Thursday, August 14, 2008

WDTPRS: The Penitential Rite

(With apologies to Fr. Z for blatant infringement.)

In the Extraordinary Form of Mass, the Penitential Rite (the Confiteor) ends with the priest saying two prayers (to which we respond "Amen"). I will focus on the first of these prayers, which has been retained in the Ordinary Form:
"Misereátur vestri omnípotens Deus, et dimíssis peccátis vestris, perdúcat vos ad vitam ætérnam."
In the Ordinary Form, this prayer is essentially the same:
"Misereátur nostri omnípotens Deus, et dimíssis peccátis nostris, perdúcat nos ad vitam ætérnam."
The only difference is that the priest is praying for everyone present (himself included), not just for the congregation.

Now, the translation of this prayer is usually rendered as "May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and lead us to everlasting life." I see it that way in English-Latin 1962 daily missals, and that's the way it is said in the English version of the Ordinary Form of the Mass. But it's not what the Latin says. A literal translation of the Latin is "May Almighty God have mercy on us and, our sins having been forgiven, lead us to eternal life."

It might sound clunky, but that's what it says! The word "dimissis" is a perfect passive participle in the third person plural ("they" referring to "our sins"); on the other hand, "Misereatur" is a present passive subjunctive in the second person singular ("You" referring to "Almighty God").

If the Latin were to mean "forgive us our sins", it would have to be dimittas peccata nostra instead, which matches the model of the first part of the prayer. (The verb dimittas (active voice) might be wrong; it might be properly dimittatur (passive voice), but I don't know whether the verb should be in the active or passive voice here. It seems that misereatur is in the passive because it is a conjugation of misereri -- not miserere -- which is a deponent verb, which means it looks passive but is translated as active. I don't think dimittere is deponent, so the active voice seems more likely to me to be correct.)

The new English translation of the Order of Mass (for the Ordinary Form) gets it right.

4 comments:

Moonshadow said...

our sins having been forgiven,

Since the Penitential Rite is not identical with the Sacrament of Penance (correct me if I am wrong), can we be sure of this forgiveness? I mean, what about the case of mortal sin? Would one in mortal sin not affirm this prayer with an "Amen"?

I'm just trying to work out the theological implications from your translation work ... work with seems fine to me (I seem to recall deponent verbs from Greek).

You aren't getting over the see Fr. Z or are you? And, yes, praying here for all involved in the car accident.

japhy said...

Well, there's the question of the missing prayer of absolution. The Roman Missal, rubric 4, says: Sequitur absolutio sacerdotis: Misereátur nostri omnípotens Deus et, dimissís peccátis nostris, perdúcat nos ad vitam aetérnam. In other words, it calls the "May Almighty God have mercy on us and, with our sins forgiven, lead us to life eternal" prayer an absolution: "The absolution of [by] the priest follows."

But the older Missal has a second prayer: Indulgéntiam +, absolutiónem, et remissiónem peccatórum nostrórum tríbuat nobis omnípotens et miséricors Dóminus. That prayer says "May the Almighty and merciful Lord grant us pardon, absolution, and remission of our sins."

In either the older or newer liturgy, this absolution only covers venial sins. Mortal sins are not absolved nor remitted by this rite.

And no, I can't go see Fr. Z. I have to drive to Albany, NY tomorrow after work. It's already a 3.5 hour drive from Princeton; Camden adds another hour or so, and I'd be getting a SUPER LATE start because the 7pm Mass wouldn't end until 9:30pm or so!

Oh well. Some other time.

Moonshadow said...

I have to drive to Albany, NY tomorrow after work.

Well, yeah, Giants training camp takes priority, I understand; "it's a guy thing." (Just teasing ...)

Happy drive.

japhy said...

That's this weekend?! MAN! I have a fraternity thing. Alumni work weekend... fixing up the house and making a good impression on the actives, that sort of thing.

I'm probably going to give a presentation on -- wait for it... -- the importance of ritual!