WDTPRS Friday of the 1st Week of Lent (2002MR)

In the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary today’s Collect was used on the Friday after Quinquagesima. I assume it was dragged into Lent because of the themes present in the vocabulary.

However, the redactors of the Novus Ordo made a substitution. They substituted observatio for ieiunium.

Da, quaesumus, Domine, fidelibus tuis
observationi paschali convenienter aptari,
ut suscepta sollemniter castigatio corporalis
cunctis ad fructum proficiat animarum.

In the so-called Veronese Sacramentary, also revealing ancient Roman usage, we have interesting differences. In the prayers during September we find: Tribue, quaesumus, domine, fidelibus tuis, ut ieiuniis paschalibus convenienter aptentur, et suscepta sollemniter castigatio corporalis ad fructum cunctis transeat animarum.  So, today’s prayer is certainly Roman in its expression. It is closer to that of the pre-Lenten Quinquagesimal oration in the Gelasian Sacramentary. It is also not unlike the Collect for Saturday after the 2nd Sunday of Lent in the 1962MR but a close match is not to be found in the pre-Conciliar Missale Romanum.

So, why substitute ieiunium with observatio??

What is going on?

Our brilliantly assembled Lewis & Short Dictionary lets us in on the fact that observatio means, in the first place, “a watching, observing, observance” and thereafter “an office, duty, service” in ecclesiastical Latin. Perhaps “observance” is the best way to get at the moral dimension of the word. The dictionary of liturgical Latin Blaise suggests that a good way to render apto “interiorly dispose”. That sounds right to me. The concept of aptum with pulchrum in Latin thought (from rhetoric), is profound, but my time here is short. It is all part of decorum theory: that which is fitting, suitable, even beautiful. Consistent with this concept inhering in the prayer is the adverb convenienter, which is “fitly, suitably, conformably, consistently (synonyms: congruenter, constanter“.

One gets the sense of an over all theme to the prayer today.

Castigatio, which concept is now familiar from the prayers of this last week, is “a correcting, chastising, punishment, correction”. We used to use the word castigatio and related forms for the correction of our Latin homework.

A deep word, and one explored much by the late Pope John Paul II in his early writings about the dignity of the human person, is fructus, from the verb fruor. Fruor, one of the words which goes with the ablative, is “to derive enjoyment from a thing, to enjoy, delight in (with a more restricted meaning than uti, ‘to make use of a thing, to use it’).

Sollemniter is a very cool word. It is an adverb from sollemnis. Sollemnis has to do with the sun, sol. Thus, sollemnis points to an annual event, something appointed to take place, such as a festival or sacrifice or games in honor of the gods. Thus it also signifies usual or customary religious ceremonies. Sollemniter has a deep religious overtone to it in which one needs to hear an echo of the earth whirling around the sun.

We beseech (You), O Lord, grant to Your faithful
to be interiorly disposed for the paschal observance in the fitting way,
so that the stern bodily correcting which has been solemnly undertaken
may be advantageous for all unto the intended fruitful benefit of souls.

Think of the Gospel phrase, “you know a tree from its fruit”. The tree produces something of value by which it can be judged. The tree is apt for the sake of a good outcome, a reason to be. The tree is suitable for its final goal, its purpose for existing, when it bears fruit which is destined for our enjoyment. This is more than just use, since it points to the proper end, the good end and purpose for which the fruit is destined.

“Use” in the sense of utor can be neutral. When it concerns moral issues, mere utor can be negative, since it doesn’t consider the deeper dimension of the final cause (to use philosophical language). Love and ResponsibilityFruor, on the other hand, connects enjoyment with “use”, in the sense of a harmony between the final end of the thing and the reason why we as subjects of actions are involved with the thing in question. This enters into human relationships.

The late Pope wrote about relations between men and women, making the distinction that one cannot “use” someone else in the sense of utor because that other person is the dignified subject of actions. The other person cannot be reduced to the object of actions in the sense of utor. Fruor, however, can take into consideration the other person’s final end and reason for being.

Today, our fructus isn’t quite so involved, but it nevertheless points to the fact that what we do during Lent has a reason behind it, or rather in front of it. To neglect this reduces the observance of Lent to something empty, a formal practice without any real reason. One might think of “cultural Catholicism” in this light.

We return to the question above. So, why substitute ieiunium with observatio?? What is going on?

It just occurred to me that Pope Paul VI in 1966 published an Apostolic Constitution (the most weighty legal document a Pope promulgates). It was called “Paenitemini” and it concerned how and why Catholics were to practice penance and mortifications.

With Paenitemini Paul VI shifted the emphasis of penance from physical practices to also an interior spirit of penance. Some criticize this move, since it is human nature to be lazy in this regard. In relaxing the emphasis on physical penance, fasting and abstinence, the impression was given that Catholics don’t have to do penance any more. Mind you, Paenitemini still imposes obligations, but there is a clear shift in the document. Furthermore, Paul VI provides for commuting or dispensing penance more widely.

You decide.

Grant that your faithful, O Lord, we pray,
may be so conformed to the paschal observances,
that the bodily discipline now solemnly begun
may bear fruit in the souls of all

And I am not making this up.

may our observance of Lent
help to renew us and prepare us
to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I “do” the LOTH and I am always amazed at how childish the prayers sound. It’s always “help us to” and “may we.” Sounds very lazy, help us to change the channels, may we watch something cool. Amen. Or something like that.

    I love Lent. Life as a gimpy person makes my whole life Lentish anyway.

  2. mhazell says:

    Speaking personally, it is the collects more than anything else that I am looking forward to in the corrected translation. I just can’t believe there are people out there who would rather keep what we have at the moment! The corrected translation isn’t perfect, and no-one’s pretending it is–Father’s analyses frequently demonstrate that it could be fuller and richer in places–but it’s several orders of magnitude better than the current spectacularly banal mess.

    Father, I love reading your exegeses of our Latin prayers. It makes me think that, after looking at the Latin, it would be an interesting exercise to compare the English translations and see the differences in what is taught through them. The current translation has no mention of “bodily discipline” or bearing fruit–is this a theme running through that translation’s handling of Lent? Has it had a detrimental effect on the faithful’s understanding of the Lenten season, when two or three generations of English-speaking Catholics have heard this prayer at Mass? Outside of Lent, how do the different translations deal with castigatio corporalis and the themes of penance, mortification of the flesh, etc., related to it?

    Perhaps someone could start a “What does the English translation of the prayer teach?” :-)

    Anyway, thank you again, Father, for your work in this regard. God bless you!

  3. Henry Edwards says:

    This morning I led a lay group saying morning prayer in English using the “Christian Prayer” book, having earlier prayed Lauds in Latin using the Liturgia Horarum, glancing for comparison at the New Corrected ICEL Version of the collect.

    As I intoned the Lame-Duck ICEL version aloud — preceding the antiphon/collect Commemoration of St. Cyril in accordance with General Instruction 239 of the LOH (How many others did this this morning?) — I felt a bit sheepish mouthing such banality aloud in the presence of adults, and thought how a knowledgeable priest must feel at least thrice daily when celebrating OF Mass in English.

  4. skull kid says:

    Any ideas when the new, corrected LOTH will be introduced?

  5. Legisperitus says:

    Are those really supposed to be the same prayer? The only thing they have in common is “Lord.”

  6. Centristian says:

    “With Paenitemini Paul VI shifted the emphasis of penance from physical practices to also an interior spirit of penance. Some criticize this move, since it is human nature to be lazy in this regard. In relaxing the emphasis on physical penance, fasting and abstinence, the impression was given that Catholics don’t have to do penance any more. Mind you, Paenitemini still imposes obligations, but there is a clear shift in the document. Furthermore, Paul VI provides for commuting or dispensing penance more widely.

    You decide.”

    There’s something within me that wants to admire Paul for imagining that humanity was better than it really is. Some men are, of course, much more advanced of the preponderance of their fellow men, and I think Paul looked upon the best of mankind as representative of the rest of mankind. Paul, I think, was an advanced soul and intellect who, perhaps in all humility, assumed that he was no better than anyone else, therefore everyone else must be something like him.

    Perhaps has wasn’t so naive as that, however; perhaps he understood that we were baser than the best and was simply hoping to lift us up to a higher, more adult, more ready acceptance of the dignity of spirit to which we are called. Perhaps he was the sort of parent, if you will, who wanted his children to just grow up, becoming less and less in need of the “paddle”…children who can be sorry for their offenses because of what those offenses are, and not at all because of what punishment they might bring.

    I think, really, that was the thrust behind many of the things he did. I think he loved what humanity is supposed to be, but was confounded, in the end, by what humanity is.

  7. MarkH says:

    [Reposted from earlier thread]

    Fr. Z,

    I am a convert (baptized in 2002) who looks forward with joy to the corrected translation this Advent. Yesterday, in a used bookstore, I came across what seems a lost treasure: a “New Catholic Family Missal”, dated 1966. This is an English translation of the Novus Ordo. The forward even refers to Sacrosanctum concilium. But: the English translation in this Missal is close to what we will be praying this Advent! “And with your spirit”, “I believe in one God…”, “He, on the day before he suffered, took bread into his holy and worshipful hands…”

    Sorry if I am late in awakening to this, but does this mean that there WAS a faithful English translation of the Latin Novus Ordo, but that it was later superceded by the lame ICEL version? What a shame that they did not retain this first, faithful translation! I feel like we have been cheated out of the full beauty of the Novus Ordo for 40 years. Thanks be to God for the corrected translation!

  8. Henry Edwards says:


    It sounds like what you have there is a copy of the so-called “1965 missal” that has been much discussed here and elsewhere. There was no “typical” Latin edition of the Roman Missal between 1962 and and the 1969 Novus Ordo. However, there was issued in 1965 an Order of Mass (the fixed part, including the Ordinary and Roman Canon) to be used with the older propers and readings, and various hand missals like yours were printed in various countries in the 1965-1967 period.

    From the current viewpoint, the Mass these missals defined was a simplified version — for instance, initial prayers at the foot of the altar curtailed, and final Gospel deleted, as well as some of the liturgical ceremony simplified (e.g., fewer genuflections and signs of the cross) — of the traditional Latin Mass, but with vernacular allowed.

    In short, essentially an English translation of a simplification of the 1962 missal. Many people — bishops as well as laymen — thought this “1965 missal” was the final fruit of the Council, and it was so identified in the front pages of these published hand missals. Indeed many, including bishops who participated in the Council, were surprised and shocked in 1969 when the Novus Ordo was unveiled, having been worked on in the meantime by a rather small group working largely in secret. (In contrast with the present translation effort, which has been transparent, involving thousands of people all over the world, with the interim drafts continually circulated on the internet.)

    However, rather than a precursor of the ICEL translation of the Novus Ordo, the vernacular translations in these 1965 missals were based on the translations in pre-Vatican II hand missals. And surely, the history of the last four decades would have been much different if the initial Novus Ordo translation had been based on the excellent and faithful translations that were largely available already, rather than starting over with a new approach in the spirit of the chaotic 1960s.

  9. BobP says:

    There are three sacred languages of the cross. It is most certain God didn’t allow English to be one of them.

    Fr. Z explains the Latin very well; no need for the translation.

  10. Gail F says:

    I doubt that most people even notice the collect, because it is sort of stuck in between two more noticeable things and is probably perceived as a “filler.” Before I started reading this blog, I never noticed it. I bet many people don’t even know it changes. That said, I do know someone who notices the collect and really likes the ICEL versions, which I (like the first commenter here) find childish and simplistic now that I have seen what they actually say. He thinks the existing language really speaks to people of today. I disagree — but I want to point out that it is possible to be intelligent, liturgy-minded, and have that opinion.

  11. Legisperitus says:

    Gail F – You might point out to him that the collect is not supposed to “speak to people of today” but to God. :)

  12. Brad says:

    I can’t even ever get past the way ICEL always starts with hip, casual (as in I fly on Southwest in my pajamas), talking to pal Joey, “Lord”. No “O”, “Dear”, nothing. Just, hey I’m talking AT you and I’m just launching into it. Not civilized.

  13. Henry Edwards says:

    He thinks the existing language really speaks to people of today.

    Well, maybe it speaks to Catholics as so many of them are today. Are that way, as a result of being spoken to that way for the past forty years.

    Suppose, from the time birth onward, you heard only baby talk for forty years. What kind of person would you be at age forty? Unfortunately, that’s what kind of Catholics all too many adults are today. Still baby Catholics.

  14. Sliwka says:

    I was struk by the part in the Corrected Version the very strong implication that our Lenten observances are not merely for ourselves, but for all (the need of the souls in purgatory come to mind).

    As someone with even a rice grained sized intellect, the ’73 Translation is suitable for children only (barely).

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