Monday, March 30, 2015

Merit or Not? Please Help

Greetings on this Monday of Holy Week.

Thank you for your comments on my blog post on Friday, both here and on the Gotta Sing Gotta Pray Facebook page.

It seems that the new translation has been a cause of much joy for many and much disappointment for many. Could it be that for the vast majority of Catholics, it just hasn't made any kind of difference at all? So much for the great moment for liturgical catechesis.

At the Mass I attended yesterday, the celebrant did not use the Collect from the Missal; I do not know where his Collect came from. So, this morning, I looked at both the Collect for Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion, as well as the Prayer over the Offerings from the Missal.

Here are the two prayers:

Almighty ever-living God,
who as an example of humility for the human race to follow
caused our Savior to take flesh and submit to the Cross,
graciously grant that we may heed his lesson of patient suffering
and so merit a share in his Resurrection.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Prayer over the Offerings:
Through the Passion of your Only Begotten Son, O Lord,
may our reconciliation with you be near at hand,
so that, though we do not merit it by our own deeds,
yet by this sacrifice made once for all,
we may feel already the effects of your mercy.
Through Christ our Lord.

Does it strike anyone else that these two prayers present a contradiction when it comes to what is meant by "merit."

In the Collect, it seems to me that the prayer says that by heeding the lesson of our Savior's patient suffering, we somehow merit a share in his Resurrection. So, it is in the human action of patient suffering, done in imitation of Christ, that merits us a share in his Resurrection; and ultimately in our own salvation.

In the Prayer over the Offerings, after careful observation (because it was not apparent in the celebrant's praying of this text at Mass yesterday), I assume that the "it" in the third line refers to the "reconciliation" described in the second line. But what struck me was the phrase in which "it" is placed: "though we do not merit it by our own deeds." So, this prayer seems to say that we cannot merit this reconciliation with God by our own human actions.

Someone please help me. Aren't these two prayers in direct contradiction? Or am I just missing something or not diagramming the sentences correctly?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Anonymous said...

Words can have nuances in meaning. "Merit" can mean "earn," but can also mean "be worthy of" -- a little less of the "cause & effect" reciprocation. I'm comfortable with the prayers' use of this word when they are read separately. But I do agree that, read side-by-side, read within the same liturgy, the confusion you express is legitimate. I wonder if the prayers were translated independently without reference to the context in which they would be prayed together.

Unknown said...

Heeding merits but doing doesn't?
Fascinating and contradictory.

Paul Smith said...

Hi Jerry, thanks for the opportunity to write in. As a life-long Catholic, I have found myself not even listening to the prayers anymore as many are too hard to follow. I still sing, though. I do visit a Lutheran Congregation from time to time and their prayers are fresh and life-giving (to me at least). I guess they undertook that project a few years back with the introduction of their new Hymnal. They are very prayerful.

jdonliturgy said...

I would say that this is a far knottier sentence than it needs to be. I think that the "it" we don't merit is actually referring to "that we may feel the effects of your mercy." Try reading it leaving out that phrase: "so that... we may feel already the effects of your mercy.

The "though we do not merit it by our own deeds" is adverbial, and modifies the subjunctive verb "may feel." In that case, the "it" is an indefinite pronoun, not referring to a specific thing but to the status of feeling the effects of God's mercy. Does that make any sense?

(I may be wrong, but this is my best guess as a former English major and someone who took 5 years of Latin.)