Because today I am writing for the Catholic Herald in the UK, and not for the Catholic Herald of the Diocese of Madison, where I live, I will quite properly ignore the ridiculous (the transfer of Ascension Thursday, celebrated on Thursday since the 4th century, to Ascension Thursday Sunday) and, instead, focus on the Collect prayer for the true Sunday. And because I have been for a few weeks writing about the Collect in the Traditional Latin Mass, today let’s change it up and see the Collect for the Novus Ordo. It is the 7th Sunday of Easter.
The oration is ancient, sort of. The experts cut it up and slid the words around and, of course, took out what they didn’t like, and pasted it back together. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad prayer. The original is in the Veronese Sacramentary, which is the oldest surviving liturgical book of the Roman Rite, going back to the 7th century, but copying much older material. It is also in the 8th c. Gelasian Sacramentary, also having much older orations. Let’s see what happened. First…
Veronese Sacramentary: Adesto, Domine, supplicationibus nostris, ut sicut humani generis saluatorem consedere tecum in tua maiestate confidimus (Gel. confidemus), ita usque ad consummationem saeculi manere nobiscum, quemadmodum es pollicitus, sentiamus.
And now the version in today’s Novus Ordo.
Supplicationibus nostris, Domine, adesto propitius, ut, sicut humani generis Salvatorem tecum in tua credimus maiestate, ita eum usque ad consummationem saeculi manere nobiscum, sicut ipse promisit, sentiamus.
See the differences? I won’t go through them all. However, to my ear that adesto out in front creates a better rhythm as we move into the prayer; three syllables before that Domine rather than nine. More on adesto later.
Next, the experts changed confidimus to credimus. The difference? In the Dictionnaire Latin-Français des Auteurs Chrétiens by Blaise and Chirat, which covers the Merovingian era and thus the time frame of our Collect we find a distinction. Whereas credo is fairly straight forward, “to believe, to have faith in”, confido has an overtone also of audaciousness, the absence of fear, of being proud to entrust oneself. Confido is stronger.
Furthermore, in the Novus Ordo’s first Preface for the Feast of the Ascension, we hear, hopefully beautifully sung in Latin, that Christ ascended “that we, his members, might be confident of following where he, our Head and Founder, has gone before… sed ut illuc confideremus, sua membra, nos subsequi quo ipse, caput nostrum principiumque, praecessit.” Note, confido.
The most serious change was the removal of the concept consedere. Consedeo is not in the Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary, but it is in Blaise and Chirat. Consedeo renders the Greek sygkathizō, “seated us with Him” of Ephesians 2:6:
(4) But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, (5) even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (6) and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus….
In the Incarnation, the Second Person of the Trinity took our humanity into an indestructible bond with His divinity. Hence, when the Lord ascended into heaven our humanity ascended with Him. At this very moment, our humanity sits at the right hand of the Father.
On my planet this Sunday isn’t so much the 7th of Easter, but rather the Sunday after Ascension. The ancient Collect stressed the mystery of the Ascension. Why would the experts take out consedere? It is one of the most amazing ramifications of the Ascension of the Lord and it has powerful implications for our lives. Let’s linger on that point.
Speaking of the Incarnation, in a sermon for the Feast of the Nativity by Pope Saint Leo I, “the Great”, thundered in the Constantinian Basilica of St Peter, “Agnosce, O Christiane, dignitatem tuam… O Christian, own/recognize your dignity!” When we encounter other people, even if, especially if they are profoundly annoying, we must remember that their humanity, our shared nature, is at the right hand of God and that is where God intended the vexing creature before you finally, with grace and cooperation to arrive. We are bonded together by divine binding.
They took our consedeo but at least they left a spiffy parallelism: sicut… tecum and ita… nobiscum.
Adsum is the verb that gives us adesto, which is the “future” imperative (because imperative has to be future). Adsum means to “be present” in both the physical and the moral sense. Thus, it means also “to be present with one’s aid or support; to assist, defend, sustain.” And also, “to give attention to something, to give heed, observe, attend to; also, to be fearless, be of good courage.” I can’t help but like even more the placement of adesto as the first word of the prayer. That notion of courage also lines up with confido.
In the Rite of Ordination by which Holy Orders are conferred, the names of the men to be ordained are called out (which is the formal moment of a “calling” – their vocatio). They stand and respond, “Adsum!” Believe me when I say that that “Adsum!” calls upon an utter reliance and audacious entrustment to God.
Maiestas has an interesting entry in the Lewis & Short Dictionary. This word fundamentally means, “greatness, grandeur, dignity, majesty.” In conjunction with other words it reveals something more. For example, maiestas means the “sovereignty of the Roman people” in classical Latin. Thus, we have the term for high treason: laedere maiestatem. In English we use the same phrase: “lese majesty” also in the French form “lèse majesté”. It also can be used as a title, “Your Majesty”.
Consummatio is technically “a casting up or reckoning together, a summing up, a summary view” as well as a “finishing, completing, accomplishing.” Think of doing a “summation” or doing your “sums”. Or being a “consummate pianist” to indicate a pianist who in his skills and artistry is “complete.” Also, note the clear reference to Matthew 28:20: “Et ecce ego vobiscum sum omnibus diebus, usque ad consummationem saeculi” RSV: “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” DR: “I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.”
Literal translation: Graciously give attention to our supplications, O Lord, so that, just as we believe the Savior of human kind is, in your majesty, with you, we thus may sense him, just as he promised, to be remaining with us all the way unto the consummation of the world.
Obsolete ICEL (1973): Father, help us keep in mind that Christ our Savior lives with you in glory and promised to remain with us until the end of time.
And to think that some people whined about taking that version away from us.
Current ICEL (2011): Graciously hear our supplications, O Lord, so that we, who believe that the Saviour of the human race is with you in your glory, may experience, as he promised, until the end of the world, his abiding presence among us.
When Christ ascended to the Father, our humanity ascended with Him. We are already there, but still not yet there. We must wait for the world’s consummation and final reckoning to join Them in our final state of endless contemplation of the Triune God.
We are present to Christ, and Christ is still present to us. He is with us in an exceptional way in the Holy Eucharist.
It is precisely because of the Lord’s Ascension into heaven that we have the Eucharist now, and can have the Eucharist simultaneously in countless places. At the Ascension, Christ went to the Father, but as High Priest Christ “entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Heb 9:12). Beyond time and the restrictions of space, Christ’s perpetual offering to the Father is able to be multiplied upon every altar across the entire globe by thousands of priests, who are each one an alter Christus, another Christ, each acting in persona Christi, in Christ’s person. He can come to our myriad altars and be with us at the same time in the millions of Hosts that could be consecrated in a single day. His Ascension to the Father and the altar of the heavenly sanctuary is what enables His priests to do on earth what He did once for all time, change bread and wine into His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church underscores, “There Christ permanently exercises his priesthood, for he ‘always lives to make intercession’ for ‘those who draw near to God through him’. As ‘high priest of the good things to come’ he is the center and the principal actor of the liturgy that honors the Father in heaven.”
Going on, Paul instructs us in Hebrews 10. I cannot do better than this in closing:
(12) when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, (13) then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet. (14) For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. … (19) Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence (Greek parrēsia) to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, (20) by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, (21) and since we have a great priest over the house of God, (22) let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (23) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; (24) and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, (25) not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
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