WDTPRS 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time – untroubled devotion

VOTE FOR WDTPRSLet us has a swift look at the Collect (“Opening Prayer” as it has been called) for the upcoming 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time.   Easter comes rather late this year.  We have more “green”, Ordinary Sundays than usual before Ash Wednesday ushers in Lent. Last week would have been Septuagesima Sunday in the older Roman calendar.  This week would be Sexagesima.  Lent is around the corner.

COLLECT (2002MR):
Da nobis, quaesumus, Domine,
ut et mundi cursus pacifico nobis tuo ordine dirigatur,
et Ecclesia tua tranquilla devotione laetetur.

This prayer was in the 7th century manuscript called the Veronese Sacramentary, though it is surely much older.  It was prayed on the 4th Sunday after Pentecost where it remained for centuries in the Missale Romanum until it was moved in the 1960’s.  In the pre-Conciliar Missale Romanum we find the adverb pacifice.  The Novus Ordo redactors changed this back to the more ancient pacifico which goes with ordine.

Some vocabulary with the help of our jam-packed Lewis & Short DictionaryCursus can mean anything from “course, way, journey” to “course of a ship”, the “flow of conversation” and “postal route”. Dirigo is “to give a particular direction” or “to lay or draw a straight line”.  It was used, among other things, to indicate ordering an army to march to a certain point or to direct or steer a ship on its course.  Ordo means too many things to get into in depth.  Suffice to say that it can refer to the “methodical arrangement, class or condition.”  By extension it is applied to everything from the “orders” of the clergy, the way trees are planted, the lines of an army, or the banks of rowers in a ship.” And of course, it refers to the order of the prayers of Holy Mass. Cursus and ordo, conceptually related, set up a nice internal chiasmus, putting us, nobis, at the center of the construction.  Pacificus is a composite of pax and facio meaning “peacemaker” or “peaceable”.  Among the things devotio means are “fealty, allegiance, piety, devotion, zeal.”

I think tranquilla is ablative and that it goes with devotione instead of being nominative and thus matching up with Ecclesia.

Our Collect’s vocabulary gives us military and nautical imagery.  Try reading this prayer with the mental image of a ship.  Our ship’s great Captain sets our course upon the sea.  The Captain is so great that He can command the waters and winds.  I can see the ship as the Church in the world, the Church Militant.  We call the Catholic Church the “Barque of Peter”.  The sea it sails upon is the deep and turbulent world we live in.  The Captain is our Lord Jesus Christ, who calmed the stormy waters and commanded Peter to walk to Him upon them.  He entrusted His ship to Peter to steer it in His stead.  Once all has been made “ship-shape and Bristol fashion”, the Captain and His sailing-master use our zeal and work to steer the ship upon the course He sets, carrying us its crew to a safe haven.

The imagery almost vanishes when we have to wrench it out of Latin and into English.

SLAVISHLY AWKWARD LITERAL RENDERING:
Grant us, we beg, O Lord,
both that the course of the world be set by your methodical peace producing plan for us
and that your Church may be made joyful by means of tranquil devotion.

LAME-DUCK ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Lord,
guide the course of world events
and give your Church the joy and peace
of serving you in freedom.

Quite simply dreadful.  Not as bad as next week’s, however.

CORRECTED ICEL TRANSLATION:
Grant us, O Lord, we pray,
that the course of our world
may be directed by your peaceful rule
and that your Church may rejoice,
untroubled in her devotion
.

The translators thought tranquilla was nominative rather than ablative.  You decide.  Either way, this version is a great improvement over the dreadful lame-duck version and it maintains the sense of the Latin original.

When I compare the lame-duck versions with the corrected versions I am more convinced than ever that people will receive the new translation happily.

Before the creation of the universe God knew each one of us and desired us and loved us.  He called us into existence at a precise point in His great plan.  He gives us a part to play in that plan. He gives us the tools and talents we need to fulfill it.  If we devote ourselves to our state-in-life and strive to carry out His will, God will give us the actual graces we need because we are furthering His great plan.  In keeping with the imagery of the prayer, I suggest that our devotion can be like the wind the Captain uses to direct our courses.  We are more than just the “hands on deck”, hauling a rope or swabbing the deck.  We are not merely being pushed along. We play a vital part in the actual forward motion of the ship.  We truly depend on Him and Him alone. We do not of ourselves merit what He provides.

This could be a point of reflection as you receive Holy Communion devoutly and frequently.  Mysteriously, it is His plan and will that His work becomes our work and ours His.

He gives Himself to us so that we can be wholly His.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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10 Responses to WDTPRS 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time – untroubled devotion

  1. FrCharles says:

    I agree on tranquilla. Given that it could go either way, the proximity seems to make more sense. Thanks for the meditations to get ready for Sunday!

  2. Supertradmum says:

    Thank you for this lovely meditation. I keep copies of these in a file labeled “z meds”. Please publish a book of these, recipes and bird photos.

  3. Centristian says:

    “Our Collect’s vocabulary gives us military and nautical imagery. Try reading this prayer with the mental image of a ship. Our ship’s great Captain sets our course upon the sea.”

    “The imagery almost vanishes when we have to wrench it out of Latin and into English.”

    From the English translation you’ve provided I get no sense of the nautical whatsoever (neither of the martial, actually). I can’t speak expertly to the Latin, I’m afraid (not my best subject in school), although the one word that sticks out and suggests the sea is “pacifico”, insofar as it brings to mind the Pacific. The fact that this text was composed prior to the 7th century, however, rules out a clever play on words by the author, I suppose, unless he was particularly visionary.

  4. The “Pacific” thing played no part in my thought about the nautical imagery, actually.

  5. I gotta say, “course of the world” goes better with “steer”. It just does. Though to be fair, “cursus” was often more like a chariot or horse race in the classic Roman career comparison.

  6. Henry Edwards says:

    Centristian: From the English translation you’ve provided I get no sense of the nautical

    So you agree with what Father Z said: “The imagery almost vanishes when we have to wrench it out of Latin and into English.”

    Thus, Reason # 31416 for keeping these prayers in the original Latin, so as to retain the classical allusions that are lost upon vernacular translation.

  7. When I compare the lame-duck versions with the corrected versions I am more convinced than ever that people will receive the new translation happily.

    Yes. But perhaps also upset at the realization of all that we have been deprived of all these years.

    But I still look forward to the day when I have the option of attending the E.F. Mass exclusively. So I second Henry Edwards.

  8. Centristian says:

    “So you agree with what Father Z said: ‘The imagery almost vanishes when we have to wrench it out of Latin and into English.’”

    Yes, I do; that is what I was speaking to. The subtleties of the original Latin are lost on me, I’m afraid, as I am not trained in it, and from the English one can discern no sense of the nautical. So with a strictly literal translation of the Latin, then, the original flavour (if not the meaning) of the collect would appear to be lost.

  9. albinus1 says:

    There is more than just proximity to argue that tranquilla should be understood as ablative and modifying devotione. As I always point out to my Latin students, classical rhetoric always strives for balance. In a line or phrase containing two adjectives and two nouns, it would be unusual in the extreme — and very unbalanced — to have both adjectives modifying one nouns, and leave the second noun lacking an adjective. Since tua clearly goes with Ecclesia, the normal thing for anyone at all conversant with classical rhetoric would be to understand tranquilla with devotione.

    But beyond that, by taking tranquilla with devotione, the line makes another nice chiasmus, a figure much beloved by classical orators and students of rhetoric: noun1 adj1 adj2 noun2. That alone is another strong argument for taking tranquilla with devotione.

    I suppose it’s possible that the recent translators understood this and were simply trying to produce something that flowed a little better in English. But it’s also possible that they may simply have been tone-deaf to some of the nuances of classical rhetoric.

    (PS — Lest someone point out that in the second line ordine is modified by two adjectives — tuo and pacifico, where as mundi lacks an adjective — technically true; but the genitive mundi is dependent on cursus and thus modifies it in a way that is functionally adjectival.)

  10. Henry Edwards says:

    So with a strictly literal translation of the Latin, then, the original flavour (if not the meaning) of the collect would appear to be lost.”

    This seems unavoidable, particularly in the case of those typical Latin orations that overlay layers of meaning and allusion. Indeed, I have long taken the value of Father Z’s expositions to be their providing what is inevitably “lost in translation”.

    During the early years of WDTPRS, I kept a 3-ring notebook in which I collated his columns on the collect, offertory, and postcommunion prayers for each Sunday of the year. I prepared for each Sunday Mass by reviewing in advance the three pertinent columns. Then I carried with me to Mass a little sheet with the Latin originals side by side with Father Z’s literal translations (like here). As the priest recited the baneful ICEL version of each prayer, I was looking at this Latin-English missalette insert and reading it with Fr. Z’s added dimensions in mind.

    Now I attend EF Mass on Sundays, but I still carry each Sunday Mass sheet with me to OF Mass during the following week, when the Sunday orations are repeated on ferial days, and use them similarly for the Office of Readings, where (at least during ordinary time) the collect each weekday is that of the preceding Sunday Mass.