Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Orations of Low Sunday

Caravaggio, The Incredulity of St. Thomas, ca. 1602
Lost in Translation #47

Nobody likes it when a good party is over, even when the party stretches out for a remarkable eight days. But all good things (this side of the grave) must come to an end, and so the orations for the Sunday after Easter, which concludes a glorious octave, beg for a way for the joys of the Resurrection to continue even though the main celebration has come to a close.

The Secret for Low Sunday is:
Súscipe múnera, Dómine, quáesumus, exsultantis Ecclesiae: et cui causam tanti gaudii praestitisti, perpétuae fructum concéde laetitiae. Per Dóminum.
Which I translate as:
Receive, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the offerings of Thy exultant Church, and grant to her, to whom Thou hast given cause for such great joy, the fruit of perpetual gladness. Through our Lord.
Similarly, the Postcommunion Prayer is:
Quáesumus, Dómine Deus noster: ut sacrosancta mysteria, quæ pro reparatiónis nostrae munímine contulisti; et praesens nobis remedium esse facias, et futúrum. Per Dóminum.
Which I translate as:
We beseech Thee, O Lord our God, to make the sacrosanct mysteries, which Thou hast bestowed as a fortification of our reparation, a remedy for us both now and in the future. Through our Lord.
“Sacrosanct” is the perfect word for the mysteries (i.e. sacraments) that God has bestowed upon us, for they are both “sacred” – set apart for divine use – and “holy” (sanctus) – infused with the life-giving breath of the Holy Spirit. The sacrament of our reparation is, I suspect, Baptism, which repairs our relationship with God and which the neophytes received last week during the Easter Vigil. But the sacrament that fortifies our repaired life is the Eucharist, which we have just received at this point in the Mass.
It is the Collect that I find particularly fetching:
Praesta, quáesumus, omnípotens Deus: ut, qui paschalia festa perégimus; haec, te largiente, móribus et vita teneámus. Per Dóminum.
Which I translate as:
Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we who have finished the Paschal feasts may, by Thy bounty, hold onto them in our practices and in our life. Through our Lord.
“Ago” is the Latin verb for doing or making, and “per-ago” (which I have translated as “have finished”) is the verb for thoroughly doing, for carrying an action through to its end. We will, of course, continue to celebrate the Easter season all the way up to Pentecost, but on this Octave Sunday we complete the celebration of Easter Day.
The petition of the Collect subtly traces a movement from outer to inner. The external observance of ritual and ceremony (the “Paschal feasts”) condition our other “practices” or habits outside the liturgy. These habits, in turn, become so internalized that they reconstitute our very “life,” changing our character and our destiny. In some respects, the Collect reflects the moral anthropology of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics but with one key difference: the movement from outer observance to inner transformation cannot succeed without God's bounty. Te largiente literally means “with You giving lavishly.” God not only has to give, but He has to give lavishly, to make the joys of Easter stick to our being and change them forever. So please, God: give lavishly.

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