WDTPRS on the 3rd Sunday of Advent

Let’s have a look at the prayers for Holy Mass with the 2002 Missale Romanum.  In the print version of the WDTPRS in The Wanderer we are examining the prayers for the 1962 Missale.

For those of you who want to hear the prayers in Latin in the 1962 Missale, you can go here: PRAYERCAzT 13: “Gaudete” Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Advent – 1962 Missale Romanum.

Advent is a time of celebratory penance, or penitential celebration, in preparation for the Lord’s Coming.  We celebrate the Lord’s first Coming at Bethlehem, but always with a view to the completion of Bethlehem’s meaning in the Second when the world will be finally judged, unmade in fire, and renewed. 

Of Advent, the holy bishop of Milan St. Charles Borromeo (+1584) said: “Like a devoted mother, keenly concerned for our salvation, the Church uses the rites of this season, its hymns, songs and other utterances of the Holy Spirit to teach us a lesson.  She shows us how to receive this great gift of God with thankfulness and how to be enriched by its possession.  She teaches us that our hearts should be as prepared now for the coming of Christ our Lord as if he were still to come into the world.” 

Echoing this idea of continuation, the theologian Karl Rahner (+1984, 400 years after Charles Borromeo – Yes, O you of traditional mind, not everything Rahner did was automatically wrong) had an interesting insight about Advent: “What is afoot in a small beginning is best recognized by the magnitude of its end.  What was really meant and actually happened by the coming, the ‘advent’, of the redeemer is best gathered from that completion of his coming which we rather misleadingly call the ‘second coming’.  For in reality it is the fulfillment of his one coming which is still in progress at the present time”. 

Interesting perspective, no?  Bring it to your meditation on today’s prayer.

Now for the 3rd Sunday of Advent, also nicknamed Gaudete…. the plural imperative of gaudeo, “Rejoice!”.  Today, there is a relaxation of the penitential aspect of Advent, though Advent is not strictly a penitential season now. 

In the first week of Advent we begged God for the grace of the proper approach and will for our preparation. 

In the second week, we ask God for help and protection in facing the obstacles the world raises against us. 

This Sunday we have a glimpse of the joy that is coming.  Christmas is near at hand.  

Today is also what I call a “nick-name Sunday”: Gaudete or “Rejoice!”   Gaudete is first word of the entrance chant (Introit) of today’s Mass. 

As on the 4th Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday – another imperative verb meaning “Rejoice!”), instrumental music may be played in churches: traditionally during Advent and Lent as a mark of the season’s semi-penitential character, instrumental music is not permitted.  Flowers can also be seen on the altar today, though traditionally only sparse decorations should be used during Advent. 

This is one of only two Sundays in year when in the Roman Church the priest traditionally may wear rose colored vestments rather than Advent purple.  This use of rose on Gaudete Sunday in Advent is really an imitation of Lent’s Laetare Sunday.  If you have forgotten the reason for this, you’ll have to wait until Lent for an explanation. 

Meanwhile, consider this: the candles on your Advent wreaths are purple and rose because those are the colors the Roman Catholic priest wears for Holy Mass on Sunday.  I am always a little amused when I see properly accoutred Advent wreaths in non-Catholic homes or in public places.

Deus, qui conspicis populum tuum
nativitatis dominicae festivitatem fideliter exspectare,
praesta, quaesumus,
ut valeamus ad tantae salutis gaudia pervenire,
et ea votis sollemnibus alacri laetitia celebrare.

The infinitives in our Collect (expectare… pervenire… celebrare) give it a grand sound and also sum up what we are doing in Advent.

L&S informs us that conspicio means, “to look at attentively, to get sight of, to descry, perceive, observe.” Alacer is, “lively, brisk, quick, eager, active; glad, happy, cheerful” and it is put in an unlikely combination with laetitia, “joy, especially unrestrained joyfulness”.  At the same time we also have votis sollemnibus. Votum signifies first of all, “a solemn promise made to some deity” (we have all made baptismal vows!) and also “wish, desire, longing, prayer”.  There is a powerful sentiment of longing in this prayer, God’s as well as ours.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that expecto is from ex– + pecto (pecto, “to comb”). You won’t find exspecto “look forward to”, in your L&S, but the etymological dictionary of Latin by Ernout and Meillet says it is from ex– + *specio, spexi, spectum or ex– +  spicio.  Therefore, it is a cousin of conspicio:  God “watches” over us and we “look” back at… er um… forward to Him.  This word play is quite clever, really.    

O God, who attentively does watch Your people
look forward faithfully to the feast of the Lord’s birth,
grant, we entreat,
that we may be able to attain to the joys of so great a salvation
and celebrate them with eager jubilation in solemn festive rites.

O God, who look upon your people awaiting in faith
the feast of the Lord’s birth,
strengthen us, we pray,
to reach the joys of so great a salvation,
and to celebrate them always
with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Lord God,
may we, your people,
who look forward to the birthday of Christ
experience the joy of salvation
and celebrate that feast with love and thanksgiving.

This offertory embodies a word pair describing the attitude of Advent: joyful penance… penitential joy.  

With the last two week’s of “rushing” in our prayers and doing good works, we have now the added image of eager and unrestrained joy,  an almost childlike dash towards a long-desired thing.  Have earthly fathers watched this scene all of a Christmas morning?  Even so should we be in our eager joy to perform good works under the gaze of a Father who watches us, a Father with a plan.  

This lame duck ICEL version captures little of the impact of the Latin prayer, that is, God the Father is patiently watching his people as we go about the Advent business of doing penance and just works in joyful anticipation Christ’s coming.  But perhaps you will be good enough to respond with an eager and joyfully penitential “Amen” when you hear it pronounced even as you long for a better translation in the future.

Devotionis nostrae tibi, Domine, quaesumus,
hostia iugiter immoletur,
quae et sacri peragat instituta mysterii,
et salutare tuum nobis potenter operetur.

An ancient predecessor of today’s “prayer over the gifts” (as ICEL calls it) is in the Gelasian Sacramentary among the Advent prayers and also in the Veronese Sacramentary during the month of September amidst prayers for the fast of the seventh month (Latin septem “seven”).  It survived the centuries and was in the 1962 Missale Romanum as the Secret for this same Sunday.  The version in the Novus Ordo is slightly altered, substituting potenter for the older mirabiliter.   

Let’s see some vocabulary.  Iugiter, devotio and hostia we have examined in other articles. From your L&S you will learn that immolo means, first and foremost, “to sprinkle a victim with sacrificial meal” (as in grain or cereal) and also “to bring as an offering, to offer, sacrifice, immolate.”  Perago means essentially, “to pass through” and is construed as “to thrust through, pierce through, transfix” and hence “to slay.”  Also it means “to carry through, go through with, execute, finish, accomplish, complete.”  The Latin liturgical dictionary by Blaise says perago can suggest continuous action.  The deponent verb operor is basically “to work, labor, toil” but it also has the specific religious connotation of “to serve the gods, perform sacred rites, to honor or celebrate by sacrifices.”  Here, operor is “to work, have effect, be effectual, to be active, to operate.”  

All Catholics need to know about mysterium.   Early Christian writers lacked vocabulary to express the new spiritual realities they were pondering.  As they struggled to explain to others what they believed both the Greeks and Latins recycled existing words giving them new meanings.  The Greeks (who had a longer philosophical traditional and therefore a ready mine of good vocabulary) came up with some theological terms which early Latin writers later simply borrowed, transliterating them into Latin.  Such is the case with Latin mysterium, which reduplicates Greek mysterion

Tertullian (+ second quarter of the 3rd century) translated Greek mysterion by means of the Latin sacramentumSacramentum has its root in sacer, which has a religious overtone (like sacerdos “priest” and English “sacred”, etc.).  Sacramentum, in juridical language, was a bond or initiation confirmed by an oath.  That kind of sacramentum referred to initiation into military service and the oath taken by the soldier.  Sacramentum came to have two streams of connotation.  First, it had baptismal overtones as the pledge and profession of faith made by catechumens when they were baptized and initiated in the Church.  Second, it referred to the content of the faith that had been pledged in regard to the “mysteries” of our salvation, the meaning of the words and deeds of Christ explained in a liturgical context, the liturgical feasts themselves, and the rites of initiation (baptism, confirmation, Eucharist).  St. Augustine (+430) used sacramentum also for marriage, the laying on of hands at ordination, anointing of the sick and reconciliation of penitent sinners.  In ancient liturgical prayer, sacramentum refers not only to the sacrament of the Eucharist, but also to penitential seasons like Lent with their disciplines of penance and fasting.  Penitential practices, when performed by a believer with the proper attitude, are a mysterious affirmation of the sacred bond between us and Christ.  

We now beg, O Lord, let there be offered up to You continuously
the sacrificial victim of our devotion,
which may both carry through the actions of the sacred mystery that was instituted,
and mightily effect for us Your salvation.

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
may the gift we offer in faith and love
be a continual sacrifice in your honor
and truly become our eucharist and our salvation.

I guess, you can’t object to what the ICEL prayer says all in all, except for the fact that it doesn’t translate what the Latin really says. 

Notice that ICEL made Latin devotio, that single-minded dedication, into “faith and love.”  They ought to have simply said “devotion”, but that probably sounded too pious and old-fashioned at the time.   It might be that “in your honor” was an attempt to pick up on some aspect of “devotion”.   In the Latin we see nothing resembling in or pro tuo honore.  I could go on, but why bother.  This ICEL prayer is a good example of why we need new liturgical translations prepared according to the mind of the Church as expressed in the guidelines found in the CDWDS’ document Liturgiam authenticam.  

We need to know and hear what the Church wants us to pray and meditate on just like we need air to breathe and food to eat. 

Today’s prayer was, as we read above, among those used to admonish people to fast during the seventh month.  We have ancient sermons about this September fast time as well as the Advent fast of the “tenth month” (time was calculated a little differently then because the calendar had little by little drifted and months were inserted.).  For example, we have the wisdom of Pope St. Leo I (+461), nicknamed “the Great”, about the Advent fast: “What can be more salutary for us than fasting, by the practice of which we draw nearer to God, and, standing fast against the devil, defeat the vices that lead us astray.  For fasting was ever the food of virtue.  From abstinence there arise chaste thoughts, just decisions, salutary counsels.  And through voluntary suffering the flesh dies to the concupiscences, and the spirit waxes strong in virtue.  But as the salvation of our souls is not gained solely by fasting, let us fill up what is wanting in our fasting with almsgiving to the poor.  Let us give to virtue what we take from pleasure.  Let abstinence of those who fast be the dinner of the poor.”  Another great saint with the nickname “the Great”, St. Basil of Caesarea (+379) hammered home the urgency of Advent almsgiving: “The command is clear: the hungry person is dying now, the naked person is freezing now, the person in debt is beaten now – and you want to wait until tomorrow?”   In the ancient Church fasting from good things was closely connected to good works of mercy for the poor, especially almsgiving. 

Do not forget this, O Catholic reader.

If you are someplace where Gregorian chant is sung during Holy Mass, listen carefully to the Antiphon for Communion.  Antiphons are short phrases meant to call to mind a larger biblical text.  Sometimes the real point of the antiphon is not in the text of the antiphon, but rather in the text the antiphon is supposed to remind you of.  For Communion this Sunday we hear Isaiah 35:4: Dicite pusillanimes: confortamini et nolite timere…

Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”

After a moment of silence the priest intones today’s prayer after Communion.

LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):
Tuam, Domine, clementiam imploramus,
ut haec divina subsidia, a vitiis expiatos,
ad festa ventura nos praeparent.

This prayer is in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary. It is also the Postcommunio for this same Sunday in the 1962MR, though slightly rearranged for the Novus Ordo giving it a more elegant sound.

The unrivaled Lewis & Short Dictionary indicates that clementia, means “a calm, tranquil state of the elements, calmness, mildness, tranquility” and, by extension, “indulgent, forbearing conduct towards the errors and faults of others, moderation, mildness, humanity, forbearance, benignity, clemency, mercy.”  It can be a form of address also, as in “Your Clemency”.  The verb imploro, a compound of ploro (“to weep aloud”), means “to invoke with tears, call to one’s assistance, call upon for aid; to invoke, beseech, entreat, implore”.  Subsidium we have seen before: “the troops stationed in reserve in the third line of battle (behind the principes), the line of reserve, reserve-ranks, triarii” and thus “support, assistance, aid, help, protection”.   A vitium is “a fault, defect, blemish, imperfection, vice” and consequently, “a moral fault, failing, error, offence, crime, vice”.  Expio means “to make satisfaction, amends, atonement for a crime or a criminal; to purify any thing defiled with crime; to atone for, to expiate, purge by sacrifice.”

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
God of mercy,
may this eucharist bring us your divine help,
free us from our sins,
and prepare us for the birthday of our Savior.

And I was in such a good mood.  Still, here we find a use of “help” which surprisingly reflects the Latin and doesn’t make us sound like Pelagians!

We implore Your mercy, O Lord,
that these divine supports may prepare us,
purified from our faults,  for the coming feast days.

Keep in mind the context of this prayer. 

This is Advent, which is a somewhat penitential season, although not as severe as Lent.  Today we have a slight lifting of penitential attitude in the liturgy without forgetting the Baptist’s urging to “make straight the paths” for the Lord, our Judge. 

Never lose sight of the fact that Advent looks both to the first coming of Christ at Bethlehem, but also to the Second Coming at the end of the world.  Today during Mass we anticipate the joy of Christmas with flowers, instrumental music, and vestments.  But now we come to the end of Mass and hear a stark prayer, spare in its language, reminding us of our sins. 

We hear military language (subsidia) which reminds us that we are engaged in spiritual warfare. 

In the Latin Rite, Holy Mass ends abruptly.  Seconds after the priest intones the Post Communion, he blesses us and literally orders us to get out, to go back into the world to our work: “…  Go!  Mass is over!”   In our Roman Rite we therefore have a strong connection between the reception of the Eucharist at Mass and its effect on our daily lives.  The rapid ending of the Mass creates a continuity between the act of receiving Blessed Sacrament and our acts as we live our vocations.

Receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in the Eucharist shapes us for the challenges of life. In fact, unlike normal food we consume and change into our own bones and flesh, the Eucharist is the food which transforms us into what It is.

After our act of thanksgiving, we must carry this Eucharistic sense with us out the door of the church and into every corner and encounter.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Father Z: In the print version of the WDTPRS in The Wanderer we are examining the prayers for the 1962 Missale.

    Regarding which version for this week, let me commend you on the first correct usage in print this year — if not in this third millennium — of the fine old Scotch word mickle: “The mickle Lewis & Short Dictionary says … .”

  2. The time for thanksgiving should typically be 20 minutes after receiving the sacred species…it is mortifying to see people run out of church chatting after the final blessing..

  3. Emily says:

    Thanks, Fr. Z, for this great post! My rudimentary study of Latin gets better every time I read your blog. :)

  4. TerryC says:

    “Meanwhile, consider this: the candles on your Advent wreaths are purple and rose because those are the colors the Roman Catholic priest wears for Holy Mass on Sunday. I am always a little amused when I see properly accoutred Advent wreaths in non-Catholic homes or in public places.”
    As you well know know father, the traditions of the Catholic Church as so intertwined in the cultural DNA of western civilization that one cannot speak of almost any aspect of human endevour without running into vocabulary, custom or cultural practice which is based on not just Christianity, but on Catholicism.

  5. Paul Cavendish says:

    Let us not forget that the traditional Roman rite used ‘folded chasubles’ for the deacon and sub-deacon in Advent (and in Lent and other penitential days), a practice so sadly lost in the reform of the early 1960s. Indeed where rose vestment were not available the old rubrics commanded the deacon and sub-deacon to wear a violet dalmatic and tunicle as opposed to ‘planetis plicatis’.

    The translation of the orations from the latest editio typica of the Roman Missal are fascinating (please keep them coming Fr. Z)- another example of the richness of Paul VI-JohnPaul II missal that is lacking in the 1962 edition. Oh to combine the best of the old and the new…!

  6. Henry: Thanks! I was wondering if anyone would notice that word.

    By the way, did you know that the big plow and work horses, the sort used to pull stumps and rock out of fields, were in some places called “muckle horses”?

  7. Fr. Jay T. says:

    Thank you for these translations, Fr. Z. This is one of those weeks that I feel “awkward” using the word “birthday” when referring to Jesus Christ (not once but twice). The Lord’s “birth” denotes majesty and dignity. The Lord’s “birthday” denotes pointy hats and a clown who makes balloon animals.

  8. Margo says:

    “…and doesn’t make us sound like Pelagians!” (~Fr. Z)

    It seems that many of our prayers do, which is why I feel funny saying “Amen,” to them at times. I really don’t like speaking to God like a Pelagian, especially during Mass!

    By the same token, however, I’m very grateful that you’re taking the time to post what the Collects (etc.) *really say:* what was actually meant to be prayed is so much richer in truth (esp. who’s God and who’s not and therefore who has the power to do what) than much of what we’ve currently got.

  9. Hung Doan says:

    Fellow readers:

    I really like Father’s posts on the different translations and sources of the collects. Very lovely and reverent (slavish?) translations. Can someone post a website or book talking about the Galasian Sacramentary? This is all new to me, and I am intrigued!

  10. Rob F. says:

    Hung Doan:

    It’s not much, but it is a start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gelasian_Sacramentary

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