My Favorite Lines from the Liturgy

I see my friend Mister Hans Moleman has posted some of his favorite lines from the canon of Marxism. OK, Groucho Marx-ism.  Along with a favorite bit of Monty Python-ism, from a movie that even he describes as “arguably pretty sacrilegious, anti-Christian, and anti-Semitic, but inarguably funny.” Hmm.

Anyway, it reminded me to write my own list of favorites…from the Catholic Liturgy of the Mass. I have been thinking of calling this “Hidden Gems from the Liturgy. But that sounded like I was a treasure hunter finding unrecognized beauties where no one else thought to look. So I simply acknowledge these as my favorites, as words that never fail to ring a bell in my mind when I hear the priest pronounce them.

“…Fruit of the earth and work of human hands…”

At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the priest blesses the Lord for the offering:

…Fruit of the earth and work of human hands…

What a beautiful, poetic description of the bread we offer, as well as any other vegetable, food, wood, or even ornamental landscape. How simply these words describe the relationship of the farmer (or landscaper or backyard gardener) with the processes and products of agriculture (or silviculture or …).    (And, of course, the wine we offer God: “fruit of the vine and work of human hands…”  When I work in my own garden, these words come to me often.

In the Preface dialogue, the priest asks us to “Lift up your hearts.” We reply: “We lift them up to the Lord.”

This is just beautiful, in English or in the Latin “Sursum corda. (see below)

But for me the highlight comes next. “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.”  We reply that “It is truly right and just.”

The priest continues: “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord…”  Can you spot the hidden gem?  This one is not only a gem but also kind of hidden.

ALWAYS AND EVERYWHERE!”    

“Always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord.”  When is the right time to pray? On Sunday? Before bed? And where is the right place to pray?  In church?  By my bedside? And what should be my prayer (in addition to the easy part, the asking for things)?

“Thank you, Lord.”  There it is, the simplest, shortest, most appropriate of all possible prayers. Objects for gratitude are always and everywhere in evidence, though I sometimes need a moment to focus on them.  But they are all around me, the beauty of nature, the love of family and friends, the mere fact of my existence.

And it only takes a second to say it.  The Sacred Second, as I called it some time ago.

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On “Sursum Corda”

When I get a moment I will write about the concise, often terse beauty of poetic Latin, and compare it with English. “Sursum corda”: 2 words, 4 syllables. “Lift up your hearts”: 4 words, 4 syllables.  Both lovely and grand and memorable.  Both magnificent (and a perfemantra for a slow learner like myself, who took almost 70 years to notice God’s beauty and love).

Or consider this line from St. Augustine’s Confessions(10:27): “Sero te amavi…” 3 words, 6 syllables.  The English, “Late have I loved Thee…” is 5 words, 5 syllables.  Both examples of simple concise poetic.  But the next words in the English version are “O Beauty, so ancient and so new.” 7 words, 9 syllables. The Latin version reads “Pulchritudo, tam antiqua et tam nova.” 6 words, but 12 syllables!  Both magnificent (and a perfect mantra for a slow learner like myself, who took almost 70 years to notice God’s beauty and love).

A conjugated and declined language, Latin, versus a simple Anglo-Saxon language (except when it uses Latin words like “pulchritude”).

Well, never mind. I think I’ve said all I have to say on this subject.

**I wrote more about “The Sacred Second” here.

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