What Does the Prayer Really Say?  Palm Sunday – Station: St. St. John Lateran

ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2003

Some feedback HE in TN writes via e-mail about my comment that I was sending my article to the publisher from Florida: “This week in Florida, you dive into Lewis & Short as always. Does your weighty personal copy of L & S go wherever you go, or is our civilization so advanced that there’s a copy in every port?”  The advantage to the texts being fixed and readily available gives me the chance to do background work well in advance.  I can then take my laptop computer with me and work from anywhere (NB: Wasn’t it for Palm Sunday last year in WDTPRS that I wrote about the future of the “liturgical laptop” and Sacramentarium Cyberense Romanum?)  Also, there is a copy in every port, since I can do a lot of L&S work online.   And, concerning, hauling the heavy book around, when I was living in Rome, I had three copies: one in my office, one at home and one in  the USA.  You never want to be too far away from the precious but not easily portable Lewis & Short!

The Conference of Bishops in the USA has released (1 April “Fool’s Day”, but I’m not kidding) on their website ( the official English translation of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) meant to accompany the 2002 Missale Romano.  This GIRM was released in 2000 in order, in my theory, so that translations could be prepared before the release of the 2002MR and thus permit us to avoid the confusion that would inevitable result from misinformation, mixed signals and idiosyncratic interpretations.  I have long been quite concerned about the accuracy of the translation.   I suspected that those in charge would attempt to distort parts of it according to their liturgical orientation.   Readers of WDTPRS well remember my explanation of how the document of the Bishop’s Committee on Liturgy called Built of Living Stones intentionally distorted the meaning of the GIRM 299.   In spite of the fact that the Congregation for Divine Worship has previously explained to the world how to translate the Latin and clarified that that paragraph did not mean that it was preferable in any way for Mass to be celebrated “facing the people”, but rather concerned only the position of the altar in the sanctuary.  I just looked at 299 in the newly released translation.  They did not correct their flawed approach.  They wrote: “The altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible.”  This sounds as if the GIRM is saying that it is preferable that Mass is celebrated “facing the people”.   The Latin: Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit.  What the Latin really says is something like: “The main altar should be built separated from the wall, which is useful/desirable wherever it is possible, so that it can be easily walked around and a celebration toward the people can be carried out.”  The quod expedit refers to the main clause describing the position of the altar, and not Mass must be said.  Now thousands of people will have to listen to liturgists and bishops use that paragraph to argue against celebrations ad orientem when the text says nothing of the kind.   I suspect that more problems of this kind will emerge.  Frustration, sorrow and anger do not adequately express my level of disappointment.

This Sunday begins Holy Week, the most solemn period of the entire liturgical year when we contemplate with special care the Passion and Death of the Lord.

LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):
Sacro munere satiati,
supplices te, Domine, deprecamur,
ut, qui fecisti nos
morte Filii tui sperare quod credimus,
facias nos, eodem resurgente,
pervenire quo tendimus.

The first part of this prayer is based on the Postcommunio for the Mass of the feast of St. Lawrence in the 1962MR.  The rest is perhaps stitched together from various ancient sacramentaries.

By now the densely packed three-columned pages of our valuable Lewis & Short Dictionaries are starting to reveal traces of use.  Let us look at some vocabulary.  The verb tendo, tetendi, tentum means in the first place, “to stretch, stretch out, distend, extend”.  Then it is also, “to direct one’s self or one’s course; to aim, strive, go, travel, march, tend, bend one’s course in any direction”. By extension it takes on other qualities such as “to aim, strive, be directed or inclined, to tend in any direction”.   Deprecor means “to avert, ward off (from one’s self or others) by earnest prayer; to deprecate; also to pray, to intercede for the averting of any evil, or to obtain pardon for any transgression” and also “to pray for, intercede in behalf of (that which is in danger)”.  This is why “entreat” seems to be more appropriate than simply “beg” or “ask”.  

Filled to satiety by the sacred gift,
we humble ones entreat you, Lord,
that you, who made us in the death of your Son to hope for what we believe,
will make us, the same Son arising,
to reach the place toward which we are striving.

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
you have satisfied our hunger with this eucharistic food.
the death of your Son gives us hope and strengthens our faith.
May his resurrection give us perseverance
and lead us to salvation.

The newest edition of the Roman Missal restored the use of the Lenten blessing “prayer over the people” for weekdays and Sundays as well. I am including

Respice, quaesumus, Domine, super hanc familiam tuam,
pro qua Dominus noster Iesus Christus
non dubitavit manibus tradi nocentium,
et crucis subire tormentum.

This is a familiar prayer for anyone who participated in the singing of the office during Holy Week called TenebraeAt that office, the psalms of Matins and Lauds are chanted and one by one candles burning on the large hearse, a triangular shaped candelabrum, are snuffed out.  Finally, only one is burning.  As the choir kneels and chants in a low tone the Miserere the last candle is removed from the top of the hearse and hidden behind the altar.  Finally, the celebrant chants the prayer above and, when it is concluded, the members of the choir pound the choir stalls with their books, as a symbol of the earthquake when Christ died, until the candle is replaced at the top of the hearse.   You can see pictures of all this at   This is also the Oratio super populum for Wednesday in Holy Week in the 1962MR. 

Respicio means “to look back or behind, to look about, look; to see behind one; to look back upon, to look at, look to or for any thing” and “to look at with solicitude, i. e. to have a care for, regard, be mindful of, consider, respect”.   The interesting verb dubito is essentially “to vibrate from one side to the other, to and fro, in one’s opinions or in coming to a conclusion” and thus means, “to waver in opinion or judgment, to be uncertain, to be in doubt, to doubt, question” and “to waver in coming to a conclusion, to be irresolute; to hesitate, delay”.   Subeo is much as it appears to be… sub-eo to “under-go”.  It primary meaning is “come or go under any thing; to come or go up to, to approach, draw near, advance or proceed to a place; to come or go on; to follow, succeed; to go down, sink; to come up, spring up” and thence it signifies “to come in, succeed, take place; to enter stealthily, come secretly or by degrees” and “to subject one’s self to, take upon one’s self an evil; to undergo, submit to, sustain, endure, suffer it”.  This gives rise to one of the most ominous Italian words, at least in the mouth of an waiter in a Roman restaurant (or Roman Congregation?): “Subito, Signore!… Right away, sir!”   Trado means “to give up, hand over, deliver, transmit, surrender, consign”.  This is where the word “tradition” comes from, for things are “handed on” from one generation to the next, hopefully intact.  There is an Italian saying: “traduttore traditore….a translator is a traitor”.  Every time you translate a thing, you have to sacrifice some nuances of meaning in order to stress others.  You always lose something in translating.   Consider that in light of what was done to GIRM 299… traduttore traditore!


Look with solicitude, O God, upon this thy family, we beg,
for which our Lord Jesus Christ
did not hesitate to be betrayed into the hands of those inflicting harm,
and to endure the torment of the Cross.

For those using the 1962MR this would be the last prayer of Mass heard before the liturgical beginning of the Triduum. 

It is good at this point to remind anyone reading these articles about a point I brought up last year at this time concerning another fine point, but important point, in the 2002MR.  Many of you belong to parishes where confessions are not heard during the Triduum.   You are told that the rubrics of the Missal do not permit the sacrament of Penance.  This was false then and it is false now.  The Pope himself hears confession on Good Friday.  The older editions of the Novus Ordo 1970 and 1975MR said: “Hac et sequenti die, Ecclesia, ex antiquissima traditione, sacramenta penitus non celebrat…On this and the following day, the Church, from a most ancient tradition, does not at all celebrate the sacraments”.  However, since this is in the Missal, it refers only to the Mass, not other sacraments.  This was clarified by the CDW in its publication Notitiae (#137 (Dec 1977) p. 602).  The 2002MR at paragraph 1 for Good Friday now clarifies this and leaves no doubt that confessions can be heard during the Triduum: “Hac et sequenti die, Ecclesia, ex antiquissima traditione, sacramenta, praeter Paenitentiae et Infirmorum Unctionis, penitus non celebrat…On this and the following day, the Church, from a most ancient tradition, does not at all celebrate the sacraments, except for (the sacraments of) Penance and Anointing of the Sick”.   So, consider yourselves well-armed soldiers.   Concerning Lent, the rubrics also continue to support the veiling of statues, adding that comment into the Missale for the Fifth Sunday of Lent.

May God bless you for the remainder of a spiritually fruitful Lent.   And please pray for the members of the armed forces, especially Captain MM and K company of the 3/1 Marines, now in harm’s way.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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