Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Messale Romano - Liturgical exegesis - Invoking the Deluge and the Urgency of Conversion.

In all the talk among certain persons of a "new liturgical movement" the full scope of the liturgy since Vatican II is often missed. In particular, there is very little discussion of liturgical books in the various vernaculars. The Italian Missal offers some interesting features, among them being the Italian collects. The Italian collects are original compositions that, in the words of the CEI, really heavily upon Biblical texts and themes for their inspiration. These orations were not composed as replacements for the typical prayers of the Roman Rite, but to provide a more ample selection. The last I read on the Conferenza Episcopale Italiana webpage, these texts were in the process of being voted upon for inclusion in the third typical edition of the Messale Romano. The following is for the first Sunday of Lent (anno B):

Dio paziente e misericordioso,
Che rinnovi nei secoli la tua alleanza
con tutte le generazioni,
disponi i nostri cuori all'ascolto della tua parola,
perche in questo tempo che tu ci offri
si compia in noi la vera conversione.
Per il nostro Signore Gesu Cristo, tuo Figlio, che e` Dio,
e vive e regna con te, nell'unita` dello Spirito Santo,
per tutti i secoli dei secoli.

The prayer, if I am not mistaken, evokes some Old Testament parallels, namely, the covenant God makes with Noah after the flood. Biblical commentators often note that the covenant made with Noah is a covenant that concerns all of creation - this is, apparently, what binds God to never destroy the earth (by flood, at least) again. Invoking the deluge puts two capacities of God into stark relief. On the one hand there is the potential to destroy as captured in the memory of the flood. One the other, there is the boundless capacity for forgiveness as captured in the ratification of a new covenant of life after the Deluge. For the Christian, this can only mean one response, hear the word of God. Or, as I believe the oration alludes to, hear the word of God as Noah did. Lent, then, aside from being a time for preparation for the Resurrection, is, in many respects, our time before the flood, our time to hear and receive, by divine grace, true conversion. The oration bespeaks of the urgency for true conversion. While addressing God as "paziente e misericordioso", the oration is well aware that this is view in God as final arbiter of our souls. God offers, the collect reminds us, innumerable times to turn towards him. This, however, it the urgent time, the time in which we must make a final decision, this is the time God has given us.




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