Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sacri Corporis et Sanguinis Pretiosi

I was forcibly struck by the words of the prayer after Communion this evening, at the Vigil Mass for the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time (honestly, I had to look up which it was – I rather like not knowing where the poor Church is, lost in Boring Time):

Sacri Corporis et Sanguinis pretiosi alimonia renovati, quæsumus, Domine, clementiam tuam, ut quod gerimus devotione frequenti, certa redemptione capiamus.  Per...

This stems from the Veronese or Leonine Sacramentary, where it appears in the 19th Mass formulary, with one word different (libamine not alimonia), and placed after renovati, and three in a different order (frequenti devotione gerimus) – minute variations only.  The opening phrase, be it noted, is unusual, in that "sacred" is not the usual adjective applied to Christ's Body – rather, "(most) holy" would be the expected.

Strangely, the great Fr Z doesn't seem to offer a translation of this postcommunion, but luckily the good fathers of the Birmingham Oratory do (I correct "Thy" to "the" before "Sacred"):

Renewed by the nourishment of the Sacred Body and Precious Blood, we beseech Thy mercy, O Lord, that what we do here with constant devotion, may win for us our eternal redemption.  Through...

Of course, the lame-duck ICEL version we'll be well rid of by next year impertinently mistranslates this, rewriting it as a completely different prayer; still, its rendering is by no means their worst paraphrase, since at least it still has some meat to it:

Lord, you give us the body and blood of your Son to renew your life within us. In your mercy, assure our redemption and bring us to the eternal life we celebrate in this eucharist. 

We are indeed renewed, renovated, repristinated, made new in the deep sense of being conformed to the New Adam, Christ, by the nourishment of His Sacred Body and Precious Blood; though sons of the Old Adam in his fallenness, like him weighed down and made old by sin, the sacred Food and Drink, the Flesh and Blood that saves, renews us as Christians.  

Mirabile dictu, this Sacrament was instituted ut sumatur, that It be consumed: what a marvel that we should tremble at!  God gives His very Body most sacred, His Blood beyond all price, to be our nourishment.  Had He not directly commanded us to thus eat and drink, never would anyone dare imagine such a thing.

Having thus been fed by such sacred and precious Gifts, thus assured of God's mercy, we confidently beg that Mercy.  What we do here constantly – as Dix put it so well in his magnum opus, what we ever do in memory of Christ, celebrating His Sacrifice and Sacrament – we pray may win eternal redemption for us: His Death once for all on Calvary, we hope to grasp ahold of, that that great act of Redeeming Love may prove for us eternal in its effect.

In reflecting on this, I was mindful of Neale's great englishing of that ancient hymn Sancti venite (at least as old as the 7th century, and traditionally attributed to St Sechnall or Secundius, nephew of St Patrick, who are together said to have heard the angels singing thus at Mass):

Draw nigh and take the body of the Lord;
And drink the holy blood for you outpoured.
Saved by that body and that holy blood,
With souls refreshed, we render thanks to God.

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