5th Sunday of Easter: Post Communion

What Does the Prayer Really Say?  5th Sunday of Easter

ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2003

Dare we to hope?  The 2 May 2003 edition of the Catholic Herald published in the UK provides a story by Simon Caldwell that the Pope is preparing “to lift restrictions on Tridentine Mass: English bishops request secret report from Latin Mass Society”.  According to the story, “John Paul II is understood to be ready to grant a "universal indult" by the end of the year to permit all priests to choose freely between the celebration of Mass in the so-called Tridentine rite used up to 1962 – before the disciplinary reforms of the Second Vatican Council – and the novus ordo Mass used after 1970.”   This document has been around for years waiting for a signature from the Holy Father.  It was scuttled once, in the late ‘80’s when the heads of European episcopal conferences caught wind of it and complained.  Apparently this is now seen as a useful tool, in keeping with the Pope’s commands in his Motu Proprio of 1988 Ecclesia Dei.  Also, in the story is the encouraging news that, “Last month, the Holy Father, who celebrated a Tridentine Mass last summer, published a command called Rescriptum ex Audientia to authorise the celebration of the old rite Mass in St Peter’s Basilica, Rome, by any priest who possessed an indult.”  This author is in Rome right now and will test this at the Vatican Basilica.  During the years I lived in Rome, I constantly witnessed rudeness and flak offered by the sacristans of the Basilica to anyone who used or intended to use the older form of Mass.  Complaints were made, of course, to no effect.  The word from those in charge of the Basilica under now retired Virgilio Card. Noè was that the older, “Tridentine”, form of Mass (and I am not making this up), “might confuse the laity.”   Aside from the fact that this condescension shows little grasp of the intelligence of laypeople, it is also divorced from reality.  On any given morning in the Vatican basilica you will see simultaneously at different altars, the Divine Liturgy celebrated by Ukrainian Catholics, the Syro-Malabar Rite from India, individual celebrations, mass con-celebrations, and the Novus Ordo Mass (with greater or lesser degrees of “making it up as you go”) in every language of the world including Latin.  My personal experience is that people know how to respond very well and properly to everything that pertained to them when the older form was used but were without a clue at certain points (without booklets or aids) during spoken Masses in Latin with the Novus Ordo (e.g., the response after the Mysterium Fidei or after the Our Father).  So, this Rescript is a piece of good news.

The Catholic Herald also claims that “the Vatican also asked the Scottish bishops, ahead of their five-yearly ad limina visit to Rome in March, to reveal what provisions they made for the celebration of the old rite Mass in their dioceses. Since the meeting, the Scottish bishops have stepped up their provision from just four a year in the whole of the country to at least one a month in Glasgow and Edinburgh.”  It looks to me as it there is a strong effort being made to create an ecclesial atmosphere conducive to talks with the SSPX and possible reconciliation. 

According to a report in the Adoremus Bulletin (vol. IX, no. 2 – April 2003) there was a plenary meeting in Rome of the Vox Clara committee (VC) from 12-14 March at the offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW).  This committee was set up in July 2001 to ride shot-gun, er um, act as a liaison between ICEL and the CDW to ensure that the new translation norms of Liturgiam authenticam (LA) are properly observed when the new liturgical books are prepared.    The VC considered a draft of document, called a ratio translationis which will guide the specific application of LA and provide the guiding principles of English translation work.  VC also looked at some translations of parts of the Missale Romanum.  So, everyone, the work is moving forward.  Would it be too much to ask you to offer some fasting and prayers for the VC committee and those who will be doing the work?  This is so important to our future worship in our churches, my friends.  In the meantime, the Holy See approved the English edition of the revised (1990) Rites of Ordination.  You might remember that it was, in my opinion, an earlier wretched translation of these all-important rites that served as ICEL’s Waterloo.  The rejection of that translation and the subsequent actions of the CDW marked the beginning of the dismantling of the “old” ICEL and its reshaping into a “new” entity.

When you are in Rome, you pick up all sorts in interesting tidbits.  For those of you who think that Latin is nearly dead everywhere, I learned yesterday that after Holy Week liturgies in the cathedral of Bamberg, Germany the whole congregation sang Compline in Latin.  Also, in Antwerp, Belgium at the Church of St. James (Greater) Mass is offered every Sunday in the language of our heritage replete with Gregorian chant.


LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):
Populo tuo, quaesumus, Domine, adesto propitius,
et, quem mysteriis caelestibus imbuisti,
fac ad novitatem vitae de vetustate transire.

This was mostly based on the Postcommunio of Monday in the Octave of Pentecost in the 1962MR: Adesto, quaesumus, Domine, populo tuo; et, quem mysteriis caelestibus imbuisti, ab hostium furore defende.  I guess that last part, “…defend (us) from the rage of enemies…” smacked a little too much of the diabolical, and therefore the Devil, and therefore hell and, clearly, it had to go. 

The vocabulary for our prayer today is rather straightforward.  Still, we can consult the azure-bound Lewis & Short Dictionary and deepen our knowledge of some of the familiar (at least to students of Latin) words.  The verb imbuo denotes, “to wet, moisten, dip, tinge, touch” and thus “to fill, tinge, stain, taint, infect, imbue, imbrue with any thing” and by extension “to inspire or impress early, to accustom, inure, initiate, instruct, imbue.”  Transeo is, “to go over or across, to cross over, pass over, pass by, pass” or also “to go or pass over into any thing by transformation, to be changed or transformed into a thing.”  For example, you might like the proverbial chicken “cross over” the road  or like the shepherds in Luke 2:15 “go over” to Bethlehem to see what had happened.  Were you to cross over a river, surely you would get wet and your clothes would be tinged and imbued with water.  Anything that passes through dye is certainly tinged.  Our souls are tinged and permanently marked with the Christian character when we are baptized.  We “transit” from old death over to new life. We “put on the new man” with our baptismal garments.  There is a prayer that may be said when putting on a surplice: “Indue me, Domine, novum hominem… O Lord, clothe me with ‘the new man’….”

The noun vestustas means, “old age, age, long existence” and novitas, “a being new, newness, novelty.”  By extension novitas also means “the condition of a homo novus, newness of rank.”  A novus homo or “new man” was a political and social upstart, a man without pedigree or ancient family background such as Gaius Marius (157-86 BC), the great military reformer, seven-time consul and eventual dictator of Rome.  He did not come from a patrician background and was thus sneered at by the Senatorial class as a “new man”.  Still, when there was no one else who could be put in the field against the chieftain Jugurtha rampaging in North Africa, whom no one had been able to subjugate, Marius raised an army from the poorer classes of Rome (capite censi or “head count”) and not from the land owner class as was always done in the past, and he paid for their equipment himself.   When the action was over, he secured public land to be distributed to them and thus secured their loyalty to him, and not to the Senate, forever.   His chief aide de camp was the notorious Lucius Cornelius Sulla (138-78 BC) who also became a dictator, a ruthless one.  Marius, now with a record as an effective general, would be asked to battle the Germanic Cimbri and Teuton tribes who had soundly pasted six generals and their legions.  Marius was successful in two major campaigns and thus came to be regarded as the savior of and “Third Founder” of Rome.    By securing the loyalty of the military to himself personally, Marius changed the face of Rome forever and paved the way for Julius Caesar and the following Empire.  However, all in all the idea of novus anything was pejorative.  In fact the term for “revolution”, a very much despised concept by the entrenched Roman autocracy, was res novae…. “new things”.  Pope Leo XIII would begin his famous encyclical of 15 May 1891 on social issues and the condition of workers and against the alarming rise of strange atheistic theories with the gloriously sculpted and ringing words, “Rerum novarum semel excitata cupidine,… Once the passion for revolutionary change was aroused — a passion long disturbing governments — it was bound to follow sooner or later that eagerness for change would pass from the political sphere over into the related field of economics.”  In ancient Latin terms, the novum was looked at with suspicion.

That is the way the novus homo and res novae were conceived of in worldly terms.  But our prayer today was clearly inspired by St. Jerome’s Vulgate version of Romans 6:4-5: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory (gloria) of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (nos in novitate vitae ambulemus)” (RSV), and also Romans 7:6: “But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit (in novitate spiritus et non in vetustate litterae)” (RSV).  Concerning novitas as the “condition of the novus homo” we can consult also Ephesians 2:14-15: “For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man (novum hominem) in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end” (RSV) as well as Ephesians 4:23-25: “And be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature (lit. “new man” – novum hominem), created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (RSV).  Paul’s view of the old covenant and the freedom of the new covenant shape our Holy Communion this Sunday.

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Merciful Father,
may these mysteries give us new purpose
and bring us to a new life in you.

Perhaps we can do a little better than this even if we eschew trying to make a lovely version suitable for the liturgy itself and just stick closely to a…

We beg you, O Lord, propitiously to stand by your people,
and cause them, whom you have imbued with heavenly sacramental mysteries,
to cross over from the old state of being unto a new condition of life.

The imbuo (“moisten, tinge, imbue”) calls to mind several things.  At this time of year where I live there is a great deal of preparation for planting going on.  Seeds are being planted and seedlings raised (in a greenhouse) in preparation for transferal out of doors when the ground finally thaws and the threat of frost is over.  These seeds and baby plants must be kept warm and moist at all times and given good light.    I see older, dormant plants sprouting leaves and flowers and coming back to life.  Our heavenly Father loves us.   When we die in sin we are like cut-off branches or life-less sticks still rooted but pointing vainly to the sky.  While there is earthly life, however, there is hope of spiritual renewal.  We must avoid the threats and killing effect of the frost of near occasions of sin.  When we draw near to the source of all life, both physical and spiritual, our God like a master gardener tends us, moistens our dry souls, and brings us from a death-like state into a new and fruitful condition of living.  When we hear today’s prayer, conscious of the Real Presence within us at that moment and mindful of the progress of the Easter season moving towards the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, we can be confident indeed that God is standing with us.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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One Comment

  1. Don Marco says:

    Lord, we pray you:
    graciously be present to your people,
    and having imbued us with your heavenly mysteries,
    make us pass from what is old into newness of life.

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