We continue with our glance at the Collects of the days of Advent.
Propitiare, Domine Deus, supplicationibus nostris,
et tribulantibus, quaesumus, tuae concede pietatis auxilium,
ut, de Filii tui venientis praesentia consolati,
nullis iam polluamur contagiis vetustatis.
This prayer has ancient origins in Rotulus 3 which is published in the edition of the Veronese Sacramentary by Mohlberg.
Remember that propitiare looks like an infinitive, but it is really a passive imperative of propitio. This makes it almost like propitius esto, as we sing in the Litany. Another interesting point is that tribulo is transitive. So, tribulantes would refer to the things inflicting tribulation rather than those undergoing tribulation. Tribulo is used by ancient ecclesiastical writers, but always will this sense of "to oppress, afflict". Thus, Jerome writes in Commentarioli in psalmos 43: "saluasti enim nos a tribulantibus nos." Augustine in his Ennarationes in psalmos 26,2,21 has: "ne tradideris me in animas tribulantium me, id est, ne consentiam tribulantibus me."
On the other hand, Gregory the Great goes the other way with tirbulantibus. He writes in Registrum epistularum 10.20: "Quia uero ea infirmitatis nostrae natura est, ut non possimus de obeuntibus non dolere, fraternitatis uestrae doctrina tribulantibus sit solamen." It is interesting that this letter of St. Pope Gregory concerns the sufferings of us in this life before the coming of the Judge, "quanto his signis nuntiantibus venturum iudicem in proximo non nescimus".
I have a sense that this prayer, which is quite ancient, goes back, as do many of our most ancient Latin prayers at least to the time of Gregory. As I mention above, this is in an ancient Rotulus. A rotulus, or "roll" is long narrow strip of papyrus or parchment wound up on a wooden rod. By the fourth century the rotulus was being displaced by the codex, more like a book as we have now. The Rotulus of Ravenna, our earliest liturgical rotulus is from the 5th or 6th century. So, this prayer is probably pretty old.
REALLY LITERAL VERSION:
Render our supplications favorable, O Lord God,
and, we entreat You, grant to our tribulations the aid of Your mercy,
so that, having been consoled from the presence of Your Son who is coming,
we may indeed be fouled by no contaminations of the sinful state of the old man.
That "tribulantibus tuae concede pietatis auxilium" is intriguing. We can probably also render it as "grant the help of Your mercy to (us) experiencing tribulations" and would be able to defend that from what Gregory the Great wrote.
Notice that the priest does not ask God to remove the tribulations!
He prays God to put His mercy into the mix.
Pietas, when referring to God, his the impact of "mercy". Pietas for man is our "dutifulness", what we owe God in our relationship. But when pietas is applied to God, the sense of duty, that is, obligation, fades into mercy.
His mercy protects us as we are involved in the murky and mucky details of this world.
Someone sent me what he says in the version from the proposed draft translation now being prepared:
Be moved by our pleading, Lord God, we pray,
and in our trials
grant us the help of your compassion,
that, consoled by the presence of your Son who is
we may be sullied no more
by the taint of former ways.
Compare it to the lame-duck ICEL version still, alas, in use:
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR)
God of mercy and consolation,
help us in our weakness and free us from sin.
Hear our prayers
that we may rejoice at the coming of your Son.
We need that new translation!