Confused Prayer on First Sunday of Advent

Lost sense

On the forthcoming First Sunday of Advent, the priest will pray the new English version of the Prayer after Communion. It reads:

May these mysteries, O Lord,
in which we have participated, profit us, we pray,
for even now, as we walk amid passing things,
you teach us by them to love the things of heaven
and hold fast to what endures.
Through Christ our Lord.

Can it really be that we are asking that the “passing things” among which we “walk” can teach us to “love the things of heaven …”?
I was asked about this in a talk I gave recently, and thought that was indeed what it meant. Later, however, I grew more doubtful and rechecked with the Latin original.
The Latin for “as we walk …” is the phrase inter praetereuntia ambulantes. In the Latin original it comes later on in the text, sandwiched between the phrase “you teach us” and “to love”. This gives: “ … you teach us, who walk amid passing things, to love …”

So it is patently not the sense of this prayer that “passing things” lead us to love heavenly things. The Latin is clear. It is “the mysteries in which we have participated” that teach us to love heavenly things.
But in the approved version the position of the phrase, and the fact that it, like “the mysteries”, is in the plural, achieves the opposite sense.
What can explain such a glaring howler? Why was it not spotted early on, rather than left to appear in a lavishly produced final text? Are priests expected to read the prayer as printed?

It would be truer to the “substantial unity of the Roman Rite” if they said:

Lord,
may the celebration of these mysteries profit us, we pray,
since through them you teach us,
on our journey through this passing world,
to love the things of heaven
and hold fast to what endures.

To concretise praetereuntia as “this passing world” in the singular makes it clearer that it is the plural “mysteries” that teach.
This prayer comes right at the beginning of the liturgical cycle. What a way to start.

(Canon) Alan Griffiths
Alresford, Hampshire

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3 Comments

  1. A quick reading of the prayer, with a basic understanding of English, shows clearly that the mysteries are what teach us about heavenly things.

  2. Paul Robertson says:

    Given what happened to the ICEL ’98 translation, do you think it would have made any difference? The CDW and Vox Clara seem completely uninterested in quality English, in fact, they seem to mistrust it.

  3. Madge McCarthy says:

    The Latin:

    Prosint nobis, quaesumus, Dómine, frequentáta mystéria, quibus nos, inter praetereúntia ambulántes, iam nunc instítuis amáre caeléstia et inhaerére mansúris. Per Christum.

    May these mysteries, O Lord,
    in which we have participated, profit us, we pray,
    for even now, as we walk amid passing things,
    you teach us by them to love the things of heaven
    and hold fast to what endures.

    Oh dear. Very inelegant. Canon Griffith’s translation is far better. Why wasn’t he in ICEL? Indeed, come to think of it, why wasn’t I?!

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