What Does the Prayer Really Say? Fourth Sunday of Easter
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2002
Last week I offered material from the very good weekly National Catholic Register (NCReg) about the new third typical edition of the Missale Romanum (2002MR). I shall do the same this week. In a fourth page article entitled “New Roman Missal Means Mass Changes” (vol. 78 No. 14 April 7-13, 2002) we read a quote of the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW), His Eminence Jorge Card. Medina EstÃƒÂ©vez, speaking of popes through history who revised editions of the Missale Romanum: “Their concern to safeguard the fidelity, the accuracy and the nobility of the liturgical language used is an evident sign of the special importance which the Eucharist holds in the life of the Church.” It takes little imagination to apply that to the English translations of that same Missal.
In the WDTPRS for the Second Sunday of Easter I opined that I had seen better art on kitchen refrigerators than we find in the new 2002MR. The abovementioned NCReg article speaks to this point:
The illustrations chosen for the new missal … are adaptations of the acclaimed mosaics in the new Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the site of the papal spiritual exercises. The illustrations are not entirely successful at capturing the vivid imagery of the chapel, and have met with mixed reviews, being likens by one longtime Vatican journalist to “bad computer clip-art.” “The first thing the Holy Father said when he saw the missal was that the illustrations were very modern,” said Cardinal Medina, who insisted that the Pope intended it as a compliment.
Yah, right. I am sure he loved them. I am reminded of the years I had season tickets to a major metropolitan orchestra in the dark and dismal years when they were being avant garde, playing all sorts of bizarre stuff. We were treated to various squeaks to the accompaniment of such joys as “prepared pianos”, which had objets such as nails and empty Coke cans lying across the strings. When the persecution ended, people would politely applaud and quip to each other, “My, that was modern, wasn’t it….” The artistic director of the orchestra would insist that that was a compliment. As someone once said of Wagner’s music, that modern rubbish we heard “wasn’t nearly as bad as it sounded.” So, now that I know these illustrations are actually adaptations of mosaics in the Pope’s new chapel, all I can say is, “They’re not nearly as bad as they look.”
The NCReg article includes the comment that “with the release of the third edition of the Missal, the new regulations contained in the “General Instruction” – which is part of the Missal – come into effect immediately, even before an official English translation is approved.” The article continues, “An unofficial translation was released 18 months ago to help priests prepare for the changes,….” One of the changes offered in the article, seemingly based on that so-called “unofficial translation” is: Priest facing the people.
A clarification that the desirable manner of celebrating Mass is facing the people, as is the common practice today. The priest is not, however, forbidden from celebrating Mass “facing east,” which involves him having his back to the congregation.
I must say that I am rather disappointed that the otherwise excellent NCReg fell into the trap. I dealt with this at length last year in WDPTRS in consideration of paragraph 299 of the 2002GIRM. The people who initially translated the Latin made a complete mess of #299. The situation was bad enough that the CDW issued an official response to a question posed about the “orientation” of Mass. The CDW even indicated how to translate the Latin (O tempora…o mores…). Soon after, the US Bishop’s Conference issued the “Built of Living Stones” in which we find the very same mistake that the CDW had earlier corrected. Hmmmm…. Perhaps we can review this issue in next week’s WDTPRS. Now, for this week’s…
LATIN (1970 Missale Romanum):
Concede, quaesumus, Domine,
semper nos per haec mysteria paschalia gratulari,
ut continua nostrae reparationis operatio
perpetuae nobis fiat causa laetitiae.
This prayer was originally in the 1962MR as the secret of the Saturday after Easter, Sabbato in albis. The far older Gelasian Sacramentary had a similar prayer.
This week, rather than give my literal version right away, I think I will present next the version prepared by
restore us by these Easter mysteries.
May the continuing work of our redeemer
bring us eternal joy.
Now we must dig into the Latin version and see if ICEL missed anything. As always, we must start with the vocabulary. Looking at the lemma form gratulor in the nearly legendary Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary we find the definition “to manifest one’s joy, i.e. to wish a person joy, to congratulate; or to rejoice” and thus a mostly late classical meaning, “to give thanks, render thanks, to thank, esp. a deity, grates, gratias agere.” This leaves us with a dilemma. Do we say “grant that we always rejoice” or “grant that we always give thanks.” I shall take the middle path and say “give joyous thanks.” Since we are in the offertory section of the Eucharistic (“thanksgiving”) Sacrifice, I will emphasize the thanking dimension but flavor it with the joy due to the Easter season. As you will recall, that preposition per can mean “through” or “by means of.” The very interesting word operatio, which appears in the surviving works of neither Cicero nor those of Caesar, is primarily “a working, work, labor, operation.” It also means, “a religious performance, service, or solemnity, a bringing of offerings.” By the English word “continuum” the seasoned Catholic among us might understand an uninterrupted whole or a series of things without a break. However, if we are of the Star Trek generation, in “continuum” we might remember some incredibly rare time/space phenomenon appearing about every other week which threatens to destroy the universe by implosion unless it is stopped. To save time and space itself the Captain and crew must reverse the polarity of a long-named gizmo (usually the big dish shaped thing on the front of the ship) with only five seconds left before the ship explodes and everyone everywhere dies, taken completely by surprise and having been absolutely ignorant of their imminent peril. But, because of the gallant sacrifices of the crew, the perilous yet noble plan of the Captain is carried out through the herculean efforts of someone with bluish skin or an oddly shaped forehead and the time/space continuum is restored to its proper order, thus saving all things throughout the whole cosmos. The ship goes on its way to explore strange new worlds until the next weeks surprise brush with lethal disaster occurs right on schedule. And no one bothers to say even, “Thanks for saving the universe again” or better, “What would we do without you?” But I digress… The Latin adjective continuus, a, um, according to the L&S, also applies to time/space phenomena. In reference to space, it means a “joining, connecting with something, or hanging together, in space or time, uninterrupted, continuous.” In relation to time, it is “following one after another, successive, continuous” in the sense of unending or incessant. Thus, it means also “immediately” and “speedily, without interval.” Again, we must make a choice between “continuous, uninterrupted” and “speedily, immediately.” So far, then, our super oblata could be either “grant to us that we always rejoice… so that the continual working” or else “grant that we give thanks… so that this prompt religious offering” and so forth. Moreover, we have to determine what sort of ut clause we have here. Is it a final subjunctive giving us a simple “that” or is it consequential, for a more nuanced “with the result that”? Put all your choices on slips of paper and start rearranging them. You get some interesting results and each of them could probably be defended. You can see that this translation business is not always the easiest thing to do. Compound that with having to work with a committee, each person having a preference, and you will imagine that preparing an entire book of translations (e.g., a new translation of the very recent 2002MR) might take a long time. I will opt for continuus as “continual” so as to balance perpetuus, “perpetual”. When applied to how we as a Church renew the Sacrifice of Calvary in Holy Mass, one can see continuus as stretching back into our history all the way to the Passion of the Lord and perpetuus as stretching forward into the future until the coming of the King.
The once for all time Sacrifice of the Cross transcends all time and space. God makes it possible for the very same reality to be renewed and represented to the Father through the constant and faithfully fulfilled religious offering of the Church (operatio continua), which is His own mystical person continuing in this earthly realm. This bloody Sacrifice which occurred at a single point in the continuum of both time and physical space, which took place on the Cross outside the walls of Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago, is both completed and is still taking place on our altars in all places and at all times. By this Sacrifice, Christ reversed the course of the human race, hurtling headlong into the darkness of oblivion and the hellish separation from God that sin deserves. Now all peoples of all times and places have the opportunity of salvation, even though they have no idea of whence it comes. And yet so many of those who actually know Him will blithely go on their way without so much as a “Thank you, O Lord, for the unfathomable act of self-emptying and brutal, painful death, by which you saved us from the hell our sins merited, and by which you taught us who we really are.” Many who profess His Holy Name will come to Sunday Mass and receive the very sacrament of our salvation without discerning what it is or what they do. Some will even take the Lord and head for the door to beat the parking rush.
Grant, we beseech you, O Lord,
that we always render joyous thanks by means of these paschal mysteries,
so that the continuous ritual offering of our renewal
may become for us the cause of unending joy.