WDTPRS – 3rd Sunday of Pentecost: the dangers of worldly things

In the older, traditional calendar of the Roman Rite, today is the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost.

Let’s have a look at the

COLLECT: (1962 Missale Romanum):


Protector in te sperantium, Deus, sine quo nihil est validum, nihil sanctum: multiplica super nos misericordiam tuam; ut, te rectore, te duce, sic transeamus per bona temporalia, ut non amittamus aeterna.

There is a pleasant alliteration in lines 2-3 of the collect. We can find a pair of pairs: nihil validum, nihil sanctum and some great ablative absolutes te rectore, te duce.

Where does this prayer really come from?

The first part, Protector in te sperantium deus, seems to be a fairly common introductory phrase in ancient Roman prayers. But after that, we find the whole prayer as it appears in the 1962MR in the Liber sacramentorum Gellonensis or Gellone Sacramentary, which a couple weeks ago I reminded you was one of the Frankish “newer Gelasian” type sacramentaries, an attempt at a complete service book in the late 8th century, and in the Liber sacramentorum Romanae ecclesiae or Book of the Sacraments of the Church of Rome, which is another “Gelasian” type book.  However, the snipping and pasting experts employed by the Council’s Consilium hacked off the end of the Pian edition’s ancient prayer and for the Pauline version of the Missale Romanum, tacked on a chunk of another ancient prayer in the Veronese Sacramentary or Leonine Sacramentary or for good measure Codex sacramentorum vetus Romanae ecclesiae a sancto Leone papa I confectus, for the month of July, perhaps on the 13th of the month, and perhaps as part of a preface formula: Vere dignum: qui mutabilitatem nostram ad incommutabilia ita iustus et benignus erudis, ut nec fragilitatem destituas et coherceas insolentes: quo pariter instituti pia conversatione et caelestibus sacramentis, sic bonis praetereuntibus nunc utimur, ut iam possimus inherere perpetuis. They even tinkered with that.

In the Novus Ordo Missale this prayer is used on the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

COLLECT: (2002 Missale Romanum):

Protector in te sperantium, Deus, sine quo nihil est validum, nihil sanctum: multiplica super nos misericordiam tuam; ut, te rectore, te duce, sic bonis transeuntibus nunc utamur, ut iam possimus inhaerere mansuris.

Protector is, according to our always valid Lewis & Short Dictionary, from protego, meaning “to cover before, or in front, cover over” and obviously also “to shield from danger” as well as things like “put a protecting roof over”.  Amitto is “to lose” in the sense of “let slip”.  A Latin dux is a “leader, guide”, and also “commander, general-in-chief”.  This is why Benito Mussolini was in Italian called “il Duce”.  A rector is pretty much the same as the first sense of dux, but it can also be a “helmsman” or “governor”.  Interestingly enough, gubernator means “helmsman” also, while an English “governor” is a moderator.

St. Andrew’s Bible Missal (1962):

O God, guardian of those who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing holy, increase your mercy towards us. With you as our ruler and guide, may we pass through the good things of this world, so as not to lose those of the world to come.

LITERAL WDTPRS VERSION (1962MR):

O God, protector of those hoping in You, without whom nothing is efficacious, nothing holy, multiply Your mercy upon us, so that, You being our guide and leader, we may pass through temporal goods in such a way  that we do not lose the eternal.

We have the image of a people asking God to cover them over abundantly with mercy.  We are acknowledging how we need a roof over our heads to protect us, so we want God’s mercy upon us. Also, since a protector is something or someone that covers us in front, God is our shield before us.  In His mercy He guards us from the attacks we face as soldiers in the Church Militant.

We must never forget that we are members of the Church Militant, the part of the Church which is in the world, on the march, as a pilgrim people.  We must be clear in our minds that the Lord says this world has its prince (cf. John 10:31 and 14:30).  Satan and his fallen angels desire our everlasting damnation and agony with them in Hell.  Jesus broke their power over us, but we still for a time are in this world which they dominate. We are living in a state of “already, but not yet.”

As soldiers traveling through enemy territory we need strong shields, a sure leader to set our feet on the right path out of the danger zone, a sturdy roof over us when we rest, some way to grasp what is holy and what is deception. God is the one without whom nothing is worthwhile or holy. He must provide for us all that we need on the march.  Because of the wounds to our nature from the Fall, we are susceptible to the passing things of this world and vulnerable to the attacks of hell.  We need shielding, protection, so that we are not overly mired or stained, lest we lose track of our pilgrim route to heaven.

LITERAL WDTPRS TRANSLATION 2002MR):

O God, protector of those believing in You, without whom nothing is efficacious, nothing holy, multiply Your mercy upon us, so that, You being our guide and leader, we may so use things that pass away as to be able to cleave to those that endure.

Notice the slightly different emphasis.  This version also contrasts the passing things of this world with those that do not pass away.  This version also stresses that we must cling to, or not let slip, eternal things, so that we lose heaven.  However, whereas the older version seems to take a position of suspicion about the dangerous nature of worldly, or temporal, things, the newer version indicates that we use them correctly.  The structure is ita with a result following in the subjunctive: in such a way that…. Lest anyone get their shift all in a twist about how the Novus Ordo version obviously reflects the dangerous modernism of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et spes, remember that the final two lines are also essentially from an ancient prayer.  After all, our ancestors also were concerned actually to use the things of the world, which remain good. They are bona temporalia.

LAME-DUCK ICEL (1973): 

God our Father and protector, without you nothing is holy, nothing has value. Guide us to everlasting life by helping us to use wisely the blessings you have given to the world.

NEW CORRECTED VERSION (2011):

O God, protector of those who hope in you, without whom nothing has firm foundation, nothing is holy, bestow in abundance your mercy upon us and grant that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may use the good things that pass in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure.

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10 Responses to WDTPRS – 3rd Sunday of Pentecost: the dangers of worldly things

  1. Supertradmum says:

    I see the Church as my shield, but we must interiorize the Church, as it may disappear from our areas. We must live in the Trinity within us.

    Beautiful meditation, thank you. This is what you do best.

    [And it may be what the readers like least!]

  2. Priam1184 says:

    @Supertradmum You are correct, I think, but the Church is essentially a public institution. It cannot be fully interiorized and still perform its function. In any case we should all pray to St. Cyprian to intercede for us that the fate which befell the Church in his native land not occur in our own countries.

  3. Andrew says:

    “Nihil est validum.” The “validum” is a challenging word to render in English. A high fever can be a “valida febris”. A difficult question might be a “valida quaestio”. A more important reason could be “causa validior”. A “fames valida” could be a “great famine”. “Validum” emphasizes the intensity of something: the intensity of a fever, the significance of a question, the importance of a cause, the magnitude of a hunger. The new ICEL chose to say “nothing has firm foundation”. Not bad. The old ICEL had “nothing has value”. Not bad. “Nothing is efficacious”. Pretty close. Important? Worthwhile. Of substance? How about just leave it as it is: “nihil est validum”.

  4. Priam1184 says:

    There are some of us who absolutely love your meditations on Latin and the Collects. Don’t stop. I get a little bit clearer picture of Latin every time I read one of these.

  5. Vecchio di Londra says:

    I’ve begun to realize that the ancient Collects that I regarded in my uncomprehending youth as dry and banal, are subtle beautiful prose poems of enormous rhetorical strength, and I use them now for my Lectio Divina. Their beauty is their power.
    Many thanks and blessings, dear Father Z, for your devotion to the Latin liturgy and its explication.

  6. JimP says:

    For comparison, consider also the collect for the 4th Sunday after Trinity from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:

    O GOD, the protector of all that trust in thee, without
    whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy; Increase and
    multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and
    guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we
    finally lose not the things eternal. Grant this, O heavenly
    Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    The newer translation is a great improvement over the 1973 version, but as a former Anglican, I definitely miss the beauty of Cranmer’s liturgy and Coverdale’s Psalms.

  7. jaykay says:

    Back in 1996 Eamon Duffy delivered a great address to a colloqium in Oxford on the theme of translation and the difficulties involved, but also focusing on the ideology of the 1960s translators. Here he is on the “cutting and snipping” of the original ending of this particular Collect: “sic bonis transeuntibus nunc utamur, ut iam possimus inhaerere mansuris.”

    In the late 1960s, this would not do at all. Sentiments of this sort were held to be life-denying, manichean. As a result, the Latin text itself, this ancient prayer was altered: “sic bonis transeuntibus nunc utamur ut iam possimus inhaerere mansuris.”

    In this version, we no longer pray that we may so pass through the good things of time, that we gain the things which are eternal: instead, we pray that we may so make use, here and now, of transient things, that, as we do so, we may already lay hold on abiding or permanent things. But note the shift from “transeamus” to “utamur”. There is still some tension in the prayer, in the contrast between the transience of the “good things we use, and the permanence of the good things we hope to inherit, but the theology of the prayer has been radically altered, even contradicted.

    The eschatological dimension, which in the original involves a journeying towards something not of this world, is now “cashed”, into a laying hold now on permanence. The distinctively Augustinian challenge of the original, that we must simultaneously recognize the goodness of the created world, but “pass through” it, is gone. And with it, of course, goes the internal logic of the metaphors of journey. protection, guidance, and leading, on which the original was structured, for the prayer is no longer about a journey at all. With the disappearance of “transeamus”, the whole prayer falls apart, the heart has gone out of it.

  8. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Fr Z has impressively given an implicit answer in advance to the Eamon Duffy reading (as quoted).

    Fr Z also noted, with respect to the pasted-in equally ancient clause, “They even tinkered with that.” Perhaps Eamon Duffy did, or Fr Z (or another better Latinist than I) could, say something further about the one tinker-substitution that strikes me as a bit odd: “mansuris” for “perpetuis”. Interestingly, not only the 2011 ICEL understands this as “ever endure”, but the 1973 ICEL renders “mansuris” as “everlasting life”, so there is seemingly no fear of ‘conceptual difficulty’ in (something like) “perpetuis” (at least on the part of any of these translators). Even Duffy seem to see “mansuris” as coveying “the permanence of the good things we hope to inherit,” and so contributing to there being “still some tension in the prayer”.

    JimP quotes the 1928 version of the Cranmer translation: 1662 is identical, except for a nice example of older possessive construction in the final phrase: “for Jesus Christ’s sake our Lord.” Are such in use anywhere as ‘patrimony version’ – or may they be hoped to be? (Someone hads probably answered this, even recently, but I cannot recall for certain…)

    It is more widely familiar from Lewis’s use in Screwtape (I think Charles Williams used it similarly even earlier): but how anciently possible is such understanding of “nihil validum”? (Lewis was a quite a Latinist, but also simply playful at times.)

  9. jaykay says:

    Venerator: And of course I went and pasted-in the altered version in the quote instead of the original “sic transeamus… etc” :(

    While I agree with Duffy to a certain extent, in that the “journeying” aspect with “transeamus” was a beautiful part of the original version, I think he’s overstating the case a bit when he says: “The eschatological dimension, which in the original involves a journeying towards something not of this world, is now “cashed”, into a laying hold now on permanence.” I just don’t get this sense of “cashing-in” “or “laying hold now on permanence” in the last clause (“ut iam possimus inhaerere mansuris”) since “mansuris” clearly denotes those things that are to be, that will remain (for ever) etc. As you note, Duffy himself does admit that there is still some “tension” present.

  10. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    jaykay: yes, I agree about not getting this sense of “cashing-in” in Duffy’s reading. It may easily be may lack of a fine (or even just) sense of the words, but I do not see much difference (necessarily) between “ut non amittamus” and “ut iam possimus inhaerere”. Appropriately or not, trying to think about them brought 2 Cor. 4:7 (“habemus”) and 5:5 (“Deus, qui dedit nobis pignus Spiritus”) to mind.