Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Lent

COLLECTCart Before the Horse
Gratia tua ne nos, quaesumus, Domine, derelinquat,
quae et sacrae nos deditos faciat servituti,
et tuam nobis opem semper acquirat.

If this prayer seems "odd" to you for some reason, you are on the right track.  While there is nothing at all wrong with the prayer, it seems out of place… because in a sense it is.  In the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary this was a Post Communion for the Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Lent.  In the 1962 Missale Romanum and its previous editions, this was the Post Communion of Thursday in the same week.  So, the redactors of the Novus Ordo extracted this from its place and inserted it into its present spot.  Why?  There must have been a thematic reason.  

The verb derelinquo is "to forsake wholly, to abandon, desert" and also "to leave behind" (even in the sense of inheritance).  Someone who is a "derelict", is really someone abandoned, utterly forsaken.  

Acquiro (or ad-quiro) is "to add to, to get or acquire".

Deditos is probably the adjectival form deditus, a, um "given up to, addicted, devoted to something; eager, assiduous, diligent", derived from dedo.

It is entirely possible that the phrase "gratia tua" refers not just literally to the freely given gift which we call "grace", but also is a courtly form of address for God, "Your Grace".  This use of substantive or adjective with tua an address is fairly common of Latin in the age whence this prayer comes.

We have here in quae + subjunctive faciat… acquirat a characteristic result clause.   These are sometimes a little hard to get into smooth English without making the original Latin structure nearly disappear.  That’s okay, of course, in making a smooth liturgically useful prayer.  However, in these WDTPRS articles it is our objective to stick closely to the original so that you can see for yourselves what is really going on inside the Latin.   So, put on your archaic sounding English caps for a moment, and ready yourselves for an older application of "might".

Let not Your Grace  abandon us, O Lord, we beg,
which might make us eager for Your holy service,
and always acquire for us Your assistance.

As you can see, "might" here, does not have the force of "maybe", but rather coveys an auxillary force of probability or purpose.  

O Lord we beg You, let not Your grace forsake us,
which, in our having it, shall result in us being made eager for the sacred service You determine
and shall always obtain for us Your support.
Lame Duck
O Lord, we beg You, let not Your grace desert us,
for we need it in order to be made eager for Your holy service,
and it must obtain for us Your succor.

O God,
you are with us.
Help us serve you always.

As we think about this prayer, remember that originally it was recited by the priest after Communion, rather than at the beginning of Mass.  So, we are praying herewith that the graces and effects of the Communion just received would endure.  Fairly soon after this prayer we receive the final blessing, wait for the last Gospel and (for a few decades at least) the Leonine prayers after Mass.  Then after a quiet moment of thanksgiving out of church we would go to our work, whatever that might be.

Hysteron proteronActium, the flight of CleopatraPerhaps in order to get our mind around this prayer today we can think in terms of the rhetorical device called hysteron proteron.  This Greek term, literally, "the latter, the former" refers to a reversal of time or sequence to create an effect.  For example, we do this everyday when we "put on our shoes and socks".  I normally put on my socks and then my shoes.  A more serious example is found in Dante’s Commedia where in order to covey something of the super speed of their ascent to the heaven of the moon the Poet says that it took no longer than it takes an arrow "to strike, fly, and leave the bow" (Par 2.23-6).  The word "strike" comes first, to emphasize its importance, even though chronologically it occurs after the shot and flight of the arrow.  In Shakespeare you find this all the time.  For example in Anthony and Cleopatra we hear "Th’ Antoniad, the Egyptian admiral, / With all their sixty, fly and turn the rudder" (III, x, 1-2).  Clearly you have to turn the rudder before you can flee.

Give this some consideration now for your participation at Mass.  If you go into church with the effects and the results firmly in mind before Mass starts, your active participation might take on a different quality.  Reception of Communion in the state of grace is the most perfect kind of "active participation" at Mass.  Thus, think of the Communion which is to come at the Collect so that you may be more recollected at Communion.  See every moment and action, every word and gesture, of Mass in light of Communion.  Do the same even when you are NOT able to receive!   

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    The real lame-duck ICEL version:
    Lord, you call us to your service
    and continue your saving work among us.
    May you love never abandon us.

    We note that, as always, ICEL lacks grace (gratia). Today’s contest: Find the Latin word in the original collect from which the all-purpose ICEL-speak word “love” came.

  2. martin says:

    fr. z, i think the “quae” + subj. isnt a final or result clause, but a iussive subjunctive: “may [Your grace] make us etc.”

    yesterday and today the collects employ the iussive subjunctive. every other lenten collect so far has employed a direct imperative.

    “ops” is ringing the changes on previous terms such as “auxilia” and
    “praesidium”, but it still has overtones of military support. the theme of a military campaign and basic training, very strong on ash wednesday succeeding days, and continued into the first week (“exercitia sacramenti”, “caelestibus disciplinis”, “devotionem populi”, “moderatio”, “promptius et agendi”, “observatio”, “castigatio”), yielded to the medical analogy in the 2nd week (“medela”, “noxa”, “remedia”) while retaining military metaphors (“praesentibus praesidiis”, “stabiles”) and employing terms which straddle the two disciplines (“exercere mandata”, “efficaces”).

    but already in the 2nd week a new theme was announced, of God guiding us on a journey (“dirigo”, “perduco”, “ad sancta ventura pervenire”, “guberno”) which is prolonged into the 3rd week (“guberno”) without losing sight of the medical theme (“remedia”) or the military (“opem” which shaed into the idea of provisions for a journey). so we have a complex inter-weaving of themes.

    the challenge for the translator is to keep all these thematic strands in play and not to drop any of the threads, or, having dropped one, to pick up an new unrelated one by mistake (since there is no perfect identity of the semantic fields of any given latin word and its english equivalent).

  3. Martin: Very good observations about the themes. We need someone to keep track.

    Colligite fragmenta!

    I can’t agree with the iussive idea. That just doesn’t seem to work for the prayer to be one single whole sentence. Try it. I will stick with my characteristic result. Also, keep in mind that the Collects we have been seeing were really Collects. This was a Post Communion originally. The structure is very much the same, however.


  4. martin says:

    well, henry, you know the answer to your question already: “gratia”.

    in the OT, “gratia” generally means “favour”, especially in the often-repeated phrase “gratiam ante oculos suos/in oculis suis”, or “gratiam in conspectu eius”
    “favour” here can mean “approval”, or “high regard”, from which it comes to mean agreeableness, attractiveness.

    noah found “gratiam coram Domino”, and joseph “invenit gratiam coram domino suo [sc. pharaoh]”; it was hannah’s request to eli ” inveniat ancilla tua gratiam in oculis tuis” (1sam.1:18)

    this is the meaning we find in luke’s gospel where gabriel speaks of Mary as “gratia plena”, and where the child Jesus “proficiebat sapientia, aetate, et gratia apud Deum et homines”.

    also in luke (but not only there – although it is vastly more common in the NT than in the OT) is the use of the word in the every day phrase “gratias agere” meaning “to give thanks/to thank”. we find this usage extensively in paul’s letters too (I leave on one side paul’s particular doctrine of grace).

    in classical latin, the primary meaning is “favour shown to another/ goodwill/ kindness”, from which comes a special meaning (as between two people or groups) of reconciliation: “redire in gratiam”, “to become reconciled”.

    “love” isnt so far away, is it?

    and why do you say “love” is an “all-purpose ICEL-speak word”, as if in disparagement?

    as fr. z noted, “your grace” (and “tua gratia”) is ambiguous, whereas “your love” is unequivocal. in a short prayer read out at the beginning of Holy Mass, I think its justifiable to eliminate that risk of ambiguity. I havent been following the overall argument about the diminishment of “grace” in the ICEL translations yet, so I cant say how fair that is as an objection. but it’s a mistake to deplore the lack of “grace” in today’s translation by yourself diminishing the power and beauty of the word “love”.

  5. Henry Edwards says:

    it’s a mistake to deplore the lack of “grace” in today’s translation by yourself diminishing the power and beauty of the word “love”.

    I believe it is not I, but ICEL, that has so unfortunately diminished it. Indeed, may I suggest, Martin, that your excellent discussions of classical Latin — which I find most informative and for which I thank you — may be less pertinent to an understanding of ICEL’s ubiquitous use of the word “love”, and of its lex orandi, lex credendi effect on contemporary beliefs of ordinary pew-sitting Catholics, than would be an analysis of the role of the English word “luv” in the culture of the 1960’s and 1970’s when these ICEL versions were composed.

  6. CaesarMagnus says:

    I have an honest question about the prayers. Maybe it is just the bad
    translations, but, in the Novus Ordo was there that much thought put into
    which payers go where. I always seem to notice a difference in the Latin of
    the Old Rite prayers and the newer ones. The ones recycled from the Old Rite
    seem to be a bit more difficult to translate, but often have more beautiful
    structure and words, whereas the newer prayers (especially the ones wirtten
    for the Novus Ordo) have much more simplistic structure.
    I sometimes get the feeling the Novus Ordo was just “thrown together” once Bugnini
    et al figured out what structure they wanted.
    Just wondering.

  7. Caesar: That is a fair question. My sense is that in this strong season of Lent there is a thematic development going on during Lent. I think we would also need to examine the other prayers of Mass with the readings too. Still, the Collect is a very important prayer of Mass, which “sets the tone” in many ways. So far, I am getting the sense there are is a week but week shift in themes.


  8. martin says:

    thanks, henry, for your appreciative remarks. as i mentioned, i dont have access to the daily Mass prayers in the (is it the 1973 translation of the MR1970?); but looking at my sunday missal under ash wednesday i find “the opening
    prayer” is introduced by the words “let us pray” with the optional addition “for the grace to keep lent faithfully”. [i ignore the alternative form of opening prayer, which is longer and unconnected to the latin]. the option of an extended introduction has never been used in my parish, that i can recall . . it invites a slight pause, i think, before the main prayer is recited. that would be an excellent way of starting Holy Mass. a real “collection” of thoughts. this optional extension to the invocation to prayer isnt confined to lent, and maybe it isnt always desirable. reviewing these extended invocations we find:

    1st sunday: “let us pray [that this lent will help us reproduce in our lives the self-sacrificing love of Christ]”
    2nd sunday:”let us pray [for the grace to respond to the Word of God]”
    3rd sunday: “let us pray [for confidence in the love of God and the strength to overcome all our weaknesses]”
    4th sunday: “let us pray [for a greater faith and love]”
    5th sunday: “let us pray [for the courage to follow Christ]”
    palm sunday: “let us pray [for a closer union with Christ during this holy season]”

    in each case, therefore, the actual content of the prayer which follows is flagged. in 3, there is a partial retieval of the phrase in the latin prayer which was ignored in the ICEL translation – “omnium misericordiarum et bonitatis auctor”, which is at least glanced at by “let us pray for confidence in the love of God . . ”

    the only truly sapless one (redolent of the “lurv generation”) is 4.
    “grace”, we see, appears in 2. we stand in need of grace even to pray.
    inevitably, such a proceeding (flagging the content of a prayer immediately before the prayer itself) is ripe with the peril of bathos or repetition. take, for example, the richly various and mystical collect for the 2nd sunday of
    easter which is introduced by the pedestrian “let us pray [for a deeper awareness of our Christian baptism]”

  9. UK/Ireland Breviary Version

    Do not withdraw your grace from us Lord,
    by it alone we can give ourselves wholly to your service
    and obtain your help in our every need.

    That’s not a bad prayer in itself, but misses the nice theological point of the original Latin that God’s grace is necessary even for the desire to serve Him.

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