Vol 43 No 1 March 2013
|Our Cover: Josef Andreas Jungmann||Rush, Ormond||People||1, 16|
|Liturgy Preparation: Model Two. One Parish - One Church||Bond, Anne||Liturgy Preparation||9|
|Funeral for Ned Kelly||-||People||10|
|New Ritual Books||-||Texts – Liturgical||10|
|Missal Translation||-||Texts – Liturgical||10|
|Anscar Chupungco||-||In Memoriam||10|
|Humble. Bold. Prophetic.||-||People||11|
|Bells for Notre Dame||-||Architecture and Environment||11|
|Our Covers 2013||-||People||12|
|How Were Vatican II's Liturgical Reforms Received in Australia?||Johnson, Clare||History of Liturgy / Vatican II||13|
|Musicians and Hospitality||Dyson, Helen, and Marshall, Erica||Ministries – Liturgical||14|
|Books - True Reform: Liturgy and Ecclesiology in Sacrosanctum Concilium by Massimo Faggioli||Cronin, James||Documents on Liturgy||15|
|Editor: Praying in Riddles||Elich, Tom||Texts – Liturgical||2|
|Vital Liturgy in a Multi-Cultural and Missionary Church||Musa, Gerald||Evangelisation and Mission||3-5|
|Doing it Right - Doing it Well||Elich, Tom||Eucharist / Mass||5-7|
|Liturgy Preparation: Model One. One Parish - Six Churches||Harrington, Elizabeth||Liturgy Preparation||8|
PRAYING IN RIDDLES
In Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, the canny and beautiful heiress Portia is bound by a curious mechanism for determining a suitable suitor. Her portrait is enclosed in one of three caskets: the suitor who chooses this casket will win her hand in marriage. The first is a gold casket bearing the riddle, Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire. Those who pick this casket learn to their chagrin that all that glisters is not gold. The second is a silver casket with the inscription, Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves. This one reveals the unlucky suitor to be a fool, silvered o’er. Finally there is a lead casket which of course contains the portrait of the romantic heroine. It is inscribed, Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath. The riddles prove to be an effective and entertaining dramatic device for unfolding Shakespeare’s plot.
I am doubtful, however, if the technique provides an adequate or appropriate way to lead people into liturgical prayer. Yet it does seem to be a recurring characteristic of a good number of our prayers. Take this example:
Almighty ever-living God,
who in the abundance of your kindness
surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you,
pour out your mercy upon us
to pardon what conscience dreads
and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.
(Collect, 27th Sunday, Ordinary Time)
What conscience dreads? What might that be? What prayer dares not ask? What could this conundrum mean? Unfortunately the text does not come with a casket and an answer. We are left mystified but not necessarily immersed in the mystery.
This is not an isolated example, though not all are quite as obscure. In every case, there is an implied question which requires an answer if the prayer is to make sense.
[grant that] we may use the good things that pass
in such a way as to hold fast even now
to those that ever endure.
(Collect, 17th Sunday, Ordinary Time)
What are the ‘good things that pass’ and what are ‘those that ever endure’?
… make us love what you command,
so that we may merit what you promise.
(Collect, 30th Sunday, Ordinary Time)
What does God command and what does God promise?
… we ask of your mercy
that what you grant as the source of merit
may also help us to attain merit’s reward.
(Prayer over the Offerings, 8th Sunday, Ordinary Time)
Those who pray this prayer are expected to supply something like: ‘God’s grace and mercy will help us attain eternal life’.
…we ask of your mercy, O Lord,
that what we celebrate with constant devotion
may be our sure pledge of redemption.
(Prayer after Communion, 12th Sunday, Ordinary Time)
In the context of holy communion, we need to answer that our sure pledge will be a devout Eucharist, but many may presume the meaning: ‘whatever we celebrate with constant devotion’… even the rosary or a novena.
May your Sacraments, O Lord, we pray,
perfect within us what lies within them,
that what we now celebrate in signs
we may one day possess in truth.
(Prayer after Communion, 30th Sunday, Ordinary Time)
What lies within the sacraments that we now celebrate in signs and one day may possess in truth? A riddle, surely, that would challenge any sacramental theologian!
Once we notice this feature of the translation, it appears everywhere: …and, participating in the mysteries by which they have been reborn… (Preface I of Lent); we may… be suited for the remedies of your compassion; and what remains for us a mystery in this present life may be for us a help to reach eternity (both from Lenten Prayers after Communion). We can understand the words but, to understand the meaning, we need to complete the sense by saying what the words refer to.
Notice that these are not just dense phrases or abstract expressions. They too abound in the new Roman Missal. So do misplaced phrases, wrong words and ungrammatical constructions. Many of these have already been noted and, we hope, will be corrected in a few years time in a second edition of the Missal. Here I am drawing attention rather to a curious rhetorical feature of the new translation which has only emerged for me after a year of use. These particular texts function like riddles which require an answer before the prayer yields its meaning. Consequently they require particular attention if they are to become the conscious and heartfelt prayer of the gathered Church.
In the first place the priest will need to study the text, meditate on it and find an answer to the implied question. It would be wonderful if other people in the assembly could do likewise, though it will probably exceed the theological capability of most. People’s missals will enable them to look at the texts beforehand, and at least see what the question is. Perhaps from time to time there will be room in the parish newsletter for a few lines of explanation or background.
Then, in the proclamation, the priest will need to be absolutely clear about the phraseology, emphasising any parallelism or contrast which may exist. He will need to slow down and employ the pregnant pause, leaning on the words, as though to draw the hearer into the action of the prayer: ‘Come on, there is work to do here!’ The proclamation should leave the assembly not saying, ‘Duh, what?’ but rather, ‘Ah! that must be…’ And then at the end, the prayer will need time to sink in before the formal conclusion and ‘Amen’.
I am sure that the translation could have given liturgical assemblies of the twenty-first century a bit more help to their understanding than the bald Latin texts of yesteryear. However the translators have adopted the argument of Liturgiam Authenticam that this would constitute an interpretation rather than a translation of the text. I firmly believe that this is too narrow a view of translation. But the fact is that the texts are now a given. We have to learn how to make them into our liturgical prayer. If we missed a clear proclamation of one of these texts last year, then let’s try again this year and try to do even better next year.