WDTPRS (AWYS): 4th Sunday of Advent: “many people pit faith against reason”

This Sunday’s Collect is also the Post Communion for the Feast of the Annunciation (25 March) in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (1962MR).  Some of you who recite the Angelus will recognize it.

The Annunciation was the moment of the Incarnation of our Lord.  Therefore, on that feast and on Christmas, during the Creed of Holy Mass according to the Ordinary Form, we bend our knees instead of merely bowing at the words “Et incarnatus est…”.  Alas, only on those two days do we kneel during the Creed with the Ordinary Form.  If you recite the Angelus (which has an indulgence), you know today’s Collect.  It was in the 8th century Gelasian Sacramentary.

Gratiam tuam, quaesumus Domine,
mentibus nostris infunde,
ut qui, Angelo nuntiante,
Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus,
per passionem eius et crucem
ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur

The last lines have wonderful alliteration and a snappy final cadence (glóriam perducámur).  Collects are often little treasures.

Cognosco is, generally, “to become thoroughly acquainted with (by the senses or mentally), to learn by inquiring…”, but in the perfect tenses (cognovimus) it is “to know” in all periods of Latin.  Infundo basically is “to pour in, upon, or into” but in the construction (which we see today) infundere alicui aliquid) it is “to pour out for, to administer to, present to, lay before”.  It can mean, “communicate, impart”.  Perduco, “to lead or bring through”, is “guide a person or thing to a certain goal”.  It can also mean “to drink off, quaff”, a nice counterpoint to infundo.

We beg You, O Lord,
pour Your grace into our minds and hearts,
so that we who came to know the incarnation of Christ Your Son
in the moment the Angel was heralding the news,
may be guided through His Passion and Cross
to the glory of the resurrection

That Angelo nuntiante is an ablative absolute. By its “present” tense it is contemporary with the time of the past tense in cognovimus.  Thus, in the very moment the Angel was heralding the good news, we (collectively in the shepherds) knew about how God the Son took our whole human nature into an indestructible bond with His divinity and was born into this world.  The shepherds then rushed to the Coming of the Lord to see the Word made flesh lying in His wooden manger, which foreshadowed His wooden Cross.

fill our hearts with your love,
and as you revealed to us by an angel
the coming of your Son as man,
so lead us through his suffering and death
to the glory of his resurrection

Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord,
your grace into our hearts,
that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son
was made known by the message of an Angel,
may by his Passion and Cross
be brought to the glory of his Resurrection

“Seeing is believing”, they say, but believing makes us want to see.  “Crede ut intellegas!  Believe that you may understand!” is a common theme for St. Augustine of Hippo (d 430 – e.g., s. 43,4.7; 118,1; Io. eu. tr. 29,6).  Today many people pit faith against reason, authority against intellect, as if they were mutually exclusive.  Faith and authority are indispensible for a fuller rational, intellectual apprehension of anything.  In all the deeper questions of human existence, we need the illumination from grace and revelation, we must receive and believe.  Faith is the foundation of our hope which leads to love and communion with God, as Augustine would say (trin. 8,6).

When we hear about something or learn a new thing we often rush to know more, to have personal experience, to see.  This is a paradigm for our life of faith.  There is an interlocking cycle of hearing a proclamation (such as the Gospel at Mass, a homily, or a teaching of the Church) or observing the living testimony of a holy person’s life, and, because of that experience, pondering and then coming to love the content of that which we received.  The content of the prayers Holy Church gives us is the Man God Jesus Christ.  By knowing them, we come all the better to know Him and love Him. In loving Him we desire the more to know Him.  Acceptance of the authority of the content of our orations at Mass opens previously unknown treasuries which would otherwise be locked.

Our Blessed Mother, so closely associated with today’s Collect, received the message of the Angel.

She believed.  She pondered it in her heart.  She pronounced her Magnificat.  She brought our Savior into the light of the world.

The angel heralded with authority once again.

The shepherds believed.  They pondered while rushing to Bethlehem.  They saw the Infant.  They understood the message of the Word made flesh.  They knelt.  They worshiped.

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12 Responses to WDTPRS (AWYS): 4th Sunday of Advent: “many people pit faith against reason”

  1. Cathy says:

    Father, what happened to Thee, Thy and Thou in our prayers? Maybe it’s just me, but the language seems more gracious and reverent when we use these words. Also, inherent in them, is the particular elevation of how we address our Lord in prayer. I guess I don’t know how to put it properly, except that it seems to separate Theology from you-ology.

  2. Supertradmum says:

    Father Z at his best!

    Americans and the English have been heavily influenced by both the anti-intellectualism and rebellion of the Protestants, and the experience-seeking charismatics. Both of these influences have ruined the older, more balanced approach to Faith, Hope and Charity taught in earlier days through the catechism and study. The old Baltimore Catechism and the new one, emphasize Reason, as one of the pillars of our Faith–Reason and Revelation. The Blessed Mother knew her Old Testament. She was not surprised at the fact that there was an angel, Gabriel, nor his message of a Messiah. Her surprise was in her own particular part in that Mystery of Faith. She grew up pondering and pondered in her heart her entire life the experience of being the Mother of God, watching the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity grow up in her home, but placing this Experience of the Trinity in the context of Revelation and Reason.

    Too many Catholics do not reflect, do not take time to read. It is the job of the adult to make his Faith his own-the appropriation of an adult Catholic Faith involves Revelation and Reason and those who do not take time to cultivate the reasonable aspect of their Faith fail to do their duty.

    We look at the lives of the saints, many preferring those who give us hints of the experience of God, but there are many who worked out their salvation , used the grace God gave them, through Reason. The “cloud of witnesses” is endless. Mary is the First.

    Much to contemplate this Sunday.

  3. This post makes a fine case for the merits of the corrected translation. The new ICEL version of the collect is an enormous improvement, not only in accuracy but — despite what some of the publicity has suggested — in style. Is it facile to suggest that it sounds better because it is better?

    I only wish that we Lutherans were likely to adopt the revised translations.

  4. Hilleyb says:

    With this being part of the Angelus, the fact that they went with the familiar rendering feels like a small miracle. I’m sure thousands, or, preferably, millions of people will think, “Wait… the Angelus prayer was in the Mass all along?” never having observed the connection before.

  5. albinus1 says:

    Also, inherent in them, is the particular elevation of how we address our Lord in prayer.

    Actually, Cathy, “thou” and its related forms are not elevated at all. Historically, these are the familiar forms of address in English — equivalent to tu in French and Spanish, and Du in German. These are the forms used between close friends, spouses, and parents when speaking to children (but generally not by children when speaking to parents!). Our use of these forms in addressing God traditionally emphasizes the intimacy and closeness we have with God. In most languages with which I’m acquainted, the familiar form is used when addressing God (though not, IIRC, in French).

    The only reason “thou” and related forms sound formal and elevated to us is merely because they have become archaic and have fallen out of customary use. That is probably the main reason why the translators chose not to go with them.

  6. jfm says:

    I agree with HilleyB — it is a miracle of effective use of translation. I am one of those who never knew that this beautiful Angelus prayer was part of a Mass. Many thanks, Father Z.

    Side joke: I have often asked for a refill of my glass of wine by asking a friend: “Pour fourth, we beseech thee, O Lord, your wine into my glass…”

  7. Blaise says:

    I agree with Hilleyb – I was surprised to see that the new translation has adopted wholesale the “standard” translation into English (at least as I know it in the UK) of the Angelus prayer. Like Hilleyb I also don’t think I had realised that it was in the mass all along. I wonder whether people in the congregation will accidentally join in from habit from the Angelus.

    As for thou vs you, I think the new translation would have come in for even more criticism than it has done if it had adopted the familiar form. It would have been dismissed as not just unwieldy and obscurantist but deliberately and artificially archaic.

  8. ContraMundum says:

    Add me to the list of those agreeing with Hilleyb, and also to the list of those who did not know the Angelus prayer was in the Mass.

  9. albinus1 says:

    I didn’t realize that the “Angelus prayer” was part of the Mass; but I did notice a few years ago that the prayer said at the end of the Hail, Holy Queen, when it’s said at the end of the Rosary (not the prayer said after the Hail, Holy Queen as part of the Leonine Prayers after Low Mass) is the Collect from the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary: “O God, Whose Only-Begotten Son …”

  10. bishedwin says:

    Just for completeness, can we remember the translation – very near to the new Missal version – provided by Dr Cranmer in the Book of Common Prayer:

    We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts;
    that, as we have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an angel,
    so by his cross and passion we may be brought unto the glory of his resurrection:
    Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

    The balancing of “that as we have known” and “so by his cross &c” seems to me to represent in English what the Latin achieves through an ablative absolute. And although it reverses ‘passion’ and ‘cross’, is it only familiarity which makes ‘cross and passion’ appear rather better in English that the Latin order?

  11. Peggy R says:

    We attended the vigil mass and I immediately recognized this collect as the closing prayer of the Angelus. Excellent. It is shameful that the lame duck made no use of that standard prayer text.

  12. jesusthroughmary says:

    I actually realized that the Angelus prayer was the Collect for this Sunday a few years ago when I was given an Angelus prayer card with the obsolete translation as the closing prayer for the Angelus. I then confirmed the connection by looking at the Latin text for the Collect of the Mass. So sad that that lovely connection was obscured for so many years.