We continue to look at our prayers for Mass during Advent.
SUPER OBLATA (2002MR)
Suscipe, quaesumus, Domine, munera
quae de tuis offerimus collata beneficiis,
et, quod nostrae devotioni concedis effici temporali,
tuae nobis fiat praemium redemptionis aeternae.
This prayer is in the ancient Veronese Sacramentary amongst prayers for the month of July though that version shows a variation in devotionis … temporalis. Also, and this is interesting, it ends with
_ _ _ __
P F E SP (with lines over the letters),
which I intially might have something to do with the Trinitarian ending having to do with Pater Filius Et SPiritus, but it actually means "Prex Facta Est SuPra" according to the apparatus criticus in the critical edition.
Some vocabulary. That collata is from confero which is "to bring, bear, or carry together, to collect, gather". The word devotio is "a devoting, consecrating" and in Christian authors, "piety, devotion, zeal". There is an element of "duty" to it.
SLAVISHLY LITERAL VERSION
Accept, we beg, O Lord, the gifts
which, gathered from Your favors, we are offering,
and, may that which You grant come to pass for our temporal devotion
become for us the reward of Your eternal redemption.
You can see what happens in English when you stick closely to the Latin structure and preserve the periodic sentence.
What is going on in this tangled prayer?
Remember that the first part of Roman prayers will invoke God according to some characteristic and the, in light of that characteristic, will present a petition. In this case we recognize God as the source of benefits and that what we have on the altar is from Him. In light of that, the prayer sets up a contrast between the eternal and the temporal, that which is bound to time now. In the temporal sphere, God responds to our devotio, and what is granted then becomes, eventually, an eternal reward. Note the way the clauses end in "temporal" and "eternal"
Devotio was in ancient Roman terms a very interesting concept. A devotio was the ritual dedication of an enemy, or self-dedication, to the gods of the Underworld. The ancient Roman historian describes a devotio when the Romans were struggling for their existence against a coalition of Gauls and Samnites in 295 BC. The consul Publius Decius Mus performed a devotio and then rode to the enemy with his toga drawn over his head, and the enemy killed him. Romans didn’t want to die with their head or feet uncovered. This transferred the wrath of the gods to the enemies whom the Romans then defeated. The Roman pontifex maximus said a prayer, and the "devoted" general, in a toga, leaned on a spear and repeated it. With the toga over his head, like a priest, and worn "Gabine fashion" (thrown back the toga and winding it around the body when going into battle), he rode to the enemy. If a "devoted" general survived, he was never again to perform a religious act. If a regular solider soldier was "devoted" and then survived a statue had to be buried instead. One of these was found in near Capestrano in the Abruzzi. Another kind of devotio is in the example during the sack of Rome by the Gauls in 390 BC, when some senators remained in their homes, in togas, waiting to be killed by the invaders.
In any event, the devotio was an act of self-sacrifice, ritually performed, to take upon oneself the salvation of others. There was a spiritual dedication for a temporal effect.