WDTPRS – Ash Wednesday (2002MR) – WAR!

The Roman Station for Ash Wednesday is Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill.

The Collect in the 2002 Missale Romanum, is an ancient prayer found in the Gelasian Sacramentary for the Vigil of Pentecost.  It is also among the prayers for the 4th day of the 4th month, which more than likely involved the traditional fast of the fourth month (there were fasts in the 4th, 7th and 10th months).  This prayer is in the so-called Veronese Sacramentary under the title In ieiunio quarti mensis.

This prayer was also in the 1962 Missale Romanum but at the end of the section for the blessing of and imposition of ashes, before the Introit of the Mass itself.

Let’s see what the prayer really says.

Concede nobis, Domine, praesidia militiae christianae
sanctis inchoare ieiuniis,
ut, contra spiritales nequitias pugnaturi,
continentiae muniamur auxiliis.

Praesidium has a military connotation.  It means fundamentally “defense, protection, help, aid, assistance” and thus it refers to “soldiers who are to serve as a guard”.  Thus, by extension, it comes to mean “any place occupied by troops, as a hill, a camp, etc.; a post, station, entrenchment, fortification, camp”.  Munio is equally military: “to build a wall around, to defend with a wall, to fortify, defend, protect, secure, put in a state of defense”.  As you can imagine pugno, “to combat, give battle, engage, contend”, is a military term.  Are you getting the picture?  Of course auxillium means “help, aid, assistance, support, succor”, but when in the plural it is also “auxiliary troops, auxiliaries (mostly composed of allies and light-armed troops; hence opposed to the legions)”.  Then there is militia, which is “military service, warfare, war” and also specifically in the genitive militiae “in military service, or on a campaign, in the field”.

Grant us, O Lord, to commence the defenses of the Christian field campaign by means of holy fasts,
so that, we who are about to do battle against spiritual negligences,
may be fortified by the support of continence.

This is a mighty prayer.

Most of us when we were confirmed were reminded in some way that we are soldiers in this pilgrim Church.  We must be ready to suffer for the Faith.

Militaristic imagery informs much of the history of Christian spirituality.  We should take this to heart.  It is part of our identity as Christians.  The Christian life is not for cowards,

We are soldiers on the march, pilgrim soldiers.  We are on campaign.

When the Roman legions were on the march, they would build a fortified camp when they halted.  They took no chances.  We are on the march in a vale of tears where anything and everything can happen to us and around us.

Furthermore, when we make mistakes, the results can be deadly. The word nequitia means “bad quality, badness” but that is because it is “bad moral quality, of all degrees, idleness, negligence, worthlessness, vileness”.  It usually refers to a lack of attention that duty and prudence require, resulting in negative consequences.  Moreover, the virtue of continence is described with the same word used to describe the auxiliary troops that supported the legion’s regulars.  While it could simply refer to “abstinence”, continence is the virtue which restrains the will from consenting to strong impulses of sexual desire.

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint

Father in Heaven,
Protect us in our struggle against evil.
As we begin the discipline of Lent,
make this season holy by our self-denial

WDTPRS – Ash Wednesday (2002MR) – WAR!
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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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10 Responses to WDTPRS – Ash Wednesday (2002MR) – WAR!

  1. That is an especially striking example of how bad the old ICEL translations were. This level of badness falls somewhere between incompetence and malice. And congratulations on having moved beyond it!

  2. Supertradmum says:

    Fantastic post. There are so many people who hate the militaristic language which has been part of Revelation from day one in Genesis.
    Douay-Rheims Bible
    I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.

    Many Catholics, including priests, have taught an emasculated, passive Church, not the Church Militant. These people do not want to fight with themselves, or others, or the world, or the devil. But, Truth creates battles and this beautiful translation shows us the necessity of staying awake at all times, being vigilant. My favorite passage in Scripture, or one, is and again same translation as above–And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away.

    The violent are us, who seize the Truth and allow violence to be done to ourselves in dying to ourselves and then we can be true soldiers. Great post.

  3. wmeyer says:

    Wow! Thanks be to God for obsolescence! That old translation was insipid.

  4. philologus says:

    It occurs to me that Pange Lingua, which of course is sung on Holy Thursday at the end of this military campaign of Lent, is thought to be composed according to the same rhythm as a marching song of Caesar’s legions, which is found in Suetonius (XLIX). Compare the lines:

    Pange lingua gloriosi corporis mysterium…
    Ecce, Caesar nunc triumphat qui subegit Gallias…

    Pange Lingua, then, is a kind of victory song for the milites Christiani.

  5. The Cobbler says:

    Like the slavishly literal as usual, but haven’t tried saying either out loud or anything. Nonetheless, want to note that I really like the paradox of the phrase “weapons of self-restraint”. I like anything that would make brains explode in modernland if the mental filters were down somehow. It’s probably not very charitable of me — I assure you, it’s not that I want brains to explode, just that I like how the Church defies the attempts of moderns, or anyone, to put her in a box. Maybe that was the real point of Schroedinger’s cat — poor cat couldn’t stop people from putting her in the box, but by gum she’d muck up their expectations somehow!

  6. Rev. Michael Church says: That is an especially striking example of how bad the old ICEL translations were. This level of badness falls somewhere between incompetence and malice.

    Truer words were never spoken! I’m copying the new translation into my breviary, so I don’t have to keep saying the obsolete ICEL version.

  7. Uncledan says:

    Speaking of spiritual warfare, who wants to do an online rosary rally? How about this Saturday at noon? Best part is you don’t have to do anything but… pray the rosary at noon. You don’t even have to let anyone know you’re part of the rally. If you want to post that you’re going to be part of the rally, go ahead. If we can get ten people, that would be a good start. No special intention. Just a rosary rally to get things started. Let’s see if we can get nine more people on board before noon, Saturday.
    Enough complaining. Time to fight. Prayer is our best weapon.

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  9. Supertradmum says:

    I am becoming more and more concerned with the lack of awareness of spiritual warfare among Catholics in America and abroad. Sitting here in a once Catholic, now no more, Ireland, I am so aware of the fact that the vast majority of youth are not only oblivious to politics and religious freedom, but do not care. How did this happen? The small minority of those youth, and I mean college age, who are following the western decline of freedoms here and in the States cannot possibly hold out against the vast majority of sheep-like, self-centered, entertainment hungry young who do not have a clue. I wish this were not the case, but being here has been more depressing than in Great Britain and Malta, where there seems to be an awareness of impending, major cultural loss of Catholic freedoms. I think in this country so much has been taken for granted that the tyranny will take over more immediately here. There is a darkness over Ireland which is spiritual warfare. The Church Militant is dead or in recess here.

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