Thursday, May 27, 2010

Placeat sancta Trinitas

Still to-day, in the modern form of the Carthusian Rite, the Placeat sancta Trinitas is prayed by the priest at the end of Mass.  

(It is a little-known fact that the wise Carthusians retain their own proper form of the Roman Rite, having reformed it in 1981, to produce a new edition of the Missale Cartusiense.  Amongst many other appealing features, it contains: 
  • no penitential rite other than the Carthusian Confiteor; 
  • substantially the traditional one-year lectionary (with Epistle, Gradual, Alleluia or Tract, and Gospel); 
  • no modern Offertory prayers; 
  • none of those modern Memorial Acclamations; 
  • a rubric specifying that the Eucharistic Prayer is normally said secretly, others ordering it be said with hands extended in the form of the cross; 
  • no response "For the kingdom..." after the Embolism; 
  • and finally the Placeat.)
After the dismissal formula, "turned to the altar, bowed profoundly, the priest says secretly":

Pláceat tibi, sancta Trínitas unus Deus, obséquium servitútis meæ: et præsta ut hoc sacrifícium laudis, quod indígnus in conspéctu divínæ maiestátis tuæ óbtuli, tibi sit placens: mihíque et ómnibus, pro quibus óbtuli, sit te miseránte propitiábile in vitam ætérnam. Amen.
(May the performance of my service be pleasing unto Thee, Holy Trinity, One God; and grant that this sacrifice of praise, which unworthy I have offered in the sight of Thy Divine Majesty, may be pleasing to Thee: and for me and for all for whom I have offered, be, Thee being merciful, propitiatory unto life eternal.  Amen.)

Attentive Traddies will note at once that this variant of the Placeat differs in several words from that found in all editions of the Roman Missal down to 1962.  Therein, it reads:

Pláceat tibi, sancta Trínitas, obséquium servitútis meæ: et præsta; ut sacrifícium, quod oculis tuæ majestátis indígnus óbtuli, tibi sit acceptabile, mihíque et ómnibus, pro quibus illud óbtuli, sit, te miseránte, propitiábile. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

This my 1796 pocket missal quaintly translates as follows:

Let the performance of my homage be pleaſing to thee, O Holy Trinity; and grant, that the ſacrifice which I, tho' unworthy, have offered up in the ſight of thy Majeſty, may be acceptable to thee, and thro' thy mercy, be a propitiation for me, and all thoſe for whom it has been offered.  Thro' Chriſt our Lord.  Amen.

(This should really end: "for whom I have offered it", by the way.)

Why these differences?  Well, the Placeat is first found in the Sacramentary of Amiens, dating from the 9th century, with exactly the same text as that of the Traditional Roman Rite, saving only that the final "Through Christ our Lord" was missing.

While most mediæval missals have substantially the same text, various additions are recorded here and there: for example, the Cistercians once (just as the Carthusians now) added in unus Deus, "one God", after "holy Trinity"; the Carmelites, the Gilbertines, and the English Uses of Sarum, York and Hereford all added hoc to specify hoc sacrificium, "this sacrifice"; the old Carmelite Missal agreed with the Carthusian in adding the words in vitam æternam, "unto life eternal", instead of the Roman ending "through Christ our Lord", or, what was once more common, the alternative ending Qui vivis et regnas...

The Carthusian version of the Placeat has further peculiarities, evidently derived from the Canon of the Mass itself, which includes the very words that are proper to the Carthusian Placeat: from the Memento Domine comes hoc sacrificium laudis, "this sacrifice of praise"; from the Supplices te, the phrase in conspectu divinæ majestatis tuæ, "in the sight of Thy divine Majesty".  Clearly, the Carthusians have modified their version of the Placeat in order for it to more perfectly mirror the Canon.

I am still unsure why their version reads placens instead of acceptabile and omits illud; I expect these are mere verbal differences of no great import.

A.A. King quotes but part of this formula from a 15th century manuscript Missal from the Grande Chartreuse itself – what he quotes agrees with the Carthusian version as it exists to-day, except for reading sit tibi, not tibi sit.

What is of the greatest significance is this prayer itself, in whichever recension it is found – for it most explicitly teaches the doctrine that the Sacrifice of the Mass is propitiatory for the priest himself and for all those for whom he offers it.

Well may we pray that this fine prayer is re-inserted into the Ordinary Form of the Mass!


Patricius said...

Joshua, an excellent post. In case you're interested, I have started a new blog - Liturgiae Causa - in the cause of Western Liturgy. I don't know how to do hyperlinks in the combox so you can find the link on my old blog.

Cardinal Pole said...

Thank you for this information about the Carthusian Rite, about which I have wondered.

"Well may we pray that this fine prayer is re-inserted into the Ordinary Form of the Mass!"