Anscar J. Chupungco OSB., The Prayers Of The New Missal, A Homiletic and Catechetical Companion, (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota 2013) pp.126
The unexpected death of Fr. Anscar Chupungco on 9th January this year has deprived the Church of a gifted and profound teacher of the Sacred Liturgy. It also means, I guess, that this little handbook is not larger, offering for comment only a fraction of the prayers of the new English Missal. Those that the author has chosen, however, are some of the more interesting, as is his methodology in dealing with them. This book seems to me to be a really serious contribution to the detailed consideration the Missal must receive if we are ever (God hasten the day!) to get a fine and usable text.
Fr. Anscar chooses 36 prayers in all for comment and elucidation; collects, prayers over the offerings and after Communion. These are mostly from the Proper of Seasons, while eight are from that of the Saints. In each case he singles out a point for elucidation, which he expounds with an attractive ease and modesty.
J Michael Joncas, in his foreword, reminds us that the new missal is not uncontroversial. Fr. Anscar offers a generous and balanced assessment of the translation norms and process in his introductory section. Also in this first part are useful paragraphs on some of the more general difficult points: quaesumus – ‘we pray’ which for some speakers feels like inserting a hiccup into one’s regular breathing. He offers also an especially interesting comment on the grammar of the long Collect conclusion. Again, this will help many for whom the apparent oddness of these conclusions hinders their delivery.
In his consideration of individual prayers he is critical of some texts. His critique is always gently expressed – as befits a son of St. Benedict – but right on target. He highlights the clumsy syntax of the prayer after the Genesis reading in the Paschal Vigil and the oddness of the construction of the alternative Good Friday Collect. But he is not merely critical. In both cases, as elsewhere, he offers a translation that comes out clearer than the approved version.
As well as reflecting on the translation, Fr. Anscar offers in each case a ‘Homiletic-Catechetical Note.’ Many of these reveal aspects of the text which are helpful in articulating them correctly. I was particularly impressed by his assessment of the difficult phrase rationabili affectu in the Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time. He writes that his translation ‘spiritual affection’ is not literal, but brings out the biblical roots of the phrae. This was achieved in the English Roman Canon’s ‘spiritual’ for rationabilem (so why not here too?). Those who wish, on occasion, to preach on the orations will find inspiration and help in these notes.
Don’t be put off by the slim dimensions of this book. It contains real pearls of wisdom from one truly wise.
November 10th 2013.