In another thread Fr. Fox asked:
I know you are busy, so I understand you may not have time to deal with this; but I’d love to hear your take on one section of the Roman Canon as it appears in the new translation:
"For them and all who are dear to them we offer you this sacrifice of praise or they offer it for themselves and all who are dear to them, for the redemption of their souls, in hope of health and well-being, and fulfilling their vows to you, the eternal God, living and true."
I’d be delighted to hear any comments you have, if you have time.
Here is how I examined and translated it a few years back when in my WDTPRS columns I worked through the Eucharistic Prayers. I wrote this back in 2004, I think (my new emphases). Keep in mind the usual caveats, namely, I was not trying to write something smooth and liturgically appropriate, but rather something a version which stuck closely to the text while cracking the bone of the words and looking at the marrow:
This week’s section is called the “Memento of the Living” in which the priest presents living persons in a particular way to God’s special care. Later in the Canon there is a similar moment for the dead. This is very ancient. We have a letter of Pope Innocent I (402-417) in which he expresses a desire that names of those offering the gifts and sacrificial offerings be included. What he writes is too vague for us to understand how this was done, though reasonably we can assume names were read aloud. Perhaps while the bishop/priest was silent another cleric announced their names.
In Frankish lands Charlemagne commanded that the names should be read publicly during the canon. Later, the canon was recited silently and so the public reading of names dropped away. Perhaps the names of the people were whispered into the ear of the celebrant. Sometimes lists of names were laid on the altar. Even today such a custom can be seen regarding prayer for the dead during November when offering envelopes are placed on or near the altar for the whole month.
With the Missal promulgated by Pope Pius V after the Council of Trent the priest in silence could pray for a moment for those whom he might choose to remember, especially for those who offered the stipend for the Mass and their intentions.
In the 2002MR the twofold inclusion of “N.” (abbreviation for nomen, “name”) and the more audible recitation of the Eucharistic Prayer suggests that priest may speak the names aloud if he so desires.
“Memento, Domine” – The Memento of the Living
LATIN TEXT (2002MR):
Memento, Domine, famulorum, famularumque tuarum N. et N. et omnium circumstantium, quorum tibi fides cognita est, et nota devotio, pro quibus tibi offerimus: vel qui tibi offerunt hoc sacrificium laudis pro se suisque omnibus: pro redemptione animarum suarum, pro spe salutis, et incolumitatis suae: tibique reddunt vota sua aeterno Deo, vivo et vero.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Remember, Lord, your people, especially those for whom we now pray, N. et N. Remember all of us gathered here before you. You know how firmly we believe in you and dedicate ourselves to you. We offer you this sacrifice of praise for ourselves and those who are dear to us. We pray to you, our living and true God, for our well-being and redemption.
In English we know the noun “memento” is “keepsake” which reminds of the past. In Latin this is a verb form. The comprehensive Lewis & Short Dictionary says that this form memento, an imperative form of the verb memini (an irregular verb having forms in the perfect tense), means “to remember, recollect, to think of, be mindful of a thing; not to have forgotten a person or thing, to bear in mind.”
There is a nice Roman tradition associated with this word. During my first experience of living in Rome, I said Mass nearly every morning at St. Peter’s Basilica. I learned there, from many older clerics and canons of the basilica that when one encounters a priest who is about to say Mass (whether you personally are a layman or a cleric) it is customary to say to him “Memento!”, which is a request that the priest be mindful of you and remember you also as he celebrates the Sacrifice of the Mass. The gentleman priest at that point ought to respond something like “Memor ero… I will be mindful” or “Libenter… willingly” or “Libentissime…. Most willingly”. This is a genteel custom that could be happily reintroduced.
Every Mass can be suitably offered for the living and the dead. Customs like this also help to reinforce in the priest the conviction that what he does really has an effect in the world, consecrating the Eucharist and completing the Sacrifice with the consumption of the species really accomplishes something. Far and wide fewer people are giving priests and parishes stipends for Mass intentions for the living and the dead. Often there is often only one priest with one Mass at each parish. Also, often the efficacious dimension of Mass, transcending distances and even the threshold of death, has been deemphasized in favor of a horizontal affirmation of the assembly gathered in that moment. I frequently meet people who long to have Masses said for their loved ones, living and dead, and cannot find priests willing or available to do so. The diminishing number of priests is of grave concern in yet another way, it seems. But I digress….
Famulus, i and feminine famula appear with frequency in Mass prayers. Etymologically famulus seems to be from Oscan (an ancient cousin of Latin) faama meaning “house”. A famulus is someone who belongs to the house or household as a servants, slave or free. In the ancient world, the famuli were members of the household, the larger family. Whole households, family and servants, would convert and become Christians together.
Circumstantium is an active participle of circumsto, which means “to stand around in a circle, to take a station round; and, with the accusative, to stand around a person or thing, to surround, encircle, encompass.” The people who are circumstantes are those who are “standing around”, not in a sense of being idle, but of location. In more ancient manuscripts this was circum adstantes. Standing for the whole Canon was the practice for the first thousand years or so. As our understanding of the Real Presence grew and deepened, the practice of kneeling developed. This is not some historical encrustation that needed to be scraped off of the Mass in a desire to return to the “pristine” way of liturgy. Circum means “around” but that does not mean that in the ancient Church people literally stoop in a circle about the altar. In Roman basilicas the altar was between the presbytery, the large semicircular part of the apse where the clerics, especially priest(s) were properly situated, and the nave, the proper place of the faithful. Often there is found a semi-circular area in front of altars which was the entrance to the crypt below and the remains of martyrs were found. The most famous of these is the “Confession” of St. Peter’s Basilica. If there were transepts, the people were then on three sides of the altar, but in no way standing around the altar in any close or proximate way.
Briefly, devotio can be seen as "a devotion to duty". With true “devotion” we keep the commandments of God and the duties of our state before all else. If we are truly devoted (in the sense of active virtue) to fulfilling the duties of our state as it truly is here and now, then God will give us every actual grace we need to fulfill our vocation. We are, in effect, fulfilling our proper role in His great plan and thus God is sure to help us. Incolumitas signifies, “good condition, soundness, safety” which can refer to both bodily and spiritual wellness. Nosco, “gives us nota while cognosco, “thoroughly acquainted with; acknowledge; etc.” provides cognita est. Votum is from voveo. It means first of all “a solemn promise made to some deity, a vow” and then also “thing solemnly promised, that which is vowed or devoted”. Eventually this means a “vow”, especially a marriage vow. Vel is a complicated little particle that usually means something like “or, else” but can function as an intensifier like “or even, if you will, or indeed, or … itself, even, assuredly, certainly.”
Be mindful, O Lord, of Your household servants and handmaids N. and N., and of all the bystanders here whose faith and recognized vocational devotion is completely known to You, for whom we are making this sacrificial offering to You: and who assuredly also are offering to You this Sacrifice of praise for themselves and for all of their own loved ones: on behalf of the redemption of their own souls, for the hope of their own salvation and well-being: they also offer back their own solemnly promised sacrificial offerings to You Eternal God, Living and True.
I suppose I should be saying something more literal and politically acceptable like “Your male and female servants”. Sometimes “colleagues” might do given the exaltation of the community nearly to God’s own level in some places. Suus is a possessive pronoun which refers back to the subject of the sentence. When used in the form of a substantive, sui , suorum, m., we have “his, their (etc.) friends, soldiers, fellow-beings, equals, adherents, followers, partisans, posterity, slaves, family, etc., of persons in any near connection with the antecedent.” This is why I choose “all of their own loved ones” for suisque omnibus wherein again we have the language of a large household in an ancient sense.
There you go.
I haven’t had the chance yet to examine closely what the new Ordinary says. Maybe next year, if the WDPTRS project continues.