WDTPRS 21st Ordinary Sunday: the smoke of Satan v. invisible love

Let’s look at the Collect for the upcoming 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time:

Deus, qui fidelium mentes unius efficis voluntatis, da populis tuis id amare quod praecipis, id desiderare quod promittis, ut, inter mundanas varietates, ibi nostra fixa sint corda, ubi vera sunt gaudia.

A master crafted this prayer.  In the 1962 Missale Romanum we use it on the 4th Sunday after Easter. It is also in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary.  Listen to those “eee”s produced by the Latin “i”. Savor those parallels.

Varietas means “difference, diversity, variety.”  It is commonly used to indicate “changeableness, fickleness, inconstancy.”  I like “vicissitude”.  The adjective mundanus is “of or belonging to the world”.

LITERAL RENDERING:

O God, who make the minds of the faithful to be of one will, grant unto Your people to love that thing which You command, to desire that which You promise, so that, amidst the vicissitudes of this world, our hearts may there be fixed where true joys are.

CURRENT ICEL (2011):

O God, who cause the minds of the faithful to unite in a single purpose, grant your people to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, amid the uncertainties of this world, our hearts may be fixed on that place where true gladness is found.

Let us revisit that id…quod. We can accurately say “love that which you command,” or “love what you command”, but that strikes me as vague.  Can we be more concrete and say “love the thing you command… desire the thing you promise”?

We are called to love and desire God’s will in concrete situations, in the details of life, especially when those details are little to our liking.  We must love God in this beggar, this annoying creep, not in beggars and creeps in general.  We must love Him in this act of fasting, this basket of laundry, this ICEL translation. I said it was a challenge!  We must not reduce God’s will to an abstraction or an ideal. “Thy will (voluntas) be done on earth as it is in heaven”… or so it has been said.

Lest we forget why we needed new translation….

OBSOLETE ICEL (1973):

Father, help us to seek the values that will bring us lasting joy in this changing world. In our desire for what you promise make us one in mind and heart.

Good riddance!  “Values”.  Very slippery.  Typical of the obsolete translation.

To my ear, “values” has a shifting, subjective starting point. In 1995 Gertude Himmelfarb wrote in The De-Moralization of Society: From Victorian Virtues to Modern Values that “it was not until the present century that morality became so thoroughly relativized that virtues ceased to be ‘virtues’ and became ‘values.’”

In this post-Christian, post-modern world, “values” seems to indicate little more than our own self-projection.

John Paul II taught about “values”, but in contradiction to the way “values” are commonly understood today.  For example, we read in Evangelium vitae 71 (emphasis added):

“It is urgently necessary, for the future of society and the development of a sound democracy, to rediscover those essential human and moral values which flow from the very truth of the human being and express and safeguard the dignity of the person: values which no individual, no majority, and no state can ever create, modify, or destroy, but must only acknowledge, respect, and promote.”

In his 1985 letter to young people Dilecti amici 4, John Paul II taught:

“Only God is the ultimate basis of all values…. in Him and Him alone all values have their first source and final completion… Without Him – without the reference to God – the whole world of created values remains as it were suspended in an absolute vacuum.”

Benedict XVI has spoken about the threats we face from the “dictatorship of relativism”, from the reduction of the supernatural to the natural, from caving in to “the world”.

Christ warned His Apostles about “the world”, saying said: “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil” (John 7:7).  He spoke about this world’s “prince” (John 12:31; 14:30 16:11).  St Paul wrote: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

If what “the world” offers gets priority over what God offers the world through His Holy Church, we produce the situation Paul VI described on 29 June 1972, the ninth anniversary of his coronation:

“Through some crack the smoke of Satan has entered into the temple of God.”

Our Collect today asks God to grant that His will be the basis of our “values” in concrete terms, not in mere good intentions or this world’s snares.

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Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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8 Responses to WDTPRS 21st Ordinary Sunday: the smoke of Satan v. invisible love

  1. Supertradmum says:

    Excellent and timely, Father. Book, please, with all these meditations.

  2. YoungLatinMassGuy says:

    I like “vicissitude” for that word. It reflects, or points back, on the word “unius”. The Church stands “unified” against the “vicissitude” (or variety) of the world.

    (I would have no problem with going with the word “diversity” myself, if for no other reason than putting that word in a bad light will make all the right people uncomfortable.)

    We all come from different backgrounds, different cultures, different languages, different histories, and we’re all bringing our own crosses that we carry to the Mass, we all have our own “muck” in our lives that we have to deal with, but at the same time we’re all unified within the same Church, a part of the same Body of Christ.

    That 1973 translation… My Latin teacher would have had a field day with tearing that to pieces.

  3. vetusta ecclesia says:

    I think (from memory) that Cranmer had the felicitous “amid the changes and chances of this fleeting world our hearts may there be set where true joy is to be found”

  4. Juergensen says:

    “From a fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.” – Pope Paul VI, 1972

    “Suddenly so much filth. It was really almost like the crater of a volcano, out of which suddenly a tremendous cloud of filth came, darkening and soiling everything.” – Pope Benedict XVI, 2010

    Smoke of Satan … Cloud of filth … One and the same … The (mostly homosexual) sex abuse scandal.

  5. drohan says:

    I am new to this blog. I am also a fairly orthodox guy, after having Bishop Bruskewitz for my entire childhood and faith formation.

    How in the name of God did the translators get away with all these obvious abuses all these years? Was there no pushback for nearly 40 years.

    BTW: I am certain that you have gone over this many times in previous posts, you don’t have to recount it point by point, but some links to other posts and websites would help me.

  6. Priam1184 says:

    @drohan Part of it was just the spirit of the age: it was the ’70s and the vast majority of both clerics and laity had stopped paying attention and/or taking anything seriously, anything at all.

    The other part of it of course was that there was and still is an active conspiracy that brewed up during the last few centuries to dismantle the Church (or at least its effectiveness in the world) from the inside. Sorry but it’s the truth and a lot of us just weren’t paying any real attention until fairly recently and a lot still aren’t, so the malignant forces in the world and in the Church have had the run of things and have done their work well. But they won’t have the last word, not by a long shot.

  7. drohan says:

    @Priam1184:

    Thanks for a bit of enlightenment. Also sorry for neglecting a question mark on my second question! That is what happens when I do no proofreading prior to hitting the ‘post’ button.

    What irks me to a large degree is the idea that you could have a proper church with no proper liturgy. Who the heck are the priests and the bishops here for? It’s the edification and sanctification of the faithful, both living and dead. If the people are holy, all the social good of the church will naturally flow from it. There has been a disconnect, and I think we are finally coming to grips with it, but it will take a long time to remedy.

    Thanks Fr. Z. for doing your part.

  8. David says:

    Dear Father Z,

    I love your WDTPRS posts, and find them enlightening and edifying. I thought this post on the Collect for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time was excellent — and yet another reminder of the value of undoing the dumbing-down that flowed from the 60s and 70s.

    This is the first time I’ve commented, but your discussion of the words of this Collect themselves was so well done that I couldn’t resist passing along what I believe is the English translation of this Collect with the greatest poetic beauty and highest literary quality, Thomas Cranmer’s translation from the Book of Common Prayer. Say what else you will about Cranmer, his Collects are worthy to stand with Shakespeare and the King James Version of the Bible as treasures of the English language. I believe his translation is a masterwork worthy to stand alongside the work of the master of the Gelasian Sacramentary. Here it is:

    “Almighty God, which dost make the minds of all faithful men to be of one will; grant unto thy people that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

    All the best,

    David