8 February 2020

A Preface for the Gesimas? (1)

This is an old preface tinkered with in the 1970s. It is provided, in several Sacramentaries, either for the last Sunday after Epiphany or for Sepuagesima itself. So I suppose it is ... sort of ... seasonal. I think somebody once suggested that, in an enriched version of the Old Mass, it would make an appropriate optional Proper Preface for the Gesima Sundays. I would have no problem with that were it not for the fact that the Novus Ordo took liberties with the text. Same old story ...

Praefatio III de Dominicis per Annum.

VD ... omnipotens aeterne Deus: Ad cuius immensam gloriam pertinere cognoscimus ut mortalibus tua Deitate succurreres; sed et nobis provideres de ipsa mortalitate nostra remedium, et perditos quosque unde perierant, inde salvares, per Xtm Dnm nostrum.

I first started thinking about this ... you know how it is  ... because I couldn't think of the answer to a rather obvious question which a III Former could probably spot: why are the subjunctive verbs in Historic Sequence (i.e. Imperfect Subjunctives)? I still haven't shifted this log-jam in my mind ...

In despair, I ended up, as one does, looking at the Verona Sacramentary, also called the Leonine Sacramentary, which I suspect has the earliest known version of this preface (beginning of October). Basic differences are these: for the "pertinere cognoscimus" VS simply had "pertinet"; and the subjunctive verbs were in the Perfect Subjunctive: "succurreris ... provideris ... salvaris".

Well, that solves my problems about Sequence of Tenses, doesn't it. These nice healthy perfect subjunctives seem already to have mutated into imperfects in the Sacramentarium Bergomense and the 'Gregorian' Missal. [Salvaris is by a common syncope for salvaveris. One source, incidentally, has its knickers in a real twist: it reads succurras.]

Are we to interpet the Verona Sacramentary version as "It pertains to your ginormous glory that you have succoured ... have provided ... have saved ...?" This seems to me to make better sense and grammar than the (I suspect) subsequent alterations. It is, indeed, roughly how current ICEL actually translates the formula.

I floated this question last year, and was blessed with two very good comments.Tomorrow I will offer a little exegesis ... or, you may feel, eisegesis.


Andreas Meszaros said...

The 1896 Cambridge Missal of St. Augustine’s Abbey, has it as: "ad cujus immensam pertinet gloriam ut non solum mortalibus tua PIETATE succurreres ..."

Oxford Leofric Missal of 1883 follows the same wording and so does the Migne Patrologia Latina.

Stephen v.B. said...

One might imagine that the textual corruption (for that does indeed seem the most likely option) of the perfect subjunctives in [-ris] to imperfect subjunctives in [-res] could have been triggered by a copyist who failed to recognize the syncopated form salvaris (rare, I think, in this particular form). The whole situation reminds me a bit of the occasional corruption of [-erant] into [-erunt], as dealt with by A.E. Housman in his lecture 'On the Application of Thought to Textual Criticism'.

As an aside: on the rhythmical level, the final salvaris delivers a nice cursus planus to contrast with the cursus tardus of the preceding four cola. That might have been an incentive to use the syncopated form in the first place, instead of the full salvaveris. Just a thought!