If Brevity is the Soul of Wit…

…here’s one prayer in the “new mass” that fails dismally:

O God, who in each pilgrim Church throughout the world
make visible the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,
graciously grant
that your faithful may be so united to their shepherd
and gathered together in the Holy Spirit
through the Gospel and the Eucharist,
as to worthily embody the universality of your people
and become a sign and instrument in the world of the presence of Christ.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

And ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, as Mr Handel would have sung.

A friend of mine aptly described this prayer as “Gaudium et Spes with ‘O God’ put in front of it”. It is clearly not an “ancient” collect, but an invention of the post-Council consilium that gave us the whole Novus Ordo. It has none of the brevity and poetry of the classical collects, and seems designed more as a short course in ecclesiology than a prayer of petition to God. There is no way that any amount of accurate translation could make a beautiful prayer out this text.

I’m not dissing the new translation in this, btw. It’s not the translation’s fault that this is such an unwieldy prayer. Fortunately, one would not expect it to be used very often, as it comes from one of the “Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions” in the back of the missal, and is designated “For the Particular Church”. I cannot find the current translation of the prayer in my current missal or the original.

Speaking of Mr Handel, I wonder if the prayer might not be improved perhaps if it were to be given a choral setting akin to some part of “The Messiah”? Any suggestions?

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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6 Responses to If Brevity is the Soul of Wit…

  1. Matthias says:


  2. Tony says:

    Strike me prone, David.

    It’s bad enough read — I had to read it a few times to get a ‘handel’* on what we being asked — but to hear it!

    * Sorry, that was the only way I could think of to incorporat Handel into my response.

    • Gareth says:

      so what do you want us to do about it?

      Contuining whining or embracing it positively.

      • Tony says:

        Gareth, I don’t want a von Bingen so don’t Wagner you finger at me because when all is said and Dustable, and without meaning to Chopin change or to Mendelssohn with the truth (something others have said I do Offenbach), we mustn’t get unRavelled.

        The Debussy’s due soon, so I’d better Rachmaninoff!

  3. matthias says:

    Well at least Tony you were not Baching up the wrong tree ,and you put dear old George frederick in else we both might have been told to Rachmaninoff,and get on david’s black Liszt

  4. matthias says:

    i think Gareth Schutz was ,wanting to put it to Handel to assist in embracing it and perhaps to see if we have our collective sense of humlour on 1st day of a new Month

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