28th Sunday of Ordinary Time: POST COMMUNION (1)

What Does the Prayer Really Say? 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2003

With baseball coming to its annual apex (“the extreme end of a thing, the point, summit, top”), a friend recently asked the meaning of a Latin phrase, Eamus Catuli, visible in large letters in the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field in Chicago. This is, of course, “Let’s Go Cubs!” Eamus is the first person plural jussive subjunctive of the verb eo and catulus means “the young of animals, a whelp”. I am sure that all sensible readers of WDTPRS will be root root rooting for the Twins as they strive to defeat the arrogant Yank. Thus, to facilitate your cheering, “Ite Gemini!” is commonly used for “Go Twins!” (Extra credit to you for: Septentrionales vapulate!)

I have had a lot of e-mail from readers along the lines of “What is going on over in Rome, anyway?” I am not sure, and it is entirely speculation for me to guess. In other words I, along with Rome, seem to be in the dark, especially after the recent power outage in Rome. Aside from the big news that the Holy Father has named thirty new cardinals plus one more in pectore (keeping his name in secret until it is opportune to reveal it, as was the case of the great Chinese Cardinal Ignatius Kung (Gong) Pinmei) and aside from the speculations about his health (which is not really news) and aside from the tid-bit that His Holiness has given the honor of the title Archbishop to three of his closest collaborators (Stanislaw Dziwisz, assistant prefect of the papal household and his personal secretary of many years; Piero Marini, the master of the papal liturgical celebrations and heir-apparent of liturgical luminaries such as the deceased Giacomo Card. Lercaro, Archbp. Annibale Bugnini, and His living Eminence Virgilio Card. Noé; and also the American prefect of the papal household James Michael Harvey who is responsible for organizing papal audiences and many other things for the Pope), there is always the on-going kafuffle about the new liturgical document that is supposed to come forth, jointly prepared by the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith and that of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDF & CDW).

The Holy Father called for this document in his encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia. Some had speculated that it would be released in October. However, we know now that it has been, in its draft form, sent back to committee at least for the time being. The draft had been leaked to the Italian press and, ever since, some rather hysterical comments about the content have been raising hackles far and wide. Liberal comments usually include exaggerated observations about the Vatican intending to abolish altar girls, sure to send their own into paroxysms of froth and whip up even greater opposition. In fact, all the draft seems to reassert is already existing legislation, though it apparently makes some other rather common-sensical propositions, such as returning Communion rails to churches where they had been removed, making clear the distinctions between the roles of the clergy and of the laity in Mass, and correcting the abuses of inter-Communion with non-Catholics, and reining in things like dancing and clapping., but I suspect that the draft of the document was leaked to the press in order to stir up a frenzy and get it torpedoed. How one tires of it all.

On to less controversial topics and this week’s….

LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):
Maiestatem tuam, Domine, suppliciter deprecamur,
ut, sicut nos Corporis et Sanguinis sacrosancti
pascis alimento,
ita divinae naturae facias esse consortes.

This prayer seems not to have a precedent in the older, pre-Conciliar 1962MR, though it has traces of something from the Gelasian and Veronese Sacramentaries.

My confidence in the highly worthy Lewis & Short Dictionary brings back again to its information packed pages to discover if, by chance, there are any special wrinkles in the meaning of the noun maiestas which hitherto I had not yet considered. In the L&S you will eventually find this word under the lemma or “headword” majestas. Note the “j”. In classical Latin, there really was no “j”. This came to be used over time to indicate the sound of the onset glide, the “ye” sound in the combination of letter “a-i-e”. I told this before some time ago, but it bears a repetition. It is the sort of story that one hopes is true. I once heard tell of a Latinist in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State who had a humorous exchange with the Holy Father. When the newly-elected Pope visited their offices where all the Vatican’s official documents were translated this Latinist respectfully made an observation to the Supreme Pontiff about the way he was spelling his name – “Joannes Paulus” rather than the more Latinly correct “Ioannes Paulus”. The curial servant told the Vicar of Christ that in Latin there is no “j”. The Pope pondered this for a moment and then remarked, “There is now.” A majestic answer if there has ever been one. I don’t think any other person on earth could have said that. Back to our word: maiestas means in the first place “greatness, grandeur, dignity, majesty of the gods; also the condition of men in high station, as kings, consuls, senators, knights, etc., and, in republican states, of the people”, and thus, “honor, dignity, excellence, splendor”. In Latin, the crime of high treason was perceived as an offense against the dignity of the People and was known as laesa maiestas (from maiestatem laedere – to injure, offend the majesty, etc.) In English you will find the phrase “lese majesty” as well as a French version “lèse majesté”.

Furthermore, I noted as I did a search for “maiestas” in my past articles to see what and when I may have written about it, I found that it appeared in my WDTPRS articles two years ago in the Collect of the 29th and 34th Sundays of Ordinary Time (the 34th being also the Solemnity of Christ the King in the post-Conciliar liturgical calendar) and in the Super oblata series last year on the 32nd and 3rd Sundays of Ordinary Time. In other words, maiestas makes its appearance in the proper prayers for Mass at the very end of the liturgical in preparation for Christ the King, when we celebrate the return in glory of the King of Dreadful Majesty (Rex tremendae maiestatis as the Dies Irae names Him).

You veterans of WDTPRS know that maiestas can often be synonymous with Gloria. Which in early Latin Fathers of the Church such as Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose and in early liturgical texts, gloria is the equivalent of biblical Greek doxa and Hebrew kabod. This “glory” is a divine characteristic. Gloria is a divine transforming power which He desires to share with us. In the life to come, God’s glory will transforms us into what He is in an everlasting “deification.”

Suppliciter is from supplex (related to the verb sup-plico indicating a “bending the knees, kneeling down”) is an adjective for “humbly begging or entreating; humble, submissive, beseeching, suppliant, supplicant (synonyms: humilis, submissus). The adverb suppliciter is “humbly, submissively, suppliantly”. The verb pasco stands for “to cause to eat, to feed, pasture”. Alimentum means “nourishment, nutriment; and concretely, food, provisions, aliment.” By extension it means, like the Greek tropheia, “the reward or recompense due to parents from children for their rearing”.

When the priest at Mass uses the Roman Canon (1st Eucharistic Prayer), observing the old-fashioned way of doing things, he bends before the altar at the words: “Supplices te rogamus, omnipotens Deus: iube haec perferri per manus sancti Angeli tui in sublime altare tuum, in conspectu divinae maiestatis tuae; ut quotquot ex hac altaris (he kisses the altar) participatione sacrosanctum Filii tui Corpus et Sanguinem (he makes the sign of the Cross over the Host and Chalice) sumpserimus, (he stands up straight and makes the sign of the cross over himself, saying) omni benedictione caelesti et gratia repleamur.

We suppliantly beseech your majesty, O Lord,
that, just as you feed us now
upon the provisions of the most holy Body and Blood,
just so you may make us to be the partakers of the divine nature.

We have in our prayer the juxtaposed images of a King, with His powerful majesty and a Shepherd who pastures us with the nourishment so we need.

I was intrigued by the secondary meaning of alimentum as that which is owed by children to pay back a parent for the rearing received. Clearly we owe the King and Shepherd something for the nourishment He gives us in this amazing exchange called Communion. In light of this concept of an exchange, I recall the prayer of the priest (in the older form of Mass with the 1962MR) when He is preparing to receive the Communion of the Precious Blood, in the moment that the Sacrifice is about to be completed and a valid Mass truly offered. He says/said with the Psalmist: “What return shall I make to the Lord for all He has given me? I will take the chalice of salvation, and I will call upon the Name of the Lord. Praising will I call upon the Lord and I shall be saved from my enemies.” Similarly, the final line of the Post communion reminds me of the prayer by the priest at the offertory of Mass when he puts the tiny bit of water (symbolic of our humanity) into the wine (God’s divinity) within the chalice: “Per huius aquae et vini mysterium efficiamur divinitatis consortes… Through the mystery of this water and wine may we be made partakers of His divinity, who condescended to become a partaker of our humanity.” In this prayer there is heralded the miraculous exchange of self-gift which occurs in the good Communion of a believer.

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Almighty Father,
may the body and blood of your Son,
give us a share in his life.

I have said this before but after working through the Latin, again, I had to get up from my chair, go to my shelf and actually double check to make sure that I had copied the right prayer for this week’s offering, which I had typed ahead of time. Yes, it really is that disappointing. On the one hand, the Latin is so very evocative, calling to mind numerous rich associations and applications. On the other hand, we have the ICEL version. As always, I want to be fair and remind you that this ICEL version (which you hear in church on Sunday) is, if not a lame duck, at the very least a duck with really sore webs. I used to quote quite often from the CDW’s 2001 document Liturgiam authenticam establishing norms for vernacular translations. This Sunday’s English ICEL version of the Post communion drove me in both hope and frustration to LA for insight into what we might expect to see in the future. I want you to note that while the CDW is realistic about the level of formation of many of the Church’s faithful throughout the world, at least they do not automatically think people to be so dense that they require prayers so stripped of anything challenging that they say little or nothing, and that poorly. This is what we can look forward to (emphasis added):

25. So that the content of the original texts may be evident and comprehensible even to the faithful who lack any special intellectual formation, the translations should be characterized by a kind of language which is easily understandable, yet which at the same time preserves these texts’ dignity, beauty, and doctrinal precision. By means of words of praise and adoration that foster reverence and gratitude in the face of God’s majesty, his power, his mercy and his transcendent nature, the translations will respond to the hunger and thirst for the living God that is experienced by the people of our own time, while contributing also to the dignity and beauty of the liturgical celebration itself.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Al says:

    I’ll admit, in all the years I’ve been a catholic, I never for once considered the vast differences between the ICEL version and Latin. I guess it’s never to late to apprecate the richness you’ve been bringing forth with WDTPRS.

    My thanks. I will keep this site as a daily reading hence forth.

  2. Al: Again and again I hear how surprised people are when the discover the differenes betweent he lame-duck ICEL version and the Latin original. This is one of the reasons why many years ago I was asked to start this WDTPRS project on the very first incarnation of the Catholic Online Forum on Compuserve.

  3. Al says:

    Father, I have been a member there (COL) for a couple years and
    love your ASKFR series. It’s been a tremendous help. I finally followed
    your link here. It’s nice to be taught without alot of the white-noise.
    I mean I like others opinions, but it’s easier to understand here. I
    hope that makes sense. I would like to also learn to understand latin
    as well. I’ve personally trained my Rottweiler, so I guess it’s not
    true that an old dog can’t learn new tricks. ;-)

  4. Jordan Potter says:

    “This is one of the reasons why many years ago I was asked to start this WDTPRS project on the very first incarnation of the Catholic Online Forum on Compuserve.”

    You know, I appreciate the need for the bishops and Holy See to take their time and make sure they get the translation right this time, but I think they could have saved them and us a lot of hassle if they’d just have you r translations of the Propers used in place of the old ICEL deliberate mistranslations. ;-)

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