WDTPRS: Collect (Mercy Sunday)

In the post-Conciliar calendar this is the “Second Sunday of Easter.”  It is sometimes called “Thomas Sunday” because of the Gospel reading about the doubting Apostle.  It is called “Quasimodo Sunday” for the first word of the opening chant, the Introit (cf. 1 Peter 2:2-3). 

Now it is often called “Mercy Sunday” because of the emphasis on the merciful dimension of God’s redemptive act celebrated at Easter. 

The new Collect for this Sunday (based on a prayer in the Missale Gothicum) for the 1970 and subsequent editions of the Roman Missal begins by calling God merciful.  The newest, third edition of the Missale Romanum of 2002 specifically labels this Sunday: Dominica II Paschae seu de divina Misericordia

Since ancient times this Sunday is called “Dominica in albis” or also “in albis depositis”… the Sunday of the “white robes having been taken off.”  1 Peter 2:2-3 says: “Like (Sicut modo – Vulgate) newborn babes (infantes), long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation; for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” Quasimodo and Sicut modo are interchangeable.  Quasimodo reflects a Latin Scripture version predating what became the Vulgate.  So, today’s Mass begins by exhorting the newly baptized. 

In the ancient Church the newly baptized were called infantes.  They wore their white baptismal robes for “octave” period after Easter during which they received special instruction from the bishop about the sacred mysteries and Christian life to which they were not admitted before the Vigil rites.  On this Sunday they removed their robes, which were deposited in the cathedral treasury as a perpetual witness to their vows.  They were then “out of the nest” of the bishop, as it were, on their own in living their Catholic lives daily.  St. Augustine of Hippo (+430) using the imagery of spring compares the newly baptized to little birds trying to fly from the nest while the parent birds flap around them and chirp noisily to encourage them (s. 376a).    

COLLECT – LATIN TEXT (2002MR):
Deus misericordiae sempiternae,
qui in ipso paschalis festi recursu
fidem sacratae tibi plebis accendis,
auge gratiam quam dedisti,
ut digna omnes intellegentia comprehendant,
quo lavacro abluti, quo spiritu regenerati,
quo sanguine sunt redempti.

The use of those clauses starting with quo, having no conjunctions (a trope called asyndeton) gives this prayer a very forceful feeling.  I very much like that sole sunt (that goes with abluti…regenerati…redempti) imbedded elegantly in the last phrase.

WDTPRS is not complete without a look at the actual words which are the building blocks of the Collect.  Recursus is “a running back, return, a returning path.”  In reference to sight it is something that has power to bring back an image.  Recursus harks to the cyclical, “recurring” nature of the Paschal observance. 

We have the opportunity to experience the Paschal mysteries each year.  This is more than a memorial or re-enactment.  By baptism we participate in mysterious events completed once and for all time, but for us in the liturgical year they sacramentally take place again. 

According to the hardly mysterious Lewis & Short Dictionary, accendo means “to kindle anything above so that it burns downward” (the opposite of succendo or sub-cendo – to kindle from “below”, like the English “burn up” and “burn down”).  You kindle a candle from above.  Accendo is also “to set on fire, to kindle, light to light up, illuminate, to inflame a person or thing, to incite, to round up.”  This word delivers the fiery liturgical imagery of the Vigil: when Christians are baptized the Holy Spirit (depicted as fire) comes to dwell in them.  Intellegentia is “the power of discerning or understanding, discernment.” The vast verb comprehendo is too complex to treat comprehensively.  Literally it involves, “to lay hold of something on all sides.”  Think of … well… “comprehensive”.  Comprehendo also means, “take hold, grasp, seize” or negatively “attack, arrest.”  It is also “to perceive with the senses, observe.”  Especially it is to grasp with the mind, but in a thorough way (on all sides).  In the Collect we want to “grasp with a worthy power of understanding.”  This is a profoundly interiorized “grasping” in the sense of true possession.  

A lavacrum is a bath.  In Titus 3:5 we have, “He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy (misericordiam), by the washing of regeneration (lavacrum regenerationis) and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us rightly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life (vv. 5-7, RSV).”  This refers to both the process and effects of baptism, worked in us by the mercy of God.

In our Collect is abluo, “to wash off, wash away, cleanse, purify.”  In classical Latin, abluo is used by Cicero (+43 BC) to describe a calming of the passions coming from a religious rite of washing away of sin (Tusc 4, 28, 60) and even by the poet philosopher Lucretius (+ AD 55) in De rerum natura to describe the removal of darkness by the bringing in of light (4, 378).  Early Latin speaking Christians lacked vocabulary to express their faith.  Abluo was ready made to be adapted to describe the effects of baptism.

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
God of mercy,
you wash away our sins in water,
you give us new birth in the Spirit,
and redeem us in the blood of Christ.
As we celebrate Christ’s resurrection
increase our awareness of these blessings,
and renew your gift of life within us
.

Do you want to know what the Latin prayer really says?

A LITERAL TRANSLATION:
O God of eternal mercy,
who on this recurrence of the paschal feast
do kindle the faith of a people sanctified for Yourself,
increase the grace which You have given,
so that all may comprehend with worthy understanding
by what laver they were washed,
by what Spirit they were regenerated,
by what Blood they were redeemed
.

In today’s Collect we pray that by the recurring sacred mysteries we veteran Christians and neophytes together as a People will be continually renewed and that our grasp of how we have been redeemed and the effects of that redemption will continually deepen.  We who were once set on fire with the indwelling of the Spirit, should want each day for God to rekindle us, burn us up again from above.  We want an increase of grace, faith that seeks to grasp, comprehend, understand ever more fully who He is, who we have become in Him.  Grace and faith come first, of course.  As the ancient adage goes: Nisi credideritis non intellegetis… Unless you will have first believed, you will not understand.  We can only go so far on our own.  Faith then brings to completion what reason begins to explore.

In a sermon addressed to the catechumens before their baptism at the Easter Vigil, St. Augustine used the imagery of light to help them understand who they were to become (cf. s. 223 and s. 260c):

“Keep the night Vigil humbly.  Pray humbly with devoted faith, solid hope, brightly burning charity, pondering what kind of day our splendor will be if our humility can turn night into day.  Thus, may God who ordered the light to blaze out of the dark make our hearts blaze brightly, that we may do on the inside something akin to what we have done with the lamps kindled within this house of prayer.  Let us furnish the true dwelling place of God, our consciences, with lamps of justice”.

Augustine (and our Church) wants Christians truly to “possess” these mysteries in a way that made a concrete difference.  The newly baptized infantes eventually put off their white robes and get to the business of living as Catholics. 

We who have done this already, perhaps long ago, must continue to wear them in our hearts.

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29 Responses to WDTPRS: Collect (Mercy Sunday)

  1. Chris says:

    Since when did presumption of God’s mercy not equal a sin against the Catholic Church? [Wow... o{]:¬( ]

    I’m sure in the NO Mass that presumption isn’t the intention, but almost all new massers I know take today to mean God will take mercy on them and all their sins, so don’t worry about them.

  2. Chris says:

    Sorry! Sins against the Holy Ghost:

    (1) Despair,

    (2) Presumption of God’s mercy,

    (3) Impugning the known truth,

    (4) Envy the spiritual good of another,

    (5) Obstinacy in sin,

    (6) Final impenitence

  3. stigmatized says:

    i do not see how the 1973 translation was arrived at. this is an expression of a new religion. and its way of doing things is the only way. and you are supposed to know this. even as i child i could see through it. but you are obligated to go, and to them laughing from their chair.

  4. stigmatized says:

    …you are obligated to go and to see them laughing from their chair [?!?]

  5. Charivari Rob says:

    a.k.a. “Low Sunday”

  6. elmo says:

    It’s not just “called” Mercy Sunday; it is Divine Mercy Sunday. Even as I type this, I am hearing from ETWTN that Divine Mercy Sunday is not optional, it is mandatory.

  7. Steve B says:

    Fr. Z,

    As always, fantastic catechesis on the Collect for today’s Mass in the OF!

    The following comment that you made especially caught my attention:

    “We who were once set on fire with the indwelling of the Spirit, should want each day for God to rekindle us, burn us up again from above.”

    What struck me about your comment, Father, is that we can experience this kind of powerful prayer in EVERY High Mass on Sunday in the Extraordinary Form (not just a few times during the year, as in the OF), where the following is prayed during the Insensing of the Offerings at High Mass (see the bottom of page 25 in the “red missal” issued by Ecclesia Dei):

    “May the Lord enkindle in us the fire of His love and the flame of everlasting charity. Amen.”

    Yeah. POWERFUL prayer, eh? And we could experience this at the High Mass every Sunday prior to 1970. Bummer about not getting that very often in the OF, eh? Thanks for short-changing us yet again Msgr. Bugnini and cohorts! Yet another reason why we need to pray and work for the EF of the Mass to become more widespread throughout the Church!!!!

    Even though having experienced the EF of the Liturgy for only a little over a year now (I too am a “child of Vatican II”), I am convinced more than ever that the Liturgical “reforms” after Vatican II absolutely were NOT needed (at least not via the OF Liturgy that the Church was given); serious liturgical catechesis was all that was needed after Vatican II, which NEVER was given to the faithful even when the liturgical “reforms” were imposed upon the faithful.

    As you say Fr. Z, “Brick by brick” let’s help to rebuild the Church!

    Pacis et benedictionis tibi, per Christum Dominum nostrum,

    Steve B

  8. Matthew says:

    Today is really a beautiful feast! Jesus, through the merits of His Passion, has poured out the ocean of His mercy for those who seek it. I ‘think’ what the Church is saying is that provided we are truly sorry for our failures, there is no sin and/or no number of sins so great that Jesus cannot/will not forgive it. It’s a day to praise God’s infinite mercy!

    Has anyone read the diary of St. Faustina? It’s a great read and provides much (nearly all?) insight into today’s feast.

  9. Geoffrey says:

    “Has anyone read the diary of St. Faustina?”

    Yes! It is one of my favourite spiritual books.

    John Paul the Great’s 1980 encyclical “Dives in Misericordia” or “Rich in Mercy” is also a great read for today!

  10. Kirstin says:

    That 1973 ICEL “translation” is such an embarrassment. The literal translation is beautiful, poetic, and far more gripping. This is the kind of language that heightens the spiritual/religion experience. It must be restored.

  11. Martin Jordan says:

    Why does the Collect for today’s Ordinary Form Mass (I speak of the Latin original, not the English silliness) seem especially suitable for *both* the themes of “Divine Mercy Sunday” *AND ALSO* the Epistle and Gospel as given today in the *Extraordinary* Form of today’s Mass?

    For better or worse, the thematic connection is uncanny! (N.B. My question/wonder is NOT about whether JPII’s endorsement of Faustina’s locutions was good or bad, right or wrong. My question is dealing with whether the connection is merely coincidental.)

  12. Ken says:

    I look forward to divine mercy Friday, on the feast of the Sacred Heart — a much more appropriate place.

  13. Jim says:

    The 1973 English translation/paraphrase is not in itself bad, but it does not, at least to me, express the cost at which our salvation was purchased nearly as well as the literal translation. Our prayers are directed to God, but the words also help to form us.

  14. Geoffrey says:

    “I look forward to divine mercy Friday, on the feast of the Sacred Heart—a much more appropriate place.”

    I seem to find similiar comments from many traditionalists. Sacred Heart & St. Margaret Mary vs. Divine Mercy & St. Maria Faustina… I don’t get it.

  15. Kathy says:

    I really love these liturgical catecheses, and of course the examination of the collects. It’s great of you to put these in popular form, Father.

  16. Ken says:

    Geoffrey — it’s because many traditionalists see the so-called Divine Mercy Sunday as the novus ordo version of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. For starters, “for the sake of His sorrowful passion, for the sake of His sorrowful passion…” is chanted during octave (!!!) of Easter and culminates on a Sunday. Mind you, this is the same novus ordo that eliminated the fast for 38 of the 40 days of Lent, but when Eastertime comes all of a sudden they turn penitential.

    Easter and Sundays are days of joy. Fridays — including the great feast of the Sacred Heart — is where a divine mercy devotion should be placed.

    And that’s not even getting into the universal salvation tone very common at so-called Divine Mercy celebrations…

  17. Joe bis says:

    Ken, I also don’t understand starting a novena on Good Friday. The Paschal Triduum is the liturgical high point of the year, culminating in the Vigil and Eucharist.

  18. Kris says:

    It’s amazing to see that ICEL translation is sooo far away from the original. On the other hand, I recall from my Polish mass yesterday that a Polish translation of this collect follows almost literally the Latin original, with the exception of “lavacro” being “water”.
    Interesting that some translations are more accurate than others…

  19. Geoffrey says:

    Ken:

    It is interesting to note that the devotion to the Divine Mercy began long before Vatican II and the “Novus Ordo”, and that St. Faustina was formed by the old Mass.

    The Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, which you quoted, is actually not part of the Novena that is begun on Good Friday, though it may be added to the novena prayers found in St. Faustina’s diary.

    Novenas are private devotions, not liturgical. They can be begun at any time.

    Should we not rejoice in the Divine Mercy? Sunday is then very appropriate. At any rate, there is no reason to complain, as it is now official.

    “Resurrected, Jesus grants a new unity to his followers, stronger than before, invincible, because it is based not on human resources, but on divine mercy, which makes them all feel loved and forgiven by him. Therefore it is the merciful love of God that solidly unites the Church, today as yesterday, and that makes humanity a single family, divine love, which through Jesus crucified and risen forgives our sins and renews us interiorly. Animated by such a deep conviction, my beloved predecessor, John Paul II, desired that this Sunday, the second Sunday of Easter, be named Divine Mercy Sunday, and pointed to the risen Christ as the font of confidence and hope, welcoming the spiritual message given by the Lord to St. Faustina Kowalska, synthesized in the invocation: ‘Jesus, I trust in you’” (Pope Benedict XVI, Regina Caeli Address, Divine Mercy Sunday, 19 April 2009).

  20. Ken says:

    Geoffrey — nothing against Saint Faustina (even though her writings were considered suspect by more than one pope) or divine mercy, per se. The problem is the timing and interpretation.

    It is frustrating to see the novus ordo turn things on its head, such as adapting Easter week into a completely different tone, with Low Sunday as the high point. These are great Sacred Heart devotions for Friday, 19 June.

    But let me celebrate Easter, for crying out loud.

  21. Michael J says:

    Agree or disagree, many (myself included) have difficulties with Divine Mercy Sunday. Very few of the objections I have heard,however mistaken they may or may not be, can really be considered unreasonable.

    Perhaps this is why many chose to avoid Mass when they found out that the regularly scheduled EF Mass had been displaced.

  22. Geometricus says:

    Kris,
    We have two Polish Dominican priests in the Catholic school where I teach math. I have learned many things from them about the Catholic Church in Poland. One of the most interesting is that they took a LONG LONG time to translate the prayers of the Mass after Vatican II, and hence came out with, in almost all cases, a very accurate translation of the Latin.

    This explains the relative strength of the clergy in Poland, both in number and in kind: that is, in my opinion, the priests in Poland tend to subscribe to a hermeneutic of continuity as opposed to a hermeneutic of rupture. Also, young Polish men in larger numbers than in other European countries desire and aspire to be priests. I believe both of these facts are due in no small measure to the accuracy of the translations that are prayed daily and weekly in Polish Churches. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

  23. Geometricus says:

    I don’t mean, of course, that the Polish Dominicans at my school were involved in the translation of the mass…I meant that the Polish hierarchy took their time issuing the mass in the vernacular, presumably in order to ensure the accuracy of translations into Polish from Latin.

  24. Geoffrey: It is interesting to note that the devotion to the Divine Mercy began long before Vatican II and the “Novus Ordo”, and that St. Faustina was formed by the old Mass.

    Indeed. Occasionally I visit the rad trad site that I understand is most popular among SSPXers and similar traditional types — just to check their reactions to recent events. I\’ve noticed that periodically a newcomer to that site raises a question regarding St. Faustina and Divine Mercy. Invariably the the older hands there assure him or her that this devotion is entirely traditional, and that only fruitcakes have any objection to it.

  25. A parish priest says:

    Father Z,

    Thank you for these excellent translations. I look to them each week. May I ask you to direct me to where I may find the Super Oblata and Post Communion prayers for Divine Mercy Sunday? Thank you.

  26. parish priest: I believe I may have posted them on this blog at one point or another.

  27. parish priest,

    You can find Father Z’s translations of the Super Oblata and Post Communion for Divine Mercy under the 2nd Sunday of Easter at

    http://www.knoxlatinmass.net/wdtprs/

  28. Michael J says:

    Henry,

    If you want to encourage this devotion, I recommend that you refrain from labeling anyone who has any concerns or objections as a “fruitcake”. Just my opinion, of course.

  29. Regina says:

    The literal translation is so much more beautiful and poetic. The repetition of the prepositional phrases at the end ( “by what laver…by what spirit…by what blood…”)render the prayer holistic and consummate of God’s grace. Perhaps the newer version is just an attempt so prevalent in education and text media to “dummy down” for the masses. That’s a shame.
    The acknowledgement of a Divine Mercy Sunday is not at all repulsive to me. It complements the celebration of what Easter is all about. I have a problem with St. Faustina, though. One time I had a penance to read her diary and pray at 3 o’clock.( It is available online-do a google search). Although it was encouraging to read about God’s mercy, when I got a copy of the actual diary, I found her ruminations, desires,and experiences with her visions or “visitations” of/with Jesus, our Lord, reflective of inordinate and repressed, almost sexual, desire.It was very creepy. I think the poor young woman was very disturbed, and her illness may have contributed to the severe , cloistered choices she made in her life. Jesus is my Savior- he is not my lover.