In our traditional Roman calendar this Sunday is Quinquagesima, Latin for the symbolic “Fiftieth” day before Easter. Today is one of the pre-Lenten Sundays which prepare us for the discipline of Lent. The priest’s vestments are purple. No Alleluia. The prayers and readings for the pre-Lenten Sundays were compiled by St. Gregory the Great (+604). After the Second Vatican Council the Consilium’s liturgical reformers under Annibale Bugnini and others eliminated these pre-Lent Sundays, much to our detriment.
Preces nostras, quaesumus, Domine, clementer exaudi:
atque, a peccatorum vinculis absolutos,
ab omni nos adversitate custodi.
This prayer is found in the ancient Liber Sacramentorum Augustodunensis and the L.S. Engolismensis. I cannot find this prayer in any form in the post-Conciliar editions of the Missale Romanum.
Of course you won’t find Quinquagesima either.
The ponderous Lewis & Short Dictionary reminds us that absolvo means “to loosen from, to make loose, set free, detach, untie” or in juridical language “to absolve from a charge, to acquit, declare innocent”. The priest uses this word when he absolves you of the bonds of your sins. Vinculum is “that with which any thing is bound, a band, bond, rope, cord, fetter, tie”. This bond can be literal, as in physical fetters, or it can be moral or some sort of state. You can be bound in charity or peace, or bound in damnation or sin. In the case if sin, in liturgical prayer we find a form of vinculum or its plural with “loosing” verbs such as absolvo or resolvo or dissolvo. In ancient prayer the state of sin conceived as a place in which we are bound. The bonds must be loosed so that we can escape and be free. In the whole of the post-Conciliar Missal I don’t believe the combination peccata absolvere is found, but it is in ancient collections. One finds the phrase with some additional term such as “bonds” or “ties” of sins.
We beseech You, O Lord, graciously attend to our prayers:
and, having been loosed from the fetters of sins,
guard us from every adversity.
What is the first thing an enemy does to you, once you are captured? He renders you powerless to do your own will.
The Sacrament of Penance is the great gift. In all good will we must strive to live without mortal sin. But we fall. We pray to God to protect us from the dire consequences of sin, including the attacks of the Enemy, which on our own without God’s help we cannot resist. Among the benefits of the Sacrament of Penance, along with being freed from the chains of sins, is a strengthening to resist sin in the future.
These prayers of the pre-Lenten Sundays are meant among other things to help us ready with stores our interior fortresses before the spiritual battle of lent. We must empty out what doesn’t serve and be filled with that which does. Prepare yourselves for Lent’s discipline.