Traditionally this Sunday is called First Passion Sunday. “Passiontide” begins. It is also known as Iudica Sunday, from the first word of the Introit of Mass (from Ps 42/41), and sometimes Repus (from repositus analogous to absconditus, “hidden”) because crosses and other images in churches are to be veiled. From today, in the Extraordinary Form the “Iudica” psalm is no longer said during the prayers at the foot of the altar and the Gloria Patri at the end of certain prayers is not said. This pruning of our liturgy during Lent, and the hiding of images in Passiontide, symbolizes how Holy Church is undergoing liturgical death.
Today’s Collect, new to the Novus Ordo Missale Romanum, comes originally from the Mozarabic Rite.
Quaesumus, Domine Deus noster,
ut in illa caritate, qua Filius tuus
diligens mundum morti se tradidit,
inveniamur ipsi, te opitulante, alacriter ambulantes.
Opitulor, a deponent verb, means, “to bring aid; to help, aid, assist, succor.”
O Lord our God, we beg that,
You assisting us, we ourselves may be found walking swiftly
in that selfsame sacrificial love by which Your Son,
loving the world, handed Himself over to death.
In some respects our Lenten Collects are similar to those of Advent. There are images of motion, of pilgrimage. We are moving toward a great feast of the Church but we are more importantly moving definitely toward the mysteries they make present to us.
Taking a page from St. Augustine of Hippo (d 430), we the baptized who are the Body of the Mystical Person of Christ, the Church, are on a journey with the Lord, the Head of the Church, toward Jerusalem: the Jerusalem of our own passion and the new Jerusalem of our Resurrection. Christ made this journey so that we could make it and be saved in it.
OBSOLETE ICEL (1973):
Father, help us to be like Christ your Son,
who loved the world and died for our salvation.
Inspire us by his example, who lives and reigns….
In the bad old days, ICEL regularly reduced phrases like Domine Deus noster to the stark “Father”. The translators apparently thought we were too dense to figure out which prayers were addressed to the First Person of the Trinity.
The obsolete ICEL versions also relied heavily on the catch-all word “help”, as in the quintessential parody of an obsolete ICEL prayer: “Father, you are nice. Help us to be nice like you.” I used the word “assisting” in my literal version (above), though I could have accurately used “helping”. We should make distinctions about how ICEL used “help” it in the old versions.
God “helps” us. No question. What we must avoid (and the obsolete ICEL prayers did NOT), is the suggestion that we can do what we are praying for on our own, but, it could be helpful if God would give us a hand now and then. That attitude is redolent of the ancient heresy Pelagianism.
Pelagianism, fended off in the 4th and 5th centuries especially by St Augustine, is the false notion that Original Sin did not wound human nature and that our will is still capable of choosing good and salvation without the help of God’s grace. Thus, our first parents “set a bad example” for humanity to follow. Adam’s sin did not have the other consequences imputed to Original Sin (wounding of the intellect and will, appetites, etc.). For Pelagians, Jesus sets the good example which counteracts Adam’s bad example. We can, on our own, choose to live by the help of Jesus’ perfect example. For Pelagians, we humans retain full control and responsibility for our own salvation. Now read the obsolete ICEL version again.
Keep this in mind if you meet someone who is still stirring discontent about the new, corrected translation. The new translation, while not stylistically perfect, is theologically less dodgy than the obsolete translation. The Latin original is even better.
CURRENT ICEL (2011):
By your help, we beseech you, Lord our God,
may we walk eagerly in that same charity
with which, out of love for the world,
your Son handed himself over to death.
“Help” here is acceptable because we go on to pray about being “in” Christ’s charity, sacrificial love.
In our liturgical worship the one, whole Mystical Christ is on a Lenten journey. Each year during Lent, Christ, in us, travels that road of the Passion and we, in Him, travel the road marked out by Holy Mother Church and her duly ordained shepherds. We must unite ourselves in heart, mind and will with the mysteries expressed in the liturgy. Our passion, our road to Jerusalem, is in our examination of conscience and good confessions, our self-denial and works of mercy.
Our Lenten discipline continues for another fortnight. Make your well-prepared and thorough sacramental confession.