3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time: Collect (2)

What Does the Prayer Really Say? 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in January 2005

ER writes via e-mail (Latin cleaned up): “I am not sure whether I heard it correctly. When watching the Papal Mass at the Vatican for Christmas, on TV, I was jolted when I thought I heard the Pontiff recite ‘pro OMNIBUS’ in the consecration.” No, ER, you did not hear him say in Latin “pro omnibus” (literally “for all”, the equivalent of “pro universis” which the Catechism of the Council of Trent of 1566 explains would be improper (Part II, ch. 4). He said “pro multis”. The Holy Father, poor man, is rather hard to understand in any language right now. Nevertheless, this is another example of why it is so vital that we have an accurate English translation of pro multis. We must move away from the execrable and misleading “for all”. Perhaps this is the single most important of the theologically controversial points in any new draft translation in English. You readers can help to secure one by writing kind letters to those involved. I provide addresses on the WDTPRS website or you can write to The Wanderer to obtain them.

Via e-mail GJ takes me to task for my comments about the quality of an ancient Collect not previously in the Missale Romanum but is now in the Novus Ordo (edited): “You will spend your life helping us get something that (is) sub par though better than what we have now.” Well, GJ, that sounds like a step in the right direction. The problem with some Catholics who are attached strongly to the older, venerable way of celebrating Mass is that they think the Novus Ordo should or could be abandoned and the older Mass restored across the board overnight. GJ stays on the attack: “But the real thing is in a whole different category and a good Catholic will go to the true Mass whether it is “allowed” or not. Why don’t you compare the Olde Mass to the new and tell us what you think about that? Would that make you somehow disloyal to VII and this pope?” You are making my point for me: some people think the Missale Romanum of 1962 and its predecessors back to Trent are the be all and end all of prayer without regard for what the prayers (and rubrics) of the post-Conciliar missals really say! They consider only the banal ICEL translations they have heard and the liturgical abuses they have seen. I do enjoy the “olde” spelling of old, GJ, but perhaps thou art not aware that I have spent a good share of my priesthood promoting the celebration of Ye Olde Mass and I have suffered seriously as a result. I have often compared the olde with the new, usually pointing out how much was have lost to our great detriment. I was not ordained a priest for the sake of a book: I was ordained for people. Thus, I have to consider the well-being of everyone in the Church and not just the people I agree with the most. Patience is needed as well as incremental gains.

Friends, I know quite well that many readers of The Wanderer don’t like the Novus Ordo. Some, probably, have been tempted to stop reading because it is hard core enough. But we have to be realistic about the situation we face in the Church. Like it or not, the Novus Ordo is not going away. Neither is the vernacular. Dear traditional Catholics, I share many legitimate aspirations with you. The promotion of sound and beautiful translations is of benefit to everyone in the Church, even to the most dedicated adherent of the “Traditional Latin Mass”, because we are all in this together. We must improve the state of the Church all around and foster improvements gradually. So avoid this siege mentality. The traditional Catholics ought to be the first to write kind letters of encouragement to those who are preparing the new translations! Consider it this way: if once people start getting more of the “real thing” (as GJ puts it), perhaps they will then want even more and become far more interested in traditional expressions. I have seen this pattern again and again with individuals. Let’s see if it works with the whole English speaking Church. Why do you think the liberal progressivists are trying to sidetrack the present draft of the translation being prepared? I am grateful, GJ, that you read WDTPRS with attention and I hope you will continue. Give some gift subscriptions of The Wanderer and see if you can get others to take me to task too. Have at!

Speaking of those trying to axe a better translation, I will decline to share some of the e-mail feedback you have sent about the election of His Excellency Donald W. Trautman, the Erie Bishop in Pennsylvania to the chairmanship of the USCCB’s liturgy committee (BCL). I am trying to maintain a positive tone in this WDTPRS series. The BCL will be involved in the review of the draft translation of the Missal now in preparation. With the Vox Clara committee on the watch and the CDWDS standing firm on the norms they issued in the document Liturgiam authenticam the most the BCL can do is slow the process. This is not nothing, of course. There is an adage in the Church: “cunctando regitur mundus … the world is ruled by delaying.” Oddly, while doing an internet search on my own articles to find when I had quoted that adage in the past, I discovered that WDTPRS is cited in a June 25, 2004 entry in fun blog-site called The Inn At The End Of The World (http://thesixbells.blogspot.com/) run by some liturgically long-suffering soul in Los Angeles who obviously is an aficionado of bagpipes. I have often been associated with bags of hot air, but this is a new one. The blogger wisely and perspicaciously called WDTPRS “indispensable”, which rouses in me the hope that he gave some gift subscriptions to The Wanderer to friends. And now, ad ramos!

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus,
dirige actus nostros in beneplacito tuo,
ut in nomine dilecti Filii tui
mereamur bonis operibus abundare.

GJ will be glad that this was in the 1962MR as the Collect for the Sunday in the Octave of Christmas. In the functionally superior Lewis & Short Dictionary we learn that beneplacitum means “good pleasure, gracious purpose”. The preposition in using the ablative case indicates a condition, situation or relation rather than a reference to space where or time when something was occurring. In the Vulgate beneplacitum translates the original Greek eudokia in, e.g., Eph 1:9; 1 Cor 10:5. Other phrases are used for eudokia too (e.g., bona voluntas in Luke 2:14, the famous “peace on earth to men of good will” or “peace on earth good will toward men”). Paul wrote eudokia at the beginning of 2 Thessalonians (1:11-12), rendered as voluntas bonitatis in the Vulgate:

…oramus semper pro vobis ut dignetur vos vocatione sua Deus et impleat omnem voluntatem bonitatis et opus fidei in virtute ut clarificetur nomen Domini nostri Iesu Christi in vobis et vos in illo secundum gratiam Dei nostri et Domini Iesu Christi… we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfill every good resolve (omnem voluntatem bonitatis) and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ (RSV).

We can find connections between 2 Thessalonians and our Collect at several points: mereamur in the Collect with dignetur in Paul (both having to do with meriting or being worth of), beneplacitum with voluntas bonitatis, bona opera with opus fidei (good works flowing from lived faith), nomen Filii with nomen Domini Iesu Christi. Taken in the sense of “gracious purpose” we can make a connection to Paul’s vocatio too, our “calling” or the purpose for which God placed us on this earth with a part of His plan to fulfill.

Abundo means, “to overflow with any thing, to have an abundance or superabundance of, to abound in.” If we go back to the idea of the preposition in and the ablative indicating place or location in space, (in beneplacito tuo) we have an image of our good works originating in God and, coming from Him, overflowing out from us. Some Protestants are under the false impression that Catholics think we can “earn” our way to heaven by our own good works, as if our good works had their own merit apart from God. Catholics believe, however, that true good works always have their origin in God, but the works are truly our works as well since we cooperate with God in performing them. Therefore, having their origin and purpose in God, they merit the reward of God’s promises. Whenever we find a reference to works in these liturgical prayers, do not forget the Catholic understanding of good works.

Almighty eternal God,
direct our actions in your gracious purpose,
so that in the name of Thy beloved Son,
we may merit to abound with good works.

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
All-powerful and ever-living God,
direct your love that is within us,
that our efforts in the name of your Son
may bring mankind to unity and peace.

The lame-duck ICEL version’s “All-powerful and ever-living God” for omnipotens sempiterne Deus is not so bad. Quite bad, on the other hand, is their “direct your love that is within us”. The Latin clearly connects God’s own purpose for us and the actions that flow from that purpose. In the ICEL version we have a vague term “love”, rather than the indication of God’s eternal plan. Perhaps this is a bit picky, but when I hear “we may merit to abound with good works”, I think we are abounding because of God’s action within us through the good works He makes meritorious. They overflow from us because of His generosity. In the ICEL version God’s “love” is in us, but this leads to “our efforts”. Yes, this can be reconciled with a Catholic theology of works, but it just doesn’t sound right. Also, I don’t think that “efforts” to “bring mankind to unity and peace” means the same as us “meriting” by God’s grace to “abound with good works”. Please understand: I don’t object to praying for unity and peace, but I think we ought to pray the prayer as the Church gave it to us, what the prayer really says. When we feed the hungry and console those who mourn, visit the shut-in and imprisoned and pray for the dead, sure we are building “unity and peace”, but that phrase is so vague as to mean very little to someone in the pew. The Latin does not say “conatus nostri genus humanum ad unitatem et pacem inducant”.

Is it possible that the guitar strumming and all those kumbayas of the 1960’s affected the ICEL translators choice of words? I suppose we could all stand outside the headquarters of the USCCB and sing, “All we are saying, is give Latin a chance!” while swaying back and forth holding our lighters in the air.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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