Friday after Ash Wednesday

Christ fasting in the wildernessCOLLECT:
Inchoata paenitentiae opera, quaesumus, Domine,
benigno favore prosequere,
ut observantiam, quam corporaliter exercemus,
mentibus etiam valeamus implere sinceris.

An observantia is "an obedient observance; a keeping, following, performing of laws, customs" which also has a juridical/religious over tone: "an observance of religious duties, divine worship, religion".  The Theodosian Code uses observantia in this sense, as does the Vulgate.  So, we will need to insert an adverb of some sort to get at the concept of duty inherent in the technical term.  Sincerus, a, um, is "clean, pure, sound, not spoiled, uninjured, whole, entire, real, natural, genuine, sincere ".  It points to a wholeness and incorrupt character, rather than just "sincere", which in English hints at an earnest state of believing you are in the right.  It is more onotological than subjective, in other words.  The complicated mens can be "the mind, disposition; the heart, soul".  Futhermore, it means, "the conscience".  I think in this prayer, given its age, and the juridical tone in observantia, we need to maintain the rational end of the spectrum of mens rather than the affective.  Also, since sincerus is not to be taken in the English sense, but rather the Latin, I think we can move away from mens as "conscience".  Let’s go with rational dimension of the word and grasp onto "the intellectual faculties, the mind, understanding, intellect, reason, judgment, discernment, consideration, reflection" which logically leads us to another meaning of mens as "mind, thought, plan, purpose, intention, design".  Think of an English phrase like, "What do you have in mind?" or "I will tell you my mind, by and by."  Here is another interesting thing.  Incohatus, a, um is an adjective from incoho, avi, atum.  As an adjective inchohatus is "only begun (as oppose to finished, completed), unfinished, incomplete, imperfect".  I think that must be the meaning in our prayer, though we will play with this below.

O Lord, we beseech You, follow up with kind good will
on the works of penance which have just commenced,
so that we may be able to fulfill dutifully the religious observance
which we are now carrying out corporally also with sound consideration.

Sure, if you want you can do it this way:

O Lord, we beseech You, follow up with benevolent favor
on the works of penance which are not yet completed,
with the result that we may be strong to complete properly the religious practices  
which we are now engaged in bodily also with clean conscience.

If you want to go the affective route with the prayer we might do it this way:

We beg, O Lord, that you in friendship accompany
the works of penance just recently started,
in order that we may be able to complete also with pure hearts
the religious practice which we are now employed in physically.

Okay, let’s see if we can take a stand on a

We beseech You, O Lord, kindly accompany
the works of penance which have just begun,
so that we may have the strength to discharge also with mind and heart
the religious observance we are now carrying out physically.

And now a real treat.  I wish we could pray this way all the time. 

We beseech thee, O Lord, to further with thy gracious favour
the fast, which we have here begun:
that we, who with our bodies therein do thee outward worship,
may inwardly perform the same in singleness of heart.

Whew!  This is like doing Latin crunches: One is a piece of cake, but do enough of them and you really start feeling which muscles are getting the work.

What would ICEL do?    I don’t have the ICEL text with me right, so I will guess:

you are very nice.
Keep up the good work.
Be a friend and help us
to think and do nice things too.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Don Marco says:

    I rendered it thus:

    Sustain with your gracious favour, O Lord,
    the works of penance we have begun;
    that the observance we carry out bodily
    we may be able to fulfill also with sincere hearts.

  2. Henry Edwards says:

    Quite a tour de force of successively literal translations, Father Z, and you weren’t too far off with you ICELese guess. True ICEL version:

    with your loving care,
    guide the penance we have begun.
    Help us to perservere with love and sincerity.

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