What Does the Prayer Really Say? 3rd Sunday of Easter
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2003
More than one of you have asked via e-mail and other means for news about the Marine Corps Captain serving in Iraq. At last report he is fine and, as you might expect, is getting the job done. Thank you for asking. Please continue to pray for him and his K Company.
Since my last column the Holy Father has issued, on Holy Thursday, the encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (EdE) in the place of his usually letter addresses to his brother priests. In EdE His Holiness is seeking to revive and foster a love of and “amazement” in our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. He uses the language of prayer in urging us to contemplate the face of the Lord:
To contemplate the face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the “programme” which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium, summoning her to put out into the deep on the sea of history with the enthusiasm of the new evangelization. To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize him wherever he manifests himself, in his many forms of presence, but above all in the living sacrament of his body and his blood. The Church draws her life from Christ in the Eucharist; by him she is fed and by him she is enlightened. The Eucharist is both a mystery of faith and a “mystery of light”.3 Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the faithful can in some way relive the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: “their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (Lk 24:31). (EdE 6)
The Pope is also working to apply corrective measure for various abuses of the Eucharist occurring in the celebration of Holy Mass. He also speaks to the beauty and care with which Mass has been and ought to be celebrated. WDTPRS seems to be on the same page with the Pope in his presentation of how our inward disposition affects the form of prayer and vice versa. There is a reciprocal relationship between how we pray and what we believe. Also, longtime readers of WDTPRS will recall how on many occasions, especially after the promulgation of the Congregation for Divine Worship’s document Liturgiam authenticam, establishing norms for translations, we have addressed the issue of inculturation, and how it must be properly understood. In the dynamic exchange taking place between the Church and the world over centuries within different cultures and peoples, for inculturation to be legitimate and fruitful in a way consistent with the Church’s God-given mission, what the Church gives to the world must be logically (if not chronologically) prior to what the world offers to the Church. The Holy Father writes in EdE:
49. With this heightened sense of mystery, we understand how the faith of the Church in the mystery of the Eucharist has found historical expression not only in the demand for an interior disposition of devotion, but also in outward forms meant to evoke and emphasize the grandeur of the event being celebrated. This led progressively to the development of a particular form of regulating the Eucharistic liturgy, with due respect for the various legitimately constituted ecclesial traditions. On this foundation a rich artistic heritage also developed. Architecture, sculpture, painting and music, moved by the Christian mystery, have found in the Eucharist, both directly and indirectly, a source of great inspiration.
Might we be able to add to the Holy Father’s instruction in EdE that the language of the Mass ought to reflect the “grandeur” and “mystery” of the mystery being celebrated? I think so. He goes on:
Such was the case, for example, with architecture, which witnessed the transition, once the historical situation made it possible, from the first places of Eucharistic celebration in the domus or “homes” of Christian families to the solemn basilicas of the early centuries, to the imposing cathedrals of the Middle Ages, and to the churches, large and small, which gradually sprang up throughout the lands touched by Christianity. The designs of altars and tabernacles within Church interiors were often not simply motivated by artistic inspiration but also by a clear understanding of the mystery. The same could be said for sacred music, if we but think of the inspired Gregorian melodies and the many, often great, composers who sought to do justice to the liturgical texts of the Mass. Similarly, can we overlook the enormous quantity of artistic production, ranging from fine craftsmanship to authentic works of art, in the area of Church furnishings and vestments used for the celebration of the Eucharist? It can be said that the Eucharist, while shaping the Church and her spirituality, has also powerfully affected “culture”, and the arts in particular.
The Roman Pontiff then speaks to the issue of architecture and how it must reflect the reality being celebrated within, its raison d’être as it were. As you read this, mentally substitute in the most fundamental “architecture” for the Mass, its language:
The architectural and mosaic splendours of the Christian East and West are a patrimony belonging to all believers; they contain a hope, and even a pledge, of the desired fullness of communion in faith and in celebration…. Within this context of an art aimed at expressing, in all its elements, the meaning of the Eucharist in accordance with the Church’s teaching, attention needs to be given to the norms regulating the construction and decor of sacred buildings. As history shows and as I emphasized in my Letter to Artists, the Church has always left ample room for the creativity of artists. But sacred art must be outstanding for its ability to express adequately the mystery grasped in the fullness of the Church’s faith and in accordance with the pastoral guidelines appropriately laid down by competent Authority. This holds true both for the figurative arts and for sacred music. (EdE 50)
For a true revival of any of these great liturgical arts to take place, the first great “art” that must be resurrected is the language of the Mass. We need far more Latin in the Latin Rite and we need truly beautiful and accurate translations. If we want new and grand forms of artistry for use in the liturgy, then we need language that reflects the reality of what the Church believes about the Mass. If we want vestments that look better than horse blankets or 1960 couch covers, buildings that don’t instantly remind you of juvenile detention centers, movie houses or bomb shelters, music that doesn’t cause you instantly to crave Campbell’s Soup or reruns of Gilligan’s Island, then the most fundamental element – the language – must change.
LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):
Populum tuum, quaesumus, Domine, intuere benignus,
et, quem aeternis dignatus es renovare mysteriis,
ad incorruptibilem glorificandae carnis resurrectionem
This post communion prayer appears to be a new composition for the 1970MR, having traces of the Gelasian Sacramentary and also of St. Leo the Great’s Sermon 71, 6 (CCL 138A, p. 440, ll. 131-2; PL 54, 389D). The phrase from Leo which is integrated into our prayer is from the very last line, before the doxology with which he typically ended, of a sermon preached on Holy Saturday 3/4 April 443 concerning the Passion of the Lord: “Et quia antiquorum morborum difficilis et tarda curatio est, tanto velocius adhibentur remedia, quanto recentiora sunt vulnera, ut semper ab omnibus offensionibus in integrum resurgentes, ad illam incorruptibilem glorificandae carnis resurrectionem pertinere mereamur in Christo Iesu Domino nostro, qui vivit et regnat… And since the cure of old ills is slow and difficult, the more recent the wounds, the more promptly let the remedies be applied, so that always rising up anew from our stumblings, we may merit to attain that incorruptible resurrection of the flesh which is to be transformed unto glory, in Christ Jesus our Lord, who lives and reigns…”. The apparatus criticus (that is, the footnotes in a critical edition of a text indicating the variations found in the history of different manuscripts available) of the definitive 1973 CCL (Corpus Christianorum Latinorum) edition published by Brepols and edited by Antoine Chavasse, indicates a variation in the text of the line that interests us. The CCL reads pertinere instead of pervenire but shows the variation pervenire in the apparatus. Variations in manuscripts happened over centuries through inaccuracies in recopying or transcribing during dictation. By cataloguing variations we can identify “family trees” of manuscript traditions for ancient works. This helps to establish the best and most accurate text possible. The older standard edition of most of the texts of the Fathers of the Church, the PL edition (Patrologia Latina edited by Migne) no doubt reads the less likely pervenire. This is how we wound up with pervenire in our prayer rather than the pertinere that Leo probably said back in 443. Remember, that today’s prayer was put together sometime between December 1963 (when the Second Vatican Council mandated the reform of the liturgy) and 1969 when the Novus Ordo was unleashed. Thus, the composer of this prayer used the older PL edition of Leo’s sermons since the definitive CCL would not have appeared for at least another three years.
Our treasured Lewis & Short Dictionary remind us that intueor, a word we know from St. Thomas Aquinas’ Adoro te devote and from the prayers for Epiphany, means “to look upon” as well as “to give attention to”. It also signifies, “to regard, observe, contemplate, consider, give attention to”. Given our humble posture at this moment of Holy Mass, I choose to render intueor here as “gaze down upon.”
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
look on your people with kindness
and by these Easter mysteries
bring us to the glory of the resurrection.
Gaze down kindly, O Lord, we beseech thee, upon thy people,
and grant them, whom thou hast deigned to renew by means of eternal sacramental mysteries,
to attain unto the incorruptible resurrection of the flesh which is to be glorified.
In EdE the Holy Father uses (in the English version) some form of “contemplate” 10 times, always in reference to Christ and usually regarding His “face” (since the Holy See’s website inexplicably did not provide the Latin text, but only the English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish) I am not sure what the Latin word was for “contemplate”). As we have noted many times, the word gloria in the Church’s prayer is very special, particularly when there is a connection with the thought of the Father’s of the Church. In this context, gloria is a divine characteristic which God will share with the blessed in heaven. By beholding the “glory” of the Lord and partaking of His splendor as we look Him in the face forever, we (images of God that we are) will be thereby transformed to be more and more like Him throughout eternity.