12th Sunday of Ordinary Time: SUPER OBLATA (2)

What Does the Prayer Really Say? 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time

ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2006

The long time reader of these columns and now frequent participant on the WDTPRS internet blog, our friend HE, wrote to a bishop about liturgical translations and received a response (edited) which he shared: “Thank you for your letter of May 19, 2006 in which you wrote to me of liturgical translations and most specifically your support of the translation of the Roman Missal prepared by ICEL for review by the bishops of the U.S. at the meeting in two weeks. I thank you for taking the time to write and for your interest and support of all efforts to make the language of the Holy Eucharist accurate, beautiful, and reverent. I agree completely.”

At the time of this writing, the American bishops are collectively winging their way to the City of Angels where they will stay at the Millennium Biltmore during the plenary meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

By the way, I checked online for the room rates and, according to the lowest price I found, it would cost me $701.41 for four nights there during the same time period as the conference meeting.

Even before Thursday 15 June, however, the Bishops Committee for Liturgy (BCL) is meeting. They will work through the amendments for the draft translation they will ask all the bishops to vote for or vote against. On Thursday afternoon the vote will be taken on the draft. It is without question that His Excellency the chair of the BCL, Bishop Donald W. Trautman will make a speech or two and probably respond to questions from the floor. The chairman of ICEL, His Excellency Arthur Roche the Bishop of Leeds, England will also speak.

In the meantime, just as The Wanderer goes to press I found a predictably muddled AP story on the upcoming vote on the new draft translation. Here is a quote about the difficulty of implementing a new translation in parishes that sets my teeth on edge:

“My big concern is people are going to feel like they’re being jerked around. They finally got used to the English translation and now they have to get used to another translation,” said Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University and a Jesuit priest. “It’s going to cause chaos and real problems and the people who are going to be at the brunt end of it are the poor priests in the parishes who don’t need any more problems.”

To which I respond: COWARD!

Sorry, I can’t help myself. Friends, the good of the Catholic faithful requires that we have new translations. Rome has given norms. Roma locuta. The task has been set before the entire Church, bishops, priests, lay faithful together. How did we ever build a Church across the world and stretching through centuries of blood and sacrifice in love? I can just see the great Jesuit Matteo Ricci or St. Francis Xavier whining about going to China because they didn’t want any more problems. St. Agnes the teenage virgin martyr should have just given in and gotten married, right? Little girls can face torture and death under the derision of the Roman mob, but parish priests in 21st century North America are going to “bear the brunt” of a change in the translation of the Holy Mass countless martyrs and missionaries died for?

Although sometimes priests give the impression that the sacramental form of Holy Orders conferring priesthood is actually, “Come ye yourselves apart, and rest a while”, there is no small print on our baptismal certificates saying that our vocations must be easy.

Will this be hard? Of course! Will priests face some people who are irritated or confused? When don’t they? Are priests are going to bear the main burden of this challenge in a parish. When have they not? And if that isn’t enough, when did the role of the Catholic lay faithful in the Church become easy? Catholics trying to live their lives well in this world as it is today are often faced with challenges that would make most priests curl up in a ball and suck their thumbs. Do parents of children simply flop down and whine about how hard it is going to be to educate their children, feed them, shelter them, see to their needs? "*sniff*… It’s soooooo harrrrrrrrrd!" I am tempted to put this in terms more suited to Tony Soprano, but “Boo hoo!” You want a real challenge? How about the state of life of a mother in a military family with several children and her Marine husband in Iraq? Can we please get some perspective here?

We could start making our jobs easier by telling people “Hey, this is going to be GREAT!” rather than constantly sniveling about hard it is going to be. When you want junior to eat those Brussels sprouts does it strike you as particularly bright to introduce them with the phrase, “You’re gonna hate these!”

Pastors of souls who love their flocks will put their backs into explaining and presenting the changes properly.

Okay, I am calming down now. While I suspect the editor of this esteemed weekly would just as soon see me write jeremiads like this one more often, for the last six years of these columns I have done my best to remain collected and kind. I think you accomplish more that way. Nevertheless, this week requires a different approach and it is entirely appropriate. Yes, the changes are going rattle some people. We receive the sacrament of confirmation to strengthen us in our daily tests, great and small. As we face the work (and wait) that must go into the translation and then its implementation, let us call upon that mighty sacrament and pray for those involved!

Thus endeth my rant and here beginneth our look at this week’s…

Suscipe, Domine, sacrificium placationis et laudis,
et praesta, ut, huius operatione mundati,
beneplacitum tibi nostrae mentis offeramus affectum.

Today’s super oblata is the Secret of the Saturday after Ash Wednesday in the 1962MR. Elements of the prayer had precedents in both the Veronese and Gelasian Sacramentaries, namely in the later for Quinquagesima and for the fast of the tenth month (December).

A word about mens. This fundamentally means “mind”. In biblical language “heart” and “mind” are often interchangeable concepts. As a matter of fact, this “heart/mind” concept in biblical contexts can point to the whole person. In the work on liturgical Latin Blaise/Dumas we mind in the entry for mens “l’âme, l’esprit (opp. au corps)… soul, spirit (as opposed to body)”.

On a lighter note, let’s look at The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce which has “diabolical” definitions of words. Under “MIND” we find:

A mysterious form of matter secreted by the brain. Its chief activity consists in the endeavor to ascertain its own nature, the futility of the attempt being due to the fact that it has nothing but itself to know itself with. From the Latin mens, a fact unknown to that honest shoe-seller, who, observing that his learned competitor over the way had displayed the motto “Mens conscia recti,” emblazoned his own front with the words “Men’s, women’s and children’s conscia recti.”

That honest shoe peddler might have worked for the old incarnation of ICEL. English “mind” is not from Latin mens, by the way, though they both derive from a common Indo-European root. The phrase “mens (sibi) conscia recti… a mind conscious of its own rectitude” is from Virgil’s, Aeneid 1.604. In other words, you have knowledge that you are in the right or you have acted properly. For example, if the bishops of the USCCB vote on a good, accurate and beautiful English translation according to the norms issued by the Holy See in Liturgiam authenticam, they will be able then to use this phrase.

An operatio means basically “a working, work, labor, operation.” It also means in ancient inscriptions, “religious performance, service, or solemnity, a bringing of offerings” and in early Christian writers, “beneficence, charity.” As you know, in the ancient Church the gifts that the people brought to be offered at the altar were also distributed to the poor. After reflection I chose to spin the single word out a bit and translate it with a phrase, “religious work” rather than say simply and flatly “work” or “offering”. Furthermore, we have to do something with that huius which refers back to sacrificium in the previous clause. I don’t want to have to repeat sacrifice” so, I am using a circumlocution and conflating the operatio and sacrificium in saying “the religious work of this sacrificial offering.” Otherwise, very literally we might wind up with “having been cleansed by the religious bringing of offerings of this sacrifice.”

Affectus is from the complicated verb aff– or adficio and it hard to untangle. According to L&S it is apparently not used as a substantive. In order to understand what is happening with this word, we need to look at another derivative of afficio: the noun affectio. Briefly, affectio is “the relation to or disposition toward a thing produced in a person by some influence” and “A change in the state or condition of body or mind, a state or frame of mind, feeling (only transient, while habitus is lasting).” Thus, the in author Gellius (19, 12, 3) it equals adfectus and translates the Greek pathos. Turning to the book on liturgical Latin we call Blaise/Dumas we find affectus is “sentiment, disposition”.

According to L&S, beneplacitum (from the verb beneplaceo – “to please”) could be either the adjective beneplacitus, a, um, “pleasing, acceptable” or a noun beneplacitum, -i, signifying “good pleasure, gracious purpose”. Blaise/Dumas says beneplacitum indicates the pleasure of God about something we do.

Accept, O Lord, the sacrifice of placation and praise,
and grant that we, having been cleansed by the religious work of this sacrificial act of offering,
may offer you the well-pleasing affection of our minds.

Back for a moment to beneplacitum. The great blue dictionary provides a citation of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 1:9 (RSV). Here is the whole context:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us. For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose (Greek eudokia) which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

I wonder if this Pauline passage was partly the source for today’s prayer. The themes of this passage echo in today’s prayer. Or do they?

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
receive our offering,
and may this sacrifice of praise
purify us in mind and heart
and make us always eager to serve you.

Reading this is anyone let in doubt as to why we need a new translation? Talk about “bearing the brunt”…

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

  1. John weidner says:

    The new translation should be looked at as an opportunity. A big opportunity. A chance to teach people when their questions and confusion will make them receptive and curious.

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