Thursday in the 3rd Week of Lent

Crucifixion by Paolo VenezianoCOLLECT
Maiestatem tuam, Domine, suppliciter imploramus,
ut, quanto magis dies salutiferae festivitatis accedit,
tanto devotius ad eius celebrandum
proficiamus paschale mysterium.

Accedo is "to go or come to or near, to approach".  Proficio means "to go forward, advance, gain ground, make progress" and thus "to be useful, serviceable, advantageous, etc."

I believe the eius refers back to diesDevotius, an adverb of devoveo, is rarely "devout" in the modern sense.  It concerns promises and consecrations and religious duties.  Again, our phrase maiestas tua seems to be nearly a form of address.  At the same time it is an effective characteristic of God.

Humbly we implore Your Majesty, O Lord,
that by howsomuch more the day of the salvation bringing feast draws near
by that degree we may more dedicatedly make progress
toward its paschal mystery which it is to be celebrated.

There is today a strong suggestion of motion and movement.  It reminds me of the prayers of Advent, where we are given strong images of rushing, nearly hurtling toward our desired goal along paths which are to be made "straight" according to the Baptist’s warning.  As a matter of fact, this prayer and the Post Communion of the 4th Sunday of Advent are very similar.  Today’s prayer has roots in the Padua manuscript the so-called Gregorian Sacramentary and also the manuscript at Bergamo.  It was not in any edition of the pre-Conciliar Missale Romanum.

There is a phrase in Latin, and it applies well to life: in finem citius… things go faster as they draw closer to the end.  In our prayer we see the same proportional relationship between the proximity of the Paschal Mystery and our "approach" to it, if you will pardon the double entendre.  With every day, nay hour, that passes, we ought to be more and more focused on our Lenten observance so that the celebration of Easter and "its" Paschale Mystery will be that much more fruitful.  By "its" Paschale Mystery, I get the sense the we are talking also about the Triduum leading to the Vigil.  Lent ends at the beginning of the Triduum.

Consider this also from a liturgical point of view.  

We are half way into Lent now.  At the beginning of Lent the Church began to die to herself liturgically speaking.  Elements of the liturgy, in which we can "actively participate" are taken away from us. The Church says that there is to be no instrumental music in Lent, with the exception of sustaining congregational singing.  What the Church means is a little organ, not a band, to do so.  Flowers and ornaments in church are curtailed.  We no longer have the Gloria and Alleluia. 

When 1st Passion Sunday would arrive in the older, Roman calendar, the Iudica me was stripped out of the prayers at the foot of the altar.  There was no Gloria Patri at ends of antiphons.  Statues and images were drapped and hidden from view.  Again, the Church is dying to herself and our active participation in the sensory elements of Mass is being reduced. 

At the Triduum, we are given a brief flash of glory at the Mass of the Last Supper and then the Blessed Sacrament is hidden away.  The altar is stripped entirely.  Bells are no longer sounded.  Holy Water is removed.  On Good Friday we are deprived even of Mass, though we can have Communion and on Holy Saturday we cannot even have Communion.  Remember that reception of Holy Communion is the most perfect form of "active participation".  So, it is as if on that day the Church is dead, awaiting the resurrection.  At the beginning of the Vigil we are even deprived of light with which to see.

This is, to my mind, what is is in the background of that quanto…tanto construction.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    fr. z., this is another post where (on my computer, at least) the beautiful image downloads in such a way as to obliterate the latin prayer. i was obliged to divert my lenten observance to commenting on the “actuose” issue raised under 20 march.

    from your remarks and the literal translation, the theme of journey, so present in the second week, has returned in today’s collect.

  2. Henry Edwards says:

    Here in plain view, Martin, is today’s Latin collect:

    Maiestatem tuam, Domine, suppliciter imploramus,
    ut, quanto magis dies salutiferae festivitatis accedit,
    tanto devotius ad eius celebrandum
    proficiamus paschale mysterium.

    ICEL version:
    help us to be ready to celebrate the great paschal mystery.
    Make our love grow each day
    as we approach the feast of our salvation.

    If you don’t believe this, find a sacramentary and see for yourself. There it is, the universal placeholder word for every ICEL prayer! And for a bonus, ICEL’s all-purpose “help us” construction also.

  3. Martin: And given the fact that it has no precedent in the pre-Conciliar Missal, I think we have more evidence of purposeful theme building in the choice of, placement of, and redaction of prayers (at least Collects).

    What browser are you using? I have looked at the page with IE, Firefox and Opera and it is just fine.


  4. martin says:

    thank you for the text, henry. that “eius” is odd, since the prayer makes good sense without it. “the paschal mystery of the day of the saving festivity” is as hard to swallow in latin as in english.

    also, by being determinedly in the singular, it starts us wondering which day the composer had in mind. “festivity” inclines us totally to the Resurrection of the Lord, but the saving event was the sacrifice on the cross. “dies”, then, must mean “day” in a generic sense.

    fr. z. for once has missed a trick. “devotius” is the comparative form of the adverb “devot_e” (which OLD, for once, doesnt recognise, but which i recognise from the thomist hymn “adoro Te devote, latens Deitas”): “in a more committed way”. the construction is “the more . . . the more”

    “love” in the ICEL version is totally free-wheeling. as fr. z. says, “devotus” isnt “devoted” in the sentimental english sense (cf. “devotionem populi” on wednesday of the 2nd week and “dicatos” on the following saturday): it means “dedicated/ committed”. we need encouragement to stay true to our lenten observance, and an anodyne repetition of “love” without any context is unhelpful.

    lent is a season of love, of course: thats what the previous references to “opera caritatis” and “eleemosynis” (supplemented by appeals to the mercy of God on sunday and monday of this week: cf. lk.10:37)were reminding us of.

  5. martin says:

    fr.z, i use IE and firefox. but its not the browser. im a total sap. by closing my favourites side panel i get to see everything. in IE i keep the side panel, but not in firefox, so when i went there, it all became clear. thanks ! maybe there are others out there who suffered the same indignity.

  6. And now if we can just unstick that Shift key of yours we will be in business!


  7. Anonymous says:

    just remind me about the shift key, fr. z.

    my last post was broken down into 5 paras, the longest of which was 5 lines.

    and this post is 4 paras. the longest of which is 2 lines.

    how low can i go?

  8. Karen Russell says:

    FWIW, (not much, since it appears that Martin has found the source of his problem), I use Netscape and have never had any trouble.

    Martin: I’m with Fr. Z. on the shift key business. With your posts, I’ve realized that, even more than punctuation, my eyes are trained to cue in on capital letters to pick up sentence structure and sense quickly. As a result, even though your punctuation is good, I find your posts very difficult to read. And since you always correctly capitalize words such as “God”, it appears to be a very selective stickiness.
    (Just an observation from an old dog who balks at learning new tricks!)

  9. martin says:

    yes, karen, i do deliberately capitalise the names of saints and the Deity and most “Holy” referends, so it is a quirk with a point.

    by breaking up the text i had hoped to mollify fr. z.,
    but obviously the problem runs a bit wider.

    im sorry to hear it makes my posts difficult to read
    i just wrote off fr.z’s comments as a niggle (sorry about that, fr. z)

    From hereon in I will amend my ways, just for the sake of wdtprs (my little joke).
    But capital letters are a very modern imposition,
    and I will revert to my normal style once Lent is over.
    OK? :)

  10. Martin: Of course we need to keep in mind also the purpose of this blog. Hopefully, everyone involved with posting comments will try to make them readable for the people who visit and avoid doing anything that might make posting intimidating.


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