Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Translation Tuesday: I Need Some Help

"New Translation Tuesday" has rolled around again.

One of my colleagues here at WLP told me about what happened in the parish at which she was the organist this past weekend. On Sunday, of course, the Mass was the celebration of the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. She told me that the pastor of the parish, although not a big fan of the new translation, has nonetheless prepared the prayers quite thoroughly each weekend and then prays them slowly and deliberately. When he arrived at the Prayer after Communion, this was his text:

Having feasted at the banquet of the heavenly Lamb,
we pray, O Lord,
that, finding joy in the nativity of Saint John the Baptist,
your Church may know as the author of her rebirth
the Christ whose coming John foretold.
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

After he prayed the prayer, there was something about it that apparently just didn't make sense to him. So he shook his head, looked out at the congregation, and said, "Let's try that again." And he prayed the prayer again, slowly and deliberately, after which he shook his head again and the Mass continued. When I heard this story, I have to admit that I really felt badly for this priest. This is a difficult prayer, don't you think?

I have consulted several of my theologically astute colleagues here and we had a long discussion about the prayer's meaning. The prayer asks that the Church may know Christ, "the author of her rebirth." I was and still am confused with what the prayer means by the Church's rebirth. Does it mean that the Church was reborn in baptism? That seems kind of odd because a person is reborn in baptism and thus becomes a member of the Church. When does the Church's "rebirth" take place? Am I just being dense here? I need some help with this one, folks.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Robert Noble said...

It would also seem to indicate that the Church had feasted at the heavenly banquet. No, a church building cannot eat food nor is it reborn in baptism. But, aren't WE the church? Aren't we the ones who feasted at the banquet and are reminded of our rebirth in Christ? I recently attended a funeral at an African-American Baptist church. The minister must have addressed the congregation as "Church" at least 10 times. Nonetheless, a difficult prayer.

Alan Hommerding said...

I thought of it as meaning that whenever the Church is reborn, Christ is the author of that birth.
Also, I've been looking around - futilely - for the quote from one of the Fathers (probably Eastern) that whenever a new member of the Body of Christ is born anew in water and the Spirit, the whole Church is reborn.
The phrases "Church reborn" or "Church's rebirth" aren't all that uncommon. Here's a relatively recent one from Fr. James Martin:


I enjoyed the prayers this weekend - the Preface prayer was particularly beautiful, I thought.

Richard Verver said...

The Latin of the prayer:

Caelestis Agni convivio refecti, quaesumus, Domine, ut Ecclesia tua, sumens de beati Ioannis Baptistae generatione laetitiam, quem ille praenuntiavit venturum, suae regenerationis cognoscat auctorem.

There seems to be an intended parallel between 'generatione' (translated as nativity) and 'regenerationis' (translated as rebirth).

It turns out the Pope Benedict XVI, in his Installation homily, said that the Church is reborn in the Eucharist, which would fit well with the prayer being after Communion.


Nevertheless, the expression 'regenerationis auctorem' in reference to Christ goes at least as far back as St. Augustine, and does seem to refer to baptism.

While I do like the idea that, mystically, the Church is reborn in the baptism of each member, I still find it a bit odd to talk about the 'Church' being reborn by anything other than the Eucharist.