“My-and-your sacrifice”

I have searched through Pray Tell in vain, looking for a thread that I thought I remembered about this topic. Perhaps it was on another forum. The discussion was about the replacement, in the proposed texts of what eventually became the 2010 Missal, of “our sacrifice” with “my sacrifice and yours”. If anyone knows where to find it, I should be grateful.

The reason “our sacrifice” originally substituted for “my sacrifice and yours” in the years following 1969 was because people came to realize that the latter phrase sounds as if it is making the non-ordained into second-class citizens, as well as possibly indicating to the unwary that there are two sacrifices, the priest’s and everyone else’s, whereas we know that we all offer a single sacrifice as one worshipping body.

The point of all this is that one of those posting in the thread that I have not succeeded in finding happened to mention that the translation we use of meum ac vestrum sacrificium is not really accurate. His argument hinged on the fact that the Latin ac is a rather stronger conjunction than the simple et. It binds words more closely together. The problem is that in English we only have the single word “and” to do duty for both.

To put it clearly, meum et vestrum sacrificium would mean “my sacrifice and yours”, but meum ac vestrum sacrificium doesn’t mean exactly that. It is the conjunction ac which makes meum ac vestrum function as if it were a single adjective. A good, literal translation would be “my-and-your sacrifice”, but that doesn’t work in good English. The nearest we could get would in fact be “our sacrifice” !

The French, of course, get round the problem neatly by saying “Let us pray together, at the moment of offering the sacrifice of the whole Church”, to which the response is “For the glory of God and the salvation of the world”. In German, the phrase is mein und euer Opfer, i.e. “my and your sacrifice”. Spanish-speakers have este sacrificio, mío y de ustedes, which would be “this sacrifice, mine and yours”. I am sure Pray Tell readers can provide many other languages, too.

I have heard a number of priests say “this sacrifice, which is mine and yours”. That is an improvement, if not yet as close to the Latin as “our sacrifice” would be. I suspect that those in Rome who insisted on changing “our sacrifice” back to “my sacrifice and yours” will not readily admit that they were in error in this regard, nor readily agree to change back. But something really needs to be done, if only to dispel the notion that the people’s sacrifice is not the same as the priest’s.


    1. Thank you, Karl. I enjoyed re-reading it. I have the impression, though, that there may have been another one, too. This one mentions my topic in the original post but no one really discusses it.

      1. Thank you, Rita. I don’t think that was it either, since the meaning of the Latin ac is not mentioned. Calling Jonathan Day!

  1. Rome wasn’t “in error.” “Our sacrifice” is not an accurate translation. There are multiple conceivable options (many of them admittedly clunky) for how to render the conjunction “ac” into English. But “our sacrifice” is a playing fast and loose with the Latin for clearly ideological reasons.

    Of course there is a solution for these problems: just use the original Latin!

    1. Just to note that “accurate” is a complicated term, with many different possible understandings. There are several schools of thought about translation, and widespread disagreement about what is the best or the most accurate. Your comment suggests there’s one clear answer, but there isn’t. (And speaking of idiology… none of that in your last line, is there?)

      1. Ideology in my last line? Yes: that of Vatican II’s own constitution on the liturgy. 🙂

      2. No. The bishops at Vatican II had a proposal that Latin be preserved for the solemn, fully sung liturgy. They dropped it and admitted vernacular. Latin was admitted and recommended, but not mandated.
        But why are we debating these things yet again? Is there anything new to be said

      1. A thought question comes to mind: is “I and Thou” suggestive of something in addition to just “We”? Particularly if one were to add something that may be idiomatic to English in that context that’s not so much in the Latin as such: “together”. “I and Thou, together” or “Together, I and Thou”. (“Together” being the “we” that comes from “I” and “Thou”.)

      2. Karl, that’s what I was getting at when I quoted the French Prions ensemble [Let us pray together….]

      3. Paul

        Thanks. Not being francophone, how one would say, instead: “let you and me pray to gether”?

      4. @6:47
        The verb in the purpose clause, ‘fiat’ is in the singular. The subject ‘sacrificium’ is singular. Therefore it is the same sacrifice which is being referred to by the possessive adjectives ‘meus’ and ‘vester.’ Logically then, ‘noster’ is appropriate.

      5. Karl, you would probably have to say Prions ensemble, vous et moi. [Let us pray together, you and I]

  2. I think he would be correct in pointing out that my and your suggest a separation that some may not like but it cannot be substituted with “our” without doing away with the distinction of the priest from the laity. Essentially this is a fight over which term better represents the reality and while both work the 3rd edition translation is consistent how the Church understands Her liturgy. Every argument I have heard in favor of doing away from these distinctions that are theological, not merely cultural, are protestant and the documents of Vatican II from SC to GS talk about the hierarchical nature of the Church.

    Attempts to claim the spirit of these texts support an abolishing of these distinction are not convincing given the hierarchical nature of the Liturgy is affirmed in SC (document on the Sacred Liturgy from the council) and hierarchical nature of the Church is affirmed in LG (document on the Church from the council.) The original Latin text does not exist in a vacuum it was informed by the council and thus, one cannot wish for a change to better fit one’s theological jib without contending with how the liturgy is understood by the council from which the text took its lead.

    While you can argue whether the Calvinist/puritan model is more theologically sound than the Catholic/orthodox/high church protestant nature of worship (but based on biblical theology, Church history, and liturgical theology that is not the case) but such a position cannot rightly be called Catholic. Simply put if this is the Catholic liturgy there are going to be noticeable distinctions between priests (and other ordained ministers, perhaps even non ordained) and the faithful, you may not like it but that is the Church to which you belong.

  3. Please explain how the French church got away with “ the sacrifice of the whole church” which is roughly equivalent to “our sacrifice”.

    1. John, I think those who could have answered that question, which dates back to 1969, have all gone to their eternal reward! I’m thinking especially of Dominican Fr Pierre-Marie Gy.

      1. I seem to remember that Joe O’Leary commented that the original French translation was affected by the input of a poet whose name escapes me. I don’t think Mr. O’Leary mentioned the extent of the poet’s input, but I wonder if the poet’s love for language and euphony influenced others involved.

      2. Patrice de La Tour du Pin.

        It is said by some that his involvement in the early stages of the French vernacular was not a great success on some levels because he lacked theological background and some of his imagery “got in the way of” the text. Some of his work accordingly had to be revised, and he was pointed to as an example of why poets often don’t make good liturgical textualists.

        Others had a different opinion of his work and say that without him the French vernacular texts would have been the poorer, so the comment about language and euphony may be well-founded.

    2. I don’t know. My point was not that “our” is unacceptable but that current English translation is acceptable and I would believe to be superior. Given that there is a distinct difference between the intention of the priest and the separate intentions of the people. The priest will often have a mandated intention for which someone has requested and paid for a Mass to be offered for someone. While the faithful present are free to choose whatever intention they wish. The priest can attach secondary intentions to the primary intention but he is under obligation to celebrate Mass for a specific intention. “My sacrifice and yours” seems to be an accurate way of stating that the priest’s intention is of primary importance while acknowledging that the faithful contribute and unite their intentions to that of the priest. I don’t understand why individuals get hot and bothered by this distinction. The priesthood is an ordained ministry and thus he has been set aside in a special to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice for the people of God.

      1. I do not know. However, it is mentioned in Canon Law (p. 945 sec. 2) “It is recommended that the priest celebrate the Mass for the intention of the Christian faithful, especially the needy, even if they have not received an offering.” (The first section of the same paragraph just states that a priest can receive an offering to apply a Mass for a specific intention.) St. Paul VI commends the practice in a 1974 motu proprio “Firme in Traditione.” (Unfortunately, it is only available in Latin and Italian.) So while I do not know if the priest’s intention is mentioned in the GIRM or OM. The priest sacrifice as distinct from that of the people was pretty clearly laid out in SC. The priest having a particular intention for a Mass has been a long-standing practice of the Church and it is mentioned in Canon Law as a recommended practice.

        It may not be in the rubrics for Mass (probably because the intention is formulated before Mass traditionally.) However, it is a part of the Church’s understanding of the Mass and the Church understanding deserves a place at the table when it comes to translating liturgical texts in my opinion.

      2. Actually, it is mentioned in GIRM 54 concerning the collect “Next the priest invites the people to pray. All, together with the priest, observe a brief silence so that they may be conscious of the fact that they are in God’s presence and may formulate their petitions mentally” That is admittedly kind of vague, but it does at least mention it and I will add to my citations in my above post.

      3. And don’t forget GIRM 365(b)(c)&(d) concerning the Eucharistic Prayers II-III-IV including the mention of the deceased “[w]hen the Mass is celebrated for a particular deceased person”.

  4. Forgive me for treading on what I am sure must be already churned up ground, but I thought that the invitation ‘orate fratres’ was originally addressed to the bishops and presbyters surrounding the Pope at the altar, and not to the rest of the people present, who had already presented quantities of loaves of bread and some flasks of wine in a rite that must have taken some time to perform.

    This surely must influence what it should be held to mean today, and also that in addressing it to the people at large we are surely changing its meaning. There is nothing wrong with that as far as I can see, but we need to be aware of the fact.

    I am happy with ‘our sacrifice’ simply because we have changed the context and because it is the most elegant way of dealing with ‘meum ac vestrum’ and I take the point about ‘ac’ meaning something simultaneous, a joint action. This leaves aside the question of difference between ordained and others which some like to highlight. Maybe the celebration of Mass at this transitional point is not the best place for a slightly cumbersome theological mini lecture.


    1. In Mediator Dei, Pius XII quotes the “meum ac vestrum” prayer in support of the view “that the oblation of the Victim is made by the priests in company with the people”. He also notes that “the prayers by which the divine Victim is offered to God are generally expressed in the plural number: and in these it is indicated more than once that the people also participate in this august sacrifice inasmuch as they offer the same.” This includes the prayer “in spiritu humilitatis” which explicitly refers to “sacrificium nostrum”, and the prayer accompanying the offering of the chalice which says “offerimus tibi calicem salutarem”.

      So, one cannot logically object to “our sacrifice” without objecting to other prayers in the liturgy of the eucharist, even in the EF. Of course, Pius XII prefaces these remarks by emphasising the fact that the manner in which priest and people offer the sacrifice differs, but as long as this point is made clear without any implication of superiority or inferiority, it seems to me that the question of translation is of less significance.

  5. “Worship” accepted an article of mine on this topic about 2 years ago; but, with fewer issues appearing each year, the queue must be long. The difficulty is that the more “traditionalist” want to read into the Latin a disjunctive quality which is not there. The exposition of “ac” as conjunctive rather than disjunctive is accurate.
    The same issue appears in the punctuation of the later phrase in the Canon: “nos servi tui sed et plebs tua sancta. The accurate translation would be “We (who are) your servants but also your holy people.” Yet it has at times been punctuated disjunctively so that the translation reads “we your servants (the clergy), but also your holy people (laity).”
    It is interesting to note that the phrase “for whom we offer this sacrifice” did not appear until quite late in antiquity and, as Jungmann points out, was not accepted by the Cistercians until the 17th C.–if my memory serves me.

  6. As a born and raised French Canadian, I can attest to always having heard the invitation to prayer; “Prions ensemble, au moment d’offrir le sacrifice de toute l’Église”:

    “Prions ensemble” would best be translated “Let us Pray” as it is the invitation in French (at least where I have celebrated the Eucharist) used by the presider for the Collect and other presidential prayers; and

    “au moment d’offrir le sacrifice de toute l’Église” does not really equate to “our sacrifice” since in the context of a Eucharistic celebration the “us” would be the gathered community as in “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” Rather, the capital “É” and the “toute” means “the whole Church.”

    My mother’s Latin-French “Missel vespéral romain” published in 1955 by the Apostolat liturgique Abbaye de Saint-André, Bruges translated “ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium” as “pour que mon sacrifice, qui est aussi le vôtre” (that my sacrifice, which is also yours).

    This seems to me to be the best way to differentiate between the Latin “et” and “ac or atque”. How this became “au moment d’offrir le sacrifice de toute l’Église” after Vatican II, I do not know. I would like to see that behind this translation there lies a view that the sacrifice being offered at a particular Eucharistic celebration is united in some way to the sacrifice the whole Church offers to God everywhere, in all times and beyond time in the eternal heavenly liturgy. Might be fanciful thinking!

    The commentary by Anscar Chupungco on the ICEL translation on page 220 of A Commentary in the Order of the Mass of the Roman Missal addresses this issue and supports the translation of the French 1955 Latin-French pew missal.

    I think that the translation “my sacrifice, which is also yours” is not too clunky, would be faithful to the Latin, and makes a clear statement that there is only one sacrifice of the Mass offered by the gathered community led by its presider. It would also avoid whatever problem some might see (and I do…

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