When Paul VI meets Sci-Fi

A reader alerted me to this from the blog Canterbury Tales:

“In his 1969 motu proprio Mysterii Paschalis, Pope Paul VI made three changes. First, he moved the feast to its current place – the Sunday before Advent. Second, he expanded the name to “Dominus Noster Jesus Christus Universorum Rex” {Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universes}. [?!?] Third, he raised the feast to that of a Solemnity.”
I am puzzled by the new name with “..; King of the Universes” (… Rex Universorum). It doesn’t look like it could be a typo. I have not been able to find an explanation for the plural use for the word Universe.
Do you know?

There are different ways to render that “universorum“.

Universorum is a genitive plural. It can be the genitive plural of the adjective universus, a, um, “all together, all taken collectively, whole, entire, collective, general, universal”.

In the realm of substantives, there is a plural occurrence of the word, universi, orum, m., “the whole body of citizens, all men together”. There is also the neuter singular universum, i, n., “the whole world, the universe”. You could get “Christ, King of the Universes” out of that, I suppose. Perhaps Steven Hawkings would finally convert.

The best way to render this, it seems to me, is with less sci-fi and more common sense. Let’s say “King of all things (neuter plural)/peoples (masculine plural)… of the universe”.

The bottom line is that universi is either omnes (all men/people) and universorum is either masculine (off all men/people) or neuter (of all things, from omnia).  In our liturgical prayers Christ is called alternatively Rex omnium… cunctorum… universorum.

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23 Responses to When Paul VI meets Sci-Fi

  1. ContraMundum says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z; “King of the Universe” has always felt a bit materialistic and cramped to me, too.

    Of course, another solution might be to adopt the word “Pantocrator” into English. :-)

  2. albinus1 says:

    Fr. Z, I would construe universorum here as masculine, not neuter — as you did above when you said, “universi is omnes (emphasis mine) — i.e., “of all men/people“, rather than “of all things“. It’s a small point, but I think that living things have a king, whereas inanimate objects don’t, at least not in the same way. I would construe Rex omnium and Rex cunctorum in prayers as masculine as well, “King of all men/people”. [Maybe so... we just can't tell from the form and one could argue that there is not a single thing, animate or inanimate over which Christ does not have Lordship, in that He is the Creator universorum/omnium/cunctorum.]

    I made the same point with my Latin students when we were reading Cicero’s Catilinarian I this semester, and he tells Catiline at one point, secerne te a bonis. I think bonis by context is clearly masculine here, not neuter, “separate yourself from good men“, rather than “from good things” (or “property”, which of course bona can also mean in neuter plural).

    One interesting thing I’ve noticed with my college-age Latin students lately is that it has been so drilled into them in school that one shouldn’t use the masculine as the collective (i.e., they have been taught not to say, “let every student take out his book”), that they instinctively want to use the neuter in Latin as the collective for groups that include both men and women; whereas of course in Latin one has to use the masculine for that. I’m forever telling them, “People aren’t neuter!” I’ve found that if I just say to them, “The Romans were sexist”, they accept that. ;-)

  3. jhayes says:

    It’s much more straightforward in the Canon: “Benedictus es, Domine, Deus universi…” – Blessed are you Lord, God of all creation.

  4. Just a thought…

    Genesis 2,4a, super literal translation from the Hebrew:

    These are the generationS of the heavens and the earth in their being created.

    Although Adam represented, in himself, the heavens and earth, with he himself being in this way a generation of the heavens and the earth, he fell, sending this first generation of the heavens and the earth into anticipation of the redemption of the sons of Adam.

    All creation was not so much made for Adam as for the second Adam, from the beginning. Note the one verb of creation for both generations. The second generation of the heavens and the earth (the second universe, in that sense), is established when enmity, santifying grace, is supplied by the second Adam, the Seed of the Woman, upon His initiative to take on what we deserve, death, by reaching out His heel, crushing the power of Satan but Himself being crushed on the Cross in the process, having in this way the right in justice to have mercy on us. The generations, the universes, overlap each other, as does grace with our human nature weakened by original sin.

    The Redeemer takes us to Himself, as members to a body, now the “mystical” Body of Christ. The Son of the Woman manifests in Himself the obedience of the new generation of the heavens and the earth, and uses the weakness of the old man as our cross, which itself mightily puts us before Christ Jesus in all humble thanksgiving. He being so good and so kind, our King.

  5. TC says:

    Perhaps Paul VI unknowingly [?] anticipated the point when SF speculation would be claimed as science.
    Many cosmologists now argue that there are multiple universes (possibly an infinity of them) each with its own laws. This, of course, undercuts the anthropic principle.
    If (IF!!) evidence of other universes is ever discovered Paul VI has the Church on record that Jesus Christ of all of them. Not bad.

  6. jhayes says:

    “universorum Rex” is used in [1] of Redemptionis Sacramentum and translated there as “King of the Universe” (Sacerdos aeternus et universorum Rex )

    In [134] of RS, “universorum Redemptor” is translated as “Redeemer of the whole world” (“pontifex futurorum bonorum” et universorum Redemptor )

    No multiple universes.

  7. Joshua08 says:

    I am confused by the claim that he raised the feast to that of a Solemnity

    First, was this after the Novus Ordo? The words feast, solemnity, memorial are basically interchangeable before. The ranking of feasts was by 1st class, 2nd class, 3rd class and before the reforms immediately before Vatican II it was double of the 1st class, semidoubles, simplex, etc

    When Christ the King was established as a feast in the 1920′s, it was a Double of the First Class, the highest rank. And in the 1962 Missal, with its simplified ranking system, it was 1st Class. Was Christ the King briefly lowered a grade so as to be raised again to the top?

  8. RichardT says:

    I’ve seen the feast translated as Christ the “Universal King”. Is that a legitimate rendering of the Latin, or just a fudge to get something that sounds sensible in English?

  9. “Creature” is sometimes singular, sometimes plural, so too with “people”. Why not with “universe”?

  10. Luke says:

    Isn’t “King of the Universe” just a call-back to our Jewish roots?

    (i.e. “Baruch atah b’shem Adonai elohinuh Malek ha’olam” …that was from memory so please excuse any errors)

  11. jhayes says:

    Luke,

    The prayers over the gifts are modeled on the traditional Jewish blessings before a meal:

    Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the Universe,
    Who brings forth bread from the earth.

    Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the Universe,
    Who creates the fruit of the vine.

    Become:

    Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,
    for through your goodness we have received
    the bread we offer you:
    fruit of the earth and work of human hands,
    it will become for us the bread of life.

    Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,
    for through your goodness we have received
    the wine we offer you:
    fruit of the vine and work of human hands,
    it will become our spiritual drink.

  12. robtbrown says:

    albinus1 says:

    Fr. Z, I would construe universorum here as masculine, not neuter — as you did above when you said, “universi is omnes (emphasis mine) — i.e., “of all men/people“, rather than “of all things“. It’s a small point, but I think that living things have a king, whereas inanimate objects don’t, at least not in the same way.

    Kings have kingdoms, which are land, over which he has jurisdiction. Those who are his subjects live on that land.

  13. robtbrown says:

    Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “Creature” is sometimes singular, sometimes plural, so too with “people”. Why not with “universe”?

    Because the words signifies All Things. How can there be All Things, then those things that aren’t included in All Things?

  14. robtbrown says:

    TC says:

    Perhaps Paul VI unknowingly [?] anticipated the point when SF speculation would be claimed as science.
    Many cosmologists now argue that there are multiple universes (possibly an infinity of them) each with its own laws. This, of course, undercuts the anthropic principle.

    More importantly, it undercuts reason. Those cosmologists who think there are multiple universes with different laws are trying to apply Quantum Theory to General Relativity. It doesn’t work.

    To say that there are infinite universes means that all exist at the same time. One of those infinite universes would include Julius Caesar existing now–which is clearly not true.

  15. ContraMundum says:

    @rotbrown

    Does “universe” — the English word, I’m not asking about Latin in this case — really signify “all things”? Does that include Platonic ideals? Are numbers real, or only nominal? Are numbers and other Platonic ideals in the universe, or not?

    It seems to me that “universe”, when used without qualification, means only “material universe”. If I say to someone that angels are a part of Creation, they should understand that I mean that angels are real created beings, but if I say that angels are part of the Universe, they will think I am saying that angels are governed by the laws of physics, which is totally wrong.

    Besides, if we say “the Universe means everything that exists”, it would appear that God would have to be a part of the Universe, in which case He could not have been its Creator. One way out, of course, is to remember that God’s existence cannot be used univocally with our own, but it’s simpler and better just to use “universe” as “material creation”.

    As for your argument against multiple universes, let me cut to the heart of the matter. The problem with that idea, as applied in particular to people, is that it essentially eliminates moral responsibility. When faced with a moral question, I would not make a decision: the whole universe would split into multiple copies so that I could make each physically possible choice in some universe. If you don’t approve of my sins, remember that in some parallel universe I am a greater saint than St. Francis! There would be no choices to make, and consequently no free will.

    Time travel would present similar problems. I think that’s why time travel is impossible.

    (Full disclosure: I am a university physics professor, so I think about these things more than most people. My area of expertise is not closely related to the foundations of quantum theory or to general relativity, though.)

  16. ContraMundum says:

    Of course, there’s also the possibility that Fr. Z is really a representative of the Campaign for Real Time, and that his expeditions in fine cooking are really advanced calculations in bistromathematics.

  17. One might wonder where in the universes the writer of Genesis 2,4–3,24 got the idea (besides divine inspiration) to speak of generationS of the heavens and the earth. One only has to realize that he grabbed the first ten lines or so of the Sumerian and then Babylonian Enuma Elish, not to copy it, but as a kind of apologetics, letting them know he knew the best they had to offer, but then turning this inside out and upside down, discrediting it, but then lifting the argument to divine revelation about Adam’s and our place before God, who, in creating us once, knew already that He would be re-creating us in His Son. Awesome, that. The play on the sci-fi of the Mesopotamian crowd (their best effort at philosophy/theology) won them over. The Jews were on their way back to Jerusalem. Praise the Lord, for He is good and kind!

  18. Robertus Pittsburghensis says:

    Imperator Romanorum et Rex Francorum has for centuries been applied as a title to Charlemagne. Other feudal titles in Latin include Rex Anglorum, Dux Burgundionum, and Regina Bohemorum. Although in English we almost always translate these titles as Emperor of Rome, King of France, King of England, Duke of Burgundy, or Queen of Bohemia, in Latin these titles can use the masculine plural. It’s an idiom that seems to be more commonly used the higher the rank of the Lord or Lady.

    Although Universorum could easily be either masculine or neuter, as Father points out, count me among those who think that, judging from its context, it is a masculine plural. Our Lord is Rex Angelorum, et Romanorum, Francorum, Anglorum, Burgundionum, Bohemorum, atque omnium ceterorum, sive Universorum.

  19. jhayes says:

    Robertus Pittsburghiensis said: “Imperator Romanorum et Rex Francorum”

    When I see that, I think “Emperor of the Romans and King of the French” which is a culturally-bound way of thinking of a leader of a people rather than a leader of a nation-state. In English we are more used to thinking of nation-states so we translate it by dynamic equivalence to “Emperor of Rome and King of France”

  20. ContraMundum says:

    To my ears at least, “King of the Franks” sounds more glorious than “King of France”.

  21. RichardT says:

    ContraMundum – Im not sure. Today, with so many deposed monarchs, “King of the …” sounds like a monarch who has lost his territorial kingdom.

  22. robtbrown says:

    Full disclosure: At the Angelicum my post grad and doctoral emphasis was Thomistic Studies. In addition to a long held personal interest in Cosmology, which includes the concepts of Time and Place (Space), I have taught De Deo Creante et Gubernante, which of course included those concepts.

    1. I am a Thomist, which means I don’t accept the existence of Platonic forms. As St Thomas says, the Platonist has to explain how the essence of a thing can be outside itself.

    2. Thus, I do not accept the notion that numbers have any existence of their own. Indeed, the history of mathematics has been a movement away from the number One being a substance itself. For St Thomas One is predicated negatively—an absence of division. You might want to consult Jacques Maritain’s masterpiece The Degrees of Knowledge, esp. when he speaks about the epistemological change wrought (or at least, midwifed) by Einstein: Away from the Newtonian MO of making science conform to mathematics to conforming math to science.

    3.By “the universe” I mean all material things. Does this include Angels? Obviously, they’re not material beings. On the other hand, St Thomas says that the existence of purely spiritual intellectual beings is necessary, given the existence of rational creatures (man). They mediate the relationship between God and man. Thus, the nine choirs exist as messengers of God. (I have also taught Angelology.)

    4. I agree with you on moral relativism and other universes. NB: Moral choice is always based on reality.

    5. I also recommend Ratzinger’s Eschatology, which contains an excursus on the nature of Time and its relation to Entropy and an expanding universe.

  23. ContraMundum says:

    @rotbrown

    We could probably have an interesting discussion on this offline if you like. My name in real life is Howard Richards, and I teach at Marshall University. If you want, you can look me up. I don’t want to annoy Fr. Z by conducting a somewhat off-topic private discussion in this forum.