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MsgrLiptak_TNOf all the "modifications" in the recently introduced English Missal, the most discussed word among laity and clergy seems to be the reference to the "dewfall" in Eucharistic Prayer II.

The irony of this situation is that "dewfall" is not simply a poetic term inserted by the recent translators. It is, in fact, the very word, correctly translated, for the authentic Latin of Pope Paul VI’s 1969 Missal; namely, rore. (The nominative is ros, used by both Caesar and Vergil.)

My edition of Pope Paul VI’s promulgation of The Order of Mass, The Roman Missal, dated 6 April 1969, reads as follows in the above context: Haec ergo dona, quaesumus, Spiritus tui rore sanctifica…(No. 74, Prex Eucharistica II). The accompanying rubric directs the priest to extend his hands over the bread and wine: Iungit manus, easque expansas super oblata tenens

Somehow, the 1973 translation of the 1969 Missal totally ignored the original text in this regard. Thus, the 1973 English Mass read: "Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy…" Accurately rendered into English, the 1973 Mass text should always have read: "Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall…"

This mistranslation is especially puzzling because it occurs in the section of Mass that is technically known as the epiclesis. The term, epiclesis, borrowed from the Greek, means a "calling upon the Father to send the Holy Spirit" (i.e., to sanctify the offerings of bread and wine).

Why was the word "dewfall" used in the 1969 Latin Missal, and why was it ignored (apparently) by the English translators in 1973? I readily admit that I cannot find the definitive answer. Although I have put together an enormous theological library over the past 50-plus years, I cannot possibly retain copious source materials that haven’t even been published, such as the minutes of meetings and fragments of correspondence collected by committee members – data that may be stored somewhere in Vatican archives (or perhaps not). What I can write, to move this study toward some resolution, is to emphasize that, in the final analysis, the focus should be on the Church’s official approval. In this case, the Church did ratify the 1973 English version of the 1969 Latin Missal.

But, at least one other key question remains; specifically, why the metaphor "dewfall"? From the published sources that I do have in my library, "dewfall" calls to mind several well-known Biblical references, especially the story of Gideon’s fleece (Judges 6:36-40). Indeed, Gideon’s miracle, which pales before that of transubstantiation, mysteriously points to the Mass. (See A Commentary on the Prefaces and the Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Missal by Msgr. Louis Soubigou; trans. Rev. John A. Otto; Liturgical Press, 1971. I have found this volume most helpful in trying to understand the revised Missal.)

Of course, this whole discussion of "dewfall" occurs in a study of Eucharistic Prayer II. But Eucharistic Prayer II (or Anaphora II, Canon II) is fascinating for other reasons. One is that it is inspired by the historic Canon of St. Hippolytus of Rome, who died a martyr in the lead mines of Sardinia. Dating from the beginning of the third century, it was originally composed in Greek, and is readily available as such on the Internet. It is so ancient, in fact, that it takes us back to a time when even in Rome the Mass of the Roman Rite was offered not in Latin but Greek.

Ironically, St. Hippolytus is sometimes referred to as the first "anti-Pope" – an anachronism, surely. Somehow he allied himself with factions in the early Church that could be described as ultra-restrictive – "more Catholic than the Church" is the contemporary description. But he was a Christian at heart, and was eventually arrested by the Roman authorities for his faith. The sentence pronounced by a judge was the terrifying Ad metalla – literally, "to the lead mines" [of Sardinia]. There, enclosed in darkness and forced into heavy labor, he met the authentic Pope, likewise condemned to die, and was reconciled with the Church. My recollection is that Blessed Pope John XXIII noticed St. Hippolytus’s statue outside of Rome, and ordered that it be returned there.

The original Canon of Hippolytus, which, like other ancient documents, appears with some textual variations (even Shakespeare’s dramas do the same), serves as a significant ecumenical medium today. For example, it has been introduced into college courses studying the history of religions, and is used by some churches as a basis for prayer.

Msgr. David Q. Liptak is Executive Editor of

The Catholic Transcript and censor librorum for the Archdiocese of Hartford.

Events Calendar

September 2014
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
12:00 AM
Archbishop O'Brien Library , Bloomfield, United States
The Archbishop O’Brien Library will participate in a community-based project with Life Choice Donor Services, a non-profit organ procurement organization, during September, to raise awareness for organ [...]
Date :  September 01, 2014
06:00 PM
St. Ann Parish, Avon, Avon, United States
The Social Justice Committee of St. Ann’s Parish in Avon will have its popular annual clothing sale from 6-9 p.m. Sept. 19 and from 8:30 [...]
Date :  September 19, 2014
08:30 AM
St. Ann Parish, Avon, Avon, United States
The Social Justice Committee of St. Ann’s Parish in Avon will have its popular annual clothing sale from 6-9 p.m. Sept. 19 and from 8:30 [...]
10:00 AM
St. Paul Catholic High School, Bristol, Bristol, United States
St. Paul Catholic High School open houses at 10 and 11:30 a.m. Sept. 20,  7 p.m. Oct. 8 and at 10 and [...]
Date :  September 20, 2014
11:00 AM
Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary, Bloomfield, United States
Applications are being accepted for the 2014 Catholic Youth Spectacular (CYS), set for Sept. 21 on the [...]
Date :  September 21, 2014
12:00 AM
The Archdiocese of Hartford is participating again in the national Family Day program launched by [...]
Date :  September 22, 2014
11:00 AM
Wampanoag Country Club, West Hartford, West Hartford, United States
HARTFORD – The 22nd annual Archbishop John F. Whealon Memorial Golf Tournament will take place Sept. 23 [...]
Date :  September 23, 2014
06:00 PM
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Hamden , Hamden, United States
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Hamden will have its monthly Pro-Life Holy Hour Novena from 6-7 p.m. September 24.The Holy Hour will include exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, pro-life rosary, [...]
12:00 AM
Hartford GYN Center, Hartford, United States
The Pro-Life Ministry of the Archdiocese of Hartford will participate in the international 40 Days for Life campaign from Sept. 24 through Nov. 2. The success of the campaign is evident in [...]
Date :  September 24, 2014
06:00 PM
Holy Family Retreat Center, West Hartford, West Hartford, United States
"Know Greater Joy" is the theme of a Men's Weekend Retreat being offered Sept. 26-28 at Holy Family [...]
07:30 PM
St. Therese Church, Branford, Branford, United States
LYRA, an a cappella group of four professional vocalists from St. Petersburg, Russia, is returning to [...]
12:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield , Litchfield, United States
A Beginning Experience Weekend will be conducted Sept. 26-28 for divorced, separated and widowed men and [...]
Date :  September 26, 2014
09:30 AM
Holy Angels Parish Center, South Meriden, Meriden, United States
MERIDEN – The Meriden-Wallingford Council of Catholic Women will sponsor a catered breakfast at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 27 at Holy Angels Parish Center in South Meriden. Guest speaker Deacon Thomas J. Davis [...]
12:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield , Litchfield, United States
A Beginning Experience Weekend will be conducted Sept. 26-28 for divorced, separated and widowed men and [...]
Date :  September 27, 2014
01:00 PM
Polish-American Club, West Haven, United States
NEW HAVEN – St. Stanislaus Parish will have its annual picnic/harvest festival from 1-8 p.m. Sept. 28, rain or shine, at the Polish-American Club at 194 W. Spring St., West Haven. Polish and [...]
12:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield , Litchfield, United States
A Beginning Experience Weekend will be conducted Sept. 26-28 for divorced, separated and widowed men and [...]
Date :  September 28, 2014
07:00 PM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
Caritas Christi Center will offer a New Life Seminar for the separated and divorcd from 7-9 p.m. on nine [...]
Date :  September 29, 2014

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