Monday in the 3rd Week in Lent

Ecclesiam tuam, Domine,
miseratio continuata mundet et muniat,
et quia sine te non potest salva consistere,
tuo semper munere gubernetur.

In the so-called "Tridentine" Missal this was the Collect for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost:  Ecclesiam tuam, Domine, miseratio, continuata mundet et muniat: et quia sine te non potest salva consistere; tuo semper munere gubernetur.  

Let’s go back to gubnero again, a favorite word of Cicero.  The Lewis & Short, our reliable source of Latin lemmas, says this is "to steer or pilot a ship".  Logically, it also means "to direct, manage, conduct, govern, guide".  The Liddell, Scott, Jones Greek Lexicon, or LSJ, says that kubernao is "steer", "drive" and metaphorically "guide, govern" and then "act as a pilot, i.e., perform certain rites in the Ship of Isis".  I can’t quite imagine what those are, but it might be a little outside of our sphere of interest.

Munus is a little hard to get at in English is this Collect.  Usually munus is "a service, office, post, employment, function, duty" but I think we must avoid reducing God to a functioary.  It is true that God is often said in our prayers to have pietas, which carries a strong sense of "duty", but in Latin prayers pietas when applied to God cannot be separated from "mercy".  In this instance of munere, we ought to lean toward another, less common meaning of "a service, favor" in the Lewis & Short.  In fact, Blaise has, "don, faveur (de Dieu)".

Let Your continuous compassion,
cleanse and defend Your Church, O Lord,
and because without You she cannot continue safe,
may she ever be steered by Your favor.

We are coming up on the one year mark of the final days of His Holiness Pope John Paul II during that powerfully moving Triduum last year.  On Good Friday the soon to be elected Joseph Card. Ratzinger lead the Stations of the Cross at the Colloseum.  In the …

Jesus falls for the third time

V. Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi.
R. Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.

From the Book of Lamentations 3:27-32

It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when he has laid it on him; let him put his mouth in the dust — there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults. For the Lord will not cast off for ever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.


What can the third fall of Jesus under the Cross say to us? We have considered the fall of man in general, and the falling of many Christians away from Christ and into a godless secularism.

Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in his own Church? How often is the holy sacrament of his Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts! How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there! How often is his Word twisted and misused! What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words! How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him! How much pride, how much self-complacency! What little respect we pay to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where he waits for us, ready to raise us up whenever we fall!

All this is present in his Passion. His betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his Body and Blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison — Lord, save us (cf. Matthew 8: 25).


Lord, your Church often seems like a boat about to sink, a boat taking in water on every side. In your field we see more weeds than wheat. The soiled garments and face of your Church throw us into confusion. Yet it is we ourselves who have soiled them! It is we who betray you time and time again, after all our lofty words and grand gestures. Have mercy on your Church; within her too, Adam continues to fall. When we fall, we drag you down to earth, and Satan laughs, for he hopes that you will not be able to rise from that fall; he hopes that being dragged down in the fall of your Church, you will remain prostrate and overpowered. But you will rise again. You stood up, you arose and you can also raise us up. Save and sanctify your Church. Save and sanctify us all.

All: Pater noster

Eia mater, fons amoris,
me sentire vim doloris
fac, ut tecum lugeam.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    today the close association of salva and guberno as well as the image of noah’s ark as a type of the Church and of Christ brings the nautical (not to omit the philatelic) sense of guberno right to the fore. it is only the second instance of “ecclesia” in lenten collects so far, and both times the prayer focuses on the need for God to direct her to safety. its a timely reminder that lent is also a time of institutional purification. 12 march 2000 (the 1st sunday of lent)was the memorable day of pardon.

    i dropped a comment on fraternus, -a, -um on yesterday’s posting under oblata (1), but that whole page is so long it must have disappeared without trace (and something in the uploading caused part of my comment to be scored through)

    suffice it to say there is an adj. sororius, -a, -um with an impeccable pedigree. also, there is a perfectly good common adj. germanus, -a, -um which has the figurative senses of “friendly” and “true, honest-to-
    goodness”. “frater” in the singular doesnt seem to be inclusive, but it is in the plural where “fratres” has the advantage of not wearing its gender on its sleeve. “fraternus” does not seem to have an inclusive sense (before AD 200 at any rate: thanks, fr. z for your note on dictionaries).

  2. Martin: I discovered that this software (WordPress) sometimes takes the use of some pattern involving the hyphen (we often employ in indicating the endings) as a command to add a strikethrough, especially when we are cutting and pasting from another document into the add comment window. You should limit your used of hyphens, I guess.

    Do you still think my idea of a nautical theme which I mentioned the other day was over played? I thought you might “love” the particular “stamp” I gave to that image.

    Interesting observation about the use of Ecclesia. Thanks for that.


  3. martin says:

    yes i see now where the problem is!
    i thought maybe you had some software that had it in for “frank commentary”

    all i was trying to say about the collect for saturday in the 2nd week was that “guberno” doesnt have quite the same nautical strength as “gubernator”. your comment that the prevailing image of the collect was of a captain of a ship (and the enormous ship with pope ? leo XIII on the prow, seemingly about to ram the piazetta – what a wild imagination St. John Bosco had!) pushed us towards just one of several possibilities: such is the power of the brush over the pen. when the prayer says we are “in terris adhuc positos” there is every reason for preferring the isaian imagery (48:17), altho the nautical flavour cant be entirely expunged from our minds – so strong is the analogy of the Church as a boat.

  4. Karen Russell says:

    um . . .Shouldn’t the third line of the literal translation read “and because withOUT You she cannot continue safe . . .”?

  5. Henry Edwards says:

    ICEL version:
    God of mercy,
    free your Church from sin
    and protect it from evil.
    Guide us, for we cannot be saved without you.

    The usual ICEL confusion between “us” and the Church. Is this just sloppy thought and grammar, or something deeper like the People of God instead of the Body of Christ?

  6. martin says:

    i dont see anything in the Church/us alternation, henry (thanks for posting the ICEL version, as usual – i dont have desktop access to it except through you). after all, we are the Church and its too easy nowadays to think of the Church as an institution somehow separate from us.

    to my mind, where the ICEL vesion goes wrong today (and often, i think the choices which inform their translation are under-rated . .
    on one or two occasions i have found their translation equal to or even superior to the latin) is in omitting the full effect of words bearing on Divine attributes.

    the latin prayers generally start straight out with “Deus” or “Dominus”. sometimes there is a qualifying phrase (“Pater aeterne”, for instance) but usually not. in the body of the latin prayer is where we find the proper attitude of awe and admiration and humble gratitude of God’s creature: today it is His “miseratio continua” which tells us of His constancy and His compassion. the latin refers to these attributes today because we need to be reassured of them.

    the ICEL approach, by contrast, is often rather bleak in this regard, and the prayers become a litany of “God do this”, “Lord do that”. there is nothing wrong with such an approach from time to time (psalm 86, for instance, ends with a succession of imperatives: “respice in me et miserere mei da imperium tuum puero tuo et salvum fac filium ancillae tuae. fac mecum signum in bono”) but if it becomes a standard prayer formula, it begins to chime uncomfortably with the modern “gimme” culture of entitlement.

    one problem the ICEL prayers have created is the consistent use of the vocative as the opening word: the prayers always begin “Lord/Father/God”. the decision was also taken not to translate the concessive/precatory “quaesumus” – it appears in 8 of the 20 collects so far and hasnt been translated once. so we more or less are compelled to jump to the imperative: 11 of the 20 ICEL translations so far do this. i count only 4 occasions where the prayer appeals to God’s mercy and love before launching into the petition.

    today, as it happens, is one of those occasions, but the appeal is truncated. God’s ineffable “miseratio continua” is folded into “God of mercy”. the fact that it comes to us as God’s “munus” is ignored, as is all sense that we stand in need of God’s constant guidance (as revealed in “semper gubernetur”).

    these issues of “attitude” are, im sure, at the heart of the “ratio translationis” which is intended to lay the ground-work for
    the official translations we are praying for.

  7. Henry Edwards says:

    after all, we are the Church and its too easy nowadays to think of the Church as an institution somehow separate from us.

    This suggests (to me) somewhat the same sloppy thought and grammar that worried me in the ICEL version. That is, the we/Church confusion ignoring the difference between us being saved (ICEL version) and the Church being steered (literal version). Not to speak of the difference between the Church as a mere institution (which may indeed be somewhat separate from us) and as the mystical body of Christ (of which we are members).

  8. martin says:

    henry, lets just look back at the collect for tuesday of the 2nd week of lent.

    “custodi Domine quaesumus ecclesiam tuam . . et . .
    tuis semper auxiliis et abstrahatur a noxis et ad salutaria dirigatur”

    the reason for the prayer, the justification, is “humana mortalitas”. so there wont be any confusion, lets agree that means “us”, right?

    the thought here is:

    because we are human and mortal and without You we lose our footing, ever draw Your Church away from harm and lead her to salvation

    if there is a difference between “us being saved” and “the Church being steered” i dont get it – and it certainly isnt present in this prayer.

    the difference, in fact, (and the potential for confusion) resides entirely elsewhere.

    the Mystery of the Church resides precisely in the fact that, being human AND engrafted into Christ her head, she reflects the Divine hypostasis: God and Man, truly God and truly Man – the two natures united, not confused. in the Divine order she is holy and incapable of sin; in the human order she is always in need of purification. see, eg, “lumen gentium” n.8

    the ICEl translated the prayer as “Lord watch over your Church and guide it with Your unfailing love. protect us from what could harm us and lead us to what will save us. help us always, for without You we are bound to fail”

    its one of the most successful of all the ICEL translations so far in this series.

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