Today’s prayer, quite ancient and designated the Gelasian Sacramentary for the early Roman Church’s use on Tuesday of the 2nd Week of Lent, was once arranged a bit different, but it was the same prayer. It was not in the pre-Conciliar Roman Missal. We have a new theme this week, I think. Let’s see what the prayer really says so that you can compare it to what you heard in church if you participate at Mass today.
Deus, qui ob animarum medelam
castigare corpora praecepisti,
concede, ut ab omnibus possimus abstinere peccatis,
et corda nostra
pietatis tuae valeant exercere mandata.
A medela is "a healing, cure, a remedy", medically speaking, but also in the sense of "means of redress".
Last week we saw how castigo has the strong overtone of "correct".
O God, who commanded the stern correction of our bodies
on account of the healing of our souls,
grant, that we may be able to abstain from all sins
and that our hearts may have the strength to
carrying our the commands of Your piety.
Note once again we have conceptual pairing of mind and body. In this prayer we have the structure of bodies sins hearts. It is as if when we give ourselves to our appetites, the sins we objectively commit corrupt hearts as well. In another way, sins pray apart, divide us in two, diminish us. They caused the separation of body and soul which is the death in the enslavement of sin. Our first parents caused that sort of death. They were free not to die, but by their sin they lost that gift. We are no longer free from the death of the body. Thanks to Christ we are free from eternal death of the soul.
Today’s prayer introduces the concept of healing in medela. Also we have command vocabulary in praecepisti and mandata. The mandata refer more than likely to the two-fold command of love of God and neighbor, which must lead us to forgiveness of our neighbor when we are wronged and also spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Remember that a meaning of pietas is "dutifulness". This ties together with the command vocabulary. At the same time we gain from pietas God’s manifold mercies, which is is faithful in giving when we ask for them. In an Augustinian sense, we could render pietas as "knowledge and love of the true God".
God wants us to be in harmony with Him and with ourselve. He does not desire war between us and Him, us and our neighbor or us and our bodies. Sometimes conflicts must take place, and it takes some conflict or violence to correct the situation and impose order again. We must have order before we can have peace. God corrects or castigates us for His good reasons. We correct and are corrected by each other with fraternal charity. We correct our appetites by imposing mortifications. The first step to all forms of correction and the imposition of order is abstinence from sin. Few people, in fact no one, can simply choose to be perfect on his own merits and strength. Our human nature is wounded. External commands and graces from God are necessary helps. His laws are great gifts, whether they are in the form of the Ten Commadments or the precepts of the Church and her canon law. They are remedies for us. We are ailing in too many ways, too weak, to be able to go forward without God’s help.