WDTPRS 2nd Ordinary Sunday: the vicissitudes of this world roar over us like an inexorable wave

We must have a quick glance at the translations for the Collect in the Ordinary Form’s observance of the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus,
qui caelestia simul et terrena moderaris,
supplicationibus populi tui clementer exaudi,
et pacem tuam nostris concede temporibus.

When the English is shorter than the Latin you know immediately that something is very wrong indeed.

This prayer was the Collect for the Second Sunday after Epiphany in the 1962MR.    We should look at some words before getting at what the prayer really says.  The unrivaled Lewis & Short Dictionary says that simul et connects two or more co-ordinate terms or facts and represents them as simultaneous and is the equivalent of simul etiam meaning “and at the same time, and also”.  The deponent verb moderor means “to manage, regulate, rule, guide, govern, direct”.  The word moderator is what we use in Latin for people like the state governor or the president of the United States: governing officials.  A gubernator was the steersman or pilot of a sailing ship.

When we pray in Latin we often ask God to pay attention in some way, usually by “hearing” us.  Exaudio signifies “listen to” in the sense of “harken, perceive clearly.”  The imperative exaudi is more urgent than a simple audi (the imperative from audio, not the car).   I like “harken.”  Different words are used for this in Latin and though they mean subtly different things, they are all pretty much the same thing.  A good example is the beginning of one of the Litanies in Latin: Christe audi nos… Christe exaudi nos… which is often translated as “Christ hear us… Christ graciously hear us.”

Clementer is an adverb from clemens, means among other things, “mild in respect to the faults and failures of others, i.e. forbearing, indulgent, compassionate, merciful.”  We have seen this many times in the last years.  In the religious language of the ancient Romans a supplicatio was a public prayer or supplication, a solemn religious ceremony in consequence of certain public events, good or ill.

So, what we have here is a phrase something like, “in an indulgent manner graciously pay close attention to the humble petitions of your people, bent down in prayer.” 

Tempus means many things but primarily, “time in general, or a season of time; the state of the times, position, state, condition; circumstances.”  It can also be “the appointed time, the right season, an opportunity (Greek kairos)”.   In the plural tempora gives us the word for the “temples” of the sides of your head.  The word “temporal” ultimately derives from tempus and it often indicates worldly or earthly things, material things, as opposed to sacred, eternal or spiritual.

Father of heaven and earth,
hear our prayers, and show us the way
to peace in the world.


Almighty eternal God,
who at the same time does govern things heavenly and earthly,
mercifully hark to the supplications of Your people,
and grant Your peace in our temporal affairs.

Almighty everlasting God,
who order all things both in heaven and on earth,
mercifully hear the pleading of your people
and bestow your peace on our times

That was what Rome got from ICEL and the bishops.  This is how Rome changed it.

Almighty ever-living God,
who govern all things,
both in heaven and on earth,
mercifully hear the pleading of your people,
and bestow your peace on our times.

Vote for Fr. Z!
You decide.

We beg God as omnipotent disposer of all things for peace in our temporal affairs now, not just later in heaven.  And we want not just any peace man can cobble together, but rather the peace which comes from Him.

During Holy Mass (before the entirely optional “sign of peace”) the priest repeats Christ’s words in John 14:27: “Pacem relinquo vobis, pacem meam do vobis… Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Christ said He was going to give it to us.  We believe Him.

There is a great difference between the peace the world can offer and the peace that God offers.

This world of temporal goods (and ills) is passing and fragile, always susceptible to loss.  The goods of heaven are lasting, enduring, solid and dependable.   We must never fall into the sin of putting any created thing or person in the place which only eternal God may properly have.

No finite and passing thing can provide lasting joy or eternal peace.  Any created thing can be lost through theft, wear and time.

The vicissitudes of this passing world roar over us like an inexorable wave and can sweep away any material thing to which we have clung, perhaps even in idolatry.  Our wealth, our family, our health, our appearance and our reputation can be taken in the blink of an eye.

God alone endures.

God knew each one of us outside of time, before the creation of both the visible and invisible universe.  He called us into existence at a precise moment in His eternal plan.  We have something to do in God’s plan.  He gives us work to fulfill and the talents and graces to fulfill it.  We must cooperate with Him, making His plan for us our own so that He can then make us strong enough to carry it out.

God knows our needs and in turn we confidently come to Him in prayer asking humbly in our trials during this earthly journey for peace only He can give, the peace which alone can make sense of what we experience in life.  Our sins lost this peace for us but it has been restored through the merits of Christ’s Sacrifice which we renewal and remember with each Holy Mass.  We ask God to bless us in this new year of salvation.  We beseech Him to give aid to all who suffer.

With bended knee and foreheads to the ground, bodies and wills both bent in supplication, we beg His patient indulgence and His peace.

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19 Responses to WDTPRS 2nd Ordinary Sunday: the vicissitudes of this world roar over us like an inexorable wave

  1. The Cobbler says:

    The 2008 and 2010 both sound pretty accurate, although I think I like Fr.’s choice of words a little better. It’s hard to decide whether the 2008 is smoother than the WDTPRS literal. The 2010 is laboring under the delusion that breaking up four verses into three verses and two half verses makes it flow better, but thankfully that’s the worst of it in this case, so I guess I should be grateful. 8^)

  2. The Cobbler: The WDTPRS wasn’t intended to be smooth.

  3. gloriainexcelsis says:

    The Hiroshige print fits well. That’s a great wave. It is roaring, but I don’t know about inexorable. The 2008 and 2010 renditions are a toss-up, I think. Of course, I prefer the translation in the 1962 Missal: O Almighty and everlasting God, Who dost govern all things both in heaven and on earth: mercifully hear the prayers of Thy people, and grant us Thy peace in our time. But then, hopelesss case that I am, I love the dosts and thys, too.

  4. BobP says:

    Can’t do better than the Latin.

  5. edm says:

    The Book of Common Prayer (1979, American)
    for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

    Rite I
    Almighty and everlasting God, who dost govern all things in heaven and earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of thy people, and in our time grant us thy peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    Rite II
    Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    (I don’t know why they had the bad habit of putting those commas before each “and” in the second half of the collect’s petition. It happens over and over again throughout the collects for the year!)

  6. The Cobbler says:

    Father, you always say that, but sometimes the milder words just don’t flow, whereas yours, while flow is low on the priority list, do in their own way.

    There’s such a thing as punctuation moving a sentence or a piece of poetry; it’s why Italians throw “-ah” on the end of words and why we add “n” to “an” before a word that starts in a vowel, bouncing in and out of words. String together a bunch of words that are smooth in themselves and sometimes the overall passage just ambles.

    In this case, I’m genuinely unsure whether the Z or the 2008 flows better, largely because the 2008 is not only close in substance but doesn’t have any glaring grammatical structure or meter oddities (granted, it isn’t in meter to begin with, but it doesn’t come off like haiku written by American kids).

    The version gloriainexcelsis gives us seems a nice balance — pretty literally translated, but lightly refined, like a blade tempered and honed rather than dulled.

  7. Supertradmum says:

    Father Z,

    As you have translated correctly, the “at the same time” is extremely important. Someone last night asked me where God was in all these natural and man-made disasters on the news this week. That God is at the same time watching over us in the material as well as the spiritual realm seems a main point when asking for mercy. I like your translation best for poetry and significance.

    The famous woodcut by Katsushika Hokusai, with Mt. Fuji in the background, is an old favorite of mine, having been introduced to me by the good nuns in art class when I was a child. It is also appropriate for the meditation today. Thanks….

  8. Joanne says:

    Love the ? hiroshige ? hokusai print!

  9. Archicantor says:

    Interestingly, the translation of the Liturgy of the Hours compiled by “the hierarchies of Australia, England and Wales, [and] Ireland” in 1974 gives a translation rather closer to the corrected Missal version than to ICEL:

    Almighty God, ruler of all things in heaven and on earth, listen favourably to the prayer of your people, and grant us your peace in our day…

    Compare the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (where this prayer is assigned to the Second Sunday after Epiphany), which was, I think, constantly informing (if only subconsciously) the British translators:

    Almighty and everlasting God, who dost govern all things in heaven and earth; Mercifully hear the supplications of thy people, and grant us thy peace all the days of our life…

    Interesting that neither takes notice of the Latin simul. I wonder if Cranmer took this as covered both by “all things in heaven and earth” (not just “things in heaven and earth”) and by the present indicative “dost govern”, i.e. governing, at this moment, everything in heaven and earth.

    edm: As you can see, the commas are of ancient pedigree (this one, at least, is found in the 1549 BCP — and of course it’s there in the Latin original quoted by Fr. Z.). In any case, they agree perfectly with the admonition of Strunk and White in The Elements of Style , Rule of Elementary Usage no. 4: “Place a comma before a conjunction introducing an independent clause.” The clauses are independent because each could stand by itself as a sentence: “Mercifully hear the supplications of thy people. Grant us thy peace all the days of our life.”

  10. The main difference between the 2008 version and the 2010 version appears to be the substitution of “govern” for “order.” The former suggests a more passive God, whereas “order” sounds a bit more active to me. In my experience, “ordering” takes lots more effort, and I imagine an active Creator taking His mighty Hand and moving things into their proper positions. One can “govern” without necessarily doing much of anything if nothing much needs to be improved (but try telling that to activist legislators and judges).

    I like “order” better.

  11. Jakub says:

    My ’62 Short Breviary reads,” All powerful, eternal God, You govern all things both in heaven and on earth. Listen with fatherly kindness to the prayers of Your people and grant peace to men in our time.”

  12. The Cobbler: I think it is okay at times for translations to sound like translations.

  13. Just Learning says:

    While the 2010 version is better, it’s still off mark – oversimplified and missing important elements of the Latin text.

    I appreciate the additional information provided which as it turns out is a perfectly timed reminder for me.

  14. Johnny Domer says:

    The translation of aeternus, sempiternus, etc. as “ever-living” really annoys me. It always reminds me of some hillbilly like Foster Brooks or Yosemite Sam threatening to beat the ever-living tar out of someone. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the term “ever-living” outside of the context of 1. Mass 2. fictional hillbillies threatening people. I don’t know, am I the only one? Is that as weird as I think it sounds? Are people really incapable of understanding what “eternal” means?

  15. A Sinner 2 says:

    “Are people really incapable of understanding what “eternal” means?”


    And “everlasting” reminds me of the Energizer Bunny.

  16. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Oops! Yep, Supertradmum – it’s Hokusai. My brains must have been asleep.

  17. Mario Bird says:

    @ Fr Z (or equivalent Latin scholar/aesthete):

    “The word moderator is what we use in Latin for people like the state governor or the president of the United States: governing officials. A gubernator was the steersman or pilot of a sailing ship.”

    Wait…does this mean that, in Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, when Caiaphas calls Pilate “gubernator,” he is intentionally insulting him? Or is Caiaphas himself ignorant? Or did the screenwriters and translators mess up?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

  18. TJerome says:

    All I can say is the lameduck translation is pathetic, as flat and uninspiring thing I’ve heard. It could be used on Sesame Street but I think even the kiddies would find it “lame”

  19. Henry Edwards says:

    The translation of aeternus, sempiternus, etc. as “ever-living” really annoys me.

    Then you certainly have had lots of opportunities for annoyance, having heard the term “ever-living” at every English-language Mass you (or anyone else has ever attended), since each of the 80+ prefaces in the Missal of Paul VI begins–in the current lame-duck translation–with the same line:

    Father, all-present and ever-living God,

    And so you will be particular reason for happiness with the new translation, in which every preface will begin with the line

    It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,