Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Double-Dipped Collects

"Double-dipping" is a funny expression.  In accounting, it means to obtain income from two sources, perhaps illicitly; in snacking, to stick a half-eaten chip into the sour-cream-and-onion.  Neither of these is very nice.  But we at the Egg love our ice cream cones dipped in cherry sauce, of the sort that forms a thin hard shell, and we can only imagine how good a double-dipped cone might be.

And lately, we have discovered double-dipping in the world of liturgical prayer.

One of our hobbies, over the past year, has been comparing the Prayers of the Day printed in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) to their originals.  Our guide to this antiquarian endeavor is the book Keeping Time by Gail Ramshaw and Mons Teig, especially Index B, which offers a citation for each prayer, along with a modest (*) for prayers that have been altered or (**) for prayers that have been heavily altered.  Those acquainted with the language of our still-new service book will already know that asterisks abound.

Like most Lutheran service books printed in the United States, ELW's prayers are drawn from a variety of sources and languages, both ancient and modern. The greatest number are probably from the Gelasian Sacramentary, but many are taken from other sources -- including a fair number by important historical figures, previously anthologized in Dorothy Stuart's 2002 Westminster Book of Christian Prayer.  Curiously, Keeping Time doesn't offer any citations to the Reformation church-orders, although it is possible that prayers from those sources have slipped in through the LBW or Herbert Brokering's adaptations.

Today, we were looking at the propers for this coming Sunday, identified in our books by the ungainly title of Lectionary 26 A.  The Prayer of the Day is:

God of love, giver of life, you know our frailties and failings. Give us your grace to overcome them, keep us from those things that harm us, and guide us in the way of salvation, through Jesus Christ, etc. 

According to Ramshaw and Teig, this one is from the Gelasian Sacramentary, specifically #1213 in the Mohlberg collection (and III:ix:x in Henry Austin Wilson's older edition).  Somewhat absent-mindedly, we turned to the appropriate page and began to translate:
Custodi, domine, quaesumus, aecclesiam tuam propitiacione perpetua, et quia sine te labitur humana mortalitas, tuis semper auxiliis et abstrahatur a noxiis et ad salutaria dirigatur: per ...
Let's see.  Watch, O Lord we beseech thee, over thy Church -- standard stuff. And since without thee, human labor -- no, that's a passive verb, is sliding or gliding.  Hey.  Waitasecond.  Some of these forms are odd, and I'd swear I saw them just the other --

Yup.  A quick glance at Index B reveals that Old #2013 was indeed the basis for an entirely different Prayer of the Day, proper to Lectionary 23 A.  In other words, the one we prayed just three weeks earlier!

And yet the two English prayers derived from the one Latin source are quite different.  The Prayer of the Day for Lectionary 23 A reads:

O Lord God, enliven and preserve your church with your perpetual mercy. Without your help, we mortals will fail; remove far from us everything that is harmful, and lead us toward all that gives life and salvation, through Jesus Christ ...
23 A is far, far more literal than 26 A.  The former is a single-asterisk prayer, where the latter is decidedly double-asterisk.  Indeed, we would be inclined to regard 26 A as an original composition.  It adds substantial material (the pairings of love/life and frailites/failings; the all-important word grace) and removes the central image of the original (labitur humana mortalitas, which is not easy to translate but may mean something on the order of "humanity inclines toward death," and seems best rendered in phrases like Cranmer's "the frailty of Man cannot ... but fail").

It may seem to reflect a lack of originality on the part of the editors to have used the same prayer twice in a few weeks.  But of course they didn't use the same prayer; they used two quite different prayers with a common inspiration. We Lutherans do not, generally speaking, share the Anglican conceit of producing a Latin edition of our English service book.  If we did, it would require us to create an entirely new Latin prayer based on 26 A.  But we don't.

So it seems curious, but also strangely creative, that ELW has taken this route.  it is double-dipping, but not in the pejorative sense used by an accountant.  Rather, the same tasty cone has been dipped in two flavors of sauce, to create something new and unusual.