That my words may be pleasing in the sight of the prince.
  • Next Sunday fortnight (O28) we are singing the following text at the Offertory.

    R. Remember me, O Lord, you who rule above all power, and give a well ordered speech in my mouth, that my words may be pleasing in the sight of the prince. V. Turn his heart into hatred of those who oppose us, and of those who consent unto them, but deliver us by your hand, O God, for ever. V. Remember that I stood in your sight, to speak good for them, and to turn away your indignation from them.

    This is Fr Weber's version, but the Latin appears in Ott. References: Esther 15, Jeremiah 18. Consider the biblical contexts.

    For liturgical use surprisingly strong language. Who is me? we/us? they/them? the prince?

    Anyone care to comment?
  • Andrew,

    It's only strong language in the modern era. After all, the Good Friday liturgy in the EF contains a prayer for Heretics and Schismatics.

  • A prayer that God would eruat them de erroribus universis and dignetur to revocare them to the Sanctam Matrem Ecclesiam Catholicam and Apostolicam. Not the same at all.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,573
    See Esther 4C*:12-30 for fuller context [the method of chapter numbering of the Book of Esther chapters has changed and the interpolation of text from the Septuagint is sub-chaptered].

    http://www.usccb.org/bible/esther/4
  • And this context for Jeremiah: http://www.usccb.org/bible/jeremiah/18 .

    In the subtext, "we" have sinned and are praying for protection anyway; and "they" should be struck down by God's anger, even though we did pray for them in the past.

    Or, "we" pray for strong protection from persecution, recognizing that we are sinners, but that the persecutors themselves have received good from us in the past.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,573
    Well, Antiquity was rich with imprecatory curses (we have social media to substitute). This very fictional scene has the mother of Brutus cursing the mother of Octavian, but does aptly capture the visceral character of Roman superstition (trigger warning: do stop at the 1:32 mark if you to skip the violent part. I will note that while the slave follows the ancient ways in following her mistress, it's simplified for dramatic effect)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6qV9gjU4yg

    Understanding this may help us more viscerally engage how utterly shocking the Good News of the Crucified and Risen Christ was in its time. His very first lesson to his disciples was to teach them a new language - the language of forgiveness. Considering what happened to him, and what his disciples had failed to do, this was no wand-waving exercise.

    And still is.

    We still resist it; we still balk at the unfairness of forgiveness by human standards (well, we want forgiveness but really want to be excused, rather than forgiven, because real forgiveness is for things that can't be justified or excused; however, for those we don't identify with, we'd like permission to nurse and grow our resentments and grievances. So we're not sooooooo different from Servillia of the Junii.)
  • Well said but still not on point.

    For one thing the imprecation in Jeremiah, if that's what it is, isn't included in the liturgy here. What's included is the memory of mercy. Servilia doesn't recall how she did good to Atia she just invokes the under gods.

    More, though : Esther doesn't curse, even in the subtext, she implores mercy and protection from God through the prince, risking her life to approach him.

    Liam, are you suggesting that this Offertory is included in the liturgy as an example of the superstition of Antiquity which Christ came to teach us to depart from? It's there as a warning, like a reformed smoker's unopened pack of cigarettes in a drawer?

    On that reading, "we" and "they" and the "prince" are only literally who they are in the scripture, and we singing in the Church are merely warned witnesses to their old-fashioned and obsolete manners.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,573
    Andrew

    I agree with all the distinctions you make and am certainly NOT putting the Scripture in superstition territory (pre-Christian Roman religion was very superstitious in ways that might strike us as silly but they were deadly earnest about). I wanted simply to put them in a larger context, especially regarding the we/they point. As for we/they: I tend to follow the prudential idea that, when considering wheat and tares, it's not that we are one or the other, but we are often mixed matter, so we should be careful about invoking God's justice on others when we expect God's mercy.
  • In fact, it seems we can read this Offertory with its verses as doing exactly that, being careful. God's just protection is invoked and implored, in humility, through the established order, knowing that our persecutors are dangerous to us and opposed to the will of God, but also they are men, whose good wave prayed for in the past.