WDTPRS: 4th Sunday of Easter – from lowliness to might

From a reader:

Pretty often you post about one of the prayers for the upcoming Sunday Mass.  Could you post them earlier in the week so we can use them as preparation for Sunday?

No promises about that.  Many of the prayers have been covered on the blog and can be dredged up from bloggy depths.  But, for some instant gratification, here is next Sunday’s Collect for the Ordinary Form, the Novus Ordo.

First, I should note that the Ordinary Form calendar differs from the Extraordinary Form in the numbering of the Sundays after Easter.  The traditional Roman calendar counts Sundays after Easter.  Thus, next Sunday is the 3rd Sunday after Easter.  In the post-Conciliar calendar Easter itself is counted.  Thus, next Sunday is the 4th Sunday of Easter.  This is one of those points which could be fairly easily resolved in a coordination of calendars down the line.  Don’t hold your breath, of course.  Far more difficult is the issue of the way the time after Epiphany and after Pentecost were relegated to “Ordinary Time”, “Time through the year”.  Also, the loss of the pre-Lent Sundays was a tragedy.  but I digress.

COLLECT (2002 Missale Romanum):
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus,
deduc nos ad societatem caelestium gaudiorum,
ut eo perveniat humilitas gregis,
quo processit fortitudo pastoris.

In our collect we have a very nice eo…quo construction.  Also, the genitives gregis…pastoris used at the ends of phrases help us to tie the last part of the prayer together conceptually as well as make it singable.

We should always consider how these prayers sound spoken and, especially, sung.  They very often are lovely little pieces of poetry.  That dimension can be overlooked if they are merely read silently from off the page.  Translators of the Latin prayers should, in the future, always say these prayers aloud and even sing them while working.

According to that mighty tool that every student of Latin should have close at hand, the Lewis & Short Dictionary (which can be found online in a searchable format, by the way), societas indicates “a fellowship, association, union, community, society”.   It is more than just an gathering or group, but rather is a group united for some common purpose.  This is why I go so far as to translate societas as “communion”: not only are there Eucharistic overtones, but it points very well and with Christian vocabulary to the bonds that exist between members of Christ’s Body.

Procedo means “to come forth” as well as “to advance, proceed.”  In a transferred sense, it comes to mean also things like, “to turn out favorably for, result as a benefit for” someone or something.  In English we have, for example, “the proceeds” for money raised in a benefit.  “Procession” has come to have a theological meaning pointing to the way the Persons of the Trinity relate to each other.

True to the Roman spirit, humilitas has a rather negative connotation.  It means “lowness” in the sense of being base or abject.  On the other hand, the word fortitudo means “strength” in the mental or spiritual sense, rather than the physical.  Rarely in classical Latin was fortitudo used to indicate mere physical strength.  Thus, it means “firmness, the manliness shown in enduring or undertaking hardship, fortitude, resolution, bravery, courage.”  Nice conceptual contrast.  In earthly terms, they seem to be a thesis and antithesis.  But in Christian terms, the lowly are blessed and the Lord chooses the weak and makes them strong.

WDTPRS LITERAL TRANSLATION:
Almighty eternal God,
lead us unto the communion of heavenly joys,
so that the humility of the flock may reach that place
whence the might of the shepherd came forth.

LAME-DUCK ICEL VERSION:
Almighty and ever-living God,
give us new strength
from the courage of Christ our shepherd,

and lead us to join the saints in heaven…

Once again, we find that the ICEL version takes some of the words and concepts from the Latin collect and then composes its own original prayer.  It is not a bad prayer, but it is not really a translation of the Latin, is it?

NEW CORRECTED ICEL:
Almighty ever-living God,
lead us to a share in the joys of heaven,
so that the humble flock may reach
where the brave Shepherd has gone before
.

You decide.

In our Latin Collect we have an image of the Christ as shepherd, proceeding forth in mighty resolve to lead the humble flock to the place of never-ending joys.

S PrassedeThis collect reminds me of the mosaics in the apses of ancient basilicas in Rome and Ravenna.  These ancient works are wrought in tiny bits of colored stone and glass are assembled in to beautiful works of great spiritual significance.  In a way, the Body of Christ, the Church, is rather like a mosaic: small members each playing a part to make a larger work, each stone (or tessera) serving to make the others more beautiful, each giving a purpose to the other as if they were members of a societas.

Seen up close the individual stones are not much to look at.  They can be flawed and unremarkable.  But once that are placed together in an order by the hand of the artist, they make something stunning.

In those apse mosaics Christ is sometimes depicted in glory with imperial trappings.  On either side are often arranged apostles and saints as His imperial court, bracketed by images of Bethlehem or the earthly and heavenly Jerusalem in the manner of bookends.  Often in these mosaics there are gathered beneath the feet of the glorious Christ are lines of rather courtly sheep being lead to a safe green place, where there is flowing water symbolizing the river Jordan and therefore our baptism.

Our collect reminds us of the great work of the Savior in coming into this world.

He has also promised to return.

The Second Person of the Trinity, the Son,  proceeds from the Father from all eternity. He also “proceeded” into this world in a mighty gesture of self-emptying in order to save us from our sins, teach us who we are, and lead us out of the doom of eternal death in sin to glorious happiness with God in heaven.

He came in humility in His first coming, taking up our humilitas.

In His second coming His aspect will be the perfect manifestation of fortitudo.

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5 Responses to WDTPRS: 4th Sunday of Easter – from lowliness to might

  1. Henry Edwards says:

    Corrected new translation:
    Almighty and ever-living God,
    lead us to a share in the joys of heaven,
    so that the humble flock may reach
    where the brave Shepherd has gone before.

    Also, it might be pointed out that there is no real difference between the OF and EF calendars for the Easter season. Because the Easter season starts with Easter Sunday, whether you’re an OF person or an EF person, if you understand English grammar, then you know that the 4th Sunday of the Easter season (OF) is, repeat, is, the 3rd Sunday after Easter Sunday (EF). Period. Nothing about counting, OF/EF, whatever, to explain. Just grammar.

  2. Fr. Basil says:

    \\We should always consider how these prayers sound spoken and, especially, sung. They very often are lovely little pieces of poetry. That dimension can be overlooked if they are merely read silently from off the page. Translators of the Latin prayers should, in the future, always say these prayers aloud and even sing them while working.\\

    Well do I understand what you’re talking about!

    I’ve heard the Western Collect called “the sonnet of devotion.”

    I know from my own experience in setting Byzantine English liturgical texts to their traditional chants that what works when I am alone at my desk, even singing them, may not work in rehearsal.

    And what works in rehearsal may not work in the actual service.

    It’s an art, not a science with a lot of trial and error and waste.

  3. Federico says:

    @Fr. Z: “This collect reminds me of the mosaics in the apses of ancient basilicas in Rome and Ravenna”

    Really? Really? Rome and Ravenna is what you think of when you think mosaics? REALLY?

    Wow.

    Ok, Fr. Z, next time you’re in Italy and you want to see real mosaics drop me a note and we’ll get you down to Sicily where you can go take a gander at the mosaics in Monreale, Cefalù, and a few in Palermo (see the Palatine Chapel in the Norman Palace, and Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio). I’m sure other things will stun you with beauty and the food will overwhelm you with its goodness.

    Remember, Frederick II of Hohenstaufen (stupor mundi), while in the Holy Land, famously remarked that “if the God of the Jews had seen Sicily, He surely would not have called His people to this place nor called it a land of milk and honey.”

    By the way, Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio is also known as the Chiesa della Martorana. This is the church is attached to the monastery where, it is said, the nuns first made frutta di Martorana (and there is an excommunication, reserved to the Holy See, attached to those who might call this “marzipan.”)

    Sheesh! You have much to learn.

    [First, you have sent me colatura, somewhat like ancient garum, which is a material proof that God loves us. Therefore, I will be patient. Second, I will take you up on that offer about Sicily, for that sounds entirely delightful.]

  4. catholicmidwest says:

    Is that in one of the churches in Trastevere? I’ve been there, I’m pretty sure. I remember the lambs. It’s beautiful.

  5. “Far more difficult is the issue of the way the time after Epiphany and after Pentecost were relegated to “Ordinary Time”, “Time through the year”. Also, the loss of the pre-Lent Sundays was a tragedy. but I digress.”

    Father Z, thank you for digressing. In pointing to seemingly unrelated matters along the way, you remind us of two things: that in the life of the Church, everything we do or don’t do matters; and every detail has meaning and purpose, and is efficacious and contagious, for good or for ill.

    In dispensing with the times after Epiphany and after Pentecost, and the observance of pre-Lent Sundays, we have deprived ourselves of the fullness of our Christian heritage: the fullness of life in Christ which He intended for us His Church.