Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Today’s Collect was in the ancient Veronese and Gelasian Sacramentaries, and so it represents the best of the liturgical tradition of the early Church in Rome, formed out of the cultural, intellectual, spiritual milieu of the era.

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus,
infirmitatem nostram propitius respice,
atque ad protegendum nos
dexteram tuae maiestatis extende.

There is an elegance to these ancient prayers which hard to capture in English without resorting to nearly archaic forms.  However, archaic forms do help us to separate both the content and intent of the prayer from the banal, ephemeral and commonplace.  I think this is necessary to do in liturgical prayer at all times, but especially today when a sense of the sacred needs to be recaptured.

Words like maiestas hark to attributes of God such as Hebrew kabod, Greek doxa, and Latin gloriaMaiestas, with a pronoun, can also be construed as a title, such as "Your Majesty".   So, we could happily say, "stretch out Your Majesty’s right hand".

Tortise formationThis right hand, God’s power and authority, was lent by Christ Himself to the Church He founded and entrusted to Peter and the Apostles in union with him.  Until the end of time, the Catholic Church excercises Christ’s authority to teach, govern and sanctify.  We who are weak can gain from this sheltering attribute of the Church, which sheild and protects us from error. 

It might also happen, this same solider perhaps commits an error or a crime.  In normal circumstances, this might result in the penalty of death by flogging with the scourge.  The imperator, the commander in chief of the legion, extends his hand over the solider in a sign of forgiveness.  Extending a hand over a slave was also the sign of manumission, a formal symbol of setting a slave free, having juridical effect.  


When the hand of the priest is extended over us in the confessional, we are sheltered from the attacks of hell, the hideous heat that would consume us, the eternal bondage to the enemy which would for ever separate us from God’s sight.  When was the last time you sought out the right hand of God in the context of the confessional?  How long has it been since, after confession all your mortal sins in both number and kind, you have heard the words, "Deus Pater misericordiarum… God the Father of mercies…" 

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One Comment

  1. Don Marco says:

    Here is my rendering of the Collect:

    Almighty and everlasting God,
    look mercifully upon our infirmity,
    and stretch forth the right hand of your majesty
    to protect us.

    That being said, I am availing myself of the Collectio Missarum de Beata Maria Virgine which gives five (Yes. five!) Mass formularies De Beata for the season of Lent, I am celebrating the BVM, Mother of Reconciliation today. It fits perfectly with the Lenten Gospel of the calling of Saint Matthew and the Collect for the Saturday after Ashes will be used to conclude the General Intercessions.

    Again, my own translations:


    The Lord is gracious and merciful:
    patient and plenteous in mercy.
    The Lord is sweet to all:
    and his tender mercies are over all his works (Ps 144:8-9).


    Hail, full of grace,
    clement, you plead for sinners
    for you look with mercy upon our wretchedness.


    O God,
    who through the Precious Blood of your Son,
    reconciled the world to yourself
    and, at the foot of the Cross,
    deigned to appoint his Mother the Reconciler of sinners,
    grant, we beseech you,
    that by the intercession of the same Blessed Virgin Mary.
    we may obtain pardon for our misdeeds.
    We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
    who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
    God, forever and ever.


    Almighty and everlasting God,
    look mercifully upon our infirmity,
    and stretch forth the right hand of your majesty to protect us.
    Through Christ our Lord.


    Virgin Mother of God, remember us;
    plead for us, there where you stand in God’s presence,
    to turn away his wrath from us (cf. Jer 18:20).


    We offer you, O Lord, sacrificial gifts of reconciliation and praise,
    that with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Refuge of Sinners,
    interceding for us,
    you would, in your mercy, absolve us of our faults
    and set our wavering hearts aright.
    Through Christ our Lord.


    That the Church in East and West
    may be like a watered garden,
    and like a spring whose waters never fail,
    let us entreat the Lord. R. Look upon us, and have mercy.

    That, in moments of testing and humiliation,
    priests and people may not lose heart
    but, rather, take comfort in the mercy of Him
    who comes to heal every wound and calls all people to repentance,
    let us entreat the Lord. R. Look upon us, and have mercy.

    That the leaders of nations may turn aside
    from every project of destruction, bloodshed, and war,
    and be guided into the ways of compassion, justice, and peace,
    let us entreat the Lord. R. Look upon us, and have mercy.

    That those who suffer the hungers of the heart
    may find in Christ a love poured out;
    that the afflicted may find in Christ comfort and hope;
    that the sick may find in Christ the physician of souls and bodies;
    and that sinners may find in Christ the way to forgiveness and peace,
    let us entreat the Lord. R. Look upon us, and have mercy.

    That all of us
    – sinners called to sit at the table of Mercy –
    may find in the mysteries of Christ’s Body and Blood
    the strength to raise up the foundations of many generations,
    to become repairers of the breach, and restorers of streets to dwell in,
    let us entreat the Lord. R. Look upon us, and have mercy.


    Truly it is right and just, our duty and our salvation,
    always and everywhere to give you thanks,
    and proclaim your mighty deeds.

    Who for the sake of your exceeding goodness,
    do not abandon those who stray,
    but, by many means, call them back to your love:

    for this you gave the blessed Virgin, sinless as she was,
    a heart of compassion for sinners;
    seeing her maternal love,
    they fly to her imploring your pardon;
    contemplating her beauty of spirit,
    they struggle to abstain from the ugliness of sin;
    meditating her words and example,
    they are reminded to keep the precepts of your Son.

    Through whom the ranks of Angels adore your majesty,
    in everlasting gladness before your face.
    We pray you, let our voices blend with theirs,
    sharing their exultation as we sing:

    Glorious things are said of you, O Mary,
    for from you has arisen the sun of justice,
    Christ our God.


    We have received, O Lord,
    the sacraments of our reconciliation,
    the Body and Blood of your Son:
    grant, we beseech you,
    that, with the most blessed Virgin Mary interceding for us,
    these mysteries may bestow upon us the grace of your compassion
    and the prize of eternal redemption.
    Through Christ our Lord.


    Bow your heads and pray for God’s blessing.

    In your kindness, Lord, give heed to your people
    that those who have touched the holy mysteries
    and trust in you their protector,
    may be afflicted by no danger.
    Through Christ our Lord.

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