What Does the Prayer Really Say? Supplement

Because last week the regular WDTPRS column did not appear (e-mail difficulties, short week, the dog ate my homework), I am putting my regular ramblings in a separate article.

It’s Advent again, and time once more for my annual rant about vestments, indeed, BLUE vestments. If I have said it once…, as nice as blue is blue is not an approved liturgical color for Advent. Sorry, Fr. “Just Call Me Jack”, I am not making this up. Please understand: I like blue but it is illegal right now. This is a liturgical abuse. One day the Holy See might approve blue vestments for the Latin Church and then I will happily put them on, without breaking the law. I can see it now: a nice blue maniple, blue dalmatics for the deacons, chalice veils in blue surmounted by a blue burse. Each year in WDTPRS I have included the lyrics to a parody song we seminarians enjoyed years ago (if “enjoy” and “seminary” can easily fit in one sentence, given the state of things when I was studying). I am often asked for these lyrics, so here they are again. Please sing this 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, powder puff and teal.

Since Advent is the Blessed Virgin’s time,
we’ll wear blue, although it’s canonic crime,
and in the third week, we’ll wear white.
And though 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.

Anyone who has sung this in the Latin version will recognize in “Gaudy!” the Refrain the echo of Gaude! Gaude! Rejoice! Rejoice! I must give credit to the author, TF, for his effort.

Speaking of vestments (as we were earlier), inevitably after the Third Sunday of Advent, called “Gaudete”, I get a stream of questions about the use (or non-use) of a differently colored vestment. I say “differently colored” as politically correct was of identifying both rose (rosacea) and black. Despite the fact that these are two legitimate and fully approved liturgical colors we are for some reason never supposed to wear, see, use, mention, or desire them. As I was saying, this time of year in the internet ASK FATHER Question Box I moderate many people ask, “Why did the priest wear pink last Sunday?” Biting my tongue, I explain that the answer to this question also solves the riddle of “Why are there three purple candles and one pink on an Advent wreath?” I am forever amused by claims by some Lutherans that, along with the Christmas tree and Advent calendar, they are also responsible for the Advent wreath. Friends, the colors of the candles of a traditional Advent wreath are colors of the vestments a Roman Catholic priest wears when saying Mass on those Sundays. So, why use rose? Well, rose is the color used on the fourth Sunday of Lent! You see, in Rome there were celebrations of Mass during the great seasons of Lent/Easter and Advent/Christmas at “station” churches. You see the names for these churches printed in older pre-Conciliar hand missals. The station for the Fourth Sunday of Lent (called “Laetare”, which means in Latin pretty much what “Gaudete” means…”Rejoice!”)is the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem near the St. John Lateran (the Pope’s cathedral). The custom on this day was for a long time for the Pope to bless special roses made of gold which were were then sent to Catholic kings, queens and notables. Thus, that Sunday was called Dominica de rosa… “Rose Sunday”. Rose vestments stem from this custom and, by analogy with Lent, they trickled over into Advent on “Gaudete” Sunday. Their use spread from that basilica to the rest of the City and then it became part and parcel of the Roman Missal promulgated by Pius V in 1570. The use of rose vestments on those two Sundays only is still perfectly legitimate (and so is using BLACK for funeral Masses, but I digress). It is slowly coming back into style, too. Rose vestments are again in church goods catalogues and shops. Feel free to get some for your parish, since long ago Father “Just Call Me Bob” may have dumpsterized them (along with the BLACK) in favor of his prized polyester threads or Sr. Go-Go Boot’s choice selection of Finger -Painted -By -The -Third -Grade chasubles. But, in many places simply suggest the use of rose or even… gasp… the evil blaaaack once in a while, and you are instantly stared at with horror and labeled anti-Conciliar. I declare! Can’t we all just get along??

Moving along… when we approach difficult questions or topics, we must be humble before them, admitting the truth when made plain and ignorance when plainly we don’t have a clue. I have told you all more than once how baffled I was by something both readers and I received from the hand of the Executive Secretary of ICEL, Fr. Bruce Harbert. In responding to your (and my) kind letters about the thorny pro multis controversy (“for all” in the sacramental form for the consecration of the Precious Blood) Fr. Harbert systematically penned a puzzling claim without offering support or references, that is: the Holy Father reserves to himself personally the approval vernacular translations of the sacramental forms. This claim struck me as unlikely and I was not alone – in a copy of a response a WDTPRS reader shared with me I saw that His Eminence George Card. Pell, chairman of Vox Clara, was similarly surprised. With the help of others I have gotten to the bottom of Fr. Harbert’s contention, which originally sounded like a dodge.

What Fr. Harbert wrote is true. I verified it. Of course, he might have saved us some trouble and provided in his letters a reference to reduce our original level of wonder and confusion. In the Holy See’s official instrument of promulgation, Acta Apostolicae Sedis for 28 February 1974 (AAS 66 (1974) 98-99) we find a circular letter dated 25 October 1973 over the signature of then Secretary of State Jean Card. Villot, countersigned by Archbp. Annibale Bugnini, about this very matter (my translation from the Latin): “The Supreme Pontiff reserves to himself the power of approving directly all translations into vernacular languages of the formulas of sacraments.” 1973 was the year our present ICEL version was approved. There was a dust-up going on about whether the vernacular sacramental forms (i.e., “for all”) were heretical. The circular letter stated a translation (conversio) of sacramental forms was to be prepared (apparabitur – apparo: “prepare, make ready”) by the (then) Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship after consultation with the episcopal conferences; a translation must accurately reflect proper doctrine and be in harmony with the Latin text as much as possible. Nota bene: the Congregation (at present the CDWDS), not the conferences, not ICEL, furnishes the translation of the sacramental form to the Pope for approval. I therefore renew my plea to you, good readers, to write with cordial fervor to those in charge of these matters, if you need addresses and don’t have back issues of WDTPRS wherein they were provided, contact either The Wanderer or yours truly.

Why is this important? During the fall meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, His Excellency Most Rev. Donald W. Trautman, Bishop of Erie, was re-elected chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Liturgy (BCL – a non-authoritative body). The BCL must soon review ICEL’s latest draft translation which the Vox Clara Committee recently reviewed in Rome. Bp. Trautman has been consistently and sharply critical of the Holy See’s norms for translation issued in the CDWDS’s Liturgiam authenticam (LA). This is rather dramatic, so keep reading. Enter from upstage: a regular WDTPRSer, JB via e-mail from Washington, D.C., where he attended a “Tridentine” Mass a couple weeks ago on a Sunday. “Ding” goes the sanctuary bell. Enter stage right: the priest celebrant in biretta and maniple, Fr. Bruce Harbert, the aforementioned Executive Secretary of ICEL. I ask you: can you wrap your mind around the image of a member of ICEL’s politburo of yore, say 10 years ago, celebrating a Tridentine Mass? I say “Kudos, Father.” No, “for all” during that Mass, I can tell you. Anyway, JB recounts that, in a conversation with Fr. Harbert after Mass, Father assured him that Bp. Trautman is a scholarly fellow who will not have a negative impact on the translation. Having confirmed what Fr. Harbert has asserted before, shall we give him the benefit of the doubt in this matter as well? Quoth Ronald Reagan, “Trust, but verify.”

In 2003 a group decidedly not friendly to the Holy See’s norms, the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Directors (I’ve mentioned them before) presented Bp. Trautman with their Frederick R. McManus Award. His Excellency spoke inter alia about the then forthcoming CDWDS document Redemptionis Sacramentum desired by the Pope against liturgical abuses. His Excellency’s anaphoric remarks in 2003 may reveal something of his approach to documents from the Holy See (slightly edited):

A recent draft of a forthcoming Vatican instruction included several problematic elements – elements which were neither pastorally sensitive nor liturgically correct. While we are thankfully reassured that more competent and more sensible judgments have prevailed, we need to ask how could such proposals be drafted and approved for submission in the first place? When such Roman liturgical drafts call us to return to a liturgical mentality prior to Vatican II, we need to say to one another: Keep up your courage. When liturgical expertise is not respected, … When fundamental principles of liturgical renewal are reversed, we must say to one another: Keep up your courage….

There is more of the same. Folks, do you see what is going on? I say keep up your courage, pick up your pens and ratchet up your efforts. The coming months are decisive!

On to other things. The November 2004 edition of the usually sound Adoremus Bulletin, which has studiously ignored WDTPRS for four years now, has a very good offering: His Eminence Joseph Card. Ratzinger’s essay review of a new book by Alcuin Reid, OSB, called The Organic Development of the Liturgy (St. Michael’s Abbey Press, 2004). If this review was an exclusive for Adoremus then it is a real feather in their cap. Reid’s writings are worth the read when read and I recommend the Cardinal’s comments. In addition to speaking about the book, Card. Ratzinger makes many additional observations, so much so, that His Eminence states at one point that he has ”gone beyond Dom Alcuin’s book”. So much the better! Inter alia the Prefect of the CDF writes:

“I should like to come back to the way that worship was presented, in a liturgical compendium, as a ‘project for reform”, and thus as a workshop in which people are always busy at something. Different again, and yet related to this, is the suggestion by some Catholic liturgists that we should finally adapt the liturgical reform to the ‘anthropological turn’ of modern times, and construct it in an anthropocentric style. If the liturgy appears first of all as the workshop for our activity, then what is essential is being forgotten: God. For the Liturgy is not about us, but about God.”

Essentially, many want to make liturgy a reflection of ourselves, in our own particular cultural milieu, which is ever changing. Therefore, nothing is fixed or stable and liturgy should be always changing. Of course this ignores the fact that many dimensions of man’s circumstances may be changing, but man himself does not really change. Does the Cardinal’s observation sound familiar? For years we have been saying in these WDTPRS columns that true actor in the sacred liturgy is the High Priest Jesus Christ. Mass is all about what He does for us. We must learn to be actively receptive to what He gives. Our outward responses are an expression of what is first and foremost an inward activity of reception, founded on our baptismal character, and manifested in singing responses, physical posture, and above all reception of Communion in the state of grace. I recommend Adoremus Bulletin, despite its quadrennial lacuna, and Dom Alcuin’s book as well.

The Roman news outlet Zenit had a story on 25 November by Catherine Smibert (who also works with Vatican Radio) about the Vox Clara Committee, set up in 2001 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) to be a liaison and watchdog for ICEL as they prepare a new English translation for the episcopal conferences. The head of Vox Clara is His Eminence George Card. Pell, Archbishop of Sydney. His Eminence says that his work with Vox Clara “is the most ‘important and useful thing’ he does in recent visits to Rome.” In the Zenit article,

“There has been an attempt to improve the quality and accuracy of the English,” he explained. “We must consistently seek to translate the Latin accurately — not slavishly, but enough that it assists people in confronting the true, original message behind it.”

In these WDTPRS articles we are specifically trying to create a “slavish” and accurate translation, so that you may see in a form as close to the Latin as possible what the content is and what the challenges are. You have no doubt developed a real sympathy for those who must work on the new English version.

In the Zenit piece Cardinal Pell gave an example of what they are dealing with in the words from the Sanctus: “Dominus Deus Sabaoth”, saying, “What we say here now is ‘Lord, God of power and might,’ where the more correct translation for ‘Sabaoth’ is really ‘angels’ or ‘hosts’ … as in ‘Lord, God of hosts’”.

Folks, when you write letters of encouragement to these people, members of Vox Clara and others, you make a difference. Many of you have described the nice letters you receive in return. I told you a couple weeks ago about the pleasure the Vice-Chairman of Vox Clara, Archbishop Gracias of Agra, India expressed personally to me while he was in Rome. These men are truly serious and dedicated, so your interest interests them. Cardinal Pell said, “We have a chance to put together an English translation that generations will be able to use.” Furthermore, as we have said time and again, the new version will affect countless people for generations. Here is Cardinal Pell again, “It’s exciting, because language when used accurately, can take us to God.”

One of the great strengths of the Church is that it is worldwide and English is basically the new Latin, though Spanish is widespread. It is a fact, for instance, that the English missal is often used as the de facto base-text for the Church in Asia and Africa.”

We must support this work by warm and kind letters. Please write to Cardinal Pell and also Cardinal Arinze, head of the CDWDS and tell them of your hopes, especially for a good translation of pro multis. If the Holy Father must decide personally about the form of consecration, then these are the men who will put the right material in his hands. Here are the addresses again:

His Eminence
George Card. Pell
Chairman – Vox Clara
Archbishop of Sydney
Level 16, Polding Centre
133 Liverpool Street
Sydney, N.S.W 2000

His Eminence
Francis Card. Arinze
Prefect of the Congregation for
Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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