Thursday in the 2nd Week of Lent

Deus, innocentiae restitutor et amator,
dirige ad te tuorum corda servorum,
ut, Spiritus tui fervore concepto,
et in fide inveniantur stabiles,
et in opere efficaces.

In the older, pre-conciliar Missal, today’s Collect was used on Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Lent as an Oratio super populum or “Prayer over the people” which followed the Post Communions of the Mass.  As such, take note that the priest in praying does not refer to “us” and “we” as he does in normal Collects.  He prayers for the people on their behalf.  This lends a different impact to today’s prayer.

The prayer has ancient roots in the Gelasian Sacramentary for the 7th day in the Octave of Easter though the prayer was somewhat different (Deus, innocentiae restitutor et amator, dirige ad te tuorum corda famulorum, ut quos de infidelitatis tenebris liberasti, numquam a tuae veritatis luce discedant).  The second half of today’s prayer comes from another prayer in the Gelasian, from vespers in the Octave of Pentecost (Deus, qui discipulis tuis spiritum sanctum paraclytum in ingis fervore tui amoris mittere dignatus es, da populis tuis in unitate fidei esse ferventes, ut in tua semper dilectione permanentes et in fide inveniantur stabilies et in opere efficaces).  So, know you know the rest of the story.

“Fervor”, in English, is a a bit weak in conveying the impact of Latin fervor, “a boiling or raging heat, a violent heat, a raging, boiling, fermenting”.  It stands for “ardor, passion”.

We are going to have to really think about concipio.  This verb has many meanings.  In English we have the same problem with “conceive”, which mean “become pregnant” or “perceive with the mind”.  Concipio is in its most fundamental sense “to take or lay hold of, to take to one’s self, to take in, take, receive”.  Logically there extends from this fundamental meaning a physical idea of fecundation and an intellectual or sensory idea of “to take or seize something by the sense of sight, to see, perceive”  and “to comprehend intellectually, to take in, imagine, conceive, think”.   Then we take another conceptual step (sorry, about that) to “to receive in one’s self, adopt, harbor any disposition of mind, emotion, passion, evil design, etc., to give place to, foster, to take in, receive; to commit”.

O God, restorer and lover of innocence,
guide unto You the hearts of Your servants,
so that, once the ardor of Your Spirit has been taken in,
they may be found both to be steadfast in faith
and efficacious at work.

This prayer brings me to think of baptism and also the sacrament of penance.   In baptism, we are forgiven the original sin of which we are guilty by our being children of our first parents.  When Adam and Eve sinned, the whole race sinned, but it just happens that the whole race was only two members.  God restores us to a state of friendship with Him, of innocence, even though it is not the original innocence of the time before the fall.  Baptism removes the stain of original sin and also of all the actual sins we have committed.  The Holy Spirit makes His dwelling in our souls with the Father and the Son.  In a sense the Holy Spirit is “conceived” in our souls, in the various senses of that word.

When we drive the indwelling Spirit from our souls through mortal sin, it can be restored to us through the sacrament of penance, when Christ Himself in the person of the priest, alter Christus, completely removes the sins from our soul, restoring us to God’s friendship.

There are may things in this changing and shifting world which can erode the steadfastness of a human heart.  This world by its very nature is passing.  If we give our hearts to these passing things, or set them in the place that belongs to the One who is eternal and ever faithful, we will be lost forever.  When we are attached overly to the passing things of this world we cannot be effective in our work, in the vocation God conceived for us from before the creation of the universe.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    am i alone in losing sight of the latin text (today and 10 march) which is obliterated by the illustrations? luckily the text is repeated today.

    i was so busy dilating on “familia” yesterday (and, bingo! today we get “servorum” which nicely puts me in my place) i forgot to ask if fr. z would tell us the provenance of the prayer. it struck me as somewhat over-involved, and the “sic . . . ut + subjunctive” final clause was problematic (as the four translations given yesterday all silently acknowledged.

    the UK & ireland breviary translations noted so far are elegant and strike a fair balance between being faithful to the original and modern in style. im hoping (courtesy of zadok_the_roman) they become a regular feature of the comments.

    as for “fervor”, my dictionary (OLD – no, its not old) gives the phrase “flammam/ignem concipere”, meaning to catch alight, which accords well with the action of the Holy Spirit.

  2. Henry Edwards says:

    ICEL version:
    God of love,
    bring us back to you.
    Send your Spirit to make us strong in faith,
    and active in good works.

    Not so bad, by ICEL’s standards, though some of the fervor may be missing. Oh, you can quibble about whether “bring us back to you” is really “restoration of innocence”, whether activity in works is necessarily efficacious, but these seem lesser than the usual ICEL difficulties.

  3. Martin: You can’t see the Latin text?

    Also, I do give the provenance.

    The flammam/ignem concipere is very interesting. I am glad you posted that. It escaped me in my haste. I see it is quite classical. Fascinating.


  4. Don Marco says:

    One of my favourite Lenten Collects. Here is my rendering of it:

    O God, the restorer and lover of innocence,
    direct the hearts of your servants unto yourself:
    that being enkindled with the fire of your Spirit,
    they may be found both steadfast in faith and fruitful in deed.

    The first reading (Jer 17:5-10) in the American lectionary contains a phrase that sends me screaming into the traffic! See my rant below . . . and my little homily on the Collect of the day.

    Jeremiah 17:5-10
    Psalm 1: 1-2, 3, 4, 6
    Luke 16:19-31

    March 16, 2006
    Monastery of the Glorious Cross, O.S.B.
    Branford, Connecticut

    The circle of the year brings us back to that frightfully mistranslated line in today’s first reading: “More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it? (Jer 17:9). This is something that I cannot let pass by, not because I am bent on picking at the lectionary, but because I would not want even one of you to go away today thinking yourself beyond remedy. So allow me to rant.
    When I first encountered the distressing phrase in the 2002 edition of the lectionary, I knew instinctively that there was something wrong with it. I opened my Latin lectionary, the official text of the Roman liturgy, and there found the human heart described not as beyond remedy, but as inscrutable. Pravum est cor omnium et inscrutabile: “The heart is perverse above all things, and unsearchable” (Jer 17:9).
    Can you think, even for a minute, that God would ever declare the human heart beyond remedy? What then of the redemption? And what of grace? Can you imagine God, our God, saying to anyone at all, “You are beyond remedy, irreparably damaged; I can do nothing for you”? It’s enough to push one off the edge into the deep dark pit of despair! Such is not my religion, and such is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. No one is beyond remedy.
    Look at other translations of Jeremiah 17:9. I already said that the Vulgate has, “The heart is perverse above all things, and unsearchable.” The King James has, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” The Jerusalem Bible has, “The heart is more devious than any other thing, perverse too.” My Jewish Tanakh, translated from the Hebrew, has, “Most devious is the heart; it is perverse.” The New English Bible has, “The heart is the most deceitful of all things, desperately sick.”
    I am absolutely willing to admit that the human heart, and mine first of all, is capable of being perverse, deceitful, wicked, devious, and desperately sick, but I will not admit that any human heart is “beyond remedy.” As a priest, I cannot imagine hearing a confession so horrible, so dark, so wicked, as to merit the terrible words: “beyond remedy.” On this one half-verse, the lectionary translators really struck out. Shame on them!
    The circle of the year also brings us back to today’s Collect, surely one of the most beautiful of the Lenten series:

    O God, the restorer and lover of innocence,
    direct the hearts of your servants unto yourself:
    that being enkindled with the fire of your Spirit,
    they may be found both steadfast in faith and fruitful in deed.

    “O God, the restorer and lover of innocence. . . .” God loves innocence, and loving it wants to restore it wherever it has been compromised, corrupted, stained, or stolen. It is a beautiful thing to call God “the lover of innocence,” but it is even more beautiful to call him “the restorer of innocence.” The heart, even the most desperately sick of hearts, can begin to beat with hope again in hearing God addressed in this way. For our God, “the restorer and lover of innocence,” no heart is beyond remedy.
    The Collect goes on to make its petition: “direct the hearts of your servants unto yourself.” Dirige ad te tuorum corda servorum, says the Latin text; it means, “direct the hearts of your servants towards yourself,” or “put the hearts of your servants in the way that goes straight toward you.” Saint Augustine’s unforgettable words from the beginning of The Confessions come to mind: “Thou has made us toward thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in thee.” The human heart is easily misdirected; we ask God to put our hearts on the track of happiness, to direct them toward himself. We ask him, in a word, to convert our hearts.
    The Collect then adds, “that being enkindled with the fire of your Spirit. . . .” It is striking, this allusion to the fervour or fire of the Holy Spirit in the second week of Lent. The fire of the Holy Spirit is an image more usually associated with the liturgy of Pentecost. What today’s Collect suggests is that as soon as a heart is directed to God, “the restorer and lover of innocence,” it is warmed by the Holy Spirit. The heart directed away from God is like a house with no southern exposure. The heart with no Godward exposure becomes a cold heart. Lenten conversion places us, like so many little chicks, under the Spirit’s brooding wing, there to be warmed by divine love. You know the plea of the Pentecost sequence: Fove quod est frigidum – “Warm the chill.”
    Once warmed by the Holy Spirit, the heart begins to change. The heart touched by the fire of the Holy Spirit will be firm and steadfast in faith. Firm in faith, it will become effective in deed. We can take “effective” here to mean fruitful. “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples” (Jn 15:8).
    “Beyond remedy”? Perish the thought. Take to heart instead the word of Holy Father Benedict that faithfully echoes all of Scripture: “Never to despair of God’s mercy” (RB 4:74). The God who loves innocence will find a way to restore it. No one, absolutely no one, is beyond remedy.

  5. martin says:

    fr. z, it was the provenance of wednesday’s prayer which i was missing.

    and now i do see the latin text today, thanks.

    in honour of my patron saint, i have been especially sensitive to military metaphors in these collects. today “stabilis” has been rendered “steadfast” by both fr. z and don marco which has military overtones. “fired up by Your Spirit” conveys the sense of anxious exhilaration soldiers feel in battle. the huge numbers of army veterans settled in colonies all over the roman world was certainly a powerful force in the dispersal and the advancement of
    Christianity despite strong competition from mithraism.

  6. UK/Ireland Breviary Version

    Lord God,
    you love innocence of heart
    and when it is lost you alone can restore it.
    Turn then our hearts to you,
    and kindle in them the fire of your Spirit
    so that we may be steadfast in faith
    and unwearied in good works

  7. Don Marco says:

    The UK/Ireland version is not bad at all. One would never think it related to the 1974 ICEL version! Working on the Collects for tomorrow, that of the Lenten feria and that of St. Patrick!

  8. martin says:

    i was waiting for the UK/IR brev. version and was disappointed.
    the translators fell below their previous high standard here:
    (1) they take 15 words to translate “innocentiae restitutor et amator”
    (2) “tuorum corda servorum” becomes “our hearts”.
    (3) “efficax” doesnt mean tireless/unwearied, it means effective.
    (4) “kindle in them the fire of Your Spirit” is too close to the prayer to the Holy Spirit : “fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your love”
    (5) “dirige” does have a subsidiary meaning of “turn [a part of ones body, such as a hand or finger in order to point something out]”, but its primary meaning is “line up” or “direct/steer”.

    the military sense of “dirigo” is very pronounced, but its not in point here because of the addition of “ad Te”. but, like “converto” it is more importunate than “guide/lead”. hence, “corda servorum” becomes appropriate
    – in this collect we are asking God to intervene and take charge.

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