WDTPRS Monday in Holy Week: “we who are flagging from our weakness”

Final Judgment by Maitani - OrvietoCOLLECT
Da, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus,
ut, qui ex nostra infirmitate deficimus,
intercedente Unigeniti Filii tui passione, respiremus.

Today’s prayer was in the 1962 Missale Romanum and its predecessors. It was in the ancient Gregorian Sacramentary in both the Hadrianum and Paduense manuscripts as well as in the Tridentinum. However, the used to read: Da, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut, qui in tot adversis ex nostra infirmitate deficimus; intercedente unigeniti Filii tui passione respiremus. In their ineffable wisdom The Redactors of the Novus Ordo excised the reference to the obstacles we face because of our fallen nature and the pressures of unrestrained appetites and habits. There are calamities and adversities which put us off our purposes. And then there are the diabolical adversaries, the enemies of our soul. *tisk tisk* These things should not be deleted from prayers. We need to be reminded of them constantly, lest we forget what our true state is in this earthly vale.

In Christian contexts respiro is “to revive”, as if after the resurrection. It can also be taken in a moral sense.  And it suggests even something along the lines of revive, get a second wind, re-breathe.

The mighty Lewis & Short has an interesting explanation of deficio: “to loosen, set free, remove from; but it passed over at a very early period into the middle sense, to loosen from one’s self, to remove one’s self, to break loose from; and then gradually assumed the character of a new verbal action, with the meaning to leave, desert, depart from something, or absolutely, to depart, cease, fail. (For synonyms cf.: desum, absum, descisco, negligo.)” Think of the hymn written by St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274) in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, the Pange Lingua. In the third to the last verse we will sing on Holy Thursday during the procession to repose the Eucharistic Christ:

Verbum caro, panem verum
Verbo carnem efficit:
Fitque sanguis Christi merum,
Et si sensus deficit,
Ad firmandum cor sincerum
Sola fides sufficit.

The Word/Flesh, by a word,
made flesh into true bread,
and wine became the Blood of Christ
and even if sensory perception fails,
only faith suffices
in the strengthening of the pure heart.

We have today an ablative absolute. Many students of Latin fall into the trap of rendering this into English with a phrase like, “with X,Y, Z happening”, the offending word being “with”. “With” in an ablative absolute gives the impression of accompaniment. We have to twist Latin ablative absolutes around a bit in order to get at the force of establishing circumstances or conditions for the actions of the verbs. In my version today, I am leaving the ablative absolute as literally as I can, even though I am sacrificing English elegance to do so. It is more important that students of Latin see what is going on in the prayer. You can work up your own version as you choose.

Grant, we beg You, O God Almighty,
that we who are flagging from our weakness,
may be revived, the Passion of Your Only-Begotten Son interceding.

What I take away from this is the image of a very weary man who is struggling in the last stages of his journey. Sometimes the old adage in finem citius (“things go faster the closer they get to the end”) just doesn’t hold true. I think you have all had the experience of having something seem like it takes forever to end. For example, I have been fairly seriously ill for about the last eight weeks. In the last couple weeks I have been slowly improving and now feel pretty darn good again. However, it seems like forever since I felt halfway decent. On the other hand, every week as I prepare my articles for the paper, it seems like I rocket towards that deadline at mach speed. Our perception of time and events makes a huge difference. This is not necessary a point for Lenten reflection, unless you take into consideration my comments the other day about the passage of our days being as swift as a shuttle of a loom, that image taken from Job.

By this point in Lent, however, I am sure we have all been doing penance and, while it may be somewhat habitual now after all these days, we still are looking forward with great anticipation to the joy, and relief, of Easter.

In the meantime, do not forget (like the Redactors of the Novus Ordo perhaps did) that the Devil is real. The might of his powers and those of his fallen lot are angelic and by far surpass our own. They hate you and want to see you damned to an eternity of suffering and despair in flames and lonely torment of hell.

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that, though in our weakness we fail,
we may be revived through the Passion of your Only Begotten Son

All-powerful God,
by the suffering and death of your Son,
strengthen and protect us in our weakness

Have a nice day!

Please share!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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4 Responses to WDTPRS Monday in Holy Week: “we who are flagging from our weakness”

  1. tioedong says:

    it’s slightly off topic, but you might want to alert your Filipino readers that the Catholic bishops here have audio of the Pasyon on line.

    Usually groups get together and sing the Tagalog version of the passion during Holy week, many in home made chapels or in the neighborhood chapels.

  2. Dr. Sebastianna says:

    Regarding Fr. Z’s quote: “In the meantime, do not forget (like the Redactors of the Novus Ordo perhaps did) that the Devil is real. The might of his powers and those of his fallen lot are angelic and by far surpass our own. They hate you and want to see you damned to an eternity of suffering and despair in flames and lonely torment of hell.”

    Thanks for saying this, Fr. Z. I am relieved.
    Lately, in the pews, I have heard multiple priests (at NO Masses) read Gospel accounts of Jesus exorcising demons and then say, “The devil is a literary device…” or… “They refer to these things as demons, but the word demon doesn’t actually mean demon… The word can be translated as problems…” or “Who knows if the poor person Jesus healed really suffered from epilepsy or from a bleeding disorder…” or… “We all have our demons: anger, depression, anxiety…” I have also heard of sad stories in which people have messed with the occult, opened themselves up to demonic harassment, told a priest… and were then summarily dismissed as kooks and sent to psychiatrists. IMHO, not believing in a real, personal evil (ie the devil) not only denies what Christ came to do and why He had to do it but may also contribute to people not going to confession… You know, if there is no devil, there is no one tempting us to sin, there is no Hell, and we can just do what makes us feel good and fall down the slippery slope of moral relitivism.. just as long as we FEEL GOOD about it, it’s OK, right?

    So thanks, Fr Z, for saying that the devil is real. I wish that more of your colleagues agreed with you on this point…

  3. avecrux says:

    “we who are flagging from our weakness” – this is a perfect expression of how I am feeling in these final days before Easter…. what a gift it would be to actually hear that prayed in the liturgy where I am offering it all to God.

  4. Gaz says:

    My daughter (10yo) came to say good night to me and caught me reviewing the new translation of the Roman Canon on YouTube. She listened to a bit of it and asked why we needed to change (she had no troubles with any of the words). I showed her this page and we compared the Latin, the Corrected and the Lame-duck. It made perfect sense to her with the exception of the phrase, “Lame-Duck”. Fr Z, you really need to make sure that you use terms that 10 year-olds understand. “Venerable” etc. are fine but stop using that “Lame Duck” rubbish.