At this time's gathering: Chilly Realities and God's Soothing Presence
The 18th Ordinary Sunday collection was not included in any previous edition of the Missale Romanum. The ancient Veronese sacramentary has a close cousin who is used by our ancestors. Our modern version simplified the grammar. I found a similar vocabulary in the works of Cicero (d BC 43 – Ep. Ad fam. 2.6.4), in the writings of St. Ambrose of Milan (d 397 – Hexameron, day 1.2.7) and in the sermons of St. Augustine (d 430 – p. 293d, 5). The church and culture have been deeply interwoven over the centuries.
Adesto, Domine, Famulis Tuis and Perpetuam Benignitatem Largire Poscentibus, seine, Qui Te Auctorem and Gubernatorem Gloriantur Habere and Grata Restaures and Restaurata preserves.
Adesto is the "future" imperative of the verb adsum, "to be present", both in the physical and in the moral sense. In the logical extension, Adsum means "to be present with the help". It can also mean “being present with attention” and “being fearless”. "Adsum!" is the famous word in the rite of ordination to the Holy Order. Men are officially "called" by the name of the Holy Order (Vokatio). One by one they answer: “Adsum! … I am present! "People may have a clue or personal belief that they have been called to the priesthood by God, but this" calling "during ordination is confirmation of the calling by the Church.
At this time of year, some of our collections use similar vocabulary, including slightly unusual words that catch our attention. Last week we saw Dux ("leader, leader, commander") and rector ("ruler, leader, governor; helmsman"). This week we have the similar term gubernator, "helmsman, pilot" or "ruler, governor". During normal times there are groupings of collections that are connected by vocabulary, topics or images (e.g. military, agriculture, justice). The collections in the Novus Ordo usually come either from prayers in old sacramentaries or directly from speeches in previous editions of the Missale Romanum. Although they come from different seasons in these sources, they are now summarized. This must have been a conscious decision.
Be to your servants, O Lord, and give your infinite goodness to those who seek it so that you can do a favor to those who boast of you as an author and guide and keep them as soon as they are restored.
What would you hear if you got into your time machine to go to the fair and not your car? Back to the version before 2011 when the new translation was released …
Obsolete ICEL (1973):
Father of eternal goodness, our origin and leader, be close to us and hear the prayers of all who praise you. Forgive our sins and bring us to life. Protect us in your love.
Here we have some nice thoughts that must detach themselves from what prayer really says. But wait! What do I see? Uncharacteristically, the old ICEL included the word "sins" in their version! The old incarnation of ICEL kept erasing evidence of sin, guilt, our humility, the possibility of hell for repentance, reconciliation, etc. So that's a surprise. This is all the more surprising since the Latin original does not mention “sins”.
Current ICEL (2011):
Approach your servants, O Lord, and answer their prayers with incessant kindness so that you can restore what you have created and what you have restored to those who boast of you as their creator and leader can.
Notice the unequal status of those to whom Latin prayer refers.
On the one hand, God is our creator. It guides our ways. He is eternal and kind. He gives presents. He can be with us. On the other hand, we are servants and needy seekers. We need God's favor. We have to be grateful because apart from its goodness they are unreachable. We deserve nothing but him. Some of us have also lost God's favor. We are incomplete until he restores it to us. He will not restore them unless we kindly ask him to do so. Because we are weak, God must keep His gifts in us as soon as He gives them back.
Our status as lower servants is the key to everything we receive or regain.
The clear, cold reality of our need is now masterfully contrasted with the warming, comforting trust that we find in God's presence.
The pattern implied in prayer is clear. God gives gifts and we receive. We turn to them and with them. Then we offer everything we have and do back to God, their origin, to give him honor and thanks. God receives them and reaffirms them as ours. We continue our work in our vocations, which are shaped by what he gives us, and then offer everything back to him. Give. Reception. Offer. Reception. Return. On and on and on.
This pattern is also effective in our liturgical worship. All of our liturgical services take place in a specific context, in some cultural and epochs. It is inevitable that when we are shaped by our worship because "we are our rites" we are also inevitable that we, who are also shaped by the world around us, make decisions about how we worship, especially about how we express ourselves in music, art, architecture, etc. Our pattern of receiving and giving and playing in a constant, simultaneous exchange continues in the details of worship. This process is called "inculturation".
If inculturation is authentic and healthy, it is generally slow and patient. Abrupt changes should be instant red flags for all Catholics. Liturgical changes should grow slowly and organically from existing forms and with great patience and small steps. The extensive renovation creates an artificial break that damages our identity.
That is, inculturation is both unstoppable and, properly understood, desirable. When the priest, old Christ, speaks our prayers during Holy Mass, Christ speaks the head of the body. His words have the power to shape us. Shaped according to the spirit of the Church, as Catholics we start from Mass to shape our world around us. It is the work of the Body of Christ to bring the content of these prayers (Christ Himself!) To every corner and every corner over which we have influence. The Holy Church shapes us and we shape the world around us. We then bring gifts from the world – the best we can imagine and produce – back to the Holy Church, which makes them their own and elevates them to God. It is obvious that it is extremely important for our Catholic life and also for the society around us to get this process right. We have so much to give to the world. If we end up doing something wrong, we cannot have the right effect on the world around us.
Here is the key to authenticity in inculturation. In this simultaneous, dynamic, reciprocal exchange, what God offers the world through the Holy Church must always have logical priority over what the world offers back. This is authentic inculturation!
If you see the worldly sneaking too invasively or suddenly into our sacred liturgical worship, you will not see an authentic inculturation. The properly formed mind and heart will resonate with the real and reject the forgery.
(Image: Václav Mánes, Healing the Blind)