WDTPRS: Mary Mother of God

Shall we have a look at the prayers for the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God in the 2002MR?

Deus, qui salutis aeternae, beatae Mariae virginitate fecunda,
humano generi praemia praestitisti,
tribue, quaesumus, ut ipsam pro nobis intercedere sentiamus,
per quam meruimus Filium tuum auctorem vitae suscipere.

O God, who by the fruitful virginity of Blessed Mary
bestowed upon the human race the rewards of eternal salvation,
grant, we beg, that we may perceive her interceding for us,
through whom we merited to receive Your Son, the author of life.

This prayer was in the pre-Conciliar Missal and, slightly different, in the Gelasian Sacramentary for the Assumption of Mary on 15 August (xviii Kalendas Septembris). 

Now, please forgive me, but I must include the laughably deficient lame-duck version from…

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
God our Father,
may we always profit by the prayers
of the Virgin Mother Mary,
for you bring us life and salvation
through Jesus Christ her Son…

Let’s now move on to the so-called “Prayer over the gifts”.   This following prayer was not in the pre-Conciliar Missal, but it does have an antecedent in the ancient Veronese Sacramentary within the body of prayers for September in what appear to be a collection of prayers for the ordination of bishops (“in natale episcoporum”).

Deus, qui bona cuncta inchoas benignus et perficis,
da nobis, de sollemnitate sanctae Dei Genetricis laetantibus,
sicut de initiis tuae gratiae gloriamur,
ita de perfectione gaudere.

The super useful Lewis & Short Dictionary gives us a fascinating piece of information about initium.  Along with “a beginning, commencement” it also means – this is so cool – “secret sacred rites, sacred mysteries, to which only the initiated were admitted”.  

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
God our Father,
we celebrate at this season
the beginning of our salvation.
On the feast of Mary, the Mother of God,
we ask that our salvation
will be brought to its fulfillment.

A lot is going on herein this elegant Latin prayer.  First, the priest acknowledges that all good things have their beginning in God.  We are His instruments, truly involved, but He is the one who brings them to a good completion: He perfects them through us.  The sicut…ita construction sets up a proportional relationship between the two clauses.  Just so, we ask God 1) to grant to us to rejoice in the fact of God bringing good things to completion and perfection and, moreover, 2) to grant that we in like manner may revel in the mysterious things He set in motion to begin with. 

Furthermore, the context of this prayer is a) the Christmas Octave feast of the Mother of God, focused on Mary’s maternity of the divine Person Jesus Christ and also of His Church, us, the members of Christ’s Body and, moreover, b) the raising up to God of the good fruits of the earth God gave us and we worked with our efforts, and His imminent transformation of them through the priest’s words and actions.  God begins every good thing.  He uses us who cooperate with His plan, and He perfects all things for our benefit and His glory. 

Notice the de…de…de, all three of which point to the causes of our joy: i) the solemn feast of and fact of Mary’s divine Motherhood, ii) the mysterious gifts (even this Mass itself – initia) accruing to the initiated (baptized and in the state of grace) from God’s free gifts, iii) their perfection/completion.   It is super hard to convey the impact of this prayer in English without getting really wordy.

O God, who kindly begin all good things and bring them to completion,
grant us, now rejoicing over the solemnity of the Holy Mother of God,
so to delight about perfect completion,
as we are glorying about the initiatives of Your grace.

We are coming to the ending of Holy Mass.  Those who were able to do so received Holy Communion.  There follow a time for reflection and perhaps exaltation of the soul in song.  

It has been years since we looked at Post communion prayers, so let’s review what they are.  The context of Mass for the Post communionem has a structure similar to contexts of the Collect and Super oblata.  In each case there is movement from one place to another in the church: the entrance procession, offertory procession, and the procession for Communion.  In each case a choir or schola traditionally sings a psalm with antiphon (see what you lose when you lose Gregorian chant?).  In each case the priest makes introductory silent prayers: the “prayers before the altar” in the older form of Mass, the hushed prayers (audible in the Novus Ordo) while preparing the paten and chalice, and finally the orisons he softly recites while purifying the sacred vessels after Communion.  In each case the pattern of song and prayer conclude with the priest’s audible prayer, always introduced with an invitation of Oremus… “Let us pray” (and in the traditional form of Mass with the 1962MR the courteous and elegant greeting Dominus vobiscum preceding each invitation).  The pattern is present in proclaiming the Gospel: the priest or deacon’s silent prayer for grace and worthiness, the procession with the Evangelarium, the greeting, reading, and sermon, the invitation to pray the so-called “prayers of the faithful”, followed by the concluding prayer by the priest.  The structure is the same in all four instances.  

In fact, St. Augustine of Hippo (+430) distinguished four sections of the Mass, the last of which after Communion was called the gratiarum actio, the “thanksgiving” (cf. ep. 149,16).  In contrast to the Eastern rites (and unlike this column sometimes) the Roman Rite is characterized by concise, spare language.  However, for many centuries until the Novus Ordo the Latin Rite’s Mass had a double closing consisting of prayers of thanksgiving and of blessing.  Happily these post Post Communion blessing prayers have been reinstated to the 2002 edition of the Missale Romanum during the season of Lent after an absence of some thirty years… which restoration makes me wonder how “upset” people in the pews will get from such a radical change!  After all, the addition of a prayer makes Mass longer!  And *sputter* for heaven’s sake, those blessing prayers were conspicuously absent from Mass for a venerable three whole decades, an out-and-out tradition!  But I digress….   

The style and structure of our Latin Post communionem prayers is virtually the same as that of the Collect and the old Secret or Super oblata.  These are prayers of petition addressed to God the Father through the Son (per Dominum nostrum).   They focus on our gratitude to the Father for all His blessings, especially the continual gift of His Son in Holy Communion.  So, the Post communion thanksgiving embraces the Communion of all the faithful, laity and priest together.  This was so even in the centuries when people received Communion rarely during the year.

So, at this point in our New Year’s Day Mass, in honor of the Mother of God, the priest, who during Mass is Christ the Head of the Body, speaks for the whole Body, the Church, raising prayers of thanks to the Father for the fact of and effects of the Eucharist, singing:

Sumpsimus, Domine, laeti sacramenta caelestia:
praesta, quaesumus,
ut ad vitam nobis proficient sempiternam,
qui beatam semper Virginem Mariam
Filii tui Genetricem et Ecclesiae Matrem
profiteri gloriamur.

O Lord, we happy ones have consumed the heavenly sacraments:
grant, we beseech You,
that they may be advantageous unto eternal life for us
who exalt to profess blessed Mary ever Virgin,
Mother of Your Son and Mother of the Church.

This is based on a prayer in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary but it was not in an edition of the Roman Missal before the Council.  An odd thing about this prayer is that it has a colon at the end of the first line.  Colons were often an indication for how to sing the prayers, though they were expunged the editions after the Council.  

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
as we proclaim the Virgin Mary
to be the mother of Christ and the mother of the Church,
may our communion with her Son
bring us to salvation.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    The prayers for Mary Mother of God are also in the blue Marian
    Sacramentary and the translations are far better than the Sacrametary.
    There is also a beautiful three part Christmas season Marian blessing
    in the Marian Sacramentary as well for the end of Mass.

  2. Melody says:

    Happy New Year Father Z.

    It has always struck me that we celebrate New Years as a solemnity of Mary. Could you tell us a bit more about the liturgical origins of this?

  3. Isaac says:

    Happy New Year,

    British Collect reads:

    God, our Father,
    since you gave mankind a saviour through blessed Mary,
    virgin and mother,
    grant that we may feel the power of her intercession
    when she pleads for us with Jesus Christ, your Son,
    the author of life,
    who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
    God, for ever and ever.


  4. Bibliothecarius says:

    Father Z,

    Your explanations and commentary on the prayers of the Mass, as well as the form, plan, and history of the Mass, are so beneficial and satisfying. I think there would be a strong demand for a book based on these particular columns. “A Walk through the Liturgical Year with Fr. John Zuhlsdorf”; have you considered gathering these columns together, with additional commentary? There are certain references, such as, the Gelasian Sacramentary, that I haven’t yet researched, that would add more layers of meaning to a book on the liturgy. I know, others have written such books, but I think you have a very clear way of presenting this material.

    Anyway, Happy New Year and God Bless You! Thank you for all you do for us and Holy Mother Church!

  5. RichR says:

    Here’s a question:

    In the old calendar, this was the feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord. Is this a Holy Day of Obligation for those parishes that use the old calendar? If so, what feast day do they celebrate? If it is Mary, Mother of God, what about the feast day of the Maternity of Mary (celebrated in October in the old calendar)?

    This is where it gets a little confusing for me.

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