13th Sunday of Ordinary Time: COLLECT (1)

What Does the Prayer Really Say? Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2001

For the last few weeks I have started these articles with a brief comment on a paragraph of the new document Liturgiam authenticam from the Cong. for Divine Worship.  I will take a break and mention some of your feedback. 

A kind person, PD from Deer Park, NY writes that the WDTPRS articles have provoked her into a new enthusiasm to explore the Latin prayers and is now looking for her own copy of the Lewis & Short Dictionary.  If you have internet access check out the Catholic Online Bookstore (http://www.catholic.org/bookstore).   A couple people also write asking me if I have any books out on these translations.  I respond saying, “Not yet.”  The observant VU from Middletown, RI sent me a suggestion for collect for Ascension in which there is a quo…eo construction offering whither…thither as an alternative.  Thanks.  You get a gold star for the day.  RS from Woodhaven, NY (are the any readers from God’s Country, West of the Mississippi?) is enjoying getting into Latin again.  He also wants more information about the writers of these prayers in the 1970 Missal.  I would like that too!  Let’s see what we can do to dig up some sources of the prayers.  If anyone  knows something about this, please drop me a line.  I do read my mail.  

You also might be interested to know that a blurb about WDTPRS appeared in the last newsletter of the Latin Liturgy Association.  And someone tells me that there may have been an oblique swipe at these contributions made in a letter written by a priest to the editor of the National Catholic Register.  I am not sure about that, however.   Still… as a poet once said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”  The whole point of these articles is to stir up consciousness about the issue of English translations in such a way that people can be more motivated to contact their bishops and also pray for their positive efforts.  At the time of the this writing, the bishops of the USA have met in a plenary of the conference.  They discussed the liturgy in light of the immanent promulgation of the new Latin typical edition of the Missale Romanum.  The proximity of the CDW’s document Liturgiam authenticam and the release of the long-in-preparation Missal simply cannot be a mere coincidence.

After the long Lenten/Paschal cycle and great Solemnities that followed, we are now back into the season which is now called “Ordinary”, that is, they have no specific festal or penitential meaning.  In the older, traditional, calendar this week would be called  the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord and would fall on the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost. After the Advent/Christmas cycle I wrote about how in this Ordinary season we wear the green of hope in this season.  Each Sunday is a little Easter, however.  Liturgical books once called the Sundays after Epiphany and the Sundays after Pentecost the tempus per annum… the time through the year.  This terminology has remained even though both these non-festal seasons form two parts of “Ordinary Time”.  So, we have come to that long stretch of the Church’s calendar reaching from the adoration of kings and shepherds at the feet of the infant King to the end of the year (and the end of time), the feast of Christ the King, the King of fearful majesty who will come in glory to judge the living and the dead, gathering all things to himself and submitting then to the Father so that God might be all in all.  This is a time in which we, among other things,  practice living and deepening the lessons we learn from the mysteries of the great festal cycles.  But now to our….

LATIN (1970 Missale Romanum):
Deus, qui, per adoptionem gratiae, lucis nos esse filios voluisti,
praesta, quaesumus, ut errorum non involvamur tenebris,
sed in splendore veritatis semper maneamus conspicui.

O God, who wanted us to be children of the light through the adoption of grace
grant, we beg, that we not be bound up in the shadows of errors,
but rather that we should remain always striking in the splendor of the truth.

According to the super useful Lewis & Short Dictionary the word involvo means “to roll to or upon anything.”  By extension it also means, “wrap up, envelope” and “cover, overwhelm, surround.”  When we get “wrapped up” in something, like translating Latin collects, we are “involved.”  Conspicuus is a great adjective for something that is in view or comes into view.  Thus it used top describe that which attracts attention to itself.  It is thus “striking, conspicuous, distinguished, illustrious, remarkable.”   The word splendor means “sheen, brightness, brilliance, lustre, splendor” and besides “dignity, excellence.”

No one looking at this prayer can miss a key phrase: in splendore veritatis.  In his great encyclical of 1993 entitled Veritatis splendor, calling Jesus Christ the “true light that enlightens everyone” the Pope John Paul II began his project of shoring up and correcting some erroneous and dangerous tendencies amongst some moral theology by writing:

The splendor of the truth shines forth in all the works of the Creator and, in a special way, in man, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26). Truth enlightens man’s intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord. Hence the Psalmist prays: "Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord" (Ps 4:6). 

Called to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ "the true light that enlightens everyone" (Jn 1:9), people become "light in the Lord" and "children of light" (Eph 5:8), and are made holy by "obedience to the truth" (1 Pet 1:22).

We have here a juxtaposition of pairs of images/concepts: light – freedom, darkness – imprisonment.  Truth is something that brings us into the light and sets us free.  Error is something that binds us up and prevents us from acting like free persons.  The Latin collect error sound like a horrible  wrapping that envelopes us, mummy like, and hides us away in a dark and forgotten tomb.   Because of Original Sin it is very difficult to know what is good and right a true.  Our intellects are clouded.  But when we do discern what is good and right and true, because in the tangle of our minds we reason to it or because a human or divine authority has helped us to it, then we need to choose it.  That is also very hard at times.  We can deceive ourselves into thinking that some things which are in reality bad, wrong and false are actually good and right and true.  We can actually get to think we are acting freely and rightly in doing things that are wrong.  After a while we become numbed to both the truth and virtue and error and sin alike.  We move through life, zombie-like, from that point, a mockery of what human beings are intended by God to be.   Clearly, the Holy Father was pointing to something very important when using an image of splendor and light when addressing to foundations of Catholic moral theology. 

Another marvelous dimension of this prayer points to our identity as children of God through adoptio gratiae.   When praying and hearing these prayers from the Missal, we must keep our ears tuned and ready to pick up Biblical references.  I hear in today’s prayer some New Testament language.  We read in St. Paul’s letters in various places (e.g., Gal 4:5 and Eph 1:15, et al.) about spiritual adoption (adoptio).  Writing to the Romans Paul tells us something about the moral implications of this spiritual sonship we hear about in the collect (per adoptionem gratiae, lucis nos esse filios voluisti…through the adoption of grace You wanted us to be children of the light):

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.   For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot;  and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness.  If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you.  So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh  ‑‑ for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship (adoptio filiorum). When we cry, "Abba! Father!"  (Romans 8:1-15)

you call your children
to walk in the light of Christ.
Free us from darkness
and keep us in the radiance of your truth

While this prayer gets some concepts of the Latin version.  I don’t quibble with “radiance” for splendor.  But notice that, once again, ICEL has removed the concept of grace (gratia).  In the Latin we plainly read and hear about adoptio gratiae as that which constitutes us as children of the light.  It is not just adoption, but an adoption of grace.  So far the ICEL collects we have seen are consistent in eliminating “grace” from an English liturgical vocabulary.  This is something that must be changed for future translations.   Let’s get “grace” back into the language of our public prayer.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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