WDTPRS: Trinity Sunday

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

It is always a blessing to be able to start out with good news, especially news appropriate for Trinity Sunday.

We hear from our friend John Sonnen in Rome, who has a blog Orbis Catholicus where he posts fascinating photos of liturgies, usually involving the extraordinary form of Holy Mass and is accoutrement, gives us the following news:

It is with great joy that the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter announces the opening of a personal parish [for the Traditional Latin Mass and all the sacraments] in the Diocese of Rome.

The decree of erection of the parish, which is dated Easter day of 2008, states that in conformity with art. 10 of Summorum Pontificum, “and after having received the proposal of the Cardinal Vicar, [His Eminence Camillo Card. Ruini] the Holy Father has established that in the central sector of the Diocese of Rome, in the 1st District, and in a fitting place of worship, namely, the Church of Ss. Trinità dei Pellegrini [Most Holy Trinity of the Pilgrims]. . . should be erected a personal parish, in order to guarantee proper pastoral care for the entire community of Traditionalist faithful residing in the same Diocese.

The Fraternity of St. Peter is deeply grateful to the Holy Father and his Vicar, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, to be entrusted with this parish in the See of Peter. Of the many dioceses where it serves, this is the tenth apostolate which has been erected as a full personal parish, and the first in Europe. It is hoped that this particular parish will serve not only the local parishioners, but that it will also provide a fine example of the beauty and solemnity of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite to the many pilgrims and students in Rome. Rev. Joseph Kramer, FSSP, has been appointed as the first pastor of the parish Ss. Trinità dei Pellegrini, Rector of the venerable Archconfraternity of the same name, and Rector of the church.

The installation of Fr. Kramer as pastor, and official opening Mass of the parish will take place on June 8, 2008. The Fraternity of St. Peter asks for your prayers in carrying out these new duties towards the faithful, and the Diocese of Rome.

I am thrilled with this news.  First, I have personal connection to that church: I very purposely said by third Mass there after ordination.  Also, this is one of the grand churches in Rome, with a stunning painting by Guido Reni (+1642) of the Holy Trinity.  This is where the great co-patron of Rome, St. Philip Neri (+1595), established a confraternity to care for pilgrims.  It is in a very good location, close to the Via Arenula and Campo de’ Fiori and just up from the Ponte Sisto.  Very easy to reach. Their location so far has been in a church so small and so out of the way you would have thought you were attending a secret meeting of a forbidden sect.  Also, the people involved are truly wonderful and deserving, Fr. Kramer and the clerics and laymen who help out with the FSSP apostolate in Rome, along with the people who attend Masses, have created a warm and beautiful community, founded on doing their humble best with good spirits.  Theirs is now a reward for their patient labor.  So, brick by brick the vision of our Holy Father is being made concrete.

On that note, what can we do but rejoice over this next piece of news?

The same FSSP teamed up with the Catholic television network EWTN to produce an instructional DVD for the “Tridentine” Mass which they will send free of charge to any priest, at least in the USA, but probably elsewhere.  That is great news, of course, and the DVD will be of highest quality I am sure.  I haven’t seen it yet.   But that is not the story. 

On the DVD there is an introductory piece by none other than His Eminence Darío Card. Castrillon Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, provides an introduction for the DVD. As you know the PCED is tasked with the implementation of Pope Benedict’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum which derestricted the pre-Conciliar liturgical books.

In the DVD interview, after explaining that Summorum Pontificum was a gift not just for traditionalists but for the whole Church, said that parishes and priests should make available the extraordinary form so that “everyone may have access to this treasure of the ancient liturgy of the Church.” He stressed that, “even if it is not specifically asked for, or requested” it should be provided. He added that the Pope wants this Mass to become normal in parishes, so that “young communities can also become familiar with this rite.”

So, according to Card. Castrillion Hoyos, the Holy Father desires that the TLM be a normal part of parish life.  He also says that priests should offer it in their parishes even if there is no specific request for it.

This is really huge.

Some people have contended that priests may not celebrate a public TLM unless they have first received a petition from a group existing stabiliter “in a stable way” in the parish.   Now we hear from the President of the PCED, which has competence in this matter, that priests should simply start using the 1962 Missale Romanum in their parishes so that people can get to know it and benefit from this gift.  Thus, priests neither need the local bishop’s permission to implement Summorum Pontificum in their parishes, nor need they wait for a group to request it.  Obviously common sense must prevail in this matter.  I am guessing that the Cardinal’s statement represents what the Holy Father desires to communicate in a forthcoming document that will clarify some aspects of Summorum Pontificum which were points of discussion.

Let us now turn to examine this week’s prayer.

In the early Church no special day was designated for the Most Holy Trinity, but to combat the Arian heresy Catholics developed Creeds as well as an office for Sundays having canticles, responses, a preface, and hymns.  In the ancient Gregorian Sacramentary we find prayers and the Preface of the Trinity.  Pope John XXII (+1334) ordered a universal feast in honor of the Trinity on the first Sunday after Pentecost.  This day was raised to the dignity of a First Class feast by Pope St. Pius X (+1914).  It was made a Solemnity for the Novus Ordo.  There is a wonderful logic to the timing of this feast.  We focus on the Son’s Ascension to the Father, then the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, and then the Triune God the Sunday after.  Today we celebrate our constant profession of belief in doctrine of a Holy Trinity, the most fundamental of Christian truths and most mysterious of all dogmas.  God the Father created us through the Son. God the Son redeemed us and revealed us more fully to ourselves (GS 22). God the Holy Ghost sanctifies us in our Holy Church. 

COLLECT – (1962MR):
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus,
qui dedisti famulis tuis, in confessione verae fidei,
aeternae Trinitatis gloriam agnoscere,
et in potentia maiestatis adorare Unitatem:
quaesumus; ut, eiusdem fidei firmitate,
ab omnibus semper muniamur adversis.

Almighty everlasting God,
who granted to Your servants, in a profession of the true Faith,
to recognize the glory of the eternal Trinity
and to adore Its Unity in the might of majesty:
we beseech You; that, in the steadfastness of that same Faith,
we may always be defended from all adversities.

One of the things I appreciate in this prayer is the acknowledgment that we have adversities in this life, even deadly spiritual enemies.  The transforming power of the Holy Trinity, dwelling in our souls when we are in the state of grace, gives us power in the face of our challenges.

Let’s right away have a look at how they changed the Collect for the Novus Ordo.  The old language, preserved by the liturgical expert scissor and paste-pot jockeys engaged by the Consilium, is underscored.

COLLECT (1970 Missale Romanum):
Deus Pater, qui, Verbum veritatis
et Spiritum sanctificationis mittens in mundum,
admirabile mysterium tuum hominibus declarasti,
da nobis, in confessione verae fidei,
aeternae gloriam Trinitatis agnoscere,
et Unitatem adorare in potentia maiestatis

Obviously this is a hybrid glued together from part of the 1962 Collect and something else, perhaps a new composition.  However, I found the noteworthy phrase admirabile mysterium used to describe the doctrine of the Trinity in the Gesta collationis Carthaginiensis habitae inter Catholicos et Donatistas … the minutes of the meeting that took place in Carthage in June 411 between Catholic and Donatist bishops. St. Augustine of Hippo (+430) was a major player at that conference. That and confessio verae fidei suggest that this prayer, though of new composition, is essentially founded on Augustine’s work on the Most Holy Trinity, which should not surprise.

O God the Father, who, sending the Word of Truth
and the Spirit of sanctification into the world,
declared Thy wondrous mystery to men,
grant us, in a confession of true faith,
to recognize the glory of the eternal Trinity,
and to adore its Unity in the might of majesty.

We should spend time on the language common to both of these Trinity Sunday Collects.

First, note the direct address to God the Father.  Then, I catch references to manifestations (epiphanies) of the Trinity in Scripture and of the glory of God as a bright cloud: at Jesus’ baptism by St. John in the Jordan when the Holy Spirit was seen as a dove and the voice of the Father was heard (cf. Luke 3); when Jesus was transfigured before the eyes of Peter, John and James (cf. Matthew 17).  God made known the wondrous mystery (admirabile mysterium) that He is Three in One, a Trinity of divine Persons, God the Father, God the Word of Truth, God the Spirit of sanctification, One God.  It is necessary foundational part of true Faith (vera fides) that we recognize (agnoscere) God to be Triune.  This is something that man can reason toward on his own, as ancient Greek Neoplatonic philosophers did, but only by the gift of Faith does he profess (confiteor) this mystery in an authentically Christian way.

An important word in the prayer is maiestas.   Maiestas is conceptually related in the writings of the Latin Fathers, to gloria.  In early Latin Fathers such as St. Hilary of Poitiers (+368), St. Ambrose (+397) and in early liturgical texts, maiestas/gloria means far more than simple fame, or splendor of appearance. Latin liturgical gloria and maiestas are related to biblical Greek doxa and Hebrew kabod.  “Glory” and “majesty” express man‘s recognition of God as God and of the salvation won for us by Christ. Simultaneously, “glory” is a characteristic of God, a power He will share will us, by which He will transform us.  “Glory”, therefore, in our liturgical prayers has an eschatological sense, since it refers to the Last Things.  God’s transforming glory, to be shared more fully in heaven, is foreshadowed in Moses’ meetings with God, when He came like a cloud (Hebrew shekinah).  After these meetings Moses’ face was transformed and shone like the sun.  In this Collect we adore the gloria Trinitatis, the maiestas Unitatis, which has potentia.  In the mighty Lewis & Short Dictionary, potentia means “might, force, power.” 

Here in this vale of tears we must strive to give glory to the Most Holy Trinity in all that we do, think and say.  May the Holy Trinity give us even here in anticipation a share of that divine glory, in saving and actual graces. May our relationship with the Holy Trinity shine in how we treat our neighbor.  

WDTPRS aims to help you explore and love more deeply the true content of the prayers of Holy Mass.  This is eighth year of the series. Fr. Zuhlsdorf welcomes e-mail (frz@wdtprs.com).  Send letters in care of The Wanderer.  Visit the internet blog (wdtprs.com).  Father is available for conferences and retreats.


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  1. Ioannes says:

    Quite a bit of alliteration in the 1970 version–maybe too much. Clearly the consilium tried to get rid of the military/fortification language (munire, adversi) and a the same time dispense with the identifiication of the faithful as famuli, servants. Of course, the chief request in the 1970 version is the ability to recognize and adore whereas the chief request of the earlier version is protection from enemies.

    Is “in confessione verae fidei” means or manner? I initially took it as means: through/by means of a confession of true faith. Thus the recognition (agnoscere) comes about partially as a result of the confession.

  2. Willebrord says:

    Two questions:

    One: Is the prayer in the current English translation of the NO as accurate as your literal translation?

    Two (and I feel really stupid for this): Where in the NO is the Collect? I’ve seen the Collect in 1962 hand missals, but I’ve never seen anything of the sort in the NO (of course, since I’ve grown up with the NO, I’ve never had a need to consult the NO missal).

  3. Melody says:

    I like this idea of suggesting that the Latin mass be offered even when the faithful have not requested it. Besides the obvious fact that the mass is for God, there’s also the fact that there are those who would love the TLM if only they knew about it. It seems perfectly reasonable to have a TLM somewhere so that the faithful may have an experience of that part of their heritage. Excuse me for stating the confoundingly obvious… but why is this not obvious to any priest reading Summorum Pontificum?

  4. John says:

    The difference between the two is striking; most notably in that they ask for totally different things. The old one tells us that by God’s gift we recognise the glory of the Trinity and adore the Unity, and then asks that we be defended from all adversities. The new one asks for what the old one says we have already been given, and does not ask for defence against adversities at all. These changes are disastrous. Catholics in the NO no longer get the benefit of the defence against adversity that they would have received in virtue of saying the old prayer; and there is an implicit contradiction between saying that we have been given a certain gift already and asking God to give us that gift. The theology of the old prayer thus contradicts the theology of the new prayer at a deep level – unless the new prayer is understood as meant for unbelievers, who are asking for the faith they have not received.

  5. Lacrimarum Valle says:

    Father, it has always seemed obvious to me that Pope Benedict intends that BOTH the rites of the Mass should be available, loved and honoured by ALL members of the Catholic Church. Summorum Pontificum was not a backward step as some would have us believe but an inspired leap forward. I really don’t undestand the bitterness and rivalry that springs from some quarters on this matter.

    I attend both rites and love both rites in different ways; until this year I had not attended a Latin mass since I was six years old, but in the past year I have sought it out and I find it to be a beautiful, highly spiritual and awe-inspiring experience. (What I cannot abide is tepidity, apathy or plain downright laxness in the celebration of EITHER form). It would be WONDERFUL if the TLM could as you say become a part of normal parish life. Then we could all be like the householder in Matthew 13:52, “bringing out of our treasure house things both old and new”.

    The really important thing is that we understand that we do have a magnificent treasure house, and are GRATEFUL for it.

  6. Lacrimarum Valle says:

    Father Z, another observation : you have said in your piece that “Here in this vale of tears we must strive to give glory to the Most Holy Trinity in all that we do, think and say. May the Holy Trinity give us even here in anticipation a share of that divine glory, in saving and actual graces. May our relationship with the Holy Trinity shine in how we treat our neighbor.”

    Have you been following the story of Jimmy Mizen, the innocent and devout Catholic 16-year-old who was stabbed to death in London last weekend? His mother has said that she feels only sympathy for her son’s attacker and his parents : “What can I really say to them? You can imagine, that’s their child. They held that boy in their arms as a baby. They must be in pain. It’s so painful to know that one of your children has been so cruel, so wicked. People keep saying ‘why are you not angry?’ There’s so much anger in this world and its anger that’s killed my son. If I am angry then I am exactly the same as this man. We have got to get rid of this anger, we have just got to.” She said that instead her son had left behind a ‘legacy of love’ that was shared among his family and friends.

    Now THAT is the Divine Glory of the Holy Trinity shining in this vale of tears.

  7. Willebrord: In ICEL English for Dummies, the Collect is called the “Opening Prayer”. (Even in the Novus Ordo, it’s still called the Collecta.)

  8. I am not Spartacus says:

    This report causes my heart to soar. I have already emailed my Pastor

  9. prof. basto says:

    Te trina Deitas,
    Unaque poscimus,
    Sic nos tu visita,
    Sicut te colimus;
    Per tuas semitas
    Duc nos quo tendimus,
    Ad lucem quam inhabitas.

  10. Father, I’m not a native English speaker, but I think “in confessione verae fidei” would be better translated
    as “in the profession (confession) of the true Faith”, rather than “in a profession of the true Faith”.
    I suppose that the confession of the true Faith can be but one. Or may be I don’t get the peculiarity of this formulation.
    Thank you for your wonderful job!

  11. Fr. Alessandro: This can be argued both ways, and neither would be wrong.

  12. Ben says:

    Dear Father Z,

    I am curious about your quote of SP. You use the word “stabiliter” whereas I find on the Vatican website “continenter.” Is this another case of a misposting on the Vatican website? What is going on here and, if you would not mind repeating, what is the shade of meaning of continenter as opposed to stabiliter. In other words, how does a coetus exist continenter without meaning that they have to be some sort of permanent and well defined group (such as the Latin Mass Society), as we might be tempted to read it in English?

    Pax tecum,

  13. Ben: I am curious about your quote of SP. You use the word “stabiliter” whereas I find on the Vatican website “continenter.”

    You might want to look at this:

    A PCED clarification: stabiliter not continenter in the MP

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