Monday in the 5th Week of Lent

St. Leo the Great

Deus, per cuius ineffabilem gratiam
omni benedictione ditamur,
praesta nobis ita in novitatem a vetustate transire,
ut regni caelestis gloriae praeparemur.

Today’s Collect was not in any previous edition of the Missale Romanum.  Instead it has its roots in a sermon of St. Pope Leo I “the Great” (s. 61.5 recensio alpha which is in this snippet identical with beta; in CCL 138A, l. 109 or PL 54, 349b).  For those of you who love Latin, I cannot resist simply giving you the original text from that sermon.  To be appreciated, it must be read, nay, declaimed aloud: Nos autem, dilectissimi, qui ab ignorantiae tenebris liberati, fidei lumen accepimus, et in noui testamenti haereditatem per electionem adoptionis intrauimus, festiuitatem quam Israhel carnalis perdidit gaudeamus, quoniam pascha nostrum immolatus est christus, per cuius ineffabilem gratiam omnium charismatum benedictione ditamur, et ita in nouitatem a uetustate transferimur, ut non solum paradisi restituamur habitaculo, sed etiam regni caelestis gloriae praeparemur.

Leo XIIIThis is rich, elegant fare, to be sure.  This figure of in novitatem with vetustas is used by Leo several times in the sermons coming down to us.   

Novitas is a really interesting word.  It means "a being new, newness, novelty".  It also means "the condition of a homo novus, newness of rank".  In ancient Rome most public offices went to men whose families had been around for a very long time, the established families.  Newness… new things were looked at with suspicion in Rome (and they still are, as a matter of fact, but I digress.  The Latin term for "revolution", which was a VERY bad thing, is res novae "new things".   When another Pope Leo, Leo XIII wrote about the materialist social upheaval looming on the horizon and fairness in employment, he produced the encyclical Rerum novarum … "That the spirit of revolutionary change, which has long been disturbing the nations of the world, should have passed beyond the sphere of politics and made its influence felt in the cognate sphere of practical economics is not surprising. …"  At any rate, a novus homo was a man who was the first from his family to serve in the senate or to be elected to high public office.

O God, by means whose ineffable grace
we are enriched with every blessing,
grant to us to cross over from oldness into newness in such a way
that we are made ready for the kingdom of heavenly glory.

I suspect that part of the structure of Leo’s thought derives from the Blessed Apostle’s Letter to the Colossians 3,8-10: "Nunc autem deponite et vos omnia: iram, indigationem, malitiam, blasphemiam, turpem sermonem de ore vestro; nolite mentiri invicem, qui exuistis vos veterem hominem cum actibus eius et induistis novum, eum, qui renovator in agnitionem secundum imaginem eius, qui creavit eum, … But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator."

Consider what occurs in our souls in baptism, deepend in confirmation, renewed and vitalized in proper reception of the Eucharist.  Christ made all this possible when He rose from the dead.  In Christ, the new Adam, our old humanity was clothed anew.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Over the course of this Lenten series I have noted 7 objections to the ICEL translations advanced by Fr. Z. or others. If any have escaped my notice, I apologise for not bringing them into account. Although usually presented in the context of the specific use of a word by the ICEL, they remain generalised objections and so far, in this series, little attention has been given to the ICEL prayers as a whole. I ignore all unparticularised expressions of annoyance including the increasingly pervasive use of “lame duck” as a term of abuse, and the characterisation of people as “looney” or “brainwashed” who hold another opinion. Fr. Z. encouraged all debate to be conducted in charity, but occasionally I feel the line is perilously near being crossed. The serious objections I noted are:

    (1) inadequate reference to sin/ guilt/ forgiveness.
    (2) excessive use of the word “help”, with a tincture of semi-pelagianism.
    (3) defective ecclesiology (“confusion of a set with its members”).
    (4) excessive and unreflective use of the word “love”.
    (5) presentation of the prayers in short sentences rather than in continuous periods.
    (6) failure to reflect the depth and width of the imagery present in the Latin.
    (7) excessive use of the term “Father” as the mode of invoking the Deity.

    In previous posts I have contested, with detailed reference to the Latin collects and the ICEL translations, points (1) to (5), and in the absence of any rebuttal I have no more to say on those points. Objection (6), by contrast, is well-founded. There remains the last, which Fr. Z. raised vehemently on the posting for Sunday in week 5 (“how stupid do they think we are?” he cried) and which I propose to address in a later post dealing with the question of how the Deity is invoked.

    Approaching the topic dispassionately, and as a preliminary to embarking on this exercise, I tried to imagine how these objections would strike any Christian who was entirely ignorant of the collects. Surely such a one would surely be alarmed to find among the objections the points raised under (4), (5) and (6). Leaving aside for the moment the matter of “slavish accuracy”, it is an extraordinary complaint against the ICEL translations that they focus too much on God as our Father, on the love that He has for us and which (in its dual aspect) is the basis of the Christian life, and on the pithy and uncomplex formularies. How, after all, does Our Lord tell us how to pray?

    The quest for “slavish accuracy” is not an end in itself. The only relevant issue, of course, is not so much what do the Latin prayers “say” as what do they “mean”. Even the exercise of discovering what they “say” is not entirely free from doubt and debate. There are few words which do not have a range of meanings, and selecting the “one” meaning is often a nice matter. I have taken issue with Fr. Z. on (inter alia) his rendering of “eruditos/ eruditam” as “polished”, on his seeing a nautical sense of “guberno” in a collect where we are “in terris adhuc positos”, and on the meaning of “sollemnis/ sollemniter”; and in another context we have debated the meaning of “actuosa/ actuose”. While deferring to his greater experience in the matter of Latin euchology, in all these cases (but they are not, after all, so many) I think Fr. Z. is fundamentally wrong; wrong not as a matter of taste or style, but wrong on what the Latin actually “says”.

    But what the Latin “says” is just a staging-post on the route to an acceptable translation, and Fr. Z. has been properly frank that his “translations” are far from being acceptable as they stand. Even after an acceptably accurate translation has been achieved (meaning one that does not make one cringe at infelicities of English style), there is the issue of what is liturgically and pastorally appropriate and necessary, for the liturgy has an undeniable pedagogic aspect which must be addressed. Criticism of the ICEL translations by exclusive reference to “slavishly accuracy” is, therefore, but half the work. And not the more laborious half, either. Fr. Z.’s work is exemplary in raising consciousness of the task in hand, but the heads of complaint which ring so heartily around this weblog are, in the broad mass, inadequately made out with regard to the Lenten collects.

  2. Henry Edwards says:

    ICEL version:
    Father of love, source of all blessings,
    help us to pass from our old life of sin
    to the new life of grace.
    Prepare us for the glory of your kingdom.

    This may be one of ICEL’s more worthy efforts. Instead of the pastel human love that too frequently occupies us, here we envision the divine love of the Father. Passing over that “help us”, the passover from oldness to newness that we seek is described right wholesomely — from our old life of sin to a new life of grace.

  3. Martin: Surely a man with so much to say deserves to have his very own blog!


  4. martin says:

    After 34 days, Fr. Z., the fragments you were urging me to collect have become quite a bundle!

    As for Henry’s comment, I am uncertain if he means to refer to the Lenten collects when he says: “Instead of the pastel human love that too frequently occupies us”. In fact, of the 15 references to love in the ICEL Lenten collect translations, 8 are references to the love God has for us. Of the other 7, The reference to “Your commandment of love” (Monday 2), and “By seeking Your Kingdom and loving one another” (Saturday 1) are hardly pastel (although the latter is a clear under-translation), and “make us one in love and prayer” is rather a good translation of “in oratione tua, semper efficiamur concordes”. Similarly “with the eagerness of faith and love” is a fair rendition of “prompta devotione et alacri fide” (Laetare Sunday).

    That leaves 3 contestible references all Lent, which doesnt amount to a
    pre-occupation, and 2 of the 3 are attempts to get to the nub of “sincerus”. The prayer for Thursday in week 3 is peculiarly sapless, however, and includes the anodyne “make our love grow each day”. But, as I say, I hold no brief for the ICEL translators. Fair, however, is fair.

  5. Henry Edwards says:

    Father Z: Goodness, let’s don’t go trying to run Martin off just yet, not while he still has so much to learn, right here at your feet.

    Martin: Admittedly, the batch of Lenten collects you seen are not so over-burdened as the full calendar of ICEL propers with the incidental “symptoms” that your listing enumerates. That is, symptoms — not each so important in and of itself — of a systematic failure to transmit the fuller belief and tradition of the Church that is so wonderfully conveyed by the Latin originals in their totality. Having been at this for some time (that is, learning from Fr. Z), I’ve gotten to the point of contenting myself to briefly “flag” particular instances of familiar phenomena, without repeating past analyses and incidence counts. But your fresh perspective is interesting and welcome.

  6. jbebeau says:


    One other general objection comes to mind. The failure to translate the language of supplication. Examples would be “quaesumus”, “digneris”, etc. In the ICEL prayers the language comes across as fairly demanding, failing to take into account the difference in relationship between the two parties.

  7. “Fair is fair.” Perhaps, and wrong is wrong. The ICEL prayers are mostly wrong, to be fair.

    You wrote: “In fact, of the 15 references to love in the ICEL Lenten collect translations, 8 are references to the love God has for us. Of the other 7… ”

    This is an interesting stat, and I am sure it is very useful for digging into what the ICEL prayers really say. It was interesting enough, as a matter of fact, that it momentarily distracted me from the more important issue. I don’t want what the creators of the now lame-duck ICEL version had to say or how they used the word “love”. I want what the Catholic Church gave me in the Latin prayers.

    Sure a phrase like “By seeking Your Kingdom and loving one another” (from Saturday of the 1st Week) might not be “pastel”. It is sorta nice, really. However, it doesn’t mean what the Latin means.

    Ad te corda nostra, Pater aeterne, converte,
    ut nos, unum necessarium semper quaerentes
    et opera caritatis exercentes,
    tuo cultui praestes esse dicatos.

    Eternal Father, turn our hearts to you.
    By seeking your kingdom and loving one another,
    may we become a people
    who worship you in spirit and truth.

    Convert our hearts to You, Eternal Father,
    with the result that you grant
    us (who are) seeking always the one thing necessary
    and carrying out works of charity,
    to be dedicated to Your worship.

    Quibble about shades of meaning of some Latin verb or noun, fine; but the ICEL prayers doesn’t say what the Latin prayer really says, even if you play a little with the vocabulary. It is not an “under-translation”. It isn’t a translation at all. It is a different prayer. The concepts are not the same.

    The phrase “seeking your kingdom” is neither metaphrase nor a translation of “unum necessarium semper quaerentes”.

    The phrase “loving one another” doesn’t correctly render, either as a translation or a metaphrase, “opera caritatis exercentes”.

    We can do all sorts of kabuki dances to make “kingdom” and “unum necessarium” mean the same thing, I guess. For example, we can say that because Christ said to his interlocutors if x, y, and z are happening, then “the kingdom of God is upon you”, and understand “Kingdom of God” as the Person of the Lord Himself. Then we can say that the Lord Himself is the “one thing necessary” in our desire for salvation, etc. etc. Sure, we can do that. However, the fact remains that the ICEL prayer doesn’t say what the Latin says. It says something else.

    I don’t have time to get into your other examples right now. In the meantime, we will all stipulate that ICEL didn’t get it wrong all the time: just most of the time.

  8. Is it possible to become so “learned” that Latin’s main contribution is no longer captured by the original prayers, but by their English counterparts?

    Ah, those insightful comments (or is it commentaries? – there is a shade of difference in meaning between comments and commentaries, even though both are connected with “mens, mentis” i.e. the mind or the seat of understanding) of Martin that alone distill the “true” meaning of the Latin text like a heavenly dew that reveals what wasn’t apparent in the Latin itself! Let’s continue to write long essays on each Latin word (in English of course) in order to mine the gold that is in them to the fullest!

    “Sophos!” universi clamamus! (Satiricon).

  9. That wasn’t very nice. Mea culpa, Martin. Not nice at all. This is one of those times when you wish that you hadn’t posted something but it is too late. Or is it?

  10. martin says:

    Yes, jbebeau, the whole area of supplication is very important; I am keeping my eye on it.

    No, Andrew, dont imagine you need to apologise for your former post. I took it in good part; but I certainly know what its like to press the enter button and experience a pang.

    Yes, Henry, I know there is a whole world of prayers out there and that you have travelled a long road with Fr. Z. Sometimes a pause on the journey to listen to a road-side chirp can be useful; if only to remind why you are on the road in the first place.

    No, Fr. Z., Im not defending the ICEL prayers as i have repeatedly said. And there are some serious flaws in individual prayers, as well as some some defects that run through many of them, so counter-instances dont go to the nub of what I was saying. But since you have picked up on it, lets look at “unum necessarium semper quaerentes et opera caritatis excercentes”.

    Of the two halves, the second is an under-translation: “works of charity” certainly fall under the “new commandment”. As for the “unum necessarium”, it is deliberately vague in the Latin, but as you pointed out under the relevant post it is a direct reference to Lk.10:42. And yet, there, too, in Our Lord’s words, we find an open reference and it is lawful to explore what it might mean for us. It not, for instance, to be taken as a general recommendation that sitting physically at Our Lord’s feet was the “unum necessarium” (any more than staying on Tabor with 3 tabernacles was appropriate). Its use in the prayer also reminds us of the Divine instruction to seek first the Kingdom of God (“quaerite autem primum regnum Dei et iustitiam eius et haec omnia adiecientur vobis. nolite ergo solliciti in crastinum . . ” (Mt.6:33f.). This mundane anxiety is exactly what Martha was exhibiting. Not such a tortuous dance to make the connection, I think.

    All in all, on that phrase I will stick with my assessment that it is an “under-translation of the meaning; I just dont follow your point that the “concepts” are different. “Works of charity” are not a “different concept” from “love”, although more in comprehended by the latter than by the former; and you havent successfully shown that the “unum necessarium” of the prayer is conceptually different from the Kingdom of God. If it is what we must “first seek” it cannot be conceptually different from the “one thing necessary”, surely. If it were, Our Lord would be making contrary demands. As far as concepts go, “The Kingdom”, moreover, is also a Kingdom of love (and I dont mind what colour you colour it). The supremacy of love cannot be contested, either: so we have a triple priority in the great commandment, the search for the Kingdom and the “unum necessarium” which (qua concepts) must be inter-penetrating if not positively united at a deeper level.

    Finally, we all of us need to be prepared mentally and spiritually for hte ew translation. Unlike the ICEL version currently in use, we can expect it to receive a “recognitio” and at that stage those prayers (no less than the Latin) will have been given to us by the Catholic Church. No? Of course, the Latin prayers will remain, and criticism of the new translations (as of the Latin, on occasion) will not cease, but the debate will have to move on once the translations are officially approved by the SCDWDS. Meanwhile, its a free for all on the ICEL translations. Im just urging people here to make defensible objections to them.

  11. In the meantime, the principle reason for this series is not to discuss the defects of ICEL prayers, but rather to get at what the Latin really says. Examinations of the ICEL prayer form part of that, of course, but it really is not the reason why WDTPRS exists.

  12. martin says:

    For sure, Fr.Z. I was only picking up what you and others have said about the ICEL translations. What this exercise has done for me is reveal the richness of the imagery in the Latin and the thinness of the ICEL imagery.

  13. Then, to quote the popularized phrase, “My work here is done!”

    The purpose of the series is to help people know and love more deeply what we are given in the Church’s prayers. If I can at least prompt people to enter more deeply into the content of the prayers, then this is a success.

    Ultimately, the real content is a Person, not abstractions, or grammar or vocabulary. So, all that we do here, must also be formed by some prayerful contemplation.

  14. martin says:

    Your words call to mind a celebrated sentence from St. Augustine’s de doctrina Christiana (bk.2 cap.12):

    “For whether the word ignoscere (to pardon) should be pronounced with the third syllable long or short, is not a matter of much concern to the man who is beseeching God, in any way at all that he can get the words out, to pardon his sins”

    He was speaking of Sacred Scripture, so in the matter of tolerance, prayers are a fortiori.

    However, while the object of the prayers is God, the subject is us and the meaning of the prayer accordingly takes precedence over the words by which that meaning is expressed. Anything else is pure antiquarianism.

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