Sunday, January 6, 2013

In Epiphania Domini

The Solemnity of the Epiphany in the Missale Romanum of Paul VI is a precious example of a complete transfer of euchological texts from the "Tridentine" Missal to modern Roman liturgy. There were many revisions to the orations of the Roman liturgy, be it wholesale excision or heavy redaction. Today's collect is one of fairly ancient use,

Deus, qui hodierna die Unigentium tuum
gentibus stella duce revelasti,
concede propitius, ut, qui iam te ex fide cognovimus,
usque ad contemplandam specium tuae celsitudinis perducamur.

The collect juxtaposes the account of the vision of magi with contemplative vision. The magi see the incarnate  Deity and thereby come to know him. The collect acknowledges that the human being does not experience such a theophany, that, perhaps, the time of such divine vision has essentially passed. Nevertheless, we have knowledge of God through faith. However, the collect looks towards the contemplative vision of God. In my estimation, this final clause has three possible interpretations. Ad contemplandam specium tuae celsitudinis perducamur can point us towards the contemplative vision of God in the heavenly court, the concept of theoria as defined in ancient monastic literature, or indeed a vision of the divine facilitated by liturgical observance or canonical prayer. The vision of God in the heavenly court would likely be eschatological or in the context of the transitus of the soul. The vision of the Deity resulting from either theoria or liturgical observance, however, is experiential and possible in temporal reality. In the context of the Mass set (Pauline Missal), if we utilize the Preface as a hermeneutical key, the contemplative vision would appear to be either at the soul's transitus or the eschaton. From the Preface,

Quia ipsum in Christo salutis nostrae mysterium
hodie ad lumen gentium revelasti,
et, cum in substantia nostrae mortalitatis apparuit,
nova nos immortalitatis eius gloria reparasti.

In the end, the vision of God in eternity, while possibly discouraging the vision of God through theoria or liturgical observance, offers consolation. Any experiential vision of the divine is subject to some form of mediation and subsequent attempts at interpretation.The eternal utilizes the limitations of the finite to communicate itself. The ontological disparity necessarily prevents a direct vision of the Deity in all of his essence. At the transitus or the eschaton, the limitations of the finite disappear as our properties become closer to that of the Deity and we are God no longer utilizes the finite to mediate himself. In this respect, the vision that is to come transcends every previous theophany.

Not something that would be apparent in English and another reason for "unmediated" experience of the Latin.