Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The New Prefaces of the EF Mass, Part 4: The Preface of the Nuptial Mass

Of the seven prefaces recently made optional for use in the EF Mass, four come from the OF Missal; of these four, that of the nuptial Mass is certainly the easiest to describe. By whatever miracle, the subcommittee that worked on the prefaces deemed it to be “bearable and free of defects”, and simply added it to the Missal as it was found in the ancient sources without any meaningful alteration or censorship, and without centonizing it with other texts. This preface has a very ancient pedigree indeed; it is first attested in the oldest version of the Gelasian Sacramentary (Vat. Lat. Reg. 316, ca. 750AD), and is then found in several other manuscripts of the Gelasian and Gregorian sacramentaries. These latter run from the later 8th to early 9th century forward; in Dom Edmond Moeller’s Corpus Praefationum, a more or less definitive catalog of historical prefaces (Brepols, 1981), the latest sources in which it is attested are of the 12th century. In the Ambrosian Rite, which never simplified the corpus of prefaces as the Roman Rite did, it remained in continual use and is still in the EF to this day.

Folio 221v of the Gellone Sacramentary, ca. 780 AD. (Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des Manuscrits. Latin 12048.) The preface in question begins with the stylized VD which is the next to last decorative letter on the left side of the page.
VD: Qui fóedera nuptiárum blando concordiæ iugo et insolúbili pacis vínculo nexuisti, ut multiplicandis adoptiónum filiis sanctórum connubiórum fecúnditas pudíca servíret. Tua enim, Dómine, providentia, tuáque gratia ineffabílibus modis utrumque dispensas, ut, quod generatio ad mundi produxit ornátum, regeneratio ad Ecclesiae perdúcat augmentum: Per Christum Dóminum nostrum.

My literal translation: It is truly worthy… Who didst join the covenant of marriage in the pleasant yoke of harmony and the unbreakable bond of peace, so that the chaste fertility of holy matrimony may serve to increase the children of adoption. For by Thy providence and Thy grace, O Lord, Thou dost arrange two things in wondrous ways, that, what the birth of children brings to ornament of the world, rebirth (i.e. in Baptism) brings forth to the increase of the Church. Through Christ our Lord etc.”

There is one minor discrepancy from the historical text, which reads “Tua enim, Dómine, providentia, túaque gratia … dispensat”, with the nouns “providentia” and “gratia” in the nominative, the subjects of the verb “dispensat”, hence, “Thy providence and Thy grace … arrange…” In the OF text, the nouns have been changed to the ablative, and the verb to the second person, hence, “by Thy providence and Thy grace … Thou dost arrange …”

The new English liturgical translation: It is truly right… For you have forged the covenant of marriage as a sweet yoke of harmony and an unbreakable bond of peace, so that the chaste and fruitful love of holy Matrimony may serve to increase the children you adopt as your own. By your providence and grace, O Lord, you accomplish the wonder of this twofold design: that, while the birth of children brings beauty to the world, their rebirth in Baptism gives increase to the Church, through Christ our Lord.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: