27th Sunday of Ordinary Time: POST COMMUNION

What Does the Prayer Really Say?  27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2003

You will remember that in his last encyclical letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, the Holy Father called for a more specific document from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) concerning liturgical matters.  There has been a good deal of speculation about this upcoming document which was supposed to come out in October.  Back in May Inside the Vatican interviewed His Eminence Francis Card. Arinze, the present prefect of the CDW.  His Eminence said at that time, “We want to respond to the spiritual hunger and sorrow so many of the faithful have expressed to us because of liturgical celebrations that seemed irreverent and unworthy of true adoration of God. You might sum up our document with words that echo the final words of the Mass: ‘The do-it-yourself Mass is ended. Go in peace.’”   Some people imagined that the CDW and Holy Father were going to issue a blanket faculty for all priests to use the 1962 Missale Romanum.  I suggested was not going to happen.  Clearly, if the advance press concerning this disciplinary document indicated that it was going to be of a conservative nature, then the progressivist or liberal opposition was going to have plenty of time to mount a campaign of resistance.  As I opined in the column for the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time about the conservative crowing over this upcoming document, “loose lips sink ship”.   I regret that I may have been right. 

A friend, FA, sent me via e-mail an article by Orazio Petrosillo in the 23 September internet edition of the Italian daily Il Messaggero.   The article reports that the CDW document, prepared in collaboration with Cardinal Ratzinger’s dicastery the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has been blocked by opposing forces in the Vatican as being too “severe”.  The draft of the document is reported to have been 200 paragraphs in length which covered 37 “principal abuses”.  In a Catholic World News item on the internet (cwnews.com) we read that the monthly Italian magazine Jesus will publish the text of the draft in its October issue.  Included in the abuses addresses by the CDW and CDF were the over-employment of the services of laypeople in the liturgy when such service was not really called for (something that was already legislated back in 1997.  The draft also called for a major scaling back of the use of altar girls and forbade things like liturgical dance.  The Il Messaggero article also claimed that the draft document asked that Communion rails be put back into churches where they had been removed.  At any rate, it appears that the draft has been blocked.  This probably means that the document to be entitled Pignus redemptionis ac futurae gloriae (Pledge of redemption and future glory) will not be issued in October as many hoped.    

LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):

Concede nobis, omnipotens Deus,
ut de perceptis sacramentis inebriemur atque pascamur,
quatenus in id quod sumimus transeamus.

This prayer has traces of a sermon of St. Leo the Great from Wednesday of Holy Week, 19 March 452, about the Passion of the Lord (s. 63, 7 – PL 54, 357BC or CCL 138A, p. 388).

The verb inebrio as you might guess means “to make drunk, inebriate”.  Pasco means, “to pasture, drive to pasture, to feed, attend to the feeding of; nourish; cherish, cultivate” and also “feast, gratify”. Many of you will instantly make the connection of this verb with the moment on the shore of the Sea of Galilee when after His resurrection Jesus heals Peters betrayal and gives him his special role by saying: “Feed my lambs… Pasce agnos meos… pasce oves meas… pasce oves meas…” (John 21:15-17).   Transeo is, “to go over or across, to cross over, pass over, pass by, pass” or also “to go or pass over into any thing by transformation, to be changed or transformed into a thing.”  For example, you might like the proverbial chicken “cross over” the road or like the shepherds in Luke 2:15 “go over” to Bethlehem to see what had happened.  Were you to cross over a river, surely you would get wet and your clothes would be tinged and imbued with water.  Anything that passes through dye is certainly tinged.  Our souls are tinged and permanently marked with the Christian character when we are baptized.  We “transit” from old death over to new life.  Interestingly, the verb inebrio, according to soberingly thorough Lewis & Short Dictionary can also signify of colors, “to saturate” as in amethystum inebriatur Tyrio (cf. naturalist C. Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Eldar  +AD 79) 9, 41, 65, § 139).  Perhaps you will remember that in the WDPTRS column for Post communio the 4th Sunday of Lent when I digressed about the purple dye used in the ancient world made from the murex, a seashell toting critter possessed of a tiny gland producing a purple goo endowed with a marvelous staining quality, the best coming from Tyre.  The dye produced from the muricidae tinted the hideously expensive cloth that was eventually the “imperial purple”.  The odd little adverb quantenus we saw back on the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time.  It means “how far, to what extent” and also “where”.  The first meaning of the verb percipio is “to take wholly, to seize entirely” and then by extension “to perceive, feel and “to learn, know, conceive, comprehend, understand.”  The verb sumo, sumpsi, sumptum basically signifies “to take, take up, lay hold of, assume” though by extension it is, “to take for some purpose, i. e. to use, apply, employ, spend, consume.”  Thus, it can mean “consume, eat”.

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Almighty God,
Let the eucharist we share
fill us with your life.
May the love of Christ
which we celebrate here
touch our lives and lead us to you.

Sometimes when I am on the road a good deal and need to write these while traveling, I will fill the Latin and ICEL texts and maybe a few comments into a blank document and save it.  That way I can pull it up while I am on the move.   This time when I read the ICEL version I had to double check the text I had saved earlier because I couldn’t believe that it was supposed to correspond to the Latin for this Sunday.  What were they thinking?  This is how I read the Latin text…

Grant to us, Almighty God,
that we may be inebriated and fed upon the sacramental mysteries that have been grasped
to the extent that we pass over into that which we consume.

Among the things that today’s prayer calls to mind is another prayer, traditionally printed in the Missale Romanum (as it is in the newest 2002MR, p. 1292) in a set of devotional prayers intended for the priest’s edification and thanksgiving after Mass.  It is widely attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) who placed it at the beginning of his Spiritual Exercises.  However, the prayer is found in a document from 1334 and some suggest that perhaps it comes from St. Patrick of 7th c. Ireland.   

Anima Christi, sanctifica me.
Corpus Christi, salva me.
Sanguis Christi, inebria me.
Aqua lateris Christi, lava me.
Passio Christi, conforta me.
O bone Iesu, exaudi me.
Intra tua vulnera absconde me.
Ne permittas me separari a te.
Ab hoste maligno defende me.
In hora mortis meae voca me.
Et iube me venire ad te,
Ut cum Sanctis tuis laudem te
in saecula saeculorum.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Suffering of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, harken to me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Permit not that I be separated from you.
From the wicked enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me to come to you,
so that I can praise you with your saints
for ever and ever.

The image of inebriation for the soul in union with God in Holy Communion is quite ancient.  When the Father and Doctor St. Ambrose of Milan (c. 340-397) writes about the Song of Songs, he said, “In fact, each time you drink [the blood of Christ],… you become spiritually inebriated.  Whoever gets drunk with wine staggers and becomes unsteady, but whoever is filled with the spirit takes root in Christ, as it were.  ‘Holy is this inebriation which brings about the sobriety of the heart’” (De sacramentis 5, 17).   The Father and Doctor St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 334-395) uses often an arresting paradoxical description of the soul in union with God: sober inebriation.  When commenting on the Song of Songs he says: “This is also the meaning of the flourishing vine (cf. Song 2:13) whose wine gladdens the heart and will one day fill the cup of wisdom. It will be freely offered to those who drink from the exalted preaching to enjoy a good and sober inebriation (nephalion methen)” and also “All inebriation makes the mind overcome with wine go into ecstasy (ekstasis). Therefore what the Song enjoins becomes a reality by that divine food and drink of the Gospel; as then and always, this food and drink contains a constant change (metabole) from a worse to a better condition.”  I should say so!  

It is obvious that the “inebriation” we are speaking of, the “sober inebriation” of Gregory of Nyssa and Ambrose of Milan, has nothing to do with alcoholic drunkenness, which impairs the will and intellect that distinguish us from brute beasts.  Through a sober inebriation in the Lord, in Holy Communion, will and reason are by grace raised beyond themselves to a new plane.   Each time we receive Holy Communion perhaps we might strive toward the goal of sober inebriation, a getting beyond and out of ourselves in a unity with Him who teaches us who we truly are (cf. Gaudium et spes 22).   “It is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

In our prayer for today’s Mass We hear the echo of a sermon by St. Leo the Great, who said in 452 “in id quod sumimus transeamus…may we passover into that which we consume”.  We want to become what we receive.   We hope by our Communion for a union so great that by it Christ transforms us more and more into who He is.   It is a powerful and intimate union that takes place in a good Holy Communion.  From Scripture we know that a man and woman who marry become “one flesh”, but they do not become “one spirit”.  On the other hand, the relationship the soul can have with the Eucharistic Lord, the soul’s best Spouse, can be even more intimate than the marital union.  “But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Cor 6:17 – RSV).  That God has offered us unworthy creatures this kind of unity with Him is indeed intoxicating.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

  1. I love two verses in the Anima Christi found in some medieval Books of Hours: “Splendor vultus Christi illumina me. . . . Sudor vultus Christi virtuosissime sana me.” (It is not for nothing that my blog is name Vultus Christi!)

    The text in its entirety is:

    “At the levation of Our Lord:
    Anima Christi, sanctifica me. Corpus Christi, salva me Sanguis Christi, inebria me. Aqua lateris Christi,lava me. Passio Christi, conforta me. Sudor vultus Christi virtuosissimi, sana me. Et ne permittas me separari a te. Ab hoste maligno defende me. In hora mortis voca me. Et pone me iuxta te, ut cum angelis et sanctis tuis laudem te, Dominum salvatorem meum in secula seculorum. Amen”

    Lovely, isn’t it?

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