Today’s Ordinary Form Super Oblata prayer, the prayer over the offerings during the Offertory, is found in the ancient Veronese Sacramentary amidst prayers for the month of July.
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.
Note the scrambling of word order for rhetorical effect. Words that go together are separated and concepts are embedded between them. This elegant rhetorical interlocking delights both ear and mind. It also reflects how the concepts are interconnected. Latin challenges us to hold different ideas in our minds as we wait for the final word and the sentence’s resolution, almost as a juggler foils the fall of many objects of differing shapes. This sometimes makes rendering Latin into smooth English rather hard.
In ancient Roman terms, a devotio, a form of a consecratio, was the ritual dedication of an enemy, or self-dedication, to the gods of the underworld, the dii manes. For example, 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. You might remember that when Julius Caesar was killed, before he died he struggled to cover his feet and head. The Roman pontifex maximus prayed and sacrifice with the toga drawn over the head. For a military devotio, a the “devoted” general, in a toga, leaned on a spear and repeated it a pray spoken by the pontifiex. With the toga over his head, like a priest (“Gabine fashion”) he rode over to the enemy. If the “devoted” one survived, he was never again to perform a religious act. If “devoted” survived, a large statue had to be buried in his stead. 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. A famous instance of the devotio was that of a senator who pledged to commit suicide if the emperor Caligula recovered from an illness. Caligula recovered and demanded payment. The episode is in I, Claudius if I recall.
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. Devotio is a word super-charged by centuries of Roman habits of prayer and the concept of sacrifice.
Take up, O Lord, we beg You, the gifts we are offering
which were gathered together from Your favors,
and let that which You grant to be accomplished by our temporal dedication
become for us the reward of Your eternal redemption.
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”
OBSOLETE ICEL (1973):
Father, from all you give us
we present this bread and wine.
As we serve you now,
accept our offering
and sustain us with your promise of eternal life.
The now obsolete – HURRAY! – ICEL version emphasized the “meal” aspect of Mass rather than the transforming “sacrificial” dimension. The Latin says munera, “gifts”, but ICEL says “bread and wine”; panem et vinum are not in the Latin original. Of course at this point in Mass munera indicates the bread and wine on the altar. Tthe obsolete ICEL restricts us to the obvious elements of bread and wine. The Latin is less restrictive. Munera embraces all that we bring to the Lord at Mass, material and spiritual sacrifices.
The Latin word collata brings to my mind an image of laborers in fields and vineyards, quarries, orchards and forests, reaping, gathering, mining, collecting what their own labor and God’s blessings produce. Obsolete ICEL did not deal with collata. Collata (means “gathered together” – like English “collate” cf. confero in the useful Lewis & Short Dictionary: “to collect, gather together” and thence “to bring together for comparison” which is where we get the abbreviation “cf.” meaning “compare with”).
The Latin juxtaposes what we do and what God does. In the obsolete ICEL version we want God to “sustain” us with a “promise”. In the Latin we beg God to receive back from us what He already gave and subsequently cause those things to be entirely transformed (fiat) into the “reward of eternal salvation” – Himself. The structure of the prayer, by the complex way it weaves concepts between words that go together grammatically, hints at what the prayer really says: by our work and dedication we must give back to Him good things which were already His in anticipation of His transforming them as only He can.
Christ makes Himself the reward of our efforts.
NEW CORRECTED ICEL VERSION (2011):
Accept, we pray, O Lord, these offerings we make,
gathered from among your gifts to us,
and may what you grant us to celebrate devoutly here below
gain for us the prize of eternal redemption.
Keep our context in mind: this is the beginning of Advent, the season of preparation for the Coming of the Lord.
Advent is back to back with the observance of the Lord’s final coming at the end of the world. Advent is a time of penance before the First Coming of the Infant King.
Advent is liminal season, like a threshold, blending the end of the world with its rebirth in the new Adam. Advent is also about the how the Lord comes in actual graces, in the words of the priest…Hoc est enim corpus meum….This is my Body, in Holy Communion and in the person neighbor, especially the needy.
St. John the Baptist admonishes us during Advent to make straight Christ’s path, for He truly is coming. Christ Himself will straighten our paths His own way if have not taken care to straighten them beforehand.
It is a new liturgical year. Pray that this upcoming season of preparation for the coming of the Lord at Christmas will bring us and our loved one many material and spiritual blessings.