Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Article in The Priest Magazine

The New Translation
Reflection after three months
By Father Matthew J. Albright - The Priest,
Among the inspirational scriptural and theological allusions brought into
greater clarity by the new translation of the Roman Missal is a multi-faceted
phrase in the second Eucharistic Prayer. During the epiclesis, the priest prays
for the Spirit to “descend like the dewfall.” This poetic reference might be
unusual to ears accustomed to spreadsheets, kids’ homework and the daily paper
(and some have even openly criticized the use of this particular phrasing), but
poetry makes sense in prayer. Behind the gateway of poetry is a fascinating
journey into the love of God.
One of my fondest childhood memories is of working with my family in our
garden. We have always valued fresh homegrown vegetables and the accomplishment
of cultivating our own garden. It is no coincidence that it has been said that
“he who plants a garden is close to God,” for the image of a garden plays a
significant role in the Scriptures. Life itself begins in the Garden of Eden,
where also the treachery of sin is revealed.
The love story between God and His people, between the Lord and the human
soul, told through the metaphor of a bridegroom and his bride in the Song of
Songs, includes the image of the soul’s secret garden into which she invites the
Lord to dwell and which is fruitful in love for others. In the fullness of time,
God send His only Son, and Jesus accepts the burden of the world’s sin in the
Garden of Gethsemane. Creation and redemption begin in a garden — a place of
anxious growth and the blossoming of new life. The seeds of a garden are
nourished by water, a basic element of all life. They grow in mystery and
produce beauty and delight beyond our explanation.
Each morning of summer when we awake, something new has transpired. Nature is
always renewing itself, as grace is always renewing us in our human needs. Thus
we can relate to the 19th century Gaelic hymn “Morning Has Broken,” which
praises the dawn of a new day as a reminder of the newness of creation.
In verse two we sing: “Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven, like
the first dewfall on the wet grass. Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,
sprung in completeness where His feet pass.” The wet grass and garden plants in
the first hours of daylight are uniquely beautiful: the sweet wetness serves as
a reminder of the providence of God, who sends mysterious moisture to nourish
the soil and mysterious grace to enliven the souls of human persons. The first
dewfall and the daily dewfalls throughout the world call to mind the goodness of
As the dewfall appears upon the leaves in the morning without our beholding
its coming, so too the grace of God descends through the sacraments and in other
mysterious ways to touch and nourish our lives. In the Consecration of the Mass,
the Spirit descends through the ministry of the priest to transform bread and
wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.
The Spirit’s descent is inexplicable and unseen but very real. The altar is
the place where the fullness of God’s presence in Eden and the salvific action
of Christ begun in Gethsemane are made present. Jesus Christ is truly present,
Calvary is re-presented and His redeeming love flows over us in abundance. Like
the sweet and mysterious dewfall, the Spirit descends in hidden majesty to bring
God’s love into our lives. The God who is creator of the unseen descends to make
himself present to us in our every need, and the Church’s Eucharistic
celebration becomes like so many drops of water to cleanse parched souls.
Providing food for another is a great sign of love. Parents work to provide
food for their children, and chefs delight in new culinary creations to thrill
the appetites of diners. The Eucharist is the ultimate feast, the ultimate
feeding. It is a banquet in which the host is the food, the priest is the
victim. Jesus Christ nourishes us with His very Body and Blood, and we become
one with God. The Eucharistic banquet was prefigured in the Old Testament when
God fed the Israelites with manna in the desert.
When the Israelites, who had fled from bondage in Egypt, lamented their
starvation in the wilderness, God promised to “rain bread from heaven” (Ex
16:4). It came to pass that “in the morning a dew lay round the camp. And when
the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like
thing, fine as hoarfrost on the ground. . . .And Moses said to them, ‘It is the
bread which the Lord has given you to eat’” (Ex 16:13-15). The appearance of
bread from heaven to satisfy the hunger of the wandering Israelites coincides
with the dewfall at dawn, emphasizing the mystery and delicacy of the Lord’s
precious gift. In the dark of night, He showers on them the bread they need and
desire. They gather the bread, not knowing how it came to be.
The true Bread of Life
In the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus takes the gift of bread from
heaven to a whole new level as He teaches the crowds that He is the true Bread
of Life: “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness,
and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may
eat of it and not die. . .and the bread which I shall give for the life of the
world is my flesh” (Jn 6:48-51). How fitting it is, then, that we should pray
for the Spirit to descend like the dewfall in the Consecration, since Jesus
places His Eucharistic presence in the context of the manna that descended with
the dewfall. Having freed the Israelites from slavery, God fed them with manna
along their journey in the desert. In the Eucharist, Jesus himself feeds those
whom He has freed from the finality of sin’s darkness on their journey toward
union with God in their true homeland in heaven.
In addition to the Exodus story, Strong’s Concordance lists 34 appearances of
the word “dew” in the Scriptures. Notable in the context of the Eucharist is the
exhortation in Proverbs (3:19-20) to be wise: “The Lord by wisdom founded the
earth; by understanding He established the heavens; by His knowledge the deeps
broke forth, and the clouds drop down the dew.” The creation of the universe is
the result, not of circumstance or accident, but of an intricate plan of a wise
God. The clouds drop down the dew because the Lord’s wisdom has ordained it so.
Jesus Christ is the Word of God (John 1) and also “to those who are called,
Christ crucified is the “power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24), while
to unbelievers He is a stumbling block and folly. As disciples of Jesus, we
accept Him — His teachings, sacraments, example, and sacrificial love — as the
supreme wisdom, far beyond the folly of the world. By the wisdom of God in
Christ, the sacraments drop down grace like clouds drop down the dew, in mystery
and beauty.
Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist, through the words and ritual of the priest
during the consecration at Mass, is the fullest experience of God’s presence
known to mankind on earth. The wise working of God in creation and the rescuing
of the Israelites from slavery is seen manifest in the mysterious dewfall. Our
prayer in the canon of the Mass is that the Spirit once again descend in mystery
and sweetness upon simple bread and wine to transubstantiate them into the very
Body and Blood of Jesus, our food on the journey into God. The altar is the
garden of fruitfulness, where the dewfall of grace nourishes our gifts and
Christ becomes present in our midst. How fitting is this newly translated
prayer, and how rich in food for contemplation! TP
FATHER ALBRIGHT, a priest of the
Diocese of Youngstown, is religion teacher and chaplain at John F. Kennedy
Catholic High School in Warren, Ohio.
© 2011 Our Sunday Visitor, Inc. All rights reserved.


Mark M said...

A fine reflection, Father, on what is one of my favorite phrases in the Mass (now that we have the New Translation). It is "refreshing" to hear this prayer, even while some of us long to hear the Roman Canon more often as well.

Mary Wagner said...

I very much appreciate your article, Father. From the first time I heard "like the dewfall", in the new translation, I thought it was beautiful, but really wanted to understand the origin of the wording. Every time we have a chance to learn about where the words of the Mass come from, we can understand and enter into the Mass more and more. Thank you!