In the post-Conciliar editions of the Missale Romanum the prayer substituting for the ancient Secret is called the Super oblata, “over the offerings”. Last Sunday, or during the week when Sunday’s prayers are used for Mass, this is what many people heard… or should have heard in the Latin Church:
Deus, qui humani generis utramque substantiam praesentium munerum et alimento vegetas et renovas sacramento, tribue, quaesumus, ut eorum et corporibus nostris subsidium non desit et mentibus.
This was the Secret of the Mass “Pro defensione ab hostibus…For defense against enemies” in the 1962MR found in the Orationes diversae which could be added according to the rubrics after the other required proper prayers for the day. I also found this in the prayer “In tempore famis… In time of hunger”.
CLUNKY LITERAL VERSION:
O God, who the two-fold substance of human kind both quicken by the nourishment of the present gifts and renew by sacrament, grant, we beg, that their support not be lacking to both our bodies and our minds.
Our weighty Lewis & Short Dictionary helps with a few words. Vegeto means “to arouse, enliven, quicken, animate, invigorate.” Think of the different kinds of living beings with bodies that there are (remember, angels are alive too, but they don’t have bodies): vegetative, animal and human. This word seems to be used mostly in later Latin, for the references we find in L&S are from the Christian poet Prudentius and from the Latin Vulgate. The noun subsidium stands in the first dictionary entry for the third line of troops, also called triarii, held in reserve during a battle behind the principes. As a result this technical military term also means “support, assistance, aid, help, protection.” You can see from these two words how the content of this Super oblata was appropriate for imploring God for help both in time of famine and against the attacks of enemies. The military language of subsidium underscores how this prayer is used against real enemies.
Alimentum and vegeto hark to the “daily bread” we must have from God, both spiritual and physical nourishment for our “two-fold” substance of matter and form, body and soul.
This prayer is a bit convoluted in its structure. It doesn’t transfer easily into smooth English. Because elements in the Latin are paired with more than one thing at a time we need to leave something out. Were we to write the whole thing out, we would have to say something like: “Lord, God, who both quicken by the nourishment of the present gifts the two-fold substance of human kind and renew by sacrament of the present gifts the two-fold substance of human kind.” We easily see the connections in Latin but it gets a little too ponderous to repeat it all in English. Still, the et…et constructions create interesting theological connections.
Lord God, in this bread and wine you give us food for body and spirit. May the eucharist renew our strength and bring us health of mind and body.
CURRENT ICEL (2012):
O God, who in the offerings presented here provide for the twofold needs of human nature, nourishing us with food and renewing us with your Sacrament, grant, we pray,
that the sustenance they provide may not fail us in body or in spirit.
The Roman Missal has always had practical prayers meant to be used in all the occasions and challenges of life, as well as in times of celebration. The Church intends that Holy Mass be celebrated for the most fundamental of our life experiences, whether it be praying for rain for the good of crops or for the sake of consecrating men and women to the service of God or of Christian marriages. We should have recourse to the source and summit of our sanctification in time of want and of plenty, peace and war, certainty and uncertainty.
There is a great deal of uncertainty in the Church right now. There is a battle raging for the very soul of Europe. The Church and Christians in general are persecuted in some parts of the world, such as China, Sudan, Indonesia. In many third world environments the Church is growing rapidly in numbers though not without attendant problems syncretism and lack of proper formation. In the United States we are still reeling from ghastly problems of scandal. The aging-hippie clique is trying with a last ditch effort to cling to power through sheer defiance of ecclesiastical authority. The Church’s enemies both within and without are working to weaken the Church’s influence as a moral voice in the public square and also to push that she conform more to the wisdom of the world and bend under the onslaught of secular trends.
We need to pray to God for help against the attacks of the Church’s enemies, even within the Church, and against the Enemy behind them.