Today’s Collect was in the ancient Veronese and Gelasian Sacramentaries, and so it represents the best of the liturgical tradition of the early Church in Rome, formed out of the cultural, intellectual, spiritual milieu of the era.
It survived the scissors and paste-pots of Fr. Bugnini and his merry band in the Consilium as the Collect for Saturday after Ash Wednesday in the Ordinary Form.
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus,
infirmitatem nostram propitius respice,
atque ad protegendum nos
dexteram tuae maiestatis extende.
There is an elegance to these ancient prayers which hard to capture in English without resorting to nearly archaic forms. However, archaic forms do help us to separate both the content and intent of the prayer from the banal, ephemeral and commonplace. I think this is necessary to do in liturgical prayer at all times, but especially today when a sense of the sacred needs to be recaptured.
Words like maiestas hark to attributes of God such as Hebrew kabod, Greek doxa, and Latin gloria. Maiestas, with a pronoun, can also be construed as a title, such as “Your Majesty”. So, we could happily say, “stretch out Your Majesty’s right hand”.
NEW CORRECTED ICEL:
Almighty ever-living God,
look with compassion on our weakness
and ensure us your protection
by stretching forth the right hand of your majesty.
All-powerful and ever-living God,
look with compassion on our frailty,
and for our protection
stretch out to us your strong right hand.
This right hand, God’s power and authority, was lent by Christ Himself to the Church He founded and entrusted to Peter and the Apostles in union with him. Until the end of time, the Catholic Church exercises Christ’s authority to teach, govern and sanctify. We who are weak can gain from this sheltering attribute of the Church, which shield and protects us from error.
It might also happen, this same solider perhaps commits an error or a crime. In normal circumstances, this might result in the penalty of death by flogging with the scourge. The imperator, the commander in chief of the legion, extends his hand over the solider in a sign of forgiveness. Extending a hand over a slave was also the sign of manumission, a formal symbol of setting a slave free, having juridical effect.
When the hand of the priest is extended over us in the confessional, we are sheltered from the attacks of hell, the hideous heat that would consume us, the eternal bondage to the enemy which would for ever separate us from God’s sight.
When was the last time you sought out the right hand of God in the context of the confessional?
How long has it been since, after confession all your mortal sins in both number and kind, you have heard the words, “Deus Pater misericordiarum… God the Father of mercies…”