What Does the Prayer Really Say? 4th Sunday of Advent – Roman Station: Basilica of the Twelve Holy Apostles
Excita, quaesumus, Domine,
potentiam tuam, et veni:
et magna nobis virtute succurre;
ut, per auxilium gratiae tuae,
quod nostra peccata praepediunt,
indulgentia tuae propitiationis acceleret.
This prayer was in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary and other sacramentaries. It survived in edited form in the Novus Ordo on Thursday of the 1st week of Advent.
Praepedio means “to entangle the feet or other parts of the body; to shackle, bind, fetter”, and therefore “to hinder, obstruct, impede”. Something is placed “before” (prae) the “foot” (pes), which makes you stumble. We never stumble using the thick Lewis & Short Dictionary which shows that prae-pes means also “swift of flight, nimble, fleet, quick, rapid”. To the Latin ear, just hearing prae-ped…sparks an interesting tension of opposing concepts. During Advent we are being constantly given images of movement, of rushing swiftly to a goal: venio (“come”), suc-curro from curro, (“run”), accelero….
A LITERAL VERSION:
Rouse up Your power,
O Lord, we beseech You, and come:
and hasten to aid us with your great might,
so that, through the help of Your grace,
what our sins are hindering the indulgence
of Your merciful favor may make swift.
Christ is rushing towards us.
Will we hasten him to us by clearing the path for His rushing feet, bringing peace and reward? Will our sins hasten His more violent coming, with correction and then separation? We must smooth His path, remove the obstacles.
When the Lord comes, He will come by the straightest path … whether we have straightened it out or not.
Our sins make His path crooked.
quaesumus, Domine, placatus intende:
ut et devotioni nostrae proficiant, et saluti.
This is also found on the 2nd Sunday of Lent.
A TRANSLATION (The New Roman Missal – 1945):
Look with favor, we beseech Thee, O Lord
upon these offerings here before Thee,
that they may profit both for our devotion and for our salvation.
The point of this ancient prayer, from the Gelasian Sacramentary¸ is the connection between the Sacrifice and our salvation.
Sumptis muneribus, quaesumus, Domine:
ut cum frequentatione mysterii,
crescat nostrae salutis effectus.
This is used also on the Second Sunday after Pentecost in the 1962MR and the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time in the Novus Ordo.
Frequentatio means, “frequency, frequent use, a crowding together.” As a figure of speech, in rhetoric, it is “a condensed recapitulation of the arguments already stated separately, a recapitulation, summing up.” This noun comes from the verb frequento, meaning “to visit or resort to frequently, to frequent; to do or make use of frequently, to repeat” and “to celebrate or keep in great numbers, esp. a festival.” Or, in somewhat post-Augustan usage, of a single person, “to celebrate, observe, keep”. In English we say “frequent” a place when we go there often. In this liturgical context it means “to attend or participate in often” and it has the over tone of being crowded together with others. Since Advent, now swiftly drawing to an end, also focuses us on the Second Coming, consider the figure of speech angle of frequentatio. Christ Himself is our frequentatio, our summing up of all things at the end of time as described in 1 Cor 15:28.
A TRANSLATION (St. Andrew Missal – 1959)
Having received Your sacred gifts, we implore You, Lord,
that by our assiduous assistance at these holy mysteries,
they may the more surely avail to our salvation.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
by our sharing in the mystery of this eucharist,
let your saving love grow within us.
This is what we have had to deal with, for pity’s sake.
The Latin version is an intense prayer, though it seems to have little to do with our Advent theme. But does it not focus us clearly on the purpose for our being at Mass: salvation? All other concerns and seasonal themes return to that overriding point. Let’s pry it open. In our prayer frequentatio mysterii evokes for me superimposed images of the visible and invisible dimensions of Holy Mass, the Eucharistic sacrifice (mysterium). In the earthly church building many people are repeatedly gathered around us (frequentatio). Imagine now a superimposed layer of the invisible participants at that Mass: myriads of holy angels and members of the Church Triumphant. Mass is a glimpse of heaven.
This imperfect world is also a place of spiritual warfare. Many at Mass are not in the state of grace. Some may be very wicked. Not only are the angels of heaven present at the sacred mysteries, but also the Enemy with the fallen ones in all their pain-filled fury. They suffer horribly in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Their pain is great but their malice is so intense that they endure agony if they might spur just one person to weaken in his conscience and make a bad Holy Communion.
By frequent Holy Communions in the state of grace God increases in us the effects of salvation (salutis effectus). In this world, our state of “already but not yet”, the Eucharist strengthens us against the persistent attacks of hell and readies us for the Lord’s Coming.
Straighten the way for the Coming of the Lord.
And an old PRAYERCAzT…