3rd Sunday of Advent

What Does the Prayer Really Say? 3rd Sunday of Advent

The station church in Rome for the Mass today is St. Peter’s Basilica on the Vatican Hill. This is one of what I call “nick-name Sundays”: Gaudete. The term comes from the Latin second person plural imperative meaning “Rejoice!” Today, as on the fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (another imperative verb meaning “Rejoice!”), instrumental music can played in churches: traditionally during Advent and Lent instrumental music is not permitted as a mark of the season’s penitential character. Flowers can be seen on the altar for this Sunday: traditionally there are only sparse decorations during Advent. This is one of only two Sundays in the whole liturgical year when in the Roman Church the priest traditionally can wear rose colored vestments, rather than his Advent purple. In your Advent wreath you have a rose-colored candle for this week in imitation of the vestments the priest wears. This use of rose on Gaudete Sunday in Advent imitates what takes place on Laetare Sunday in Lent. Indeed, during Advent only purple and rose (rosacea) are to be used – not blue. Blue is not a liturgical color in the Roman Church. Use of blue is illicit. Years ago in seminary, in order to maintain some humor in the face of the liturgical atrocities perpetrated there for our torment, we made up parody songs. With apologies to the author in advance if I do not remember it accurately, here are merely two verses of one we used as a catharsis in the face of the abuse of the Church’s liturgy via blue vestments in Advent. It 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.
We’ll banish purple vestments from here:
They say that blue is very hot this year.

Chorus: Gaudy… gaudy… gaudy chasubles; In baby, navy, powder-puff and teal.

They say Advent is Blessed Mary’s time,
So we’ll wear blue though its liturgic crime.
In place of rose we’ll wear white,
and though its wrong we’ll say that it’s alright.

Chorus: Gaudy… gaudy… gaudy chasubles; In baby, navy, powderpuff and teal.

I like blue very much, but it is liturgically illegal. Don’t you wish that instead of spending their time and energy pushing (formerly) illicit things like Communion in the hand and altar girls, the progressives/liberals/law breakers would have focused on something benign like blue vestments? You would think that if those other, more serious, things could be obtained by wide-spread and willful violation of the law, we could at least look forward to approval from Rome for Advent blue, right? On the other hand, can you imagine the hue and cry that would be raised by those in charge in most places if more conservative priests started willfully violating the rubrics by doing something traditional but now absent from the Novus Ordo? Imagine the reaction of the mandarins of the chanceries and the aging-hippie pastors if, for example, younger priests with a traditional streak in them were to start reciting the prayers at the foot of the altar or (God forbid!) a…dare I suggest…silent canon? After all, some of these liturgical renegades and ecclesiastical tyrants freak out completely when priests do things that are perfectly licit such as, for example, say Mass turned to face God rather than the congregation, use primarily Latin for the celebration, wear a biretta, wear Roman-style vestments, and so forth and so on. At any rate, the more progressive types who violate the law by use of blue are sure to get their way one day. And when they do get their way and should the Holy See in the future give approval for the use of blue, I will happily and swiftly obtain an elegant set of Roman style vestments complete with blue maniples, blue dalmatics and tunics, blue chalice veil, blue humeral veil and blue burse. And I shall use them. And they won’t be teal. Until then, call me unyielding, but for the time being I think I will stick with purple and rosacea during Advent.


LATIN (1970 Missale Romanum):
Devotionis nostrae tibi, Domine, quaesumus,
hostia iugiter immoletur,
quae et sacri peragat instituta mysterii,
et salutare tuum nobis potenter operetur.

This Super oblata is very similiar to the Secret from the traditional form of the Roman Missal exemplified in the 1962 typical edition, though there is a variation in the last line: et salutare tuum in nobis mirabiliter operetur.

O Lord, we now beg, let there be ceaselessly offered up to You
the sacrificial victim of our devotion,
which both may carry through the actions of the sacred mystery that were instituted,
and may effect for us your salvation.

Checking your ever-handy Lewis & Short Dictionary you will instantly learn that the word immolo means first and foremost “to sprinkle a victim with sacrificial meal” and then also “to bring as an offering, to offer, sacrifice, immolate.” Iugiter, devotio and hostia we have examined in other articles. Perago on the other hand deserves a glance or two. This verb, meaning essentially, “to pass through” in the first place in the dictionary is construed as “to thrust through, pierce through, transfix” and hence “to slay.” Also it means “to carry through, go through with, execute, finish, accomplish, complete.” More generally, perago can signify “to carry through, go through with, execute, finish, accomplish, complete” and thus it is also “to go through, go over, to relate, describe, detail, state.” The deponent verb operor is basically “to work, labor, toil.” It also means, To work, have effect, be effectual, to be active, to operate.” But it also has a specific religious connotation as in “to serve the gods, perform sacred rites, to honor or celebrate by sacrifices.”

Mysterium is one of those words of which you ought to sit up and take notice when you find it in prayers like this. Early Christian writers lacked vocabulary to express the new spiritual realities they were dealing as they struggled to explain what they believed. Both the Greeks and Latin began borrowing previously existing words and giving them new meaning. Often, the Greeks (who had a longer philosophical traditional and therefore a ready mine of good vocabulary) came up with some theological terms that early Latin writers would simply borrow, transcribing them. Such is the case with Latin mysterium, which transliterates Greek mysterion. However, remember too that Tertullian, who more than likely died in the second quarter of the 3rd century, translated Greek mysterion with the Latin sacramentum. Sacramentum has its in root sacer, which has a religious overtone (like sacerdos… “priest”, English “sacred”, etc.). A sacramentum eventually took on a legal meaning and came to mean a bond or initiation confirmed by an oath. This kind of sacramentum referred to initiation into military service and the oath taken by the soldier. The previously existing word sacramentum was adapted by Latin writers. It came to have two streams of connotation. First, sacramentum had baptismal overtones as the pledge and profession of faith made by catechumens when they were baptized and initiated in the Church. Second, it carried nuances of the content of the faith that had been pledged in regard to the mysteries of our salvation, the meaning of the words and deeds of Christ explained in a liturgical context, the liturgical feasts themselves, and the rites of initiation (baptism, confirmation, eucharist). St. Augustine (+430) used sacramentum also for marriage, the laying on of hands at ordination, anointing of the sick and reconciliation of penitent sinners. In some liturgical prayer, sacramentum refers not just to the sacrament of the Eucharist (used as it is in a prayer for Mass). It also had the meaning in ancient prayers, especially during penitential seasons like Lent, of the forty-day long disciplines of penance and fasting. Penitential practices, when performed by a believer with the proper attitude, are a kind of mysterious affirmation of the sacred bond between us and Christ. While this Sunday’s super oblata in fact falls on the one day in Advent when we relax our penitential spirit in anticipation of the coming joy on Christmas, the season remains a penitential season.

may the gift we offer in faith and love
be a continual sacrifice in your honor
and truly become our eucharist and our salvation.

Notice that ICEL has made that single-minded dedication which in Latin is devotio into “faith and love.” In my opinion it would be better left as “devotion.” I am not quite sure where the “in your honor” line comes from unless they are picking up on some aspect of the more common usage of “devotion” as something we give to one who is worthy, in a pious “devotional” sense of the word. Certainly in the Latin we see nothing resembling in or pro tuo honore. Maybe it just sounded nice to the translator? I suppose I can’t object to what the prayer says all in all, except for the fact that it doesn’t translate what the Latin really says.

This prayer is a good example of why we need new liturgical translations prepared according to the mind of the Church as expressed in the guidelines found in the CDWDS’s document Liturgiam authenticam. We need to know and hear what the Church wants us to pray and meditate on just like we need air to breathe and food to eat. There have been positive developments regarding the reception of Liturgiam authenticam. We must not forget to support our bishops in prayer and positive expressions of confidence and thanks when they do something good and constructive in this regard, as in all other occasions as well.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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