Today’s Collect was in the pre-Conciliar Missale for Thursday (not Wednesday) of the 1st Week of Lent, but slightly different. In the Novus Ordo it is somewhat softened. Are you getting used to that now?
Devotionem populi tui, quaesumus, Domine, benignus intende, ut, qui per abstinentiam temperantur in corpore, per fructum boni operis reficiantur in mente.
Devotionem populi tui, quaesumus, Domine, benignus intende : ut, qui per abstinentiam macerantur in corpore, per fructum boni operis reficiantur in mente.
The complicated term mens figures in this prayer. It pops up as a theme, a thread to follow in the maze of Lenten orations. Mens is set in contrast to corpus. In some prayers, as in yesterday’s, mens is contrasted with caro, flesh.
The interesting macero appears here. In yesterday’s Collect moderato was substituted for maceratio. Let’s look at that. Maceratio is a “softening up”. Sounds strange, right? You would think we want to toughen, not soften. Think of the cooking term maceration.
We macerate things by immersing them in some substance in order to break them down. This is done with meat, tenderize it, to break down the fibers of muscle so that when heat is applied they will not contract and make the meat tough. We do the same thing by pounding flesh with a spiky hammer. Maceratio means “tenderize”. Think of softening up an entrenched position of the enemy by hammering it with artillery. That is what maceratio means. That is what mortifications of the flesh, penitential practices that involve fleshly things, not just mental, do to us and it why it is important to undertake them.
Today, however, in the Novus Ordo, redactors eliminated that harsher image of being pounded, tenderized, and substituted tempero, related to temperatio.
Tempero is “to observe proper measure; to moderate or restrain one’s self; to forbear, abstain; to be moderate or temperate”. We can also use this word to indicate the mixing of liquids, such as when water is added to wine in a cup, according to ancient usage. Horace in Ode 1.20 talks about this is a poem dedicated to his patron Maecenas:
Vile potabis modicis Sabinum
cantharis, Graeca quod ego ipse testa
conditum levi, datus in theatro
cum tibi plausus,
care Maecenas eques, ut paterni
fluminis ripae simul et iocosa
redderet laudes tibi Vaticani
Caecubum et prelo domitam Caleno
tu bibes uvam; mea nec Falernae
temperant vites neque Formiani
The parts below in parenthesis I added to make this clearer to those who don’t know much about Horace.
(When you visit me in the country at my farm)
You will quaff from simple drinking cups
the lowly Sabine which I laid down with the
Greek style seal, in the year when the applause
was given to you in the theater,
dear knight Maecenas, so loud that
the Vatican hill together with the banks of
the fatherly river Tiber sent the praises
back to you.
(At home) you will be drinking Caecuban and the grape
crushed in the Calenean press; my vines
and not Falernian or Formian vines will
blend in your cups
(when you visit my Sabine farm house in the country).
A long time ago, one of my Latin profs told me that as I got older I would appreciate Horace more and more. He was right. Not only do I appreciate him more and more, my life is beginning to resemble his more an more, oddly enough.
In any event, tempero also means, “to forbear, abstain, or refrain from; to spare, be indulgent to any thing”. Think of the virtue temperance, akin to the virtue moderatio we saw yesterday. In both cases, curiously the concept macero was taken out. However, whereas yesterday the mens/caro contrast was obscured by the change, today mens and corpus are pretty firmly underscored by the structure of the prayer.
We beg You, O Lord, kindly look upon the devotion of Your people, with the result that they who by means of abstinence are being sparing in due measure in respect to the body may by means of the fruit of good work be refreshed in respect to the mind.
The prayers this 1st week of Lent present those who follow the Novus Ordo with different of different virtues to think about: devotio, moderatio, temperatio.
Are you pursuing them?