What Does the Prayer Really Say? 3rd Sunday of Advent “Gaudete” – Station: St. Peter in the Vatican
More: What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get at the Devil?
Roper: Yes! I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down and the Devil turned around on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast, man’s laws not God’s, and if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law for my own safety’s sake!
I transcribed this from the movie A Man For All Seasons about St. Thomas More, which won the Academy Award in 1966. This was based on Robert Bolt’s Tony Award winning play of 1962, the year the last “Tridentine” Missal was issued. The quote above, an exchange between More and his son-in-law William Roper, reflects More’s attitude about defending the good order of society when he is being urged by his family, with his best interests in mind, to arrest now a man, Richard Rich, who will clearly betray him one day soon. More won’t do it until Rich breaks the law. More actually said something like this in real life to his son-in-law, Roper: “Son, I assure you on my faith that, if the parties will at my hands call for justice, then, even if my father stood on one side and the devil on the other, his cause being good, the devil should have right.” (Roper, William. Lives of Saint Thomas More. Ed. E.E. Reynolds. New York: Everyman’s Library, 1963.)
The third Sunday in this preparatory season is one of what I call “nick-name Sundays”: Gaudete. The name derives from the Latin plural imperative and means “Rejoice!” Even though traditionally during Advent and Lent instrumental music is not used in church so as to underscore the penitential character of the time, today, in imitation of the practice that originated for the 4th Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (which also means “Rejoice!”) musical instruments can played. The spirit of penance is slightly relaxed by virtue of the proximity of Christmas. Thus, flowers can be seen on the altar for this Sunday as an exception to the austere and bare sanctuary that befits a spirit of self-denial. The priest can use rose (rosacea) colored vestments today rather than his Advent purple, as he does on Laetare Sunday. This is why, by the way, Advent wreaths have the colors of candle they do: those are the colors the Catholic priest wears at Mass. It has been fun filling in some Protestant acquaintances with that tidbit. In keeping with the rant I go off on for this Sunday each year, and fully aware of the Latin phrase repetita iuvant (repeated things help) blue vestments, no matter what anyone says, are still not licit for the Latin Rite. Maybe someday they will be, but they aren’t right now. Long time readers of WDTPRS recall that I have for the last two years provided some of the words to a parody song about blue vestments in Advent composed by a friend many years ago with disclaims due to lapsus memoriae. This year I obtained directly from the poet in question (though I think some of my changes might have improved the piece a bit… but…) I provide it here as a service to you, long-suffering in the pews, to help you endure with a bit of levity the abuses you are seeing in some places. This is sung to the tune of O Come, O Come Emmanuel:
O come, o come liturgical blue;
out with the old, and in with the new.
Let’s banish purple vestments from here,
the color blue is very HOT this year.
Refrain: Gaudy, gaudy, gaudy chasubles,
in baby, navy, powderpuff and teal.
Since Advent is the Blessed Virgin’s time,
we’ll wear blue, though it’s a canonic crime,
and in the third week, we’ll wear white.
Although it’s wrong, we’ll say that it’s alright.
Around the wreath we’ll place blue candlelight,
and in one corner, we will place one white.
We’ll drape blue over our communion rail,
and use blue burses with blue chalice veils.
As I have said before, the day Rome approves blue vestments, I will have a Roman-style set made with blue burse, veil and maniple. Speaking of the liturgical blues I had this via e-mail from TF: “At our parish, we have one priest who insists on wearing a blue chasuble, even when the other concelebrants are wearing purple. My thought last Sunday, looking at the sanctuary with the clashing blue and purple was: it’s symbolic of the bruise on the face of Holy Mother Church these guys want… In the grand scheme of things, not a big deal, but just another sign of dissent – the Church says up, so I say down; the Church says purple, so I say blue. Libera nos Domine.” Aptly put, TF, aptly put. Moreover, these folks eventually get their way enshrined in law by means of conscious violation of the law. And the irritating thing about this is that the progressives or liberals actually know that the conservatives tend to obey in order to preserve law and order; thus they can do nearly anything they want to us and they know we won’t put up too much of a fight in the end. So, ought we to do the same? Violate the law until we get our way? After all, I’d rather enjoy using blue vestments. Or better yet, we could just unite and insist on making every response in Latin (or in better English) until we get our way. We could simply kneel until the law is changed back to what it was. But alas! I fear that, due to an inveterate jaw-clenching need to defend some little piece of turf, most traditionalists or conservatives (and groups of the same) couldn’t set aside the nuances of their differences long enough to band together and organize a cock-fight much less a concerted effort to create a powerful lobby for authentic liturgical renewal. So, I will continue to wear purple, dream of happier days, and do my best to uphold the liturgical law.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
God of mercy,
may this eucharist bring us your divine help,
free us from our sins,
and prepare us for the birthday of our Savior.
LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):
Tuam, Domine, clementiam imploramus,
ut haec divina subsidia, a vitiis expiatos,
ad festa ventura nos praeparent.
Today’s Post communionem prayer, having an ancient source in the Gelasian Sacramentary, is based closely on the Postcommunio for the 3rd Sunday of Advent in the 1962MR with a slightly rearranged word order in the first line: Imploramus, Domine, clementiam tuam: ut haec divina subsidia,…. Actually, I like the slight change for the Novus Ordo. In my opinion the rhythm is improved. It is also nice to start with God (Tuam) rather than with us (imploramus).
We sorrowfully implore your mercy, O Lord,
so that, having been purified from our faults, these divine supports
may prepare us for the festal days that are coming.
Our incomparable Lewis & Short Dictionary has shown that clementia, in the first place, means “a calm, tranquil state of the elements, calmness, mildness, tranquility” and by extension is “indulgent, forbearing conduct towards the errors and faults of others, moderation, mildness, humanity, forbearance, benignity, clemency, mercy.” You can guess at the meaning of the verb imploro. However, since this is based on the verb ploro (“to weep aloud”), our verb here means “to invoke with tears, call to one’s assistance, call upon for aid; to invoke, beseech, entreat, implore”. Subsidium we have seen on the 5th and 11th Sundays of Ordinary Time: “the troops stationed in reserve in the third line of battle (behind the principes), the line of reserve, reserve-ranks, triarii” and also “support, assistance, aid, help, protection”. A vitium is “a fault, defect, blemish, imperfection, vice” and thus, “a moral fault, failing, error, offence, crime, vice”. Expio means “to make satisfaction, amends, atonement for a crime or a criminal; to purify any thing defiled with crime; to atone for, to expiate, purge by sacrifice.”
Keep in mind the context of this prayer. We are in Advent, a penitential season, albeit not as severe as Lent. This Sunday gives a brief relief from the gravity of penance without deviating from the Baptist’s urging to “make straight the paths” for the Lord, our Judge, who is coming in guise of the Infant King at Christmas. During this Mass, and I am thinking about our magnificent Roman traditions, we have had more light, flowers, splendid instrumental music, and rosacea vestments. Anticipated joy has been the unifying theme. At the end of this Mass, where we are now, we hear a stark prayer that reminds us of our faults and sins. It brings us back with military language (subsidia) to the knowledge that we are constantly engaged in spiritual warfare, not just so that our Christmas celebrations may be full and joyful, but also so that when we face our Judge, we may be worthy of a happy reward. In the Latin Rite, Mass ends suddenly. We hear this prayer and, seconds later, we are blessed and literally sent back into the streets to our tasks: Ite! missa est… Go! Mass is over. At the end of a poignantly sweet Gaudete Mass we are brought back to penance with pointed reminder… at least according to what the Latin prayer really says. The possibility of receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in the Eucharist readies us for any challenge in life. During the time of distribution of Holy Communion, in places where people are blessed to have a Gregorian chant schola cantorum attending to this day’s texts, we hear the antiphon being sung as we go forward (or stay in the pew as the case may be): Pusillanimes, confortamini et nolite timere… “O fearful of heart, be strengthened and do not fear.” Antiphons are often merely short phrases that call to mind a larger biblical text. Sometimes the whole point of the antiphon is in something not sung at all, occurring later in the text the antiphon is meant to remind you of…in this case Isaiah 35:4:
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
”Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.”