Trinity Sunday: SUPER OBLATA (2)

What Does the Prayer Really Say?  Trinity Sunday

ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2006

Feedback.  PM of CA wrote an epistle (edited): “Thank you for all of your great work with the blog ( ….  You have inspired me to write to the appropriate bishops regarding the new translations and I pray that all of our efforts are successful.”  Thanks for that, PM.  In June the American Bishops will vote on the draft translation.  The English speaking world is waiting for the USCCB.  In May, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, His Eminence Francis Card. Arinze, wrote to the President of the USCCB and, therefore, to the whole episcopal conference.  He reminded them that they have work to do, that their work must be done according to the norms issued by the Holy See, and that certain excuses just don’t cut the mustard. 

Some American bishops campaigning against the Holy See’s translation norms advance the neo-Lefebvrite notion that just because the translations are some thirty years old now they shouldn’t be changed.   That isn’t a good argument.  Cardinal Arinze put it very well in his letter: “…it is not acceptable to maintain that people have become accustomed to a certain translation for the past thirty or forty years, and therefore that it is pastorally advisable to make no changes.”  When you write kind and respectful letters to your own bishops this week, be sure to let them know that you pray for them.

Fr. WRF writes by e-mail: “Perhaps this is just a fantasy, but would it be too much to hope for a Sacramentary for use in the United States which had the Latin text and the English translation in parallel columns????”  Well, simply put, Yep!!!!  The translation they would put in that other column is still a twinkle in the eyes of the bishops.  Perhaps the upcoming vote will help speed its gestation.  In the meantime, keep using the Latin Missale Romanum for all your liturgical needs during Mass.

I am writing this on the observance of Memorial Day in the USA.  On the WDTPRS internet blog fellow Patristic scholar and blogger Mike Aquilina posted an edifying comment: “I remember reading the story of Father Lawrence Lynch, an army chaplain at the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. When he saw a man fall mortally wounded, he ignored orders to stay put and leapt from his foxhole to give the soldier last rites. As Father Lynch held up the Host, a shell exploded nearby and killed the priest instantly. Witnessing this scene, the officer who had ordered Father Lynch to stay in the foxhole scrambled to his side to take the sacred Host from his hands and consume it, lest it be desecrated.”  Thanks for that Mike.  Not only are stories of our fallen heroes inspiring, but at last I have heard of an occasion when the propriety of Communion in the hand was without dispute.

In the early Church no special day was designated for the Most Holy Trinity, but to combat the Arian heresy Catholics developed Creeds as well as an office for Sundays having canticles, responses, a preface, and hymns.  In the ancient Gregorian Sacramentary we find prayers and the Preface of the Trinity.  Pope John XXII (+1334) ordered a universal feast in honor of the Trinity on the first Sunday after Pentecost.  This day was raised to the dignity of a First Class feast by Pope St. Pius X.  It was made a Solemnity for the Novus Ordo.  There is a wonderful logic to the timing of this feast.  We focus on the Son’s Ascension to the Father, then the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, and then the Triune God the Sunday after.  Today we celebrate our constant profession of belief in doctrine of a Holy Trinity, the most fundamental of Christian truths and most mysterious of all dogmas.  God the Father created us through the Son. God the Son redeemed us and revealed us more fully to ourselves (GS 22). God the Holy Ghost sanctifies us in our Holy Church. 

Here is our prayer for today’s Solemnity.  It is also the Secret of the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity in the 1962MR

Sanctifica, quaesumus, Domine Deus noster,
per tui nominis invocationem,
haec munera nostrae servitutis,
et per ea nosmetipsos tibi perfice munus aeternum.

To get at what the prayer really says we can look to our old friend the Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary.  The verb perficio means “to achieve, execute, carry out, accomplish, perform, dispatch, bring to an end or conclusion, finish, complete.”  Perficio thus has the impact of “completing” and “perfecting”.  According to the resource we calls Blaise/Dumas on liturgical Latin, servitus is “submission to God” and also “service of God” especially on the part of priests.  Blaise also indicates that nostra servitus is tantamount to saying “nos, servi tui… we/us, your servants”.

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Lord our God,
make these gifts holy,
and through them
make us a perfect offering to you.

Sanctify, we entreat You, O Lord our God,
these sacrificial offerings of our servitude
by the invocation of Your hallowed name,
and through them bring us ourselves to completion as an everlasting offering to You.

By the invocation of Your holy name,
we entreat You, O Lord our God,
sanctify these sacrificial offerings of our submissive service
and through them bring us to perfection as an everlasting offering to You.

The idea here is that by our unity with the Triune God, the Trinity of Divine Persons, we reach the goal for which we were made.  We come to our completion only in unity with God.  We can perceive this in our own lives.  Something in us will always be lacking so long as we are estranged from God and His plan.  The great Bishop of Hippo St. Augustine (+430) exclaimed at the beginning of his Confessions:“You move us to delight in praising You, for You formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”  Some of you will remember the basic questions of the Baltimore Catechism

Does this sound familiar?  “Q. Why did God make you?  A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.”  We were made for communion with the Holy Trinity.

What do we believe about the Trinity?  I cannot do better than to quote great Creeds.  You know the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed from Mass.  Taste now the so-called Athanasian Creed (or Symbolum Quicumque), which probably came from 5th century Latin Gaul and was attributed to the Greek speaking St. Athanasius of Alexandria (+373).  Read this aloud and savor the lack of ambiguity!

Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the Catholic faith.  Whoever does not guard it whole and inviolable will doubtless perish eternally. Now this is the Catholic faith: We venerate one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity (unum Deum in Trinitate, et Trinitatem in unitate veneremur), neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being. For the Father is one Person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another.  But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty.  What the Father is, the Son is, and so is the Holy Spirit.  Uncreated is the Father; uncreated is the Son; uncreated is the Spirit.  The Father is infinite; the Son is infinite; the Holy Spirit is infinite. Eternal is the Father; eternal is the Son; eternal is the Spirit: And yet there are not three eternal beings, but one who is eternal; as there are not three uncreated and unlimited beings, but one who is uncreated and unlimited.  Almighty is the Father; almighty is the Son; almighty is the Spirit: And yet there are not three almighty beings, but one who is almighty.  Thus the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God: And yet there are not three gods, but one God. Thus the Father is Lord; the Son is Lord; the Holy Spirit is Lord:  And yet there are not three lords, but one Lord. As Christian truth compels us to acknowledge each distinct person as God and Lord, so Catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords.  The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten; the Son was neither made nor created, but was alone begotten of the Father; the Spirit was neither made nor created, but is proceeding from the Father and the Son. Thus there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three spirits.  And in this Trinity, no one is before or after, greater or less than the other; but all three Persons are in themselves, coeternal and coequal (coaeternae sibi sunt et coaequales); and so we must worship the Trinity in unity and the one God in three Persons.  Whoever wants to be saved should think thus about the Trinity.

This Creed echoes still fifteen centuries later in Pope Paul VI’s wonderful Credo of the People of God (in Sollemni hac Liturgia – 1968):

We believe that this only God is absolutely one in His infinitely holy essence as also in all His perfections, in His omnipotence, His infinite knowledge, His providence, His will and His love. He is He who is, as He revealed to Moses, and He is love, as the apostle John teaches us: so that these two names, being and love, express ineffably the same divine reality of Him who has wished to make Himself known to us, and who, "dwelling in light inaccessible" is in Himself above every name, above every thing and above every created intellect. God alone can give us right and full knowledge of this reality by revealing Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in whose eternal life we are by grace called to share, here below in the obscurity of faith and after death in eternal light. The mutual bonds which eternally constitute the Three Persons, who are each one and the same divine being, are the blessed inmost life of God thrice holy, infinitely beyond all that we can conceive in human measure. We give thanks, however, to the divine goodness that very many believers can testify with us before men to the unity of God, even though they know not the mystery of the most holy Trinity.  We believe then in the Father who eternally begets the Son, in the Son, the Word of God, who is eternally begotten; in the Holy Spirit, the uncreated Person who proceeds from the Father and the Son as their eternal love. Thus in the Three Divine Persons, coaeternae sibi et coaequales, the life and beatitude of God perfectly one super-abound and are consummated in the supreme excellence and glory proper to uncreated being, and always "there should be venerated unity in the Trinity and Trinity in the unity (semper unitas in Trinitate et Trinitas in unitate veneranda est)."

Creeds and prayers of Holy Mass cannot include every possible idea, but they express a great deal.  The words we use to pray and to confess our Catholic faith are crucial.  Changing words changes concepts.  Pray now that those tasked with preparing translations will, with God’s help, be faithful in their charge.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. forzajuv says:

    The Athanasian Creed is a very strong and clear explanation of the Trinity. It would clear a lot of misunderstanding and misconception about the Trinity.

    As always, the Trinity Sunday homily at my parish highlights that Trinity is one of the hardest to explain. :)

  2. Don Marco says:

    The Athanasian Creed is still recited on Trinity Sunday in many monasteries either at Prime or, where Prime is not said, in place of the psalms of Tierce. I just finished saying it! Che gioia!

  3. Don Marco says:

    Prayer Over the Oblations

    Sanctify, we pray you, Lord our God,
    by the invocation of your name,
    these bounden sacrificial offerings of ours,
    and by means of them
    make us perfect as an eternal offering to you.

  4. Jeff says:

    The Credo of the People of God reminds us that there is much to love and venerate about Pope Montini. I believe he was–despite everything–a great Pope and a great saint.

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