Today’s Collect was not in previous editions of the Roman Missal. It comes from the Liber Mozarabicus Sacramentorum. The Mozarabic Rite, going back as far as the 6th c. is the second best attested Latin Catholic rite in terms of surviving documents. The Mozarabic Rite was suppressed in 1085 except for in six parishes of Spain. In 1500 a Mozarabic Missal with some elements integrated from the Roman Rite was published and then approved by Pope Julius II (+1513). Francisco Card. Ximenez de Cisneros (+1517) erected a chapel in Toledo and a college of thirteen priests whose task it would be to use the Mozarabic Rite even after the reforms of the Council of Trent and the imposition of the Roman Rite. A new edition of the Missale Hispano-Mozarabicum was published in 1991 and Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass with the Mozarabic Missal in 1992 and 2000. I was there in 1992 and it was an great experience.
COLLECT – LATIN TEXT (2002MR):
Quaesumus, Domine Deus noster,
ut in illa caritate, qua Filius tuus
diligens mundum morti se tradidit,
inveniamur ipsi, te opitulante, alacriter ambulantes.
The only word in the Collect which might catch your eye as being a little odd is opitulante in that ablative absolute construction. Opitulor is a deponent verb meaning, “to bring aid; to help, aid, assist, succor.” Alacriter is an adverb from alacer, and means “briskly, eagerly”. Coming from alacer it has an element of cheerfulness to it. Trado signifies “to give up, hand over, deliver, transmit, surrender, consign.
O Lord our God, we beg that,
You assisting us, we ourselves may be found walking swiftly
in that selfsame sacrificial love by which Your Son,
loving the world, handed Himself over to death.
In some respects our Lenten Collects are similar to those of Advent. There are images of motion, of pilgrimage. We are moving toward a great feast of the Church but we are more importantly moving definitely toward the mysteries they make present to us.
Taking a page from St. Augustine of Hippo (+430), we the baptized who are the Body of the Mystical Person of Christ, the Church, are on a journey with the Lord, the Head of the Church, toward Jerusalem: the Jerusalem of our own passion and the new Jerusalem of our Resurrection. Christ made this journey so that we could make it and be saved in it. In our liturgy the one, whole Mystical Christ is on a Lenten journey. Each year in Lent Christ, in us, travels that road of the Passion, and we, in Him, travel the road marked out by Holy Mother Church and her duly ordained shepherds. We must unite ourselves in heart, mind and will with the mysteries expressed in the liturgy. Our passion, our road to Jerusalem, is in our examination of conscience and good confessions, our self-denial and works of mercy.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Father, help us to be like Christ your Son,
who loved the world and died for our salvation.
Inspire us by his example, who lives and reigns….
It irritates me that phrases like Domine Deus noster are reduced in the lame-duck ICEL version to “Father” (NB: none of those three Latin words means “Father”, but you probably knew that…). Of course we are not so dense that we can’t figure out that this Collect is addressed to the First Person of the Trinity, i.e., “the Father”. How stupid did they think we are?
I have no problem at all with the idea that God “helps” us. What I want to avoid, and I am not convinced that the lame-duck ICEL prayers do, is suggest that we can really do what we are praying about on our own but it would be great if God would give us a hand now and then. This is tantamount to the ancient heresy of Pelagianism. I think sometimes the ICEL prayers are virtually Pelagian, or at least susceptible to a Pelagian interpretation.
Brief scholion: What is Pelagianism? Pelagianism, bitterly fought off by, among others, St. Augustine of Hippo in the 4th and 5th centuries, was a heretical belief that Original Sin did not wound human nature and that our will is capable of choosing good or evil with no help from God’s grace. This would mean that the sin of our first parents to “set a bad example” for humanity to follow, but Adam’s sin did not have the other consequences imputed to Original Sin (wounding of the intellect and will, etc.). For Pelagians, Jesus sets a good example which counteracts Adam’s bad example. We can choose to follow it and choose, on our own, with the help of Jesus’ perfect example. Therefore, according to Pelagians, we humans retain full control and full responsibility for our own salvation.
Now read the ICEL version again.
Done? You decide.
NEW CORRECTED ICEL:
By your help, we beseech you, Lord our God,
may we walk eagerly in that same charity
with which, out of love for the world,
your Son handed himself over to death.
The Latin Collect avoids any tint of Pelagianism when talking about God’s “help.” I think the new, corrected version does as well, even though the tricky word “help” is there. We beg, for one thing: “beseech”. “Beseech” is not a common word even in the corrected translation.
In today’s Latin Collect we read (in a starker version), “in that love by which your Son, loving the world, gave himself over to death.” In the Latin we pray about caritas, charity, sacrificial love, which is in by us God’s free gift of grace. Caritas is the theological virtue enabling us to love God for Himself and our neighbors as ourselves. In the present ICEL version we want to be “inspired by his example.” It seems to me that the ICEL prayer stops there and doesn’t take the next necessarily Catholic step. Sure, Christ and His love is our perfect “example.”
But in the Latin Collect we are connected more intimately with that love, to the extent that God’s “help” is actually God providing that we do all we do in a deep unity with Christ’s own love. We are so much in unity with Him that we become Christ-like in our love. His love lives and works in and through us.
It is ours and we are Its. That is more than an example for imitation.
Our Lenten discipline continues.
Persevere in prayer, fasting and almsgiving and, especially, in your full, active and conscious participation in the sacred mysteries of Holy Mass.