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.
A LITERAL RENDERING:
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.
OBSOLETE ICEL (1973):
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.
NEW CORRECTED ICEL (2011):
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.