WDTPRS – 23rd Ordinary Sunday: Children of God, Soldiers of Christ

The Collect for the 23rd Ordinary Sunday was not in any pre-Conciliar edition of the Roman Missal, but it was in the 8th century Gelasian Sacramentary in a section for evening prayers during Paschaltide.

Deus, per quem nobis et redemptio venit et praestatur adoptio, filios dilectionis tuae benignus intende, ut in Christo credentibus et vera tribuatur libertas, et hereditas aeterna.

Take note of the lovely chiasms: redemptio venit…praestatur adoptio (subject verb… verb subject) and also vera libertas…hereditas aeterna (adjective noun…noun adjective).   Vocabulary connections suggest to me some Patristic sources for this prayers (e.g., in St Hilary of Poitiers (+ c. 368) de trin 6, 44; St Ambrose of Milan (+ 397) ep 9, 65, 5).

Praesto, -iti, -atum means effectively “to stand before or in front”.   It has a wide range of meanings, however, including “to fulfill, discharge, maintain, perform, execute” and concepts surrounding the same, making praesto a little confusing.  The lexicographer Souter says that in about the 2nd century praesto meant, “lend” (like French “prêter”) and from the 4th century onward “offer”.  Cassiodorus (+ c. 583) and other authors use praesto for “help, aid, give”.   A. Blaise suggests the French “accorder” when praesto concerns God.  Some weeks ago, (19th Sunday) we saw adoptioHereditas can be, “heirship” or the inheritance, the patrimony, itself.


God our Father, you redeem us, and make us your children in Christ. Look upon us, give us true freedom and bring us to the inheritance you promised.


O God, through whom both redemption comes to us and adoption is guaranteed for us, kindly give attention to your beloved children, so that both true freedom and the inheritance everlasting may be bestowed on those believing in Christ.


O God, by whom we are redeemed and receive adoption, look graciously upon your beloved sons and daughters, that those who believe in Christ may receive true freedom and an everlasting inheritance.

By the fact of our unity with Christ in His and our common human nature, the way to divine sonship was opened up to us by the Father in Christ.

Christ is the Father’s Son by nature, we are sons and daughters by grace.

Our adoption through grace is “perfect” (adoptio perfecta) because it complete. Perfecta is from perficio, “bring to an end or conclusion, finish, complete”.  From God’s point of view our adoption is perfect because He puts His mark upon us, especially in baptism and confirmation.  Since God is not limited by time and for Him there are no past or future distinct from the present, He sees in perfection the results of every gift of adoption.  From our point of view adoption will only be completed when we see Him face to face.  Because of baptism the Father’s mark is sealed into us forever.  In this marvelous adoption the Holy Spirit brings the Father and Son to us when He takes up His rightful place in our souls, thus creating the perfect communion, even family, within our souls.

Today’s Collect has its foundation certainly in the New Testament imagery of adoption, but I think it also flows out of ancient Roman legal concepts of manumission and adoption, freeing of slaves and adoption of heirs.  Our adoption by God takes us out of slavery and gives us a new status as free members of the Church and as sons and daughters.  Baptism confers this freedom, membership, and adoption.   Even natural children of a father in Rome required the father’s recognition before they were legally considered to be his legitimate children and heirs with any rights.  Adoption could grant those same rights and privileges.  Roman adoptio removed a person from one familia and put him in another while adrogatio legally placed people not under the power of a parent into a familia, thus placing them under the authority of the paterfamilias.  In Latin, a familia is a house and all belonging to it, a family estate, family property, fortune.  A familia had a head, the paterfamilias (or –familiae, the –as being a Greek genitive), the master of the house.

The baptized are no longer subject to Satan and destined for hell, but are now under new mastership of God.

In Rome there was also an “adoption” by being named an heir with the right of taking the name of the one bequeathing the patrimony.  However, this was not a complete adoption, in the fullest sense: you became heir of the father’s name and property without the other powers of a paterfamilias until they were confirmed by magistrates, etc.

Even after baptism our state can be deepened through confirmation.

Ancient slaves could be freed, but that did not make them Roman citizens with the greater rights.  By baptism, we become citizens of heaven, members of the family of the Church.  Not only are we free, but we gain even the chance of eternal salvation.

In ancient Roman a slave could become a citizen through certain types of manumission, by adoption, through military service, or a special grant to a community or territory.  In a way, we have undergone all of these: by laying His hand on us (manus “hand”), we have been freed.  We have been made sons and daughters of a heavenly Father.

We are now soldiers in the Church militant.

By membership of the society of the Church, a holy and priestly People, we gain privileges and obligations.   God has recognized us as His own children with a perfect adoption.  This is true freedom and true heirship, excluding nothing and, in some sense, lavishing on us even more than we might have had before we fell under the Devil’s dominion through sin.

This is a difficult mystery to grasp: we are already sons and daughters in a perfect sonship by adoption, but that sonship is not yet complete: we lack the final essential component, that is, perseverance in faith and obedience for the whole course of our lives and their ratification in death and our particular judgment.

It is through many trials that we come to the perfection of adoption which we now share in an imperfectly perfect way.

These collects during the summer, during Ordinary time, contain reminders of who we are and, therefore, what we are to do.

Christ reveals both.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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3 Responses to WDTPRS – 23rd Ordinary Sunday: Children of God, Soldiers of Christ

  1. jaykay says:

    Thank you for the elucidation of the verb “praeststare”, Fr. It makes the penultimate verse of the “Tantum ergo” easier to understand (“praestet fides supplementum sensuum defectui”). I’d always struggled with that, despite 12 years of Latin, back in my school/University days.

    I think the 2011 translation is quite good, in fact, leaving aside the gratuitous addition of “daughters”. Just “children” would have been fine, as your “literal” version has it. Oh well, still much to be grateful for compared to even a decade ago.

  2. JARay says:

    I too, as did Jaykay, thank you for that elucidation of “praestare” Father. I only understood it as “to stand before”.

  3. SundaySilence says:

    Thank you, Father, for acknowledging us as Soldiers of Christ. Background: I was Confirmed in the mid-1960s, before the tidal wave of Vatican II “reforms” swept away so much of out traditions and beliefs. Foolishly, I abandoned my faith shortly after, and was away for many decades before the Spirit brought me back. On my return, it was like walking into a dumbed – down Catholicism. Now, I cannot say “when” things changed, but at the Confirmation Masses I’ve attended since my return (at least in this Archdiocese) apparently we are no longer soldiers of Christ but are the “Easter People”. I asked several leaders of ministries to explain this, but all of them denied having ever heard the title “soldier of Christ”. (That title is the only thing that I remember of my Confirmation, other than being scared that the Bishop might ask me a question).
    So again my deepest thanks to you for confirming that this title is not some false memory, but is in fact the truth.
    (Am trapped in Novus Ordo Land, and desperately searching for a truly reverent parish. One of my biggest fears is that one of these Sundays, the so called Gathering Hymn will be “We Are The World”).