WDTPRS 29th Ordinary Sunday: “bear with me” – glory and pregnancy

The Collect for the 29th Ordinary Sunday is found the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary among the prayers for the 5th Sunday after Easter.  Those of you who participate in celebrations of Holy Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum will hear this Collect on the Sunday after Ascension.

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, fac nos tibi semper et devotam gerere voluntatem, et maiestati tuae sincero corde servire.

LITERAL RENDERING:

Almighty eternal God, cause us always both to bear towards You a devout faith, and to serve Your majesty with a sincere heart.

OBSOLETE ICEL (1973):

Almighty and ever-living God, our source of power and inspiration, give us strength and joy in serving you as followers of Christ.

CURRENT ICEL (2011):

Almighty ever-living God, grant that we may always conform our will to yours and serve your majesty in sincerity of heart.

The complex verb gero means basically “to bear, wear, carry, have”.  In the supplement to the great Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary, Souter’s A Glossary of Later Latin, we find that after the 3rd century A.D. gero can be “to celebrate a festival”.  This is confirmed in Blaise’s dictionary of liturgical Latin vocabulary; gero is “celebrate”.  In a construction with a dative pronoun (such as tibi) and morem (from mos as in the infamous exclamation O tempora! O mores!) it can mean “perform someone’s will.”  I think today’s tibi…gerere substitutes devotam voluntatem for morem.  That servio (“serve”) is one of those verbs constructed with the dative case, as in “to be useful for, be of service to”.

In our Latin prayers maiestas is usually synonymous with gloria.  Fathers of the Church St. Hilary of Poitiers (+368) and St. Ambrose of Milan (+397), and also early liturgical texts, use this concept of “glory” or “majesty” for more than simple fame or splendor of appearance.  A liturgical Latin gloria can be the equivalent of biblical Greek doxa and Hebrew kabod.   Doxa was translated into Latin also with the words like maiestas and claritas, which in some contexts become forms of address (“Your Majesty”).  This “glory” or “majesty” is a divine characteristic.  God will share His gloria with us in heaven. We will be transformed by it, made more radiant as the images of God we are meant to be.  Our contact with God in the sacraments and liturgical worship advances the transformation which will continue in the Beatific Vision.  “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another (a claritate in claritatem); for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).

When God wished to speak with Moses, His Presence would descend on the meeting tent as a cloud of glory (Hebrew shekhinah). Moses’ face would shine radiantly from his encounters with God and had to be covered with a veil (cf. Exodus 34).  The shekhinah remains with us architecturally in our churches… in some places at least.  Even more than the burning presence lamp, a baldachin or a veil covering the tabernacle is the sign of the Lord’s Presence.

When we enter the holy precincts of a church, our encounter with the Lord in mystery must continue the transformation which began with baptism.  During the Year of Faith, which is fast coming to a close, commit to be well-prepared to meet the Lord in your parish church.  Be properly disposed in body through your fast, in spirit through confession.

Today’s Collect always brings to my mind a fresco by Piero della Francesca (+1492) in little Monterchi near Arezzo. “La Madonna del Parto” shows Mary great with Child, a subject rare in Renaissance painting.

One meaning of the Latin verb gero is “to be pregnant” as in gerere partum.  In the fresco, twin angels in Renaissance garb delicately lift tent-like draperies on each side to reveal Mary standing with eyes meditatively cast down, one hand placed on her hip for support, her other hand upon her unborn Child.

The fresco, this wonder depiction of life, was ironically painted originally for a cemetery chapel.  The drapery and the angels invoke the image of a baldachin and the veil of a tabernacle.  It calls to mind the tent in the wilderness where the Ark with the tablets and its golden angels were preserved, wherein Moses spoke to God so that his face reflected God’s majesty.

Mary, too, is Ark of the Real Presence, the Tabernacle in which Christ reposed.  She, like the tent of the Ark, was overshadowed.  Our Sunday Collect reminds us also to look to Mary, the Mother of God and Mother of the Church, our Mother.  She is the perfect example of the service to others that flows from loving her Son, bearing the faith, serving God’s transforming glory.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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7 Responses to WDTPRS 29th Ordinary Sunday: “bear with me” – glory and pregnancy

  1. StWinefride says:

    There is a painting of Our Lady, pregnant, in St Matthias – Trier, Germany. It was painted by a monk in the 18th Century after Mary appeared to him in a dream. This Church also contains the relics of the Apostle St Matthias, who replaced Judas.

    http://www.st-matthias-trier.de/sites/all/Bilder/Gnadkapelle3.jpg

  2. mamajen says:

    Thank you God for the new ICEL. It is so vastly superior.

  3. Siculum says:

    I really like this. Thanks, Father Z!

  4. Therese says:

    These little collects seem to me the most beautiful. (Talk about ‘pregnant’ with meaning! ;-)

  5. lana says:

    I was reading in my missal that it is good during our Eucharistic thanksgiving to pray (among other things), the Collect, “for they are in the nature of an indication of the operation of God in our hearts. The action of Holy Communion varies in accordance with the spirit of the feast and just as the preparation of the different Masses varies, so also should the service of thanksgiving. In this manner we may live in closest union with the Church.”. (from the St Andrew Daily Missal)

  6. Sebastien Renault says:

    To be a little more precise, it is not the “cloud of glory” itself that the Hebrew text speaks of as “shekhinah”. The cloud, aNaN (???) covers the ohèl-moèd or Tent of Meeting (see Exodus 40:34). And the divine Glory (???? / kavod, which is based upon the stem kvd = heaviness, weight, liver; the derived notions of ‘splendor’ and ‘magnificence’ are consistent with the primary sense conveying the specific characteristic and status of that which is weighty, impressive, highly honorable, substantial) literally fills the Tabernacle—in Hebrew miShKaN (????, from the stem ???/shkn, upon which we form the verb ShaKaN = inhabit/dwell/live in the midst of). The cloud was the real sign that God Himself “ShaKaNized” (“tabernacled”) in the very midst of the sons of Israel in the desert, as He now Eucharistically does in the tabernacles (miShKaNim) found in our Catholic sanctuaries. Hence, the term SheKhiNah (noun) is itself the linguistic expression (dictio) of our conception (ratio) of the reality (res) that they both positively signify, namely the reality of God literally inhabiting/ ShaKaNizing in our midst. The SheKhiNah is God Himself Incarnate ShaKaNizing in Person among us!

    St. John composed the most complete and profound midrash of Moses’ writings on the specific and unique aspects of the reality of God dwelling in our very midst in the Prologue of his Gospel, the original of which we find in the Aramaic text of the Peshitta, which is literally the Catholic Targum, not only of Genesis 1:1-2, but also of several passages in the Book of Exodus pertaining to the Tent and the real Presence of YHWH. In John 1:14, he famously sums it all up: “And the Word (????/Milta) became flesh (????/bisra) and inhabited/ShaKaNized (???/agan, in Greek ????????? /éskénosèn) among us (lit. “in us”/??). And we saw His Glory/KeVoDo (????/shovra)…”

    I thought it worth while the little additional effort of precision given the often unrecognized importance and highly Catholic mark of Moses’ writings (and of the entire Old Testament). Seen in the light of the Word made flesh, may we come to believe and understand these sublime writings, which Christ the light of the world wishes to reveal to our intelligence meditating upon and keeping His very words (cf. John 5:46).

    Sapere aude…

    Sebastien (from France)

  7. Sebastien Renault says:

    My apology for the ??? marks throughout my last comment! They actually stand in place of Hebrew/Aramaic consonants forming the words I otherwise transliterated (e.g. aNaN, which means ‘cloud’ in Hebrew). I thought the special font I use might be preserved after posting that note, but it is obviously not the case.