WDTPRS – “Spy” Wednesday of Holy Week

Judas seeks a means to betray the LordThe term “Spy” Wednesday probably is an allusion to Christ’s betrayal by Judas.


Deus, qui pro nobis Filium tuum
crucis patibulum subire voluisti,
ut inimici a nobis expelleres potestatem,
concede nobis famulis tuis,
ut resurrectionis gratiam consequamur.

This prayer was the Collect for this same day in the 1962 Missale Romanum.   It was also in the ancient Gregorian Sacramentary in both the Hadrianum and Paduense manuscripts. 

The impressive and informative Lewis & Short Dictionary informs us that patibulum (deriving from pateo) is “a fork-shaped yoke, placed on the necks of criminals, and to which their hands were tied; also, a fork-shaped gibbet”.  In turn, English “gibbet” means “an upright post with a projecting arm for hanging the bodies of executed criminals as a warning”.

The verb subeo in its basic meaning is “to come or go under any thing” and by logical extension “to subject one’s self to, take upon one’s self an evil; to undergo, submit to, sustain, endure, suffer”.  The L&S explains that “The figure taken from stooping under a load, under blows, etc.)”  There are other shades of meaning, including “to come on secretly, to advance or approach stealthily, to steal upon, steal into”.  Keep this one in mind.

SatanConsequor is very interesting.  It signifies “to follow, follow up, press upon, go after, attend, accompany, pursue any person or thing” and then it extends to concepts like “to follow a model, copy, an authority, example, opinion, etc.; to imitate, adopt, obey, etc.” and “to reach, overtake, obtain”.  Going beyond even these definitions, there is this: “to become like or equal to a person or thing in any property or quality, to attain, come up to, to equal (cf. adsequor).”   I know, I know  – mentio non fit expositio.  Still it is interesting to make connections in the words, which often have subtle overlaps.  Remember that interesting meaning of subeo, above?  There is a shade of “pursuit” and “imitation” in the prayer’s vocabulary.

O God, who willed Your Son to undergo
on our behalf the gibbet of the Cross
so that You might drive away from us the power of the enemy,
grant to us Your servants,
that we may obtain the grace of the resurrection.

This is an austere prayer, razor like, cutting to the heart of the matter.  By our sins we are in the clutches of the enemy, who mercilessly attacks us.  Christ freed us from dire consequences of slavery to sin by His Passion. 

in your plan of salvation
your Son Jesus Christ accepted the cross
and freed us from the power of the enemy.
May we come to share in the glory of his resurrection.

The ancient Romans would have their conquered foes pass under a yoke (iugum), to show that they were now subjugated.  Their juridical status changed.   Christ went under the Cross in its carrying and then underwent the Cross in its hideous torments.  In his liberating act of salvation, we passed from the servitude of the enemy to the service of the Lord, not as slaves, but as members of a family. 

We are not merely household servants (famuli), we are according the status of children of the master of the house, able to inherit what He already has.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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8 Responses to WDTPRS – “Spy” Wednesday of Holy Week

  1. Tom in NY says:

    Please afford a light moment. At the school where I learned Latin, detention under the prefect was known as “jug” — “Sub jugo praefecti passi sumus.”

    Ut semper, gratias orationum exegetis alti agimus.

  2. Dr. Eric says:

    He took the form of a slave and died a horrible death so that we would no longer be slaves to sin and death.

  3. Henry Edwards says:

    Whereas you render crucis patibulum concretely and vividly as “gibbet of the cross”, and the lame-duck ICEL version labors along the “plan of salvation” route in order to simply omit the word patibulum, including no translation at all, the British Divine Office and Lauds and Vespers (ed. Fr. Peter Stravinskas) both take a “softer” intermediate course.

    Divine Office: agony of the cross
    Lauds & Vespers: ignominy of the cross

  4. Phil says:

    This was the second Collect for today. The first Collect is thus:

    Praesta, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut qui nostris excessibus incessantur affligimur, per unigeniti Filii tui passionem liberemur: Qui tecum vivit…

    “Grant, we beseech thee, O almighty God that we who are incessantly aafflicted by our sinful excesses may be delivered by the Passion of Thine only-begotten Son.” –Taken from the Baronius Press missal ;)

  5. So a patibulum is that thing that looks like the stocks, but is mobile.

    Huh. I guess a crossbar does look like that.

  6. Mrs Kate says:

    I found this translation in my mother’s 1948 Roman Missal:
    “O God who for our sakes didst will that thy Son should suffer the death of the Cross, and thereby free us from the power of the enemy: grant to us thy servants to have part in the grace of the resurrection.”
    I’m no latin scholar, but even I can see that ‘lame duck’ translations seem to be to the latin text, what decaffeinated coffee is to the real thing!

  7. Mark of the Vine says:

    I noticed that in the painting of Satan, there were quite few clerics in the fires of Hell…

  8. Oleksander says:

    its not even a translation. if i were a latin-rite priest (i think a post of mine a year back was removed before for saying this)i could not at use the English 1970 translation at all for conscientious reasons, totally different language and book than the Latin one, save for the roman canon – who knows how much the other 3 were butchered.