32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time: POST COMMUNION (1)

What Does the Prayer Really Say?  32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2003

MD of WY writes "The Wanderer is a great help to me — I copy out your translations and use them at Mass so that I can better pray as the Church intended us to pray.  One of these days, I’ll have to compile all three prayers that you’ve translated over the years so that I will have them all together for the appropriate Sunday.  Thanks for such a wonderful column.  God bless you for your tremendous effort to instill in us a desire to pray for accurate translations!!”   Thanks, MD, this means that the purpose of the column is somehow getting through to people.  Also, now that we are coming to the end of the third year of WDTPRS some kind of book is in order.

The now infamous forthcoming document from the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) was “leaked” some time ago, as you all know.  That created a bit of a firestorm in the press.  Speculation about the content of the document must have raised the hackles of enough of those fighting the reclamation of the Roman tradition that the only way to kill the document was to first leak it in provisional form and then snipe at it in its leaked provisional form until it was effectively perforated. This is what I predicted would happen.  This week there comes an item from Zenit.org reporting the comments of a member of the English Bishops’ Conference, lately in Rome for its quinquennial ad limina meetings.  According to Zenit, His Excellency Bishop Mark Jabale, chairman of the Department for Christian Life and Worship, said concerning a possible ban on altar girls: "The stories unsettled people and caused an enormous number of letters to bishops.  It was not helpful and, in the end, these things are not going to happen."  So, the leak worked!   Brilliantly done, really.  You can be sure that these same comments will be applicable to everything else in the document too.  

In a Catholic News Service piece we read that the Vatican has approved new statutes for the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), giving the CDW veto power over ICEL’s staff and translators.  The new document gives the bishops who form the commission more direct  oversight of ICEL’s staff, translators and projects.  The new statutes and the decree approving them were sent to the U.S. bishops on 17 October.  On 23 Oct about 40 presidents of conferences and officials from ICEL met Francis Card. Arinze, prefect of the CDW.

Meanwhile, the left-leaning National Catholic Reporter’s ubiquitous Rome correspondent, the balanced Mr. John L. Allen, Jr., reported that Sidney Australia’s Archbishop and the chairman of the Vox Clara committee, His Eminence Card. Pell stated in a post-consistory interview: “I hope that future translations will be faithful to the principles of Liturgiam Authenticam”, referring to the CDW document that establishes translation norms.  Card. Pell continued, “At the same time, it’s important that they be beautiful.”  Mr. Allen reports: “In that regard, Pell said he hopes that the new translation of the Roman Missal, or the book of prayers for the Mass, will be ready ‘closer to two years from now, rather than three, four or five.’”    On another front, His Eminence Wilfrid Fox Card. Napier of Durban, South Africa said that the Vatican lacks a "sufficient sensitivity to African churches" citing Liturgiam authenticam as an example.   It seems to me that beauty and accuracy are more than sufficiently sensitive.  Before there can be any authentic inculturation, there must be authentic and beautiful texts that convey what the Church believes and aspires to.  Only after these have had their time to prepare the soil, sow the seeds, nourish the growth and bear some fruits can we think about grafts and splices of new plants and cuttings.

LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):
Gratias tibi, Domine, referimus sacro munere vegetati,
tuam clementiam implorantes,
ut, per infusionem Spiritus tui,
in quibus caelestis virtus introivit,
sinceritatis gratia perseveret.

This was the Postcommunio of the 8th Sunday after Pentecost in the 1962MR:  Gratias tibi referimus, Domine, sacro munere vegetati: tuam misericordiam deprecantes; ut dignos nos eius participatione perficias.  Note that the first part remains mostly intact while the last part of the Novus Ordo’s prayer is expanded and elaborated.  There is some good alliteration on a ‘v’ sound in this prayer together with nice rhythmic clausulae (the syllabic character of the ends of lines): cleméntiam implorántes … grátia persevéret.  These clausulae make the prayer very singable and pleasant to the ear.

Does ICEL use clausulae?  Let us find out.

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Lord, we thank you for the nourishment you give us through your holy gift.
Pour out your Spirit upon us
and in the strength of this food from heaven
keep us single-minded in your service.

Glancing back and forth at the Latin and ICEL texts for a moment raises the possibility that the Latin was not entirely given its due.  Therefore, our intense interest in what the prayer really says leads us to reach for the precious resource upon which we have lo these many years learned to trust, namely, the Lewis & Short Dictionary.  Just as it did back in our article for the Post communionem of the 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time the potent L&S says the late Latin verb vegeto means “to arouse, enliven, quicken, animate, invigorate.”  Remember that there are three kinds of living beings with material bodies, i.e., vegetative, animal and human (angels are living beings too, but without bodies).  To be vegetatus means to be “quickened, enlivened”.  The early Christian poet Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (A.D. 348-413) describes God as “quickening” the soul of Adam with this verb and the older Latin Vulgate in Genesis 9:15 has: “I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh (omni anima vivente quae carnem vegetat).”    Lest we vegetate (become mentally inactive like vegetables), however, we move on now to clementia.  

Clementia is “calm, tranquil state of the elements, calmness, mildness, tranquility” as in describing weather or the ocean and is “indulgent, forbearing conduct towards the errors and faults of others, moderation, mildness, humanity, forbearance, benignity, clemency, mercy” in regard to interior dispositions.  Interestingly, we can the adverb clementer and a form of persevere in the Collect for the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time and clementia with a form of imploro in the Post communion on the 20th Sunday as well as in the Post communion of the 3rd Sunday of Advent.   Certain concepts expressed in specific vocabulary tend to be paired and repeated in liturgical prayers.

What is gratia sinceritatis which looks like “the grace of sincerity”?   First, in rhetorical terminology integritas or sinceritas orationis indicates a “purity of style” of speaking, whereby each world is well suited for your purpose to delight or persuade or instruct.  In the case of prayer, the choice of words, their sounds and their meanings, must be conditioned by the context: humbly, gratefully lifting our deepest aspirations to God the Father.   This might be the motto for the members of ICEL, Vox Clara, and the CDW.  

We must go further with sinceritas, since often liturgical prayer finds its inspiration from the pages of Sacred Writ.  Some form of sinceritas appears in the Vulgate three times, and in Paul to the Corinthians (cf. 1 Cor 5:7; 2 Cor 1:12; 2:17).  In each case Paul is addressing the moral behavior of the Corinthians.  Looking especially at 1 Cor 5:7 (do that now… open your Bible which must be even closer to hand than the ever nearby L&S)  we find some precious clues.   Digging into the Latin Vulgate makes it all clearer: “Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil (fermento malitiae et nequitiae), but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (in azymis sinceritatis et veritatis)”  (1 Cor 5:7 – RSV). 

Sinceritatis must make the attentive reader perk up and recall the Old Testament imagery of the unleavened bread eaten by the Jews at the pasch, Passover.  In the cite from 1 Cor 5:7 Paul uses the image of leaven or yeast to contrast the old ways, the old Law, the old covenant, and especially the old moral behavior before conversion to belief in Christ with the new way of doing things.  There is an old leaven and a new leaven.  As you know, yeast “puffs up” dough.   Thus, yeast is often a symbol of sin and pride in Scripture.   But in changing the old imagery around Paul now uses the idea of a new leaven that is not prideful and does not produce sinful behavior.  Before Paul, the Lord Jesus turned the image of yeast around and used it as an image of Himself in terms of the Kingdom of God (cf. Luke 13:20-21).   The old leaven puffs up in pride while the new makes one grow in the life of Christ, especially in sound moral comportment.   Paul again uses yeast with the Galatians (in 5:9 – also followed by a moral exhortation).   

Interestingly, St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologiae has a question about whether or not the “paschal lamb” is the principle figure or symbol of the sacrament of the Eucharist (cf. IIIª q. 73 a. 6 co.).  He responds with that same quote from Paul “Pascha nostrum immolatus est Christus. Itaque epulemur in azymis sinceritatis et veritatis”.  St. Thomas  offers his answer at length in terms of res et sacramentum which we explored just two weeks ago for the Post communion of the 30th Sunday.  Might this confirm perhaps that the same expert/redactor worked in this group of prayers in preparing the Novus Ordo Missal?   Might he have been steeped in the sacramental theology of the Angelic Doctor?   Today’s prayer is redolent of such a background.   

Having been enlivened by the sacred gift, we return thanks to you, O Lord,
imploring your forbearance,
so that, through the outpouring of your Spirit,
the grace of sincerity may persevere
in those whom heavenly power has entered into.

It is not a surprise to find the word sinceritatis in a Post communion prayer because it instantly calls to mind the Biblical phrase azymis sinceritatis, referring to the unleavened bread of the Jews and the admonition to live a moral life in keeping with one’s Christian character.  At the time of Holy Communion we partake of what was the unleavened bread of the host, now transformed by the consecration of the priest into the Body and Blood of Christ.     Sinceritas, echoing the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians, will now have a powerful moral content for us.  In today’s prayer the priest begs God the Father through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the interior quickening of the Real Presence in our souls and bodies pleads on behalf of all present for the grace to avoid immorality and cling to what it beautiful, proper and true (sinceritatis et veritatis) in word and action, both within the anointed walls of the church and without its doors in our daily lives.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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