WDTPRS: Pentecost Sunday

Here is my piece for The Wanderer for Pentecost Sunday:

What Does the Prayer Really Say?   Pentecost Sunday (1962 Missale Romanum)

The more celebrations there are of Holy Mass with the older, extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, using the 1962 Missale Romanum the greater potential there will be for adjustments and corrections in the manner of celebration of the newer form with the Missale of Paul VI reissued by John Paul II.  Summorum Pontificum, Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio which derestricted the so-called “Tridentine” form of Mass, changed our liturgical landscape.  More and more young priests, and seminarians, are learning the older form now.  Unburdened with the liturgical baggage of their parents’ generation, young people are demonstrating interest in the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM).  At Catholic universities students are asking their school chaplaincies to have celebrations of the TLM.  For example, at Franciscan University at Steubenville, OH, there was at first great resistance on the part of some faculty.  However, the students obtained celebrations of the TLM and things are proceeding calmly and joyfully.  A student sent photos of a Mass celebrated by Fr. Dan Pattee, TOR, which I posted on the WDTPRS internet blog. From Seton Hall University, where recently a TLM was celebrated, one student wrote to tell me:

In attendance were over fifty students, a great many of them seminarians. In his homily Father John Grimm stressed the importance of Catholic traditions, stating that the Extraordinary Form is the same Mass of countless saints including Padre Pio and Elizabeth Ann Seton. After Mass students who never experienced the Extraordinary Form were greatly impressed by the beauty and reverence of the Mass, remarking that they would like to see the Extraordinary Form celebrated on campus more often.

I have even heard that students at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN, where controversy and conflict abound, have petitioned for celebrations of the TLM.

Celebrations of the TLM will exert a “gravitational pull” on the way the Novus Ordo is celebrated.  Combined with the good example provided by His Holiness Pope Benedict, many parish priests are rethinking celebrating Mass “facing the people”.  They have started to instruct their flocks about the deep advantages to ad orientem or sometimes ad Deum worship, where all face toward God rather priest and people facing each other in a closed circle over a table altar.  In the past I told you how at St. Mary’s Church in Greenville, SC, Fr. J. Scott Newman instructed his flock about ad orientem worship in the parish bulletins during Lent.  Now we read in the bulletin for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, “In the last of those five columns I announced that sometime during Eastertide we would restore the custom of ad Deum celebration here at St. Mary’s to follow Pope Benedict’s lead in recovering our own authentic traditions of liturgical prayer, and we begin this practice today.”

Pope Benedict issued Summorum Pontificum to help heal the rupture in our Church’s liturgical practice since the Council, as well as to reinvigorate Catholic identity and heal the tears in the fabric of the Church’s unity.  His initiative is bearing fruit on all fronts.  I read this week that a separated group called the Transalpine Redemptorists, religious men associated with the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) founded by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, are rethinking their position of formal separation from Rome and the Vicar of Christ. They are not in formal union with Rome or the Redemptorist order.  In a declaration they wrote:

We must ask ourselves if a glimmer of light has not begun to show through the clouds of confusion that for many years have darkened the sky of eternal Rome.  For we now have a Pontiff, a successor of Peter, ready to allow us to adhere fully to this timeless tradition of the Church and its complete expression in Catholic life without apparent compromise. He seems ready to “let us do the experiment of Tradition” as Archbishop Lefebvre asked so many years ago.  This glimmer of light has manifested itself above all in recent months in the courage with which the successor of Peter stood up against opposition from many quarters in promulgating his letter Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. …  Can we choose to remain where we are under these circumstances? We have argued for years now of our “state of necessity” and of the resulting supplied jurisdiction that the Church supplies to us.  [Fr. Z adds: A flawed argument in my opinion, but read on…] But can we continue to argue this when ordinary jurisdiction is offered to us without any compromise in the Faith? Can we choose freely to remain in this irregular canonical situation where we are? In other words, can a state of necessity be the object of a choice without moral fault? Clearly not.  And on the other hand: are the authorities ready to accord us regular faculties? If the answer to this second question is affirmative, then we are no longer in the same case of necessity!  All these serious considerations, dear friends, move us to go and see what Rome has to say.

I am deeply impressed with the attitude expressed by these traditionalist men.  Their willingness to start a new conversation with the Holy See is the direct result of Pope Benedict’s liturgical signals and his important document Summorum Pontificum.

Many of problems in Holy Church could be resolved through demonstrations of good will and generosity of spirit.  So many hurts could be healed between laypeople in their families, between laypeople and priests, between priests and their bishops, even between bishops and the Roman Pontiff.  May the Holy Spirit melt our hearts, bend in us what is too rigid to budge.

Let’s move to today’s Collect, which you will recognize as the prayer after saying the Veni, Sancte Spiritus.

COLLECT – (1962MR):
Deus, qui corda fidelium
Sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti:
da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere,
et de eius semper consolatione gaudere.

I am pretty sure that this ancient prayer, from at least the time of the Liber sacramentorum Gellonensis and probably older, survived the Consilium’s expert scalpels to live in the Novus Ordo only as the Collect for a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit. ­

I promised to tell you more about the Liber sacramentorum Gellonensis, or Gellone Sacramentary (LSGell hereafter). 

There is a critical edition of the LSGell in the Corpus Christianorum Series Latina edited by A. Dumas, whom WDTPRSers know as the guy who reedited Albert Blaise’s handy dictionary of Liturgical Latin we call Blaise/Dumas.  The manuscript of the LSGell is in the Bibliotèque National in Paris and dates to around 780.  It is part of the super complicated web of manuscripts descending from what we called the Gelasian Sacramentary, the source of so many of our ancient prayers found in the Roman Missal.  There are two types of Gelasians, “old” and “new”, which in turn descend from the far more ancient Roman Libelli.  The some dozen 8th century Gelasians that survive can be used to reconstruct a lost archetype sometimes called the Roman Sacramentary of King Pepin (+768 King of the Franks, son of Charles Martel and father of Charlemagne), thus showing the blending the Roman and Frankish influences in the Church’s prayer life. One of the keys to rebuilding the archetype is a manuscript called the Gellone Sacramentary, our LSGell, written perhaps in Meaux between 790-800.  King Pepin wanted a sacramentary, or missal, for use in his territory to promote liturgical unity. But this was later supplanted by what we call the Gregorian Sacramentary, a more prestigious book, which Pepin’s son Charlemagne obtained directly from Pope Hadrian in Rome between 784-791.  The Gregorian, put together by Pope Honorius (+638), was originally the book used by the Bishop of Rome.  It later developed into different versions, including the Hadrianum type, which Hadrian sent to Charlemagne.  In any event, the 8th century “new” Gelasians were later used to fill in gaps in the Gregorian.  So, Frankish developments from the more ancient Gelasians are exemplified in the LSGell which has 3024 prayers divided in two parts, the first mainly for Mass, and the second for other rituals.  The LSGell seems to have been an attempt at a complete book for liturgical services.  And now you know.  See why I put this off for a while?

In any event, our old Pentecost Collect from the LSGell was shoved to the back of the bus in the Novus Ordo in favor of two Collects from the Gelasian, also existing in the Hadrianum version of the Gregorian.  See how those references make more sense now?  Maybe? 

Again this week there is nothing especially challenging in the Latin vocabulary. The source of Latin consolation and wisdom, Messrs. Lewis & Short’s dictionary, says that sapio (infinitive  sapere) means first of all “to taste, savor; … to have a taste or flavor of a thing”. Logically it is extended to “to know, understand a thing”.  It is often paired in literature with the adverb recte, “rightly”, when wisdom is indicated.  Think of the English word “insipid” (the sap- shifts to sip-) for something without flavor and also a person without taste or wisdom.  A homo sapiens is someone of “good taste”, who knows the savor of life, as it were.  Sapiens is thus connected with Greek sophos, or “wise”, or “sage” (also a savory herb!).  Sapientia, “Wisdom”, is a figure for the Holy Spirit as well as one of His Gifts.  The Holy Spirit, Parácletus, is our Counselor, leading us rightly, and Comforter, bringing us consolation.

O God, who taught the hearts of the faithful
by the light of the Holy Spirit,
grant to us, in the same Spirit,
to know the things that are right,
and to rejoice always in His consolation.

What leaps to my mind, steeped in the literature of late antiquity, is the connection of wisdom, inherent in the phrase recta sapere, with consolation.  There was a genre of consolation literature in classical times and late antiquity into the medieval period.  This was part of the province of philosophy (“love of wisdom”).  This literature was used as a moral medication for the soul.  In the famous work of the imprisoned Boethius (+525) before his execution, the Consolation of Philosophy, Lady Wisdom, Philosophy, comes to the author in his cell and diagnoses the true nature of his sickness of sadness.  She does this in a dialogue, so that Boethius can understand things rightly (like our recta sapere), and therefore be consoled. Lady Wisdom descended so as to raise Boethius up to God.  This is our pattern too, both in creation and in our renewal when we have sinned. Two weeks ago in these pages I told you how the Collect show influences of the ancient philosophical concept of that all creation proceeds from God (exitus) in and then turns (conversion) to thus take determinate form and return again to God (reditus). These prayers of late antiquity are echoes of these ancient philosophical concepts.  We can’t read them without knowing these things.  

Think now of our prayer and also the Veni Sancte Spiritus with which it is connected: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts (corda) of Thy faithful and kindle in them the fire of Thy love. V. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.”

In the Holy Spirit, who breathed life into the Body of Holy Church on Pentecost, may we all be renewed.  May He help us to return to God when we have strayed, and to return to each other in the embrace of our Holy Catholic Church when we have parted from clear unity.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    With respect, Fr. Z, your last line appears to be ill-formed:

    Thus it is visible in the article.

  2. Dan says:

    Yesterday, I was listening to Kresta in the Afternoon and the topic was Catholic Colleges.

    The last caller expressed concern for what he called “fundamentalism” in some of the newer colleges where people “don’t have an open heart and mind, feel the need to convert the entire world, and show a preference for the Latin Mass.”

    What the heck could he have been talking about? It’s not AMU or Stuebenville. I think he was trying to create a false extreme on the right to pull academe toward his own centre.

  3. Michael Shea says:

    Wionderful post Father. The Veni Sancte Spiritus has been the opening prayer I have used form my CCD / Confirmation classes for c. 10 years (In English and in Latin). Next year when they ask where the “Deus, qui corda fidelium…” is from – well – they will be in for a treat!

  4. Joshua says:

    Would it give the flavour of the original to render “recta sapere” as “to relish what is right”?

  5. Malta says:

    It’s really a conundrum that the most authentically Catholic society, SSPX, is not in “perfect” union with Rome; on the other-hand, we have a plethora of groups who would have horrified every Saint, Doctor etc. in the Church’s history who are perfectly in “union” with Rome. It begs the question: is our current Church becoming protestant, that is, protesting, against the Church of our Fathers?

    I say this because Fr. Z brings-up the “state of necessity” and ordinary jurisdiction. After Summorum Pontificum, it might seem easy to judge Traditionalists who are still weary. But SP is a band aid on a much larger problem: the almost total submersion of the Church into Modernism. When Michael Davies wrote of this problem, it was much less general; today it is legion. The problem of modernism has not subsided even though our good Pope Benedict XVI has issued SP; in fact, the problem is increasing day by day, and there is no end in sight….

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