24 August 2021

Jobs (Officia)

In the Treasury of Canterbury Cathedral are a Chalice and Paten which were buried with Hubert Walter, Archbishop of Canterbury 1193-1205. The paten bears an inscription which perfectly exemplifies the attitude Latin Christians had towards the Blessed Sacramnent before the Eucharistic Enlightenment for which Pope John XXII was responsible: they believed that the Sacrament is the Body and Blood of Christ ... the dead Body and blood of Christ.

Ara crucis, tumulique calix, lapidisque patena,

     Sindonis officium candida byssus habet.

As your knowledge of Latin grows, you will find it helpful to try to translate Latin which you may come across. People who think they can get a 'sort of general sense', perhaps by looking up a word or two in a dictionary, are ... let me be brutally frank ... complete fools. Latin word-order and grammar mean that the words will be in a word-order totally different from English. If you don't know grammar, you will be unable to work out  whether the cat bit the dog, or the dog bit the cat. 

And word order is even more (to the Anglophone eye) problematic in verse than it is in prose.

What I have printed above is an elegiac couplet, which is a verse form. One way of suspecting this is: if the even-numbered lines are shorter and end in the rhythm tumtitty tumtitty tum. 

First you need to spot the verb. Here it is habet. Next, what is the subject? When you have got your declensions learned off by heart, you will probably cotton on to the fact that Ara, calix, patena, byssus, are all subjects, in what is called the Nominative Case. Crucis, tumuli, lapidis, sindonis, are genitives (meaning "of").

Next ... if the verb has an object, what is it?


So, with English-style word-order, we can rearrange the two lines into 

Ara habet officium crucis, calix habet officium tumuli, patena habet officium lapidis, candida byssus habet officium sindonis. 

Which is, in English

The Altar has the job of the Cross, and the Chalice has the job of the Tomb, and the Paten has the job of the Stone, and white linen has the job of the Shroud.

Alluding, all of it, to the dead and buried Jesus. And to the Altar, Chalice, Paten, and Purificator at Mass.

Hey, er, presto ...


Joshua said...

I thought it was only certain Caroline divines, and later Nonjurors, who held the horrid doctrine that the Sacrament was the dead Body of Christ.

Richard said...

I am full of admiration for the brainy few who can master all the conjugations and declensions. But most of us do not have the time for this, even if we had the intellect. I suggest that using a bit of common sense, a few short-cuts, and some knowledge of modern languages, allows one to have a fair bash at following the TLM and reading the psalms in Latin. And a parallel text helps.
Learning for reading is a different matter from learning for composition. Let not the perfect be the enemy of the worthwhile.

PM said...

... whereas John XXII and Bishop Grandisson had the benefit of the Angelic Doctor's meditation in Summa Theologiae IIIa, q 81, a 4, in which he says that the disciples would have received the dead body of the Lord if one of the apostles had celebrated the Eucharist while He lay buried in the tomb, but we after His resurrection receive His crucified and risen body.

Remember also that it was John XXII who canonised St Thomas.

Stuart Rackham said...

Thank you Fr, you've inspired me to take up my Latin cross again.

Greyman 82 said...

Fascinating post Father. I struggled with Latin, mainly because as a schoolboy I was lazy and coudln't be bothered with all that "hic, haec, ho, amo, amas, amat" drudgery, though I managed a C grade in O level over 40 yeras ago.
Perhaps as a project for my retirement, which is coming ip in a number of years now in single figures, I could take up learning Latin again, and maybe New Testament Greek. It would be great to read in the original language what the Gospel and Epistle writers actually wrote. I don't 100% trust any translation as many translators have some sort of agenda, somewhere they're "coming from". "Hear also what St Paul saith." I want to read what St Paul wrote!

Paul Hellyer said...

Are you contradicting "I am the living bread etc . " Is the sense that we receive the dead Christ?
Surely not and not the belief at the time of the inscription.
So what are you saying exactly?

Dale Crakes said...

From an English Greek & Latin professor of your vintage. "I really don’t like the translation of officia as jobs. Not only is it too casual and pedestrian, but it misses the moral flavour of duty or obligation. Even ‘tasks’ would be a bit better. I don’t think any verbatim or word-for-word translation works. How about ‘stands in the place of...’?" I forgot to include you as the source when I emailed your entire post to him.

Arthur H. said...

Dear Father Professor,

You're making me think. Thank you for the understandable translation. But, if the white linen has the job of the shroud, well, when the Sacred Body of the Lord was lying in the tomb, the shroud was over the body. We needn't quibble about the Shroud of Turin which was over and under the Body, but it was over His Body. At Mass, the white linen is only under the species. So cannot this inscription mean that at the Consecration, the living Body and Blood of Christ are truly present?

Any points? Creativity maybe? Thank you, Father.