4 February 2011

Mater Misericordiae

reprinted from May 2010
We fly to
[really 'beneath'] thy protection, O Holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us from all dangers, O ever [the 'ever' should really go with 'deliver us'] glorious and blessed Virgin.

That is a translation of the common Latin text; the Greek in the [see yesterday's post] papyrus could be rendered thus
We flee beneath thy mercy, O Mother of God; do not overlook our petitions in necessity, but deliver us from danger, O only Chaste, only Blessed.

You will notice that 'protection' was originally* compassionate mercy, eusplagnia. The root here is a word literally meaning 'bowels', seen as the seat of feeling, of compassion. When the Synoptic writers say that "Jesus had compassion upon ... ", this is the root they are employing. The Apostles sometimes implore their converts to show eusplagnia to each other. And the word for 'deliver' is the same one that we have at the end of the our Father. The prayer, in other words, is quite biblical in its language, and the writer is clearly familiar with the Lucan description of our Lady as Blessed, eulogemene. It is interesting to note how, well before the Council of Ephesus, it seems natural to call our Lady Mother of God.

It might seem odd to call our Lady only [mone] chaste. And other women might also qualify as blessed. I take it that the sense is that Mary is in quite a different league from other chaste and blessed women. Indeed, it is the very elevation assigned to the Mother of God that made the original editor misrepresent the date of this lovely prayer.

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* Logically, of course, the Latin and the Greek might both come from a lost archetype ...

1 comment:

Fr LR said...

Thank you, Father, for this lovely history! My family has for years begun the Rosary by first reciting the Sub tuum. It makes more sense now to do so than ever.

I have many times also sung the beautiful setting of this text by Flor Peters.