Thursday of the 4th Week of Easter
I liked today’s prayer enough to share what it really says.
Deus, qui humanam naturam
supra primae originis reparas dignitatem,
respice ad pietatis tuae ineffabile sacramentum,
ut, quos regnerationis mysterio dignatus es innovare,
in his dona tuae perpetuae gratiae
SLAVISHLY LITERAL VERSION:
O God, who restore human nature
above and beyond the dignity of its earliest beginning,
graciously have a regard for the ineffable sacrament of Your goodness,
so that you might preserve the gifts of your unending grace and of blessing in those
whom you deigned to renew by the mystery of regeneration.
Anyone have the lame-duck ICEL version handy?
Reparo, according to the wonderful Lewis & Short Dictionary is "to get, acquire, or procure again; to recover, retrieve; to restore, repair, renew". The idea is that something which was broken or flawed is put back into order. Innovo is "to renew, alter". In both cases we are not simply refreshing or touching up what was there without changing it. The renewal implies important alterations.
Thus, an truly interesting point in this prayer is the phrase "restore human nature above and beyond the dignity of its earliest beginning". The implication is that the Original Sin of our first parents opened the way to the elevation of humanity to a dignity beyong even that of Original Innocence. This sounds much like the felix culpa we heard sung in the Exsultet.
Some writers think that the Second Person would have taken up our humanity even if our first parents had not sinned. The idea is that there were certain things which man could learn about himself and about God only through the example of God incarnate.
On the other hand, others think that if it were not for the Original Sin, the Second Person would not have become incarnate.
Either way, in the incarnation our humanity was given something wonderful beyong anything which our humanity alone was able to attain.
In the incarnation God took up our humanity in an indestructible bond with His divinity. At this moment, our humanity sits at the right hand of the Father in the divine person of Christ Jesus. Our prayer today implies that that might not have happened were it not for the action in reparo.
Is this not a fantastic prayer? It is old, too. It was in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary on Thursday after Easter, but it was slgithtly different, saying: Deus, praeparas instead of reparas. L&S says praeparo means "to get or make ready beforehand, to prepare, equip, make preparations for, etc.". This verb was used in liturgical prayer mostly to indicate preparation for the reception of sacraments or readying a place for relics. You can work out the theological nuance, perhaps. How does praeparo change what the prayer really says?
ICEL 1973 version:
Father, in restoring human dignity
you have given us a greater dignity
than we had in the beginning.
Keep us in your love and continue to sustain
those who have received new life in baptism.
Is this not a fantastic prayer?
Well, maybe the version we heard at Mass this morning inspired us just a bit less than an authentic translation would have.