What Does the Prayer Really Say? 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2003
Mr. John L. Allen, Jr., the outstanding Rome correspondent for the less than traditionally minded National Catholic Reporter reports in the 3 July 2003 The Word From Rome offering that on 27 June the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) held a joint plenary session to thrash over the 55 page draft document concerning liturgical practice and abuses which Sovereign Pontiff called for in his last encyclical, Ecclesia De Eucharistia (EdE). This document will address inter alia inter-communion with Protestants. According to Mr. Allen “the document contains no reference to wider permission for celebration of the pre-Vatican II Mass, the so-called “Tridentine rite”” as was suggested strongly in a 13 May news item on the website of Inside the Vatican reporting an interview with the CDW’s Prefect Francis Card. Arinze. I can confirm Mr. Allen’s report. As I learned in my own recent conversations with friends I spoke with in Rome who had read a version of the draft: no mention of the older form of Mass. I had reported this in my WDTPRS column for Ascension Thursday/Sunday (The Wanderer 29 May 2003) together with my lament that, with the advance publicity and precocious crowing of some, the opposition would have time to mount an enveloping attack. I would say that those traditionally minded folks who have their hearts set on a “universal indult” shouldn’t get their hopes up too high. Nevertheless, as the sage and sometime catcher Yogi Berra reminded us, “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over”.
JF writes via e-mail: “May I impose on you to ask if “for you and for all” is a correct translation of the Pope’s actual words (in the new encyclical EdE 2a)? Assuming the original language is Latin, did he say “omnibus” or “multis”? I know a mistranslation is acceptable for use in the Mass in English speaking countries, but would the Pope be bound by this?” First, JF, may I refer you to WDTPRS column for the 4th Sunday of Easter (The Wanderer 8 May 2003 – and also the archive on the internet at http://www.wdtprs.com)? I explain the whole thing there. Second, it is not “acceptable” to mistranslate anything for Mass in English. We must always strive to have translations that are to the best degree possible accurate and beautiful. A daunting task, to be sure. That is, as you know, why these columns have been published for the last two and a half years. We need what Christ wants to give. Christ wants always to give it through His Church. The celebration of the Eucharist (Christ Himself) at Mass is the source and summit of our Christian life. What the Church prays at Mass makes a difference. We need what the Church’s prayers really say in order to benefit to the greatest degree from what Christ is offering to us in those prayers. I am glad you raised this for us, JF. It is good to keep focused. So, let’s get focused on this week’s…
LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):
Populo tuo, quaesumus, Domine, adesto propitius,
et, quem mysteriis caelestibus imbuisti,
fac ad novitatem vitae de vestustate transire.
Having some precedent in the Gelesian and Veronese Sacramentaries, this prayer is new to the Roman Missal as of the 1970MR. There are nice popping “p” alliterations in the first line and a good humming “m” in the middle. The alliteration on “v” in the last line is very snappy.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
may these mysteries
give us new purpose
and bring us to a new life in you.
As I look back and forth between these different versions, alarm bells immediately ring: the English is shorter than the Latin. We can do better, I think. And if we can do better in WDTPRS, then we can be very confident that those who are charged with the preparation of the new translation of the 2002MR can do very well indeed and actually give us what the prayer really says. In the meantime, let us busy ourselves with our text.
I think that St. Paul’s letter to the Romans must be the partial source for our prayer, for in it we read: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Latin Vulgate: novitate vitae ambulemus). For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self (vetus homo) was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin” (RSV 6:3-6). This will be familiar as the common first reading for a Requiem Mass or funeral. Note that the words transeo (“to go over, across”) in our prayer and the ambulo (“to walk” – though it also comes to represent how we live our lives) in Romans both are motion verbs. In that same letter the Blessed Apostle writes: “While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 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 (in vetustate litterae) but in the new life of the Spirit (in novitate spiritus)” (RSV 7:5-6).
In the comprehensive Lewis & Short Dictionary we find that novitas (related to novus, a, um) is “a being new, newness, novelty” and “rareness, strangeness, unusualness” which carries in an ancient Roman’s mind a negative connotation. Think of “novelty” and “innovation”. There is nothing of the negative attached with Christian “newness” in our prayer today – quite the contrary. Vestustas (related to vetus, eris) is, as you might guess, “old age, age, long existence” and “ancient times, antiquity.” Think of “inveterate” and “veteran”. Here we have a sharp contrast between the old and the new.
Another source from this prayer, still from St. Paul’s famous line in Ephesians 4: “Now this I affirm and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer live (non ambuletis) as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; they are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart; they have become callous and have given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness. You did not so learn Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus. Put off your old nature (veterem hominem – “the old man”) 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 (induite novum hominem – “the new man”), created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (RSV 4:17-24)
We will not omit consulting L&S for insights into the nuances of imbuo. This verb indicates “to wet, moisten, dip, tinge, touch” and “to fill, tinge, stain, taint, infect, imbue, imbrue with any thing”. By extension it means “to inspire or impress early, to accustom, inure, initiate, instruct, imbue.” Did you notice another connection in our prayer’s vocabulary with the Romans passage above?
In the original Greek for this passage from Romans the words referring to “baptize, baptism” come from baptizô. A consultation the Latin L&S’s Greek counterpart, the “other” L&S, or better and more usually the LSJ, the veritably bulky Liddell & Scott aka Liddell-Scott-Jones Lexicon (by the scholarly lexicographers Henry George Liddell’s and Robert Scott’s massive tome edited and revised by Henry Stuart Jones (the “J” of LSJ) with Roderick McKenzie and published by Oxford University Press in 1940 – there being also a very small reduction and an intermediate dictionary obviously nicknamed the “Little Liddell” and the “Middle Liddell”) we learn that baptizô means basically, “dip, plunge” and thus also “draw wine by dipping the cup in the bowl”. Early Christians adopted this classical Greek word and “baptized” it with a new meaning. Digging at baptizô a little more we learn that it is derived from baptô, “to dip, dye; draw water by dipping a vessel”. This is used in contexts such as glazing or silvering earthenware vessels in pottery work. It puts a coating on the outside of the vessel which is then made part of the substance of the clay through an additional process. According to yet another source, G.W.H. Lampe’s majestic A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford: 1961) baptô was used for dipping the Eucharistic Host into the chalice in the Liturgy of St. James. This was a Eucharistic liturgy based on the Antiochene Liturgy, perhaps the most ancient Christian liturgy. Modified forms of the Liturgy of St. James are used by Catholic Syrians, Monophysite Syrians (Jacobites), Catholic Maronites, and the Orthodox of Zakynthos and Jerusalem. In most Eastern churches, Orthodox and Catholic, it has been superseded by the Byzantine liturgy of St. John. In some contexts baptô and even more baptizô indicate a permanent change, as in dipping hot steel into water to temper it or dipping hides in solutions to tan them. In all these cases the object being dipped is changed in a permanent way. Through the closely related baptizô of baptism we too are changed in a radical way when the indelible mark is left on our soul as if we have been dyed like cloth, tanned like hides or tempered like steel – all three good metaphors for Christian life.
Just as an aside you might remember once in WDTPRS (on the Super oblata of the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time – The Wanderer 7 February 2002) we discussed the placement of accents in Latin words and how they can change the meaning. The examples were derivatives of the verbs condio which gives us the word condÃƒÂtor (“pickler”) and condo producing cÃƒÂ³nditor (“founder”). We must be careful when singing St. Ambrose’s great hymn CÃƒÂ³nditor alme siderum not to misplace the accent in such a way that we are singing “O loving pickler of the stars” rather than “creator of the stars”. The connection? The clearest example showing the meaning of baptizô is a text from the Greek grammarian, poet and physician Nicander of Colophon (fl. II c. B.C., not to be confused with an epic poet Nicander son of Anaxagoras). The text is a recipe for making pickles in which Nicander uses both baptô and baptizô. He says that to make a good pickle (I am not making this up) we must first “dip” (baptô) the veggie into boiling water and then “baptize” (baptizô) it in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables. The first immersion is a preparatory stage while the second, the act of “baptising” the vegetable, produces the permanent change in which the vegetable is “imbued” with new properties.
We beseech you, O Lord, mercifully to be present to your people,
and cause those whom you have imbued with the heavenly sacramental mysteries
to cross over from the old to newness of life.
Our baptismal character remains forever, on earth, in heaven or in hell. It can never be removed. We are forever changed by this pouring or immersing with water and the Trinitarian formula. Our outward comportment and interior landscape must reflect this deepest of realities. At the moment we hear this Post communionem prayer, the Lord has deigned to allow Himself in the sacred Host to be “dipped” into what should be the pure and clean chalice of our earthly bodies. When the Host is “moistened” by us, our souls are imbued with the grace which it is: a Host does not merely symbolize Christ, it truly is Christ in itself. We must avoid that our baptismal character be, in thought, word and deed, merely “skin deep” as it were, as if the only thing being imbued was the surface of our skin. When a person or plant is parched and dying the surface and skin become terribly dry and cracked. Wetting the surface will momentarily restore it as the moisture imbues the outer part and renews it. It will however quickly dry again. The benefit passes quickly. The surface looks good for a while and then it diminishes in beauty, since the effects were only skin deep. What the organism needs is to be renewed from within so that the outward appearance can be restored and made whole and beautiful again. Our baptism imbues us with grace and makes us temples of the Triune God. This interior and invisible reality must imbue all we do from the inside out so that the dimensions of us most visible to others, and I don’t mean the way we look, are similarly beautiful, reflecting the One within us in whose image and likeness we are made.