Wednesday, January 7, 2009


My boxes having arrived from W.A., I now have some unpacking to do...

I also want to unpack the Epiphany Preface; and will consider it in its three constituent parts.

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare,
nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere,
Domine, sancte Pater, omnipotens æterne Deus:

(Truly it is worthy and just, right and salutary,
[for*] us always and everywhere to give thanks unto Thee,
Lord, Holy Father, Almighty Eternal God:)

Here we have the first part, the protocol of the Preface, the same (but for those of Easter and of the Apostles) in all Prefaces, which reminds us of what reason and religion alike instruct us, that unto God ought be rendered all honour and glory at all times and in every place, giving thanks in all things and for all things to God the Father of lights, from Whom cometh down every good and perfect gift; for so to pray is our duty and a most fruitful one.  The use of duplication and reduplication to give majestic sound is notable: four descriptive terms, then two, then God Himself named with six titles.  [* The Ambrosian Rite uses the expression Vere quia &c., For it is truly right....]

cum Unigenitus tuus in substantia nostræ mortalitatis apparuit,
nova nos immortalitatis suæ luce reparavit.

when Thine Onlybegotten appeared in the substance of our mortality,
He repaired us by the new light of His immortality.)

The short body of the Preface - pregnant with meaning - is our proclamation before the Lord as to our especial reason for giving Him thanks before the priest alone embarks upon the silent consummation of the most sacred mysteries within the Canon of the Mass (præfari, to speak before).  God's Very Son deigned to shew Himself Incarnate, partaking of our own flesh and blood, so by this unparalleled illumination making manifest and displaying before our astonished eyes a truth previously unguessable; and being immortal and impassible in His Divinity, by enduring all for us in a nature that is our own He carried out an inconceivable transaction, that in due process of time gave us, all undeserving, access to a share in that immortality, translating us from the kingdom of darkness into His own marvellous light.  Glory to Him for ever!

But here is the alternative, Ordinary Form passage:

Quia ipsum in Christo salutis nostræ mysterium
hodie ad lumen gentium revelasti,
et cum [-] in substantia nostræ mortalitatis apparuit,
nova nos immortalitatis ejus gloria reparasti.

(For Thee Thyself in Christ the mystery of our salvation
to-day revealed as a light to the nations,
and when He appeared in the substance of our mortality,
Thou didst repair us by the new glory of His immortality.)

Curiously enough, the Novus Ordo Epiphany Preface expands on the Traditional text of the Epiphany Preface by including a new 'couplet' and changing a few words (suæ luce to ejus gloria, and reparavit to reparasti), giving a focus somewhat more directly on God the Father: Who Himself deigned to unveil the mystery of salvation, formerly hidden from all ages, and made it appear in Christ, the Light of the Gentiles; and Who Himself restored us by Christ's immortal glory.

Et ideo cum Angelis et Archangelis,
cum Thronis et Dominationibus,
cumque omni militia cælestis exercitus,
hymnum gloriæ tuæ canimus,
sine fine dicentes:

(And therefore with Angels and Archangels,
 with Thrones and Dominations,
and with all the companies of the heavenly host,
we sing a hymn of Thy glory,
saying without ceasing:)

The last part, the eschatocol of the Preface, comes in four forms, of which this, Et ideo, is the most common; but where it is preceded by (Per) Christum Dominum nostrum, the matching form Per quem is used; while the Pentecost Preface ends with Sed et, and the Trinity Preface with Quam laudant.  (It must be noted that the All Saints Preface pro aliquibus locis has a variant form of the Per quem, and the quasi-Preface formerly used at the blessing of palms on Palm Sunday has a variant of the Et ideo.)  Four choirs of the celestial armies are named, then the whole in its array, making a resounding and emotional climax before we join in their continual cry, Sanctus, Sanctus Sanctus!

This the Epiphany Preface is noteworthy finally because the sentiments expressed in it, being quite general, could indeed have been used equally well at Christmastide or indeed at other times in the Christian Year - this is a quality of the older Roman Rite, that its prayers and euchological texts by their very brevity and profundity repay careful unpacking and consideration, and that their wealthy of meaning makes them appropriate not merely at their assigned time and season, but in wider spheres also.

No comments: