WDTPRS – SECRET 13th Sunday after Pentecost: a fearful puzzle

This is a classic Roman prayer, terse, balanced.  Note the elegant repetition of propitiare.  These two petitions are followed by two more, set off by an et…et construction.  On the page of your Missale Romanum you may not immediately see the parallel construction, but when it is separated into different lines and arranged as below, you can see how it was crafted.

SECRET (1962MR):
Propitiare, Domine, populo tuo,
propitiare muneribus,
ut, hac oblatione placatus,
et indulgentiam nobis tribuas,
et postulata concedas

Lot’s of alliteration.

Our illustrious Lewis & Short Dictionary says that postulo is “to ask, demand, require, request, desire”.  The verb propitio means “to render favorable, appease, propitiate” or “look propitiously.” In this prayer the form resembles an infinitive. It has imperative force. In later Latin infinitives are sometimes used as imperatives, but I don’t think that is the case in our prayer today. In the Biblical Latin of the Vulgate, the passive form of propitio means, “to be propitious” (cf. Vulgate Leviticus 23:2 – propitietur vobis Dominus … may the Lord be propitious to you). So, propitiare looks like an infinitive but is really a 2nd person singular present passive imperative.

Look propitiously, O Lord, on Your people,
look propitiously on these gifts,
that, having been appeased by these offerings,
You both may bestow on us forgiveness,
and You also may concede to us our requests

Be appeased, O Lord, toward Your people,
be appeased by these gifts,
that, having been appeased by these offerings,
You both may bestow on us forgiveness,
and You also may concede to us our requests

Roman Catholic Daily Missal (Angelus Press):
Look, graciously, O Lord, upon Thy people:
graciously look upon our gifts:
and, appeased by this offering,
mayest Thou grant us pardon
and give us what we ask

This prayer was in the Gelasian Sacramentary and the Liber sacramentorum Engolismensis. It did not survive the creators of the Novus Ordo and is not in any post-Conciliar edition of the Missale Romanum.

On Calvary Our Savior fulfilled the perfect act of propitiation for our sins.  Our Sacrifice of the Mass renews Christ’s act of propitiation and, while adding glory and thanks, raises our petitions to the Father.  We unite our own prayers and acts of propitiation to what the Lord has done for us.

It may be that “modern man”, all grown up now, who doesn’t want to kneel in God’s presence, who takes rather than receives, who prefers to be busy and voluble rather than still and silent, is unsettled by the concept of “propitiation”, of “appeasement”.  It is easier to think about God as smiling friend, beneficent sky father, rather than omnipotent creator and judge whom we offend by our sins.  Thinking about judgment and propitiation reminds us all that we are going to die one day.

It is a fearful puzzle that in justice, even though our Lord conquered death, we still have to die.  This reality must be reflected in our liturgical worship.

As the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross approaches, be still and consider what the Lord has done and the great mystery we yet face.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

  1. Robert_H says:

    Thank you, Father, for posting these thoughts. I count myself extremely fortunate that our parish has a weekly TLM on Sunday’s where it is infinitely easier to “be still and silent.” (For now – the Bishop is transferring our pastor and we don’t know if his replacement will or even can continue to offer the TLM.)

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