This ancient Collect is found without variation in the Liber Sacramentorum Gellonensis, written perhaps in Meaux, near Paris, between 790-800. The Gellone Sacramentary, which has Frankish influences, is a strand in the complicated web of manuscripts descending from what we called the Gelasian Sacramentary, the source of so many of our ancient prayers found in the Roman Missal. The Gellone seems to have been an attempt at a complete book for liturgical services.
Largire, quaesumus, Domine,
fidelibus tuis indulgentiam placatus et pacem:
ut pariter ab omnibus mundentur offensis,
et secura tibi mente deserviant.
The pattern indulgentiam [X] et pacem reminds me of the post-Conciliar formula for absolution of sins spoken by the priest in regular auricular confession: Deus, Pater misericoridiarum… indulgentiam tribuat et pacem. I found the same patter in ancient prayers with various verbs inserted in the X spot, such as tribuas and also consequatur as well as largiatur or largiaris.
Our prayers very often include requests for pardon, that God forgive our sins. We ask for absolutio, remissio, indulgentia and in liturgical language we use verbs like largiri, tribuere, conferre, and as the priest speaks to God, he describes Him in terms of propitius, propitiatus, and placatus.
Largire looks like an infinitive but is really an imperative form of the deponent largior, “to give bountifully, to lavish, bestow, dispense, distribute, impart… to confer, bestow, grant, yield”.
The adjective securus, a, um, which the mighty Lewis & Short Dictionary says means first and foremost “free from care, careless, unconcerned, untroubled, fearless, quiet, easy, composed” is understandably found in conjunction with the Last Judgment. We wish to be “free from anxiety” when see the Just Judge coming. Think of the line in the sequence Dies irae used during Requiem Masses: “Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus. … What am I, a wretch, to say then? what patron am I to beseech? When the just man is scarely free from care [about his salvation – ]”. Remember also from the Ordinary of the Mass after the Lord’s Prayer (my emphases): Libera nos, quaesumus, Domine, ab omnibus malis, da propitius pacem in diebus nostris, ut, ope misericordiae tuae adiuti, et a peccato simus semper liberi et ab omni perturbatione securi: exspectantes beatam spem et adventum Salvatoris nostri Jesu Christi… which in the new ICEL version approved by Rome will sound like this:
“Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Placo is “to appease, render favorable”, and is also connected with gifts (munera, dona) or sacrifice (immolatio). Deservio is not simply “to serve”, but “to serve zealously, be devoted to, subject to”. This takes a dative “object”. Par, paris, n., means “a pair”, which logically gives us the adverb pariter, “equally, in an equal degree, in like manner, as well”.
In the first place, indulgentia indicates an attitude: “indulgence, gentleness, complaisance, tenderness, fondness”, and then what flows from that attitude, namely, “a remission” of something like punishment or taxation. In the French language dictionary of liturgical Latin, we find the same idea, an attitude which brings a result: “abandon de sa sévérité”, or “a giving up of severity”.
It doesn’t take much thought to see why “security”, in the sense of being without anxiety, and “peace” are closely tied to God’s forgiveness, His indulgence.
If God were to judge us truly according to our own fruits, and not mercifully see us through the merits of Christ’s Sacrifice, life would become unbearable and each day would bring us closer to unspeakable terror as we awaited either death of Christ’s return.
Having been appeased, impart to Your faithful, O Lord,
we beseech You, remission and peace:
so that in an equal measure they may be cleansed from all sins,
and may zealously serve You with a mind free from anxiety.
It is nice to look at old translations from old hand missals on occasion, just to see something smoother, language that doesn’t stick slavishly to the text. Here is a version prepared by J. O’Connell and H.P.R. Finberg, the editors of …
The Latin Missal In Latin and English (1957):
Relent, Lord, we pray thee,
and grant thy faithful pardon and peace,
so that they may be cleansed from all their sins,
and serve thee with a quiet mind.
What a grace it is to live with a mind and conscience quiet about the course of our lives and our coming judgment.
Christ gave us Holy Church and our sacraments as the ordinary means of salvation.
To each of us sufficient grace is offered for our salvation, but to us who are so favored as to belong to the Holy Catholic Church … so much more has been given.