in life.
OTHERWISE A BIT LOOSER:
Almighty God, we beg You,
that we who have completed our observance of days of the paschal cycle,
may as You lavish this grace upon us, hold fast to them still in our life and outward conduct.
The Daily Missal and Liturgical Manual (Baronius Press):
Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God,
that we who have celebrated the Paschal Feast,
may, by Thy bounty, retain its fruits in our daily habits and behaviour.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
let the love we have celebrated in this Easter season
be put into practice in our daily lives.
What about the Collect for the Novus Ordo?
Deus misericordiae sempiternae,
qui in ipso paschalis festi recursu
fidem sacratae tibi plebis accendis,
auge gratiam quam dedisti,
ut digna omnes intellegentia comprehendant,
quo lavacro abluti, quo spiritu regenerati,
quo sanguine sunt redempti.
The use of those clauses starting with quo, having no conjunctions (a trope called asyndeton) gives this prayer a very forceful feeling. I like that sole sunt (with abluti…regenerati…redempti) imbedded elegantly in the last phrase.
O God of eternal mercy,
who on this recurrence of the paschal feast
kindle the faith of a people sanctified for Yourself,
increase the grace which You have given,
so that all may comprehend with worthy understanding
by what laver they were washed,
by what Spirit they were regenerated,
by what Blood they were redeemed.
Recursus is “a running back, return, a returning path.” In reference to sight it is something that has power to bring back an image. Recursus harkens to the cyclical, “recurring” nature of the Paschal observance. We have the opportunity to experience the Paschal mysteries each year. This is more than a memorial or re-enactment. These mysterious events, historically past, sacramentally take place again each year. The vast verb comprehendo is too complex to treat here. This is a profoundly interiorized “grasping” in the sense of true possession.
A lavacrum is a bath. In Titus 3:5 we have, “He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy (misericordiam), by the washing of regeneration (lavacrum regenerationis) and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us rightly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life (vv. 5-7, RSV).” This harks to both the process and effects of baptism. In our Collect is abluo, “to wash off, wash away, cleanse, purify.” In classical Latin, abluo is used by Cicero (+43 BC) to describe a calming of the passions coming from a religious rite of washing away of sin (Tusc 4, 28, 60) and even by the poet philosopher Lucretius (+ AD 55) in De rerum natura to describe the removal of darkness by the bringing in of light (4, 378). Early Latin speaking Christians lacked vocabulary to express their faith. Abluo was ready made to be adapted to describe the effects of baptism. Accendo means “to kindle anything above so that it burns downward” and “to set on fire, to kindle, light to light up, illuminate, to inflame a person or thing, to incite, to round up.” This word evokes the imagery of the fiery Easter Vigil!
In a sermon addressed to the catechumens before their baptism at the Easter Vigil, St. Augustine used images of light and fire to help them understand who they were to become (cf. s. 223 and s. 260c): “Keep the night Vigil humbly. Pray humbly with devoted faith, solid hope, brightly burning charity, pondering what kind of day our splendor will be if our humility can turn night into day. Thus, may God who ordered the light to blaze out of the dark make our hearts blaze brightly, that we may do on the inside something akin to what we have done with the lamps kindled within this house of prayer. Let us furnish the true dwelling place of God, our consciences, with lamps of justice”.