The Postcommunion prayers of the Roman Missal: a new comparative analysis

The liturgy, as more than one writer has observed, is “the faith of the Church in motion.” Liturgical texts, like Scripture, are an important source for theological reflection. We can learn a great deal by comparing these texts as they have evolved and as they have been rendered into one language after another. That process of selecting, revising and translating is also part of the liturgical action of the Church.

Matthew Hazell, a frequent commenter here on Pray Tell, has made a significant contribution to this study. He has compiled a scholarly but very accessible analysis of the postcommunion prayers from the Proper of Time. For each day – and he includes not only Sundays but also weekdays – he presents the Latin prayer in three versions of the Missale Romanum (1970, 1975, 2002), together with four different English translations:

  • the interim translations published in 1972 by the National Liturgical Commission for England & Wales, permitted for use by the bishops of England & Wales at their Low Week meeting of the same year
  • the ICEL translation of the Missale Romanum, editio typica, approved by the bishops of England & Wales in 1973, and approved by the Holy See and published in 1974
  • the ICEL translation of the Missale Romanum, editio typica altera, submitted to the Holy See in 1998 but rejected in 2002
  • the ICEL translation of the Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia emendata, approved by the Holy See in 2010 and published in 2011.

In addition, he analyses the older sources of each prayer, referring to the Tridentine Missal, Gelasian Sacramentary, Veronese Sacramentary, Mozarabic Sacramentary, etc. Hazell offers both the Latin text and an English rendering for each of the the predecessor prayers that he has identified. The work concludes with a set of analytical charts and tables showing which prayers have been edited, newly composed or centonised (built up from texts or ideas from previous prayers).

The entire project was clearly done with love and care; it a highly polished work, filled with useful reference notes. Hazell has offered his work to the public in a spirit of generosity (no charge for downloads) and humility (he encourages readers to send suggestions and corrections, e.g. to his translations of some of the source texts).

Starting with the postcommunion prayers was an inspired choice, because Hazell’s first published volume complements work already completed by Lauren Pristas (The Collects of the Roman Missals) and James G. Leachman OSB and Daniel P McCarthy OSB (Appreciating the Collect: An Irenic Methodology), among others.

Matthew Hazell’s work also complements the extremely useful text and translation cross-reference created by Jeffrey Pinyan, also a commenter here; this provides Latin texts and a range of translations for various parts of the Roman Missal.

The work involved in any project like this is far from trivial. This first volume extends for 151 pages, covering only the postcommunion prayers in the Proper of Time. I hope that there is much more to follow from this splendid start. All who turn to the texts of the liturgy for a better understanding of Christ and his church owe Matthew Hazell congratulations and deep thanks.

(Note: thanks also to Gregory DiPippo of New Liturgical Movement for pointing out this new publication).

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9 comments

  1. A great and useful labour of love! Thank you, Matthew.

    Only one thing which would have made it even more comprehensive: the inclusion of the ICEL 2008 translation, the one sent to Rome as compared with the one received back in 2010.

    For example, 3rd Sunday of Advent:

    2008
    We implore your mercy, Lord,
    that these divine provisions,
    which have cleansed us of vices,
    may prepare us for the coming feast.
    Through Christ our Lord.

    2010
    We implore your mercy, Lord,
    that this divine sustenance
    may cleanse us of our faults
    and prepare us for the coming feasts.
    Through Christ our Lord.

  2. Jonathan Day: thank you for your kind and very generous write-up! I would point out that my English renderings of the non-Missale Romanum source prayers are not that great, and probably full of errors. When it comes to Latin translation, I am but an amateur, so be warned!

    God willing, there will be more to come soon – I have all the data I need to compile similar documents for the postcommunions of the Proper of Saints, Ritual & Votive Masses and Masses for Various Needs and Occasions, so that’s something for interested parties to look forward to. Perhaps then I might get started on similar tables for the collects and super oblata… 🙂

    Paul Inwood (#1): thank you for your compliments! The 2008 submitted translation would have been an interesting addition, but a) I don’t have access to that, and b) there is only so much you can fit on a page of A4…! Do you know if there somewhere on the internet that has the 2008 version?

  3. It is a shame that most of the Post communion prayers seem very me/us centered. Something like, “Thank you for all you have given us, help us to bring Your good news to the poor/ the oppressed/ prisoners” etc. for at least a couple of Sundays a month would highlight the mission of the church.

    1. @Brian Culley, CMF – comment #4:
      GIRM 89 explains:

      To bring to completion the prayer of the People of God, and also to conclude the whole Communion Rite, the Priest pronounces the Prayer after Communion, in which he prays for the fruits of the mystery just celebrated.

      This succinct observation is consonant with Jungmann’s discussion of the evolution of this prayer East and West, in The Mass of the Roman Rite, Volume Two, 420–425.

  4. Where and how may I obtain a copy of what appears to be a very significant work of scholarship.Thank you. Fr Dirk

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