1st Sunday of Lent


5) Dominica I in Quadragesima – 1st Sunday of Lent
a) Collect (article from 2001)
b) Super oblata (article from 2002)
c) Post Communion (article from 2003)
d) Collect (article from 2005)
e) Super oblata (article from 2006)

What Does the Prayer Really Say?  1st Sunday of Lent – Roman Station: Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior “St. John Lateran”

ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2007

The clock of life continues its incessant tick.  The liturgical cycle of Lent and Easter has returned. Penance and introspection are proper before a great feast.  Holy Church is decked in penitential purple.  The meaning of the season requires austerity.  In church, no flowers.  No instrumental music except on feasts or to support singing.   We shall fast and pray, give alms and examine our consciences in this liturgical desert.

The season Lent (Quadragesima) is so important that each day has its own proper prayers for Mass and its own “station” church in Rome, a very ancient tradition. From time immemorial on 84 days of the Church’s year (including Ember Days, Sundays of Advent, pre-Lenten Sundays, Lent/Easter and its Octave and Pentecost) the clergy and Roman people “collected” at an appointed church (ecclesia collecta) for preliminary prayers, which was perhaps the origin of Collect, the opening prayer of Mass.  Then they would march in procession singing litanies and chants to meet the Bishop of Rome or his deputy for Mass at the “stopping” church (statio).  A confraternity in Rome dedicated to the cult of martyrs has maintained this beautiful tradition.  Seminarians and priests from the North American College have the custom of participating at Mass at every station during Lent. 

The names of the Roman Stations were printed in the pre-Conciliar Missal on all the appropriate days.  They are still printed on the calendars for offices of the Roman Curia.  Often the prayers and texts for a day’s Mass subtly referred to the patron saint of the church where they were said, or to some historical event associated with the place.  The station tradition was revered throughout the world and people could gain indulgences by visiting churches designated by the bishop of the place where they lived.  The little book published every year called the Ordo, containing practical information about what Mass is to be said each day, still cites the custom of stations and recommends its observance.  The post-Conciliar Missale Romanum strongly recommends (valde commendatur) that this Roman custom be fostered, at least in larger cities.  The manner of observance is described (2002MR, p. 396).  The 2002 Missale Romanum has revived the ancient “prayer over the people” or Oratio super populum after the Post Communion.  We looked at these prayers last year but we should see them again.

This week’s Post Communion is a new composition for the Novus Ordo containing echoes of Matthew 4:4 and John 6:51.

POST COMMUNION (2002 Missale Romanum):
Caelesti pane refecti,
quo fides alitur, spes provehitur et caritas roboratur,
quaesumus, Domine,
ut ipsum, qui est panis vivus et verus, esurire discamus,
et in omni verbo, quod procedit de ore tuo,
vivere valeamus.

Our The Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary, oozing with Latin learning, says reficio (whence derives refecti) means, “to make again, make anew, put in condition again; to remake, restore, renew, rebuild, repair, refit, recruit” and thence refectus , a, um, is “refreshed, recruited, invigorated”.   In an ecclesiastical institution a dining room is called a “refectory”.  The verb proveho signifies “to carry or conduct forwards, to carry or convey along, to conduct, convey, transport, etc., to a place”.  Alo is “to feed, to nourish, support, sustain, maintain” and esurio “to desire to eat, to suffer hunger, be hungry, to hunger.”

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):

you increase our faith and hope,
you deepen our love in this communion.
Help us to live by your words
and to seek Christ, our bread of life.

Having been renewed by heavenly bread,
by which faith is nourished, hope advanced and charity strengthened,
we entreat You, O Lord,
that we may learn to hunger for Him who is bread living and true,
and that we may be able to live
by every word which proceeds from Your mouth.

The ancient origins of the “prayer over the people”, the Oratio super populum, are quite complex, rooted in the Eastern liturgies of Syria and Egypt and also of the West.  In his monumental The Mass of the Roman Rite: Its Origins and Development (II, pp. 427ff) Joseph A. Jungmann emphasizes that we are at a “frontier” moment at this point of Holy Mass.  We are at the threshold of the sacred precinct, between the church and the world.  We want the influence of our intimate contact with the divine to carry over into the outside world. 

In a Post Communion the priest prays for the people, himself included.  In a “prayer over the people” he prays for the people, but does include himself in the prayer.  By the time of Pope Gregory the Great this prayer was used only during Lent, a time of greater spiritual combat requiring more blessings. Keep in mind that people doing public penance (ordo poenitentium) could not receive Holy Communion, but they urgently wanted blessings in their trial.   Thus, this prayer was very important to the Roman people.  In 545 Pope Vigilius was celebrating the station Mass at St. Cecilia in Trastevere (trans Tiberim – across the Tiber River).  The soldiers of the pro-Monophysite Byzantine Emperor Justinian arrived after Communion to arrest Vigilius and conduct him to Constantinople.  The people followed them to the ship demanding “ut orationem ab eo acciperent… that they should receive the blessing from him”.  The Pope prayed over them.  The people said “Amen”.  Away went Vigilius.  He returned to Rome only after his death. 

Super populum tuum, Domine, quaesumus,
benedictio copiosa descendat,
ut spes in tribulatione succrescat,
virtus in tentatione firmetur,
aeterna redemptio tribuatur.

This Sunday’s prayer has roots in the first of three “thanksgiving” prayers of the so-called pre-Conciliar “Mass of the Pre-sanctified” on Good Friday: Super populum tuum, quaesumus, Domine, qui passionem et mortem Filii tui devota mente recoluit, benedictio copiosa descendat, indulgentia veniat, consolatio tribuatur, fides sancta succrescat, redemptio sempiterna firmetur.

When first I saw tentatione I assumed the influence of Italian had produced an error.  But we dig deep to learn what the prayer really says!  Latin tento is tempto, “to handle, touch, feel a thing”.  It also means “to try the strength of, make an attempt upon, i.e. to attack, assail” and then “to try; to prove, put to the test; to attempt, essay a course of action”.  The rare succresco signifies “to grow under or from under any thing; to grow up”.  In virtus, we have “manliness, manhood, i.e., the sum of all the corporeal or mental excellences of man, strength, vigor; bravery, courage; aptness, capacity; worth, excellence, virtue” which also means “moral perfection, virtuousness, virtue” and “military talents, courage, valor, bravery, gallantry, fortitude”.

Upon thy people, O Lord, we beg thee,
let a plentiful blessing descend,
so that hope in time of trouble may grow up,
valor in time of temptation may be strengthened,
and eternal redemption may be granted.

Vocabulary like tribulatio, te(mp)tatio, redemptio juxtaposed with virtus remind us that we depend on God’s grace for the virtuous strength and courageous fortitude befitting soldiers of Christ in this Church Militant.  Lent is spiritual combat. 

Be bold.  Be ready.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

  1. Tom says:

    FYI: NLC 1973 translation of the Post-Communion:

    You have refreshed us, Lord, with the Bread of Heaven, which nourishes our faith, enlarges our hope, and strengthens our charity. Teach us to hunger after the true bread of life, so that we may learn to live by every word that comes from Your mouth.

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