Domine, tuorum delicta populorum,
ut a peccatorum nexibus,
quae pro nostra fragilitate contraximus,
tua benignitate liberemur.
In the ancient Veronese Sacramentary our prayer was found in the month of September, also a fasting time, but it was a bit different: Absolue, domine, quaesumus, tuorum delicta populorum, et quod mortalitatis contrahit fragilitate purifica; ut cuncta pericula mentis et corporis te propellente declinans, tua consolatione subsistat, tua graita promissae redemptionis perficiatur hereditas.
A nexus, from necto (“to bind, tie, fasten; to join, bind, or fasten together, connect”), is “a tying or binding together, a fastening, joining, an interlacing, entwining, clasping” and thence, “a personal obligation, an addiction or voluntary assignment of the person for debt, slavery for debt”. Nexus is used to indicate also “a legal obligation of any kind”. It is not uncommon to find somewhere near nexus the word absolvo, which is “to loosen from, to make loose, set free, detach, untie”. In juridical language it means “to absolve from a charge, to acquit, declare innocent”.
This is so cool… here is a truly fascinating bit about nexus from the mighty Lewis & Short Dictionary: “to bring a work to a close, to complete, finish (without denoting intrinsic excellence, like perficere; the fig. is prob. derived from detaching a finished web from the loom“.
Contraho in this context is “to bring about, carry into effect, accomplish, execute, get, contract, occasion, cause, produce, make”. Blaise/Dumas indicates that contraho means “to commit sin”.
Unloose, O Lord, we implore,
the transgressions of Your peoples,
so that in Your kindness we may be freed
from the bonds of the sins
which we committed on account of our weakness.
Sin is a web which we both weave and then get caught in. You know the old saying from Sir Walter Scott: “O what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” All sins are deceptions and the Enemy is the father of lies.
When our First Parents committed the Original Sin, they contracted (contraho) the guilt and effects for the whole human race. At that point our race was bound, tangled up by justice. To be “justified” again, and to be unbound from our guilt and set to right with God, reparation had to be made. Therefore, the New Adam was bound by His tormentors, and bound to the Cross. His soul was unbound from His Body and died, and in the binding and unbinding, we were unbound from our sins.
grant us your forgiveness
and set us free from our enslavement to sin.
Pardon the offenses of your peoples, we pray, O Lord,
and in your goodness set us free
from the bonds of the sins
we have committed in our weakness.
The new, corrected translation isn’t perfect, but it sure is better.
I hear, woven into the vocabulary, the image of a loom.
I have in mind the passage from the Book of Job:
“My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and come to their end without hope. Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good.”
Our days are indeed like a shuttle. But in Christ we are never without hope. Christ is our hope.
Some years ago in Italy I met a women who wove cloth with a large loom. In her practiced hands, the shuttle lashed swiftly back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, while the loom packed the threads together. The cloth “grew” as it was woven, slowly, but surely. The shuttle snapped back and forth with increasing speed as she found her rhythm and settled into it.
Take a look at this short video of a loom in action. The clack you hear is the shuttle flying back and forth between the interlocking webs. You can just see the shuttle if you watch.
So too are the days and the years of our lives. And as we get “better” at living with age, that shuttle goes faster and faster.
Clack… clack… clack… clack… clack… clack… clack… clack… clack… clack… clack… clack… clack… clack… clack… clack…
My Jesus, mercy.