Tuesday of the 6th Week of Easter

Signorelli - Resurrection of the fleshThere are interesting things to be found in today’s

Semper exsultet populus tuus, Deus,
renovata animae iuventute,
ut, qui nunc laetatur in adoptionis se gloriam restitututm,
resurrectionis diem spe certae gratulationis exspectet.

This was not in any previous edition of the Roman Missal. There are ancestors of this prayer in the ancient Gelasian as well as the Veronese.  A couple phrases were taken from the Gelasian and scrambled up with a phrase from the prayer in the Veronese and, viola!, a new prayer!   This reminds me of a story about a fellow who visited the Benedictine Monastery of Solesmes after the Council.  On his tour of the place by the Abbot, he sees a monk sitting at a table surrounded by little pieces of paper and a pot of glue diligently snipping and cutting and pasting.  “Father Abbot,” he queried, “what is that monk doing.”  The Abbot responded, “He’s composing Gregorian chants for the Novus Ordo.”

I don’t think the vocabulary here is too hard.  Gratulatio means “a manifestation of joy; a wishing joy, congratulation; a rejoicing, joy”.  Another interesting meaning is “a religious festival of joy and thanksgiving, a public thanksgiving” when it is in a category of words like  obsecratio and supplication.  I was quite surprised to find gratulatio missing from Blaise/Dumas.  Blaise/Chirat however has a nice and useful entry indicating not only that gratulatio means expressions of joy, but also of greeting and of, more importantly, thanksgiving.  For example, the great curmudgeon Tertullian (Vx, 2,8) says gratulatio trepida, which this dictionary renders as “”salutation qu’on fait en tremblant”!  We find also that graulatio is used by Tertullian, Rufinus, and Augustine for expressions of thanksgiving for the favors of God.  I think this captures the force of today’s usage, don’t you?

Grammatically, as you are working this out the thing you might want to remember is that there is an esse missing which goes with that se…resititutum.   Don’t forget the tense of restitutum or that the pronoun se refers back to the subject of the verb laetetur.   

Also, the ut + esxpectet is more than like indicating a result.  Very often when we put Latin subjunctives into English we ought to be getting something that sounds indicative or future.  Don’t automatically think that just because it is subjunctive you must use a word like “may, might, should” etc.

Their youthfulness of soul having been renewed,
let Your people always rejoice, O God,
with the result that he who now rejoices that he was reestablished in the glory of adoption.
will long for the day of resurrection with the hope of grateful joy.

Notice all the re words: renovata, restitutum, resurrectionis.  Notice the “joy” words: exsultet, laetatur, gratulationis 

Every once in a while when I need a break, I hop the train and zip up to Orvieto, famous for its white wine and glorious cathedral decorated on the outside with carvings by Maitani.  (There is also a really good restaurant I like there.)  In the cathedral there is a chapel with frescos painted by Signorelli.  One of them depicts the resurrection.  Perfect 33 year olds are literally crawling, pushing, drawing themselves up from out of a totally blank, flat, white surface.  The white plain represents how matter, even prime matter, is “zeroed out” until it receives its characteristics and properties by a form, which in the case of human beings is the soul.  You can see that at first they are skeletal and sort of transparent. Their bones take form and then flesh is added.  They seem also to be nearly asleep at first and then they wake up and look around, amazed.  One fellow is helping another drawing by pulling him out by his arms.  Perhaps they had been friends.  There are some rather courtly skeletons elegantly processing in from the right who are yet to be enfleshed.  Their ilium blades are slightly cocked in that stylish renaissance angle so typical of the era.  What I think is happening with some skeletons coming out of the prime matter and some sauntering in is that some of us will need an "extreme makeover", since our mortal remains will have been entirely consumed into other substances.  Some, however, will still have their bones and the makeover won’t be quite so complete.  Above, mighty angels blow trumpets, now in this direction, now in that direction.  The newly risen acknowledge them with upraised arms, listening to their call.  To our modern eye the expressions on their faces might seem at first to look like boredom.  We must remember the convention in painting of the era that the expression represents serene detachment and control of the appetites, peace of soul undisturbed by the impulses of our lower nature due to the wounds in our souls from original sin and bad habits.  In the resurrection, these will all be healed. 

In baptism, we “put off the old man” and put on the new.  St. Paul wrote: “Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”  What happens to us in our souls at baptism anticipates in a profound way what is yet to come.  As Christians we are living always in a state of “already, but not yet”.  We simultaneously long for what is to come, knowing that it has already happened.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. 1973 ICEL version:
    God our Father,
    may we look forward with hope to our resurrection,
    for you have made us your sons and daughters,
    and restored the joy of our youth.

    Well, at least the single sentence of a standard Latin collect has not been chopped in two or more “weak little sentences mewing for help”, as Fr. Philip Powell put it so well in Amy’s blog yesterday.

  2. Don Marco says:

    Dear Father,

  3. Don Marco says:

    The Editio Typica Tertia gives the following collect for today:

    Praesta nobis, omnipotens et misericors Deus,
    ut in resurrectione Christi Filii tui
    percipiamus veraciter portionem.
    Per Dominum.

  4. Don Marco says:

    I translated it this way:

    Grant, almighty and merciful God,
    that in the resurrection of Christ your Son
    we may verily receive our part.

    I regret though that it is difficult to keep the idea of the “portion”
    with all its Eucharistic and eschatological resonances.
    One is reminded of the lovely ferial antiphon: “Portio mea, Domine,
    in terra viventium.”

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