Friday, January 15, 2021

The Orations of the Second Sunday after Epiphany

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Wedding at Cana, 1308-1311
Lost in Translation #34

The Second Sunday after Epiphany is one of my favorite “green” Sundays of the year. The Church catches her breath after the grand merrymaking of Christmastide, but she continues the trajectory of Epiphany by contemplating the different ways in which Christ manifested (epiphainein) His divinity. After the epiphany to the Magi, the next stop is the epiphany of Christ’s divine glory during His first public miracle at the Wedding of Cana. In Drinking with the Saints, I recommend going to your wine rack or cellar and pulling out your best bottle of wine for Sunday dinner, because if you are anything like my wife and me, you have been saving such a bottle for a special occasion but you keep forgetting about it, and by the time you remember to use it, it has turned. By drinking it now, you pay homage to Christ’s making wine so fine that it even impressed the local sommelier (as we imagine the steward in the story to be).

The orations for this Sunday offer sober sentiments that mix well with this miracle. The Collect is the following:
Omnípotens sempiterne Deus, qui caelestia simul et terréna moderáris: supplicatiónes pópuli tui clementer exaudi; et pacem tuam nostris concéde tempóribus. Per Dóminum.
Which I translate as:
Almighty and everlasting God, who dost moderate things in heaven as well as on earth, mercifully hear the supplications of Thy people, and grant us Thy peace in our times. Through our Lord.
The use of “supplication” (a public petition) and “in our times” suggests that the peace being sought is a public peace. [1] Hence the Collect carries forth the Christmas theme of peace on earth and our New Year’s wish for a peaceful civic year, but reminds us that the peace we desire can only come from God. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you.” (John 14, 27) The theme of peace also anticipates the Epistle reading (Rom. 12, 6-16), which portrays the Church in all her ministries united and at peace with herself.
But the Collect also subtly pairs well with the Gospel, for Jesus’ transubstantiation of water into wine proves that He too, like His heavenly Father, moderates and has power over the things of heaven and earth. And the use of the verb to moderate or regulate (moderari) calls to mind the virtue of moderation, a most important habit to have where wine is concerned: “Wine was created from the beginning to make men joyful, and not to make them drunk,” writes the divinely inspired Sirach. “Wine drunken with moderation is the joy of the soul and the heart.” [Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 31, 35-36]
The Secret for this Sunday is:
Obláta, Dómine, múnera sanctífica: nosque a peccatórum nostrórum máculis emunda. Per Dóminum.
Which I translate as:
Sanctify, O Lord, the offerings, and cleanse us from the stains of our sins. Through our Lord.
The succinct wording mirrors the Secret for the third Mass of Christmas, and thus faintly reconnects us to the Christmas season. And the plea for cleansing forms a subtle contrast with the water in the six stone vases that the Jews used for purification and that Jesus used to make wine. But whereas the Jewish purification only concerned ritual impurity, the Secret prays for purification from moral stain.
Finally, the Postcommunion is:
Augeátur in nobis, quáesumus, Dómine, tuae virtútis operatio: ut divínis vegetáti sacramentis, ad eórum promissa capienda, tuo múnere praeparémur. Per Dóminum.
Which I translate as:
May the operation of Thy power be increased within us, we beseech Thee, O Lord: that being quickened by Thy divine sacraments, we may by this gift of Thine be ready to take possession of that which they promise. Through our Lord.

The Collect contains an image of restraint (God moderating or regulating the things of heaven and earth), but the Postcommunion contains images of acceleration: an increase of power and a quickening of soul. Intentionally or not, the prayer again forms an interesting contrast with the Gospel reading. An increase of physical inebriation leads not to a quickening but a slowing (a decline in motor control and mental alacrity), and it generally renders a person less ready to take possession of something promised. Being filled with the Holy Spirit instead of spirits, however, vivifies and delivers. Even though the lay communicant receives Holy Communion only under the species of bread in the traditional Roman Rite, he should meditate here on the inebriating Precious Blood that is present in the “divine sacraments” he has just received. For if water-made-wine cheers the heart of man (Psalm 103, 15), how much more does water-and-wine-made-the-Blood-of-Christ.


[1] Sr. Mary Gonzaga Haessly, Rhetoric in the Sunday Collects of the Roman Missal (Ursuline College for Women, 1938), 34.

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