Thursday in the 5th Week of Easter

Baptism shellCOLLECT:
Deus, cuius gratia iusti ex impiis
et beati efficiamur ex miseris,
adesto operibus tuis, adesto muneribus,
ut quibus inest fidei iustificatio
non desit perseverantiae fortitudo.

This prayer was not in pre-Conciliar editions of the Missale Romanum.  It had a precedent in the Sacramentarium Bergomense.  There are elegant parallels here as well as snappy rhythmic phrases.  This is a delight to pronounce.

SUPER LITERAL VERSION:
O God, by whose grace we are made
just people out of impious and happy people out of wretches,
be present with Your works, be present with gifts,
so that the fortitude of perseverance will not be lacking
to those in whom there is the justification of faith.

SMOOTHER VERSION:
O God, by whose grace we are made
into just people after having been impious and blessedly happy after being miserable,
be present to us now with your works, be present with Your gifts,
so that the strength of perseverance will not be lacking
to those in whom there is the justification of faith.

God, who created the universe and everything in it out of nothing, makes justified people out of the wicked and the sinner.  He makes those who are wretched and miserable into joyous children of God.  

One of the things that popped into my mind as I translated this prayer today was the verse of the awful Amazing Grace.   "Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound) / That saved a wretch like me!"  The idea is that we are wretches before and remain always wretches, "wretch" being a description of our totally corrupt nature which remains corrupt even after baptism.

Catchy tune, of course, but that is not Catholic teaching.

Let’s have some catechism.

In the Fall of our First Parents the whole human race contracted original sin and our human nature was wounded.  On our own we are incapable of repairing the damage, for it is simply disproportionate to man’s powers to do so.  The one who is both man and God, however, was proportioned to this work and He repaired the breech.  When we are incorporated into His Person, we benefit from the merits of the Sacrifice He made on our behalf.  The way we are integrated into Him is, fundamentally, the sacrament of baptism.

In the sacrament of baptism we are at once both justified and sanctified.  We are justified in the sense that the debt we owed on account of our sins (including Original Sin).  God cleanses us of the guilt of those sins and we are just in His sight.  At the same time, we are also made holy by the indwelling of the Trinity.   We are cleansed and made pleasing at the same time.  Classical protestant teaching says that baptism justifies but we still remain filthy in our nature.  We are justified but not sanctified.  We remain interiorly corrupt
 no matter what we do, but Christ interposes Himself between us and the Father so that we appear to be clean even though we are not.  This is not Catholic teaching, of course.   For Catholics sanctification and justification are two sides of the same coin.   

Spinning this out a little more, as an example I recall from Lutheran doctrine that a justified person remains forever a sinner because of concupiscence, which is not removed by baptism.  Concupiscence describes the disordered desires and difficulty we have in controling our appetites we have because of the wounds to our will and intellect.  The baptized person is described by Lutherans as simul justus et peccator … righteous and sinner at the same time.

On the other hand Catholics know that concupiscence is not in itself a sin.  Justification in baptism removes sin but not concupiscence.  Lutherans think concupiscense itself is sin.  Thus, they separate justification and sanctification from each other.  For them, concupiscence itself makes people sinners.  Concupiscence makes us guilty before God and it is never removed from us.  This was and is contrary to Catholic teaching.  The Council of Trent correctly taught that justification makes us righteous.  It condemned with an anathema the error that justification is only an "imputation" of Christ’s righteousness (which is at the heart of the Lutheran description of man as a heap of dung covered over with white snow).  Trent also condemned with an anathema the claim that concupiscence itself is sin.

We have been given great gifts by God, including sanctification.  Christ’s merits become our merits.   What we need to do is persevere in sanctity to the end of our lives.  It is difficult, this life of grace and sanctity, but it is possible.  This is part of what the late Pope was trying to show the world through the great emphasis he placed on beatifications and canonizations.  

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5 Responses to Thursday in the 5th Week of Easter

  1. 1973 ICEL version:
    Father, in your love you have brought us
    from evil to good and from misery to happiness.
    Through your blessings give the courage of perseverance
    to those you have called and justified by faith.

    Of course, we know by now that there’s no grace in ICEL; gratia is always rendered instead as “love”. Otherwise, this is another in an unusual run of 1973 translations that tracked moderately well the thoughts of their Latin originals.

  2. Don Marco says:

    I rendered it this way:
    O God, whose grace makes just men out of wicked ones,
    and blessed men out of wretched ones,
    be present to your works, be present by your gifts,
    so that those made just by faith
    may not lack the strength of perseverance.

    And preached on it this way:

    In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles we find ourselves present at the very first Council of the Church, the Council of Jerusalem. Saint Luke tells us that “there was much debate” (Ac 15:7). “And after there had been much debate, Peter rose” (Ac 15:7) and spoke. “Peter rose,” says the text; he emerges from the body of “the church and the apostles and the elders” (Ac 15:4), invested with a unique grace. He speaks in the midst of the Church even as he spoke on the day of his confession of faith, saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). The core of Peter’s teaching is this: that the grace of Christ is all-sufficient for the Gentiles as for the Jews. The voice of Peter announces the faith of the Church: “We believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (Ac 15:11).
    The little word” grace,” so rich in meaning, links the first reading to today’s marvelous Collect. Translated literally, the Collect has us pray: “O God whose grace makes just men out of wicked ones, and blessed men out of wretched ones, be present to your works, be present by your gifts, so that those made just by faith, may not lack the strength of perseverance.”
    Amazing grace indeed, the grace that takes a wicked individual, one profoundly maladjusted to the designs of God, to adjust him to the glorious will of God for his wholeness, for his holiness! The just man is one rightly fitted to the plan of God. The just one stands in correspondence to “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9).
    The second phrase takes this even further. The grace of God, it says, “makes blessed men out of wretched ones.” The Latin word for wretch is miser, giving us our English miser, the original meaning of which was a profoundly unhappy person. The grace of God takes miserable, unhappy wretches and makes them blessedly happy. This is no mere fluctuation on the emotional thermometer. This is not about going from “I feel wretched” to “I feel happy.” The change wrought by grace is inward and real. It is what Saint Paul calls “being qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col 1:12). “I have told you this,” says Jesus in today’s gospel, “that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (Jn 15:11).
    The Collect goes on to ask God not once, but twice, to be present to his works, to be present by his gifts. Adesto operibus tuis, adesto muneribus. The rhythmic repetition of adesto – be present – gives the Collect a tone of urgency. “Be present to your works, be present by your gifts.” I know of no other Collect where this particular, insistent pattern is found. Why is the petition so urgent? The Collect gives the answer: “so that those made just by faith may not lack the strength of perseverance.” The grace that falls upon one rotten to the core to make him just, the grace that surprises a miserable wretch with a joy that is nothing less than divine, is a humble grace. It does not impose itself; it waits always to be received. “The strength of perseverance” is an abiding openness, an expectant readiness, it is the position of one who, at every moment, raises empty hands to God.
    There are moments in life when “the strength of perseverance” can be expressed only in silence. Today’s passage from the Acts of the Apostles alludes twice to the silence of the Church. “And all the multitude kept silence” (Ac 15:12); and again the text says, “And after they kept silent, James spoke” (Ac 15:13). In some mysterious way perseverance in grace is linked to perseverance in silence, perseverance in the silence that is openness to the Word, perseverance in the silence that promises the joy of Christ and allows us to taste it even now.

  3. Don Marco says:

    Pity! The rest of the homily appears to have been cut off.

  4. Don Marco: Your homily is wonderful. So everyone can read all of it, I’ve reformatted it below. I’ve never heard a homily preached on a Collect, linking it to a reading and including both a proper translation and comments on the Latin. What a marvelous and refreshing idea! Henry

    Don Marco’s homily:
    In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles we find ourselves present at the very first Council of the Church, the Council of Jerusalem. Saint Luke tells us that “there was much debate” (Ac 15:7). “And after there had been much debate, Peter rose” (Ac 15:7) and spoke. “Peter rose,” says the text; he emerges from the body of “the church and the apostles and the elders” (Ac 15:4), invested with a unique grace. He speaks in the midst of the Church even as he spoke on the day of his confession of faith, saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). The core of Peter’s teaching is this: that the grace of Christ is all-sufficient for the Gentiles as for the Jews. The voice of Peter announces the faith of the Church: “We believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (Ac 15:11).

    The little word “grace,” so rich in meaning, links the first reading to today’s marvelous Collect. Translated literally, the Collect has us pray: “O God whose grace makes just men out of wicked ones, and blessed men out of wretched ones, be present to your works, be present by your gifts, so that those made just by faith, may not lack the strength of perseverance.”

    Amazing grace indeed, the grace that takes a wicked individual, one profoundly maladjusted to the designs of God, to adjust him to the glorious will of God for his wholeness, for his holiness! The just man is one rightly fitted to the plan of God. The just one stands in correspondence to “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9).

    The second phrase takes this even further. The grace of God, it says, “makes blessed men out of wretched ones.” The Latin word for wretch is miser, giving us our English miser, the original meaning of which was a profoundly unhappy person. The grace of God takes miserable, unhappy wretches and makes them blessedly happy. This is no mere fluctuation on the emotional thermometer. This is not about going from “I feel wretched” to “I feel happy.” The change wrought by grace is inward and real. It is what Saint Paul calls “being qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col 1:12). “I have told you this,” says Jesus in today’s gospel, “that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (Jn 15:11).

    The Collect goes on to ask God not once, but twice, to be present to his works, to be present by his gifts. Adesto operibus tuis, adesto muneribus?. The rhythmic repetition of adesto – be present – gives the Collect a tone of urgency. “Be present to your works, be present by your gifts.” I know of no other Collect where this particular, insistent pattern is found. Why is the petition so urgent? The Collect gives the answer: “so that those made just by faith may not lack the strength of perseverance.” The grace that falls upon one rotten to the core to make him just, the grace that surprises a miserable wretch with a joy that is nothing less than divine, is a humble grace. It does not impose itself; it waits always to be received. “The strength of perseverance” is an abiding openness, an expectant readiness, it is the position of one who, at every moment, raises empty hands to God.

    There are moments in life when “the strength of perseverance” can be expressed only in silence. Today’s passage from the Acts of the Apostles alludes twice to the silence of the Church. “And all the multitude kept silence” (Ac 15:12); and again the text says, “And after they kept silent, James spoke” (Ac 15:13). In some mysterious way perseverance in grace is linked to perseverance in silence, perseverance in the silence that is openness to the Word, perseverance in the silence that promises the joy of Christ and allows us to taste it even now.

  5. Don Marco says:

    Henry: Thank you, and thank you so much for reformatting the text!