WDTPRS: Low Sunday – “in albis”

In the post-Conciliar calendar this is the “Second Sunday of Easter”.  In traditional parlance today is called “Low Sunday” or   sometimes “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). 

According to the post-Conciliar way of speaking, this Sunday is now commonly called “Divine Mercy Sunday” because of the emphasis on the merciful dimension of God’s redemptive act celebrated at Easter: the new Collect (based on a prayer in the Missale Gothicum) 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

However, 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) or Quasimodo (pre-Vulgate Latin) 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.”

Some of our antiphons for Mass, such as today’s which starts with the more ancient Quasimodo, reflect a Latin Scripture version predating St. Jerome’s (+420) Vulgate. 

In the ancient Latin Church the newly baptized were called infantes.  They wore their white baptismal robes for an “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 (albis depositis) 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) uses the imagery of spring.  Augustine compares his newly baptized infantes to little birds trying to fly from the nest while he, the parent bird, flapped around them and chirped noisily to encourage them (s. 376a).

The Collect found in the Extraordinary Use of the Roman Rite today comes at least from the 8th century and is found in the Liber sacramentorum Gellonensis.  The Gellonian Sacramentary … well… one of these days I’ll get into that. 

Praesta, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus:
ut, qui paschalia festa peregimus;
haec, te largiente, moribus et vita teneamus.

The first meaning of perago in our very much present Lewis & Short Dictionary, is “to thrust through, pierce through, transfix”, but it comes logically to mean also “to carry through, go through with, execute, finish, accomplish, complete”. This past tense drives home that are at the end of the Easter Octave.  This prayer survived into the Novus Ordo.  It is found on the Saturday after Ascension in the 7th Week of Easter.  In other words, peregimus points out that Easter season is over. 

Grant, we beg You, Almighty God,
that we who have carried through the paschal feasts
may, You bestowing it, hold to them in morals and in life.

Almighty God, we beg You,
that we who have completed our observance of days of the paschal cycle,
may as You lavish this grace upon us, hold fast to them still in our life and outward conduct.

The Daily Missal and Liturgical Manual (Baronius Press):
Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God,
that we who have celebrated the Paschal Feast,
may, by Thy bounty, retain its fruits in our daily habits and behaviour.

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Almighty Father,
let the love we have celebrated in this Easter season
be put into practice in our daily lives.

What about the Collect for the Novus Ordo?

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.  Bp. Trautman wouldn’t like this at all.  I like that sole sunt (with abluti…regenerati…redempti) imbedded elegantly in the last phrase.

O God of eternal mercy,
who on this recurrence of the paschal feast
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.

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 harkens 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.  These mysterious events, historically past, sacramentally take place again each year.  The vast verb comprehendo is too complex to treat here.  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 harks to both the process and effects of baptism.  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.  Accendo means “to kindle anything above so that it burns downward” and “to set on fire, to kindle, light to light up, illuminate, to inflame a person or thing, to incite, to round up.”  This word evokes the imagery of the fiery Easter Vigil!

In a sermon addressed to the catechumens before their baptism at the Easter Vigil, St. Augustine used images of light and fire 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”.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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3 Responses to WDTPRS: Low Sunday – “in albis”

  1. Dr. Eric says:

    I enjoyed that very much, Father. I do read the WDTPRS pieces. One question if I may, as Easter is an 8 Day Festival in the Church, is it permissible to again renew the Baptismal promises on the Second Sunday of Easter instead of reciting the Creed? We did this yesterday, and then went into the sprinkling with water (to the tune of “O Danny Boy/Londonderry Air”) after which we did the intercessions.

  2. ASD says:

    My claim to fame: I’m more literal than Fr. Z: http://gmr.sourceforge.net/html/tempus.html#_low_sunday_collect. More correct I won’t claim to be.

  3. q7swallows says:

    And how blessed we are to have you to pre-digest the warp & weft of the Latin verbs and word meanings so as to assist Holy Mother Church in feeding us, the little nestlings here in this blog!