Deus, qui corda fidelium Sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti: da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere, et de eius semper consolatione gaudere.
This ancient from at least the time of the Liber sacramentorum Gellonensis and probably older. It survived the Consilium’s scalpels to live in the Novus Ordo only as the Collect for a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit, though it was shoved to the back of the bus in favor of two Collects from the Gelasian Sacramentary, also existing in the Hadrianum version of the Gregorian Sacramentary.
There is nothing especially challenging in the Latin vocabulary. Our source of Latin consolation and wisdom, Messrs. Lewis & Short’s dictionary, says that sapio (infinitive sapere) means first of all “to taste, savor; … to have a taste or flavor of a thing”. Logically it is extended to “to know, understand a thing”. It is often paired in literature with the adverb recte, “rightly”, when wisdom is indicated. Think of the English word “insipid” (the sap- shifts to sip-) for something without flavor and also a person without taste or wisdom. We might think of homo sapiens as being one of “good taste”, who knows the savor of life, as it were. Sapiens is thus connected with Greek sophos, or “wise”, or “sage” (also a savory herb!). Sapientia, “Wisdom”, is a figure for the Holy Spirit as well as one of His Gifts. The Holy Spirit, Parácletus, is our Counselor, leading us rightly, and Comforter, bringing us consolation.
O God, who taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant to us, in the same Spirit, to know the things that are right, and to rejoice always in His consolation.
What leaps to my mind, steeped in the literature of late antiquity, is the connection of wisdom, inherent in the phrase recta sapere, with consolation.
There was a genre of consolation literature in classical times and late antiquity into the medieval period. This was part of the province of philosophy (“love of wisdom”). This literature was used as a moral medication for the soul. In the famous work of the imprisoned Boethius (+525), the Consolation of Philosophy, Lady Wisdom, Philosophy, comes to the author in his cell before his execution and diagnoses the true nature of his sickness of sadness. She does this in a dialogue, so that Boethius can understand things rightly (like our recta sapere), and therefore be consoled. Lady Wisdom descended so as to raise Boethius up to God. This is our pattern too, both in creation and in our renewal when we have sinned. I have mentioned before when pulling these prayers apart how many collects show the influence of the ancient philosophical concept of that all creation proceeds from God (exitus) in and then turns about (conversio), thus to take determinate form and return again to God (reditus). The prayers we have that result from late antiquity often ancient philosophical concepts. We can’t discern what they really say without knowing these ancient rhetoric and philosophy.
Think now of our prayer and also the Veni Sancte Spiritus with which it is connected:
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts (corda) of Thy faithful and kindle in them the fire of Thy love. V. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.”
In the Holy Spirit, who breathed life into the Body of Holy Church on Pentecost, may we all be renewed. May He help us to return to God when we have strayed, and to return to each other in the embrace of our Holy Catholic Church when we have parted from clear unity.