Monday in Holy Week

Final Judgment by Maitani - OrvietoCOLLECT
Da, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus,
ut, qui ex nostra infirmitate deficimus,
intercedente Unigeniti Filii tui passione, respiremus.

Today’s’prayer was in the 1962 Missale Romanum and its predecessors.  It was in the ancient Gregorian Sacramentary in both the Hadrianum and Paduense manuscripts as well as in the Tridentinum.   However, the used to read: Da, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut, qui in tot adversis ex nostra infirmitate deficimus; intercedente unigeniti Filii tui passione respiremus.  In their ineffable wisdom The Redactors of the Novus Ordo excised the reference to the obstacles we face because of our fallen nature and the pressures of unrestrained appetites and habits.  There are calamities and adversities which put us off our purposes.  And then there are the diabolical adversaries, the enemies of our soul.  *tisk tisk*  These things shold not be deleted from prayers.  We need to be reminded of them constantly, lest we forget what our true state is in this earthly vale.

In Christian contexts respiro is “to revive”, as if after the resurrection.  It can also be taken in a moral sense.

The mighty Lewis & Short has an interesting explanation of deficio: “to loosen, set free, remove from; but it passed over at a very early period into the middle sense, to loosen from one’s self, to remove one’s self, to break loose from; and then gradually assumed the character of a new verbal action, with the meaning to leave, desert, depart from something, or absolutely, to depart, cease, fail. (For synonyms cf.: desum, absum, descisco, negligo.)”   Think of the hymn written by St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274) in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, the Pange Lingua.  In the third to the last verse we will sing on Holy Thursday during the procession to repose the Eucharistic Christ:

2004 Fr. Z reposing the Eucharist on Holy ThursdayVerbum caro, panem verum
Verbo carnem efficit:
Fitque sanguis Christi merum,
Et si sensus deficit,
Ad firmandum cor sincerum
Sola fides sufficit.

 The Word/Flesh, by a word,
made flesh into true bread,
and wine became the Blood of Christ
and even if sensory perception fails,
only faith suffices
in the strengthening of the pure heart.

We have today an ablative absolute.  Many students of Latin fall into the trap of rendering this into English with a phrase like, “with X,Y,Z happening”, the offending word being “with”.  “With” in an ablative absolute gives the impression of accompaniment.  We have to twist Latin ablative absolutes around a bit in order to get at the force of establishing circumstances or conditions for the actions of the verbs.  In my version today, I am leaving the ablative absolute as literally as I can, even though I am sacrificing English elegance to do so.  It is more important that students of Latin see what is going on in the prayer.  You can work up your own version as you choose.

Grant, we beg You, O God Almighty,
that we who are flagging from our weakness,
may be revived, as the Passion of Your Only-Begotten Son is interceding.

What I take away from this is the image of a very weary man who is struggling in the last stages of his journey.  Sometimes the old adage in finem citius (“things go faster the closer they get to the end”) just doesn’t hold true.  I think you have all had the experience of having something seem like it takes forever to end.  For example, I have been fairly seriously ill for about the last eight weeks.   In the last couple weeks I have been slowly improving and now feel pretty darn good again.  However, it seems like forever since I felt halfway decent.  On the other hand, every week as I prepare my articles for the paper, it seems like I rocket towards that deadline at mach speed.  Our perception of time and events makes a huge difference.   This is not necessary a point for Lenten  reflection, unless you take into consideration my comments the other day about the passage of our days being as swift as a shuttle of a loom, that image taken from Job.

By this point in Lent, however, I am sure we have all been doing penance and, while it may be somewhat habitual now after all these days, we still are looking forward with great anticipation to the joy, and relief, of Easter.

In the meantime, do not forget (like the Redactors of the Novus Ordo perhaps did) that the Devil is real.  The might of his powers and those of his fallen lot are angelic and by far surpass our own.  They hate you and want to see you damned to an eternity of suffering and despair in flames and lonely torment of hell. 

Have a nice day!

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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4 Responses to Monday in Holy Week

  1. Henry Edwards says:

    1973 ICEL version:
    All-powerful God,
    by the suffering and death of your Son,
    strengthen and protect us in our weakness.

    It’s mighty fine to hear tell you’re just perking right up, Father Z. The way you’ve kept plowing right straight on down the furrow lately sure has been right good, what with you feeling so poorly. (This is the language in which some of the locals pray hereabouts.)

  2. martin says:

    There is a dual aspect here. The Lenten image of a journey was initially very vivid, with us in our infirmity faltering on the way and calling for Heavenly succour; and the end-point the Paschal celebration. Week 2 is strong in this theme, but by Thursday and then Saturday of week 3 the impending Paschal celebrations are introduced as a theme, and Laetare Sunday draws the threads together. The Paschal feast recurs as a theme on Thursday of week 4, but from Sunday of week 5 our focus changes to the sacrifice of the Cross and our eternal salvation: Sunday of week 5 has the first explicit reference to the death of Christ; the theme of our Heavenly destiny occurs on Monday, Thursday, Saturday of week 5. On Palm Sunday the Cross is named for the first time.

    So the minor theme of the journey through the penitential season of Lent now yields to the larger theme of the journey through life: the image of the Christian athlete has strong scriptural backing in the sense of life as an earthly race, and of a Heavenly reward for the winners (1Co.9:24-27; 2Tim.4:7; Heb.21:1b). Eternity was yesterday’s theme, developing the theme disclosed on Thursday and Saturday of week 5. As the Passion of Christ urgently impresses itself on us (after the Passion reading yesterday), I think the subsidiary idea of completing our Lenten penance must yield to the major theme of the four last things: life and death, Heaven and hell.

    The word “respiro” straddles both images: of taking a break in the middle of some challenge (getting one’s breath back; second wind, etc.); and of the enjoyment of eternal repose. We find this latter sense of “respiro” in an occasional collect for a Requiem Mass which reads, in part: “ut . . in resurrectionis gloria inter sanctos tuos resuscitatus respiret ” where it is eternal rest, not a mid-race breather which is in view. There is a duplication of thought in the phrase “resuscitatus respiret”, since “resuscitatus” means revived, as does “respiret”: “so that revived in the glory of Your Resurrection, among Your Saints he may take breath again”.

    I am sorry to hear you have been so seriously ill, Fr. Z. (you said before you had been sick, but only now do you reveal how serious was the illness: a certain asperity in your response to my interventions may, perhaps, be attributable to your infirmity).

    I trust you are recovering your breath as well as your vigour, and I heartily wish you a full and speedy recovery, and pray your Holy Week may be Blessed and fruitful in graces, and that you will experience the joy and peace of the Risen Lord.

  3. Martin: You wrote: “… a certain asperity in your response to my interventions may, perhaps, be attributable to your infirmity).”

    Or, perhaps, not?

  4. martin says:

    Attributable, then, to what, Fr.Z. ?