WDTPRS 21st Ordinary Sunday: the smoke of Satan v. invisible love

Let’s look at the Collect for the upcoming 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time:

Deus, qui fidelium mentes unius efficis voluntatis, da populis tuis id amare quod praecipis, id desiderare quod promittis, ut, inter mundanas varietates, ibi nostra fixa sint corda, ubi vera sunt gaudia.

A master crafted this prayer.  In the 1962 Missale Romanum we use it on the 4th Sunday after Easter. It is also in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary.  Listen to those “eee”s produced by the Latin “i”. Savor those parallels.

Varietas means “difference, diversity, variety.”  It is commonly used to indicate “changeableness, fickleness, inconstancy.”  I like “vicissitude”.  The adjective mundanus is “of or belonging to the world”.


O God, who make the minds of the faithful to be of one will, grant unto Your people to love that thing which You command, to desire that which You promise, so that, amidst the vicissitudes of this world, our hearts may there be fixed where true joys are.


O God, who cause the minds of the faithful to unite in a single purpose, grant your people to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, amid the uncertainties of this world, our hearts may be fixed on that place where true gladness is found.

Let us revisit that id…quod. We can accurately say “love that which you command,” or “love what you command”, but that strikes me as vague.  Can we be more concrete and say “love the thing you command… desire the thing you promise”?

We are called to love and desire God’s will in concrete situations, in the details of life, especially when those details are little to our liking.  We must love God in this beggar, this annoying creep, not in beggars and creeps in general.  We must love Him in this act of fasting, this basket of laundry, this ICEL translation. I said it was a challenge!  We must not reduce God’s will to an abstraction or an ideal. “Thy will (voluntas) be done on earth as it is in heaven”… or so it has been said.

Lest we forget why we needed new translation….


Father, help us to seek the values that will bring us lasting joy in this changing world. In our desire for what you promise make us one in mind and heart.

Good riddance!  “Values”.  Very slippery.  Typical of the obsolete translation.

To my ear, “values” has a shifting, subjective starting point. In 1995 Gertude Himmelfarb wrote in The De-Moralization of Society: From Victorian Virtues to Modern Values that “it was not until the present century that morality became so thoroughly relativized that virtues ceased to be ‘virtues’ and became ‘values.’”

In this post-Christian, post-modern world, “values” seems to indicate little more than our own self-projection.

John Paul II taught about “values”, but in contradiction to the way “values” are commonly understood today.  For example, we read in Evangelium vitae 71 (emphasis added):

“It is urgently necessary, for the future of society and the development of a sound democracy, to rediscover those essential human and moral values which flow from the very truth of the human being and express and safeguard the dignity of the person: values which no individual, no majority, and no state can ever create, modify, or destroy, but must only acknowledge, respect, and promote.”

In his 1985 letter to young people Dilecti amici 4, John Paul II taught:

“Only God is the ultimate basis of all values…. in Him and Him alone all values have their first source and final completion… Without Him – without the reference to God – the whole world of created values remains as it were suspended in an absolute vacuum.”

Benedict XVI has spoken about the threats we face from the “dictatorship of relativism”, from the reduction of the supernatural to the natural, from caving in to “the world”.

Christ warned His Apostles about “the world”, saying said: “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil” (John 7:7).  He spoke about this world’s “prince” (John 12:31; 14:30 16:11).  St Paul wrote: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

If what “the world” offers gets priority over what God offers the world through His Holy Church, we produce the situation Paul VI described on 29 June 1972, the ninth anniversary of his coronation:

“Through some crack the smoke of Satan has entered into the temple of God.”

Our Collect today asks God to grant that His will be the basis of our “values” in concrete terms, not in mere good intentions or this world’s snares.

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in WDTPRS and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to WDTPRS 21st Ordinary Sunday: the smoke of Satan v. invisible love

  1. Absit invidia says:

    Not only is the word “values” a throwback to the 1970′s-80′s mantra of “not all who wander are lost”, but the “make us one mind and heart” in context of that same time period smacks more of woodstock mob rule than a Christian Body of Christ.

  2. Absit invidia says:

    “lasting joy in this changing world” . . . what were they thinking? [I know. Crazy.] Did they really think we can (to quote Obama) fundamentally transform our world into some kind of humanistic sensual utopia of joyful frivolities? When that 1973 ICEL prayer (along with many of the others) didn’t get answered, I’m afraid many of us Catholics took matters into our own hands to chase after the “values” we thought would give us “worldly joys” by becoming the neo-Catholic “pro-choice”, “women’s ordination”, “female altar boys”, “contraceptive”, “free-spirited” liberal that are still holdovers from the 1970′s-1990′s.

    The more I find these compared translations , the more astonished I am that I survived – albeit damaged – the American Catholic experiment of the 1980′s and 1990′s.

  3. Bea says:

    “New” Current ICEL not that great either:

    O God, who make the minds of the faithful to be of one will
    CURRENT ICEL (2011)
    O God, who cause the minds of the faithful to unite in a single purpose

    Causes the minds to “unite in a single purpose” ?
    He gave us Free Will. He didn’t cause our minds to unite in a single purpose.
    but it seems “Faithful Minds of your people united to do Your Will”
    puts The Will of God in the drivers seat, rather than US as the “uniters” (is that a word?)

    our hearts may there be fixed where true joys are.
    CURRENT ICEL (2011):
    our hearts may be fixed on that place where true gladness is found.

    Fixed on the “place” Place? Assuming it means heaven.
    compared to “where”
    “Fixed where”, Where, I would assume, “where” would be fixed on God Himself.
    Our Hearts should be fixed on God not the “place” of heaven.

    Where true “gladness” is found.
    What happened to “joy”?
    I can be glad I passed a test, glad I won a game, glad I had a good dinner.
    But JOY !! It denotes a supernatural “gladness” A joy not found on things of this world.

    Maybe I’m too picky.
    New ICEL still keeps our hearts in this world not the world to come.
    ICEL anagrams to CIEL (French for heaven) but it does not take us there.

  4. Bea: It is always interesting to put the different versions side-by-side and try to figure out what the prayer really says.

  5. BarefootPilgrim says:

    You’re spot-on, Father – thanks for the posting! “Virtues” are to “values” as “Freedom of Religion” is to “freedom of worship” – the Absolute to the relative in one slippery step.

    For the vile spammer issue, take heart! If you’re not taking flak, you’re not over the target. Obviously you’re up to something that terrifies the devil. Your Priesthood enrages him, as well. Wait for the Lord. Be stouthearted and wait for the Lord. While you’re waiting, I’ll say an extra Rosary for your intentions, in honor of Our Lady of the Clergy :-)

  6. Indulgentiam says:

    i’m with Bea on the “glad” in today’s lexicon glad is more synonymous with either relief, as in: “whew! am i glad that’s over” or the ever transient happy. A traditional Habit-wearing Nun once told me “happiness happens joy abides” To my mind glad is as far from joy as earth is from Heaven.

  7. jameeka says:

    I absolutely love this meditation–especially the call to do God’s will in THIS SPECIFIC situation we find ourselves. Thy Will be done.

  8. @Fr. Z, without sending you down a rabbit hole, do you have any idea from whence originated this alternate version of the first line of this collect in the various editions of the Book of Common Prayer (i.e. does it owe its existence to a different Sacramentary, or only to Cranmer’s waxing more poetic)?

    O ALMIGHTY God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men; Grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest,
    and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be
    found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    (The latest BCP has ‘swift and varied changes…’ which has always made me think of a boat rocking on changing currents in stormy weather.)

    Perhaps the idea was to bring the minds of men into union– ‘unity’– with the mind of Christ?

    This has always been one of my favorite Sunday collects, the other one being the Collect for last week. I believe the placement of these two collects in the current Missal to be more than ‘serendipitous’.

    O God, who hast prepared for those who love thee such good things as pass man’s understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards thee, that we, loving thee in all things and above all things, may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    First Our Lord pours His love into our hearts so that we are capable of loving Him and loving our neighbor; then He brings our minds into unity with His so that we are capable of loving His will, His commandments, and then circling back to our hearts being fixed on Him ‘where true may be found’ (this week), where we ‘obtain thy (His) promises’.

  9. Pingback: St. Augustine Virtue Suffering Natural Family Planning | Big Pulpit

  10. John UK says:

    The first line comes from the 1662 revision: Cranmer had Almyghtie God, which doest make the myndes of all faythfull men to be of one wyll:.
    Which makes Cranmer more faithful to the Latin original! Presumably in 1662 unius was taken by the revisers as agreeing with Deus (perhaps they had a a faulty MS – unus in front of them), rather than the genitive agreeing with voluntatis? Efficis becomes order (as arrange, put into order) , and the minds(affections) and the wills of sinful humanity must be in need of order, hence unruly and sinful as glosses. ?? More dynamic equivalence than authenticam :-)

    I have also seen inter mundanas varietates translated as the changes and chances of this fleeting world which phrase is borrowed from the Compline prayer, taken from the Leonine sacramentary (I have been unable to trace the Latin original):
    Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the silent hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting world, may repose upon thy eternal changelessness through Jesus Christ our Lord AMEN

    Whic prayer, of course, carries the echoes of St.Augustine of Hippo “our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee”. Echoes of St Augustine, too, in your second collect, “pouring into our hearts” – his feast day falls at this time – coincidence?

    Kind regards,
    John U.K.

  11. AnAmericanMother says:

    Patricia Cecilia,
    “Swift and varied changes” always makes me think of this:
    The Weather Forecast

  12. Bea says:

    Ah, yes, Fr. Z.
    It is interesting, indeed, and a great opportunity for meditation on the Word of God.
    For man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the Mouth of God.

    Thank you for the opportunities to meditate more deeply on His Word when we might be prone to just skim over it and say: “aha, yes” and not think more deeply on it.

  13. @John UK: gratias ago tibi! I suspect that your explanation is near to the actual thought processes (what’s a little genitive amongst friends?). If Cranmer was practicing dynamic equivalence, he was certainly doing it better than ICEL did.

    I also think of the Compline prayer when I hear this collect. (I love Compline and try to pray it often.)

    @AnAmericanMother–ROTFL–I had totally forgotten about that! Not only the ‘weather report’ itself, but the harmonies of those three chants are swiftly changing :-) and a little too barbershop for my taste in liturgical music, I think. But I will track them down and give them a chance as I see one commenter has determined which chants these are.

    This morning I was marvelling (not for the first time) at the much-smaller-than-usual congregation (at the church where I am choirmaster) singing full-bore and with great relish Psalm 84 to Parry Double in E, which I think is both the choir’s and the congregation’s favorite chant. I so prefer the psalms proclaimed in Anglican chant or plainsong to the typical responsorial ditty, although my first preference would be the Latin Gradual (well, if it’s not the EF in the first place, which is my absolute first preference).

  14. Minnesotan from Florida says:

    I have been interested in the fact that no translation, contemporary or of longer standing, seems to do anything about the plural populis tuis. I think that populus tuus appears often enough as a generic “people” = “human beings” sense, as in “People Will Say We’re in Love,” although even then it might better be thought as the People (nation, corporate totality) of God, but to my experience in classical Ciceronian (late Republican) Latin, populus means the whole nation, the state (compare senatus populusque Romanus). In any case, in the plural populi should mean “peoples” – i.e., the various peoples or nations (gentes) over the world. This is how I always internalize things like “He brings peoples under my rule” or “all peoples will serve Him.” Am I right, or am I ignorantly pseudo-pedantic and nitpicking?

  15. RichR says:

    It’s posts like this that make me glad the LOTH is next on the re-translation list. I was praying Vespers I last night and almost gagged when I read the Collect. Thankfully, I noted the new translation of the Collect at Mass this morning. I was tempted to chuck my LOTH after reading that pablum.

    If anyone wants to sell me their copy of the Liturgia Horarum, let me kow.

  16. jaykay says:

    I think the translation of “unius efficis voluntatis” as “to unite in a single purpose” is a bit reminiscent of clunky office prose. It just goes too far, puts in too much. Specifically, what was wrong with using the word “will”, particularly when they have reinstated it in the Gloria? OK, “to unite in a single purpose” isn’t too bad, but the opportunity was there to do a little better, to remain more faithful to the original Latin, instead of which they seem to have indulged in a desire to over-egg the pudding. To paraphrase the Emperor from the film “Amadeus”: “Too many words…”

    Yet, I’m thankful for the new translations and seeing the juxtaposition of the old reinforces that all the more.