What Does the Prayer Really Say? 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2003
You might recall reading about the rather recently established “permission” for priests holding the relevant documents (“celebrets”) issued by the Holy See to use the 1962 Missale Romanum in the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome. The present Archpriest of the Basilica is Archbishop Francesco Marchisano a cardinal elect. The archpriest of the basilica is virtually always made a cardinal at some point. His Excellency has not been exactly the most generous in his interpretation of the ruling of the Holy Father which DarÃƒÂo Card. Castrillon-Hoyos obtained regarding the older form of Mass in the Vatican Basilica. He restricted use of the 1962MR to one specified chapel in the basilica’s crypt, with a versus populum altar, which of course is also sought after also by pilgrim groups and other who can reserve it. I now read in a CWNews.com story that Archbishop Marchisano is rumored for the post of Vatican librarian and archivist. The current librarian and archivist, Jorge Card. Mejia, will soon retire because of his age. It is possible that the 60 year old very influential French cardinal-elect Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Holy See’s “foreign minister” who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease may take the spot of Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica. It would be less taxing than that of foreign minister, to be sure. Since Archbishop Tauran is an unknown commodity regarding liturgical issues, I have no idea what this might mean for the basilica.
LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):
Fac nos, quaesumus, Domine,
caelestium rerum frequentatione proficere,
ut et temporibus beneficiis adiuvemur,
et erudiamur aeternis.
This was new for the Novus Ordo though it bears the influence of the Veronese Sacramentary. In the last part of the prayer there is is a nice chiastic (“X”) pattern in temporibus beneficiis adiuvemur… erudiamur aeternis (ablative, passive verb… passive verb, ablative). Now, dear readers, I want to get out of the way from the onset the version by …
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
may this eucharist help us to remain faithful.
May it teach us the way to eternal life.
I honestly am not sure how the translators for ICEL arrived at the decision to publish this prayer as a “translation” of the Latin original, so let’s move on without further comment.
It is time to crack open again the sturdy cover of the mighty Lewis & Short Dictionary and review the vocabulary which the attentive student of the Roman Church’s official language will know. The verb proficio means “to go forward, advance, gain ground, make progress” and, by extension, “to go on, advance, make progress; to profit, derive advantage; to perform, effect, accomplish, obtain”. Adiuvo is “to help, assist, aid, support, further, sustain”. The noun frequentatio we have seen before in our WDTPRS column for the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, has layers of meaning. Frequentatio is first and foremost “frequency, frequent use, a crowding together.” This is a noun related to a verb, in this case frequento, which is “to visit or resort to frequently, to frequent; to do or make use of frequently, to repeat” and “to celebrate or keep in great numbers, esp. a festival.” We might be aware of a grammatical term, a “frequentative verb” which describes a repeated action. In English there is an archaic usage (at least for most people) for when we go to a place with some frequency: we “frequent” a place. Liturgically we understand this to indicate “to attend or participate in often”. It carries with it the sense of being crowded together with others.
We beseech thee, O Lord, make us
to make progress by a frequent use of heavenly things,
so that we may both be sustained with temporal beneficial helps,
and also be polished by the eternal.
The verb erudio might sound familiar to erudite, have a measure of erudition, since it signifies “to free from roughness, i. e. to polish, educate, instruct, teach”. Some synonyms are doceo, edoceo, praecipio, instituo. The adjective rudis means “unwrought, untilled, unformed, unused, rough, raw, wild” and also “rude, unpolished, uncultivated, unskilled, awkward, clumsy, ignorant; unacquainted with, inexperienced in, etc.” We have in English the word “rude”. To have “erudition” means that you have been brought out from (e(x)-rudio) a state of being rough, unformed, unpolished, ignorant. To be taught means formation that changes you and polishes you.
In this world we Christians are in a school, a polishing school. We are instructed, given lessons and correction, reward and challenges. Along with our natural first teachers, our parents, God gives us also Holy Church, who is Mater et magistra…. “Mother and teacher”. In the voice and some actions of the Church, Christ Himself is teaching us and giving us what we need to please Him and come to our reward. Unlike our earthly, temporal schooling whereby we learn things through the teacher, but not the teacher himself, in the school of our lives with God, Christ is the teacher and the One who must be learned. He teaches us Himself. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29 – RSV).
Christ must be learned. Mary helps us learn him. With Mary, as the Holy Father says in his letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae through the repetitions of the prayer of the Rosary, focused always on the person of the Lord, we contemplate with her the face of Christ. No one ever contemplated His face as she did. By spending time with her in the Rosary, and by fixing our gaze upon Him, we can learn to be with Him. We can learn Him. As Catholics and Christians, we must be at school with Mary. It is a kind of spiritual polishing school.
All polishing is for a purpose to make things smooth, beautiful, useful. Once upon a time children and young people endured polishing by their elders for the sake of appearing in public, as if before the sovereign at court for the first time, as if for their first ball. We children of a heavenly Father are someday to appear before the throne of the King and Judge. All the good things of the universe have been given to us for our benefit. At the same time as we are to steward these things and use them for God’s glory, God uses them to shape and polish us. Remaining with this image of polishing there comes to mind the slow grinding that certain constantly tumbling rocks are subjected too through the eons of washing waves and surging water rolling them back and forth, or a perpetually turning rock polishing machine in a basement or garage, churning and rolling…taking off the edges in infinitesimally small increments. Over the course of our lives we endure a polishing, a slow washing and grinding, rolling shoreward and receding. Sometimes there are sharp blows to take off larger pieces that shouldn’t be there.
When a lens or a mirror is made perfect for reflection or for magnifying something, say for a telescope, it must be polished. We are simultaneously both mirrors and lens. Both of these optical elements redirect and channel light. Consider this from two points of view. A mirror reflects images. We were made in the image and likeness of God, to act as He acts… to know, to will and to love. We are made to reflect Christ in all our words and deeds. Just as Christ reveals to us the Father in all that He said and did, we must reflect Christ outwardly so that those who see us see Him and the One who sent Him. Similarly, what we do and say, while we reflect Christ, may also bring the Lord into greater focus. We can shine forth His glorious nature and “magnify” Him. As our Blessed Mother said when her cousin Elizabeth received her in her house, “My soul doth magnify the Lord…”, which is to say, “My soul enlarges/praises/honors/extols the Lord…”. To be good mirrors and lenses, we must be polished. To be polished we must be ground down, over time, in an unavoidable and inexorable process of continuous tiny little experiences of violence, just as the grist of the grinder makes a thing smooth: the finer the grist, the smoother the resulting surface. But at first, the big points and imperfections must be hacked off before the slower and gentle grinding can produce the desired effect.
What incredible patience we ought to learn for each other. Who of us is without flaws? We are all, without exception, in the Lord’s grinding polisher. Every one of us has flaws, and we all have need of having pieces whacked away.
I want to bring back to the fore what I wrote of the word frequentatio some weeks ago. Frequentatio is also a technical term in rhetoric: it is “a condensed recapitulation of the arguments already stated separately, a recapitulation, summing up.” Our reception of Holy Communion in the context of Mass is really the fullness of what the Church calls “full, conscious and active participation” in the sacred liturgy (which is the “source and summit”). Holy Communion is the ultimate frequentatio for the Eucharist “having in itself all delight”, as we pray during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Furthermore, the celebration of Holy Mass is the source and summit of our Christian lives. Thus, is not the moment of Holy Communion being described in this prayer not a summation of the whole of the Christian’s identity and life? Each and every consecrated Host is the Eternal Word made flesh, who dwelt among us so as to save us from our sins and reveal us more fully to ourselves (cf. Gaudium et spes 22). Of all the sacraments Christ gave us, this Most Blessed Sacrament is the only one which actually is what it signifies:
Christ truly present. Christ, who is the Word spoken from eternity by the Father, is the frequentatio, the perfect “summing up”, who at the end will take all things to Himself and submit them to the Father so that God might be all in all (1 Cor 15:28). Christ is our frequentatio.
As I write, Pope John Paul is visiting Pompeii in Italy on the Feast of the Holy Rosary (7 October). We see our Holy Father being polished and ground into something beautiful by God’s hand as his life is being summed and he is being consumed. His sufferings and infirmities are, without question, a difficult “school” for him. They can be for us too an important spiritual lesson. In this age of the virtual deification of youth, health and perfection this ailing old man is allowing himself to be seen in public in all his weakness. Nevertheless, even in this state he is, like us, an image of God. He is teaching us what the value of human life is. Be sure to say your Rosary for our Holy Father.