What Does the Prayer Really Say? 34th and Last Sunday in Ordinary Time – Christ The King
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2005
We come now to the final WDTPRS on the Collects of the Sunday Masses. This is the last Sunday of the liturgical year. Each year Holy Church presents to us the history of salvation, from Creation to the Lord’s Coming (the First and also the Final). In a sense, today’s Solemnity is an anticipation of the season of Advent, which also focuses on the different ways in which the Lord comes to us. At this time of year (November) we are also considering the Four Last Things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. We are praying for the Poor Souls in Purgatory in a special way this month. The Solemnity of Christ the King (which in the older Roman calendar was celebrated on the last Sunday of October) brings sharply to our attention the fact that the Lord is coming precisely as King and Judge not merely as friend or savior or role-model. In the great Dies Irae prayed at Requiem Masses for so long (and still today), Christ is identified as “King of Fearful Majesty” and “Just Judge”. Consider today’s feast in light of what we read in 2 Peter 3: 10-12: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire!” Christ Jesus will judge us all, dear friends, and submit all things to the Father (cf. 1 Cor 15:28). Having excluded some from His presence, our King, Christ Jesus, will reign in majestic glory with the many who accepted His gifts and thereby merited eternal bliss.
COLLECT – (2002MR):
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus,
qui in dilecto Filio tuo, universorum Rege,
omnia instaurare voluisti,
ut tota creatura, a servitute liberata,
tuae maiestati deserviat ac te sine fine collaudet.
While this Collect is of new composition for the Novus Ordo, it is similar to what was in the 1962 Missale Romanum for this feast with variations in the second part: Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui dilecto Filio tuo universorum Rege, omnia instaurare voluisti: concede propitius; ut cunctae familiae gentium, peccati vulnere disgregatae, eius suavissimo subdantur imperio… “so that all the families of peoples, torn apart by the wound of sin, may be subject to His most gentle rule.”
Universus is an adjective and universorum a neuter plural, “all things.” Since we have another “all things” in omnia I will make universorum into “the whole universe.” Our Latin ears perk up when we hear compound verbs (verbs with an attached preposition like sub or de or cvm). In our own copy of A Latin Dictionary. Founded on Andrews’ edition of Freund’s Latin dictionary. revised, enlarged, and in great part rewritten by. Charlton T. Lewis, Ph.D. and. Charles Short, LL.D. – (aka Lewis & Short or even L&S) we find that deservio expands the meaning of servio to mean “serve zealously, be devoted to, subject to.” Collaudo, more emphatic than simple laudo, means “to praise or commend very much, extol highly.” You veterans of WDTPRS know how maiestas is synonymous with gloria which in early Latin writers such as Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose and in early liturgical texts, the equivalent of biblical Greek doxa and Hebrew kabod. This “glory” and “majesty” is God’s own transforming power, a sharing of His life, that transforms us into what He is in an everlasting “deification”.
Instauro is a wonderful word which deserves more attention: “to renew, repeat, celebrate anew; to repair, restore; to erect, make”. It is synonymous with renovo. Etymologically instauro is related to Greek stauros. Turning to a different L&S, the immensely valuable Liddell & Scott Greek Dictionary, we find that stauros is “an upright pale or stake.” Stauros is the word used in the Greek New Testament for the Cross of Jesus. Also the word immediately makes us think not only of the motto on the coat-of-arms of Pope St. Pius X, but also the origin of that motto Ephesians 1:10: “For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Eph 1:9-10 RSV). There have been, by the way, some changes in the Latin texts of this passage. The older Vulgate says “instaurare omnia in Christo” while the New Vulgate says “recapitulare omnia in Christo”.
Let’s pause a moment to review what the New or “Neo” Vulgate is. The New Vulgate is a modern and excellent reworking of the venerable Vulgate which for the most part compiled St. Jerome (+420) translations from Greek and Hebrew. This was the standard version of the bible in use for many years. However, with the advent of modern tools of research and scholarship it was determined that the Vulgate could benefit from some review and revision. The New Vulgate was in preparation for many decades and was promulgated in an editio typica prior by John Paul II on 25 April 1979 by means of the Apostolic Constitution Scripturarum thesaurus. It was then reissued in an official version in 1986. What has all this to do with translations of texts for Holy Mass? The document of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) requires in the norms found in its document Liturgiam authenticam (LA) that translators must now refer to the Neo-Vulgate. Some people, including His Excellency Donald W. Trautman the Erie bishop in Pennsylvania and present head of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee for Liturgy, think LA is a bad document because (as he claims) the New Vulgate is a flawed translation and translators of the liturgy should rather refer to texts in Latin and Greek. However, what LA really says it that the New Vulgate must be used when determining which verses of Scripture are to be translated for the liturgy by the fact that chapter and verse markings differ among ancient manuscripts. A single clear reference was needed.
Back to our prayer. Recapitulare is related to Latin caput (“head”) and was deemed by the scholars behind the New Vulgate as a better translation of the Greek anakephalaioô, “to sum up the argument.” This harks to the headship of Christ over the Body of the Church and expresses that He is the Final Statement, the Conclusion of All Things. At any rate, in 1925 and in the 1960’s when the older version of Vulgate was in use, the Collect had instaurare and not recapitulare.
Why all this ink about recapitulare? The phrase, “renew/reinstate all things in Christ” points to the Kingship of Jesus. In everything that Jesus said or did in His earthly life, He was actively drawing all things and peoples to Himself. In the time to come, when His Majesty the King returns in gloria and maiestas this act of drawing-to-Himself (cf. John 12:32) will culminate in the exaltation of all creation in a perfect unending paean of praise. In the meantime, by virtue of baptism and our integration into Christus Venturus (Christ About-To-Come), we all share in His three-fold office of priest, prophet, and also king. We have the duty to proclaim His Kingship by all that we say and do. We are to offer all our good works back to Him for the sake of His glory and the expectation of His Coming. This glorious restoration (instaurare) is possible only through the Lord’s Cross (Greek stauros). The Cross is found subtly in the midst of this Collect, where it is revealed as the pivot point of all creation (creatura).
Almighty eternal God,
who desired to renew all things
in Your beloved Son, the King of the universe,
that the whole of creation, having been freed from servitude,
may zealously serve Your majesty and praise You greatly without end.
The first objective of our participation in the Church’s sacred rites is to praise God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and give God glory. Liturgical and Biblical Latin is rich with words and phrases which exalt and express praise of God. In fact, the concepts of “glory” and “majesty” are nearly interchangeable in this light. We, on the one hand, render up honor and glory to God in a way external to God. On the other hand, glory and majesty are also divine attributes which we in no way give Him, which He has – or rather is – in Himself by His nature. When we come into His presence, even in the contact we have with Him through the Church’s sacred mysteries, His divine attribute of splendor or glory or majesty, whatever you will, has the power to transform us. His majestic glory changes us. So, it is right to translate these lofty sounding attributions for God when we raise our voices in the Church’s official cult.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Almighty and merciful God,
you break the power of evil and make all things new
in your Son Jesus Christ, the King of the universe.
May all in heaven and earth
acclaim your glory
and never cease to praise you.
As we come to the end of another year’s work in this fruitful WDTPRS project, some comments and reminders are in order. In the introductory article of this series I stated that it was not my intention to offer alternative translations to be used instead of those provided by ICEL with the approval of proper authority (no matter how bad the lame-duck ICEL versions might be). I set out to provide you with “literal translations” in order to give even non-readers of Latin a glimpse into the original structure of the prayers, their elegance, and also the world-view inhering in them. At times my versions adhere “slavishly” to the Latin originals but, since I am not trying to give you a liturgically appropriate text, that’s fine by me. Sometimes my versions extend and paraphrase difficult words or passages, but I usually provide explanations of my choices, good or bad as they may be. I am sure that my WDTPRS versions are flawed in many ways. I know these articles are sometimes hard for the average reader. When they are, I beg your patience. The tradeoff is that WDTPRS is now being cited in some university level classes and quite a few people working in the Holy See’s Curia have told my they follow them with attention.
Moreover, WDTPRS aims to stimulate and support the evolution of good, sound, accurate and beautiful translations in the future. In the past I asked you to write to those in charge of making the new translations. Many of you have and I have reason to believe that your letters touched the hearts of more than one official. In addition, I have always invited and welcomed your feedback via letters and e-mail. You honor me with your time and observations. Over the past five years, I have also urged, cajoled and pled with you to pray for our bishops and give them positive support. The work of the bishop is extremely difficult. We may sometimes be struck with amazement at some of their actions (or inactions), but we must offer them prayer-filled support while we express courteously our legitimate observations. Lastly, the most important goal of this series is to inspire in you a greater love of the rich content in our Church’s beautiful sacred liturgy both in Latin and in English. If these articles help you listen more closely when attending Sunday or weekday Mass and think about what the prayers really say, then our efforts have been worthwhile.