New Papal Document: Gaudete et Exsultate

Pope Francis is about to release a new Apostolic Exhortation: Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Exult or Rejoice and Be Glad) “on the call to holiness in the contemporary world”. This could be the document I’ve been expecting which will answer questions such as how non-Christians enter the state of grace, and how they progress in holiness, while formally outside the Church, and how they may attain salvation, without becoming formal members. I am hoping it will also address the question of salvation for atheists, and for persons unrepentant from objective mortal sin, who might not be fully culpable to the extent of actual mortal sin.

Some of my readers will recall my prediction that Pope Francis will teach additional controversial doctrines, which will prompt many of his critics to respond by falsely accusing him of heresy and by committing formal schism. The two most likely candidates for controversial teachings, as previously and repeatedly stated, remain:
1. that non-Christian believers and non-believers can be saved without converting, (as I said here)
2. that the Church possesses the authority to ordain women deacons (as I said here).

What is the meaning of the Latin phrase: Gaudete et Exsultate?

Pope Francis has announced a new Apostolic Exhortation to be released on Monday 9 April 2018, titled: Gaudete et Exsultate and said to be on the topic of the call to holiness in modern times. This post is an explanation of the Latin words in the title of that papal document

The Latin Phrase

“Gaudete et Exsultate”

The middle word “et” means “and”.

The two other words are each verbs in the present active imperative tense and second person plural. The imperative tense gives a command or instruction. The second person plural is “you” (“you all”).

Gaudete means to rejoice or be glad. The related word Gaudium means joy (or joys). The Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes means “the joys and hopes”. So the first imperative verb tells us to rejoice or to be glad.

Exsultate can also be spelled “exultate”. Let’s compare Psalm 2:11 in the Nova Vulgata to the Clementine Vulgate:

NV 2:11 Servite Domino in timore et exsultate ei cum tremore.
CV 2:11 Servite Domino in timore: et exultate ei cum tremore.

CPDV 2:11 Serve the Lord in fear, and exult in him with trembling.
NABRE 2:11 Serve the LORD with fear; exult with trembling….

The more recent Latin spelling adds the “s”, which is absent in the Latin Vulgate from the 16th century. Either spelling is correct.

The imperative form of the verb occurs many times in the Latin Vulgate Bible. In the Psalms, it is used to call the faithful to exult in God. For example:

{31:11} Lætamini in Domino et exultate iusti, et gloriamini omnes recti corde.
{31:11} Rejoice in the Lord and exult, you just ones, and glory, all you upright of heart.

In the Gospel of Luke, the word is used with “Gaudete”, to a similar effect as in the title of the Apostolic Exhortation:

{6:23} Gaudete in illa die, et exultate: ecce enim merces vestra multa est in cælo: secundum hæc enim faciebant Prophetis patres eorum.
{6:23} Be glad in that day and exult. For behold, your reward is great in heaven. For these same things their fathers did to the prophets.

“Be glad…and exult”. So there is the meaning of the title. It can also be phrased as “Rejoice and Exult” or even “Be glad and rejoice”. Gaudete and Exultate have similar meanings. However, Exsultate can have another meaning, which Gaudete does not have: to leap [for joy]. Consider the use of the word “exultavit” in the Gospel of Luke. It is the third person singular, perfect active indicative tense of the verb.

{1:41} Et factum est, ut audivit salutationem Mariæ Elisabeth, exultavit infans in utero eius, et repleta est Spiritu Sancto Elisabeth:
{1:41} And it happened that, as Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

{1:44} Ecce enim ut facta est vox salutationis tuæ in auribus meis, exultavit in gaudio infans in utero meo.
{1:44} For behold, as the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.

In the above two examples, the word “exultavit” means to leap. By itself, depending on context, the word can imply the meaning of “leap for joy”. That the infant in the womb of Elizabeth leaped for joy is implied in verse 41 and stated in verse 44: “exultavit in gaudio”. Then, in the Magnificat, Mary says:

{1:46} Et ait Maria: Magnificat anima mea Dominum:
{1:46} And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord.

{1:47} et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo.
{1:47} And my spirit leaps for joy in God my Savior.

Her spirit “leaps for joy” (translating the single word exultavit), just as the child John the Baptist leapt for joy in the womb of Elizabeth. In the Latin, this connection is clear, as the very same word is used. Of course, the more common wording of the Magnificat is “my spirit exults”. (Note that the modern wording of the Magnificat uses the present tense.)

Then, in chapter 10, Luke’s Gospel describes Jesus in this way:

{10:21} In ipsa hora exultavit Spiritu Sancto….
{10:21} In the same hour, he [Jesus] exulted in the Holy Spirit….

Jesus, in his human nature, exulted or leapt for joy, figuratively, just as Mary and John the Baptist did.

As for the title of the Apostolic Exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate”, the first word could be translated as “Rejoice”, and the last word could be translated as “Exult” or “Be glad” or even “Leap for joy”, (though the latter wording is not so likely in a papal document).

My translation would be “Rejoice and Exult”.

The Beatitudes

Now, the exact phrase “Gaudete et Exultate” does occur in the Bible, in the Gospel of Matthew, as the last of the Beatitudes

{5:11} Beati estis cum maledixerint vobis, et persecuti vos fuerint, et dixerint omne malum adversum vos mentientes, propter me:
{5:11} Blessed are you when they have slandered you, and persecuted you, and spoken all kinds of evil against you, falsely, for my sake:

{5:12} gaudete, et exultate, quoniam merces vestra copiosa est in cælis. Sic enim persecuti sunt prophetas, qui fuerunt ante vos.
{5:12} be glad and exult, for your reward in heaven is plentiful. For so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

So I would say that the title of the Apostolic Exhortation is derived from this verse of the Gospel of Matthew. This suggests that the Apostolic Exhortation will base its explanation of the call to holiness in the modern world on the Beatitudes.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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3 Responses to New Papal Document: Gaudete et Exsultate

  1. Mark P. says:

    #1 (non-Christians may be saved) may potentially be in this document.
    #2 (female deacons, if approved) would be revealed following the Youth Synod. However, it will also possibly come with a reinforcement of the infallible teaching that ordination to the priesthood is limited to men.

  2. Tom Mazanec says:

    What is the expected publication date?

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