At the end of Holy Mass this morning I noted the simple but weighty rubric:
Post Missam expirat tempus paschale.
We have come back around to the Tempus per annum.
But we don’t go green quite yet. Sunday is Trinity Sunday, that day many well-read and well-catechized Catholics dread for the absurdities they hear from the pulpit.
In the early Church no special day was designated for the Most Holy Trinity, but to combat the Arian heresy Catholics developed Creeds as well as an office for Sundays having canticles, responses, a preface, and hymns. In the ancient Gregorian Sacramentary we find prayers and the Preface of the Trinity. Pope John XXII (+1334) ordered a universal feast in honor of the Trinity on the first Sunday after Pentecost. This day was raised to the dignity of a First Class feast by Pope St. Pius X (+1914). It was made a Solemnity for the Novus Ordo.
There is a wonderful logic to the timing of this feast. We focus on the Son’s Ascension to the Father, then the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, and then the Triune God the Sunday after. Today we celebrate our constant profession of belief in doctrine of a Holy Trinity, the most fundamental of Christian truths and most mysterious of all dogmas. God the Father created us through the Son. God the Son redeemed us and revealed us more fully to ourselves (GS 22). God the Holy Ghost sanctifies us in our Holy Church.
COLLECT - (1962MR):
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus,
qui dedisti famulis tuis, in confessione verae fidei,
aeternae Trinitatis gloriam agnoscere,
et in potentia maiestatis adorare Unitatem:
quaesumus; ut, eiusdem fidei firmitate,
ab omnibus semper muniamur adversis.
Almighty everlasting God,
who granted to Your servants, in the profession of the true Faith,
to recognize the glory of the eternal Trinity
and to adore Its Unity in the might of majesty:
we beseech You; that, in the steadfastness of that same Faith,
we may always be defended from all adversities.
One of the things I appreciate in this prayer is the acknowledgment that we have adversities in this life, even deadly spiritual enemies. The transforming power of the Holy Trinity, dwelling in our souls when we are in the state of grace, gives us power in the face of our challenges.
Let’s right away have a look at how they changed the Collect for the Novus Ordo. The old language, preserved by the liturgical expert scissor and paste-pot jockeys engaged by the Consilium, is underscored.
COLLECT (1970 Missale Romanum):
Deus Pater, qui, Verbum veritatis
et Spiritum sanctificationis mittens in mundum,
admirabile mysterium tuum hominibus declarasti,
da nobis, in confessione verae fidei,
aeternae gloriam Trinitatis agnoscere,
et Unitatem adorare in potentia maiestatis.
Obviously this is a hybrid glued together from part of the 1962 Collect and something else, perhaps a new composition.
However, I found the noteworthy phrase admirabile mysterium used to describe the doctrine of the Trinity in the Gesta collationis Carthaginiensis habitae inter Catholicos et Donatistas … the minutes of the meeting that took place in Carthage in June 411 between Catholic and Donatist bishops. St. Augustine of Hippo (+430) was a major player at that conference. That and confessio verae fidei suggest that this prayer, though of new composition, is essentially founded on Augustine’s work on the Most Holy Trinity, which should not surprise.
O God the Father, who, sending the Word of Truth
and the Spirit of sanctification into the world,
declared Thy wondrous mystery to men,
grant us, in the confession of true faith,
to recognize the glory of the eternal Trinity,
and to adore its Unity in the might of majesty.
We should spend time on the language common to both of these Trinity Sunday Collects.
First, note the direct address to God the Father. Then, I catch references to manifestations (epiphanies) of the Trinity in Scripture and of the glory of God as a bright cloud: at Jesus’ baptism by St. John in the Jordan when the Holy Spirit was seen as a dove and the voice of the Father was heard (cf. Luke 3); when Jesus was transfigured before the eyes of Peter, John and James (cf. Matthew 17). God made known the wondrous mystery (admirabile mysterium) that He is Three in One, a Trinity of divine Persons, God the Father, God the Word of Truth, God the Spirit of sanctification, One God. It is necessary foundational part of true Faith (vera fides) that we recognize (agnoscere) God to be Triune. This is something that man can reason toward on his own, as ancient Greek Neoplatonic philosophers did, but only by the gift of Faith does he profess (confiteor) this mystery in an authentically Christian way.
An important word in the prayer is maiestas. Maiestas is conceptually related in the writings of the Latin Fathers, to gloria. In early Latin Fathers such as St. Hilary of Poitiers (+368), St. Ambrose (+397) and in early liturgical texts, maiestas/gloria means far more than simple fame, or splendor of appearance. Latin liturgical gloria and maiestas are related to biblical Greek doxa and Hebrew kabod. “Glory” and “majesty” express man’s recognition of God as God and of the salvation won for us by Christ. Simultaneously, “glory” is a characteristic of God, a power He will share will us, by which He will transform us. “Glory”, therefore, in our liturgical prayers has an eschatological sense, since it refers to the Last Things. God’s transforming glory, to be shared more fully in heaven, is foreshadowed in Moses’ meetings with God, when He came like a cloud (Hebrew shekinah). After these meetings Moses’ face was transformed and shone like the sun. In this Collect we adore the gloria Trinitatis, the maiestas Unitatis, which has potentia. In the mighty Lewis & Short Dictionary, potentia means “might, force, power.”
Here in this vale of tears we must strive to give glory to the Most Holy Trinity in all that we do, think and say. May the Holy Trinity give us even here in anticipation a share of that divine glory, in saving and actual graces. May our relationship with the Holy Trinity shine in how we treat our neighbor.
Also, as a curiosity, priests might want to listen to these if they must sing Holy Mass in Latin, especially in the older, traditional form:
And even this…