Saturday in the 5th Week of Lent

    Pelican in her pietryCOLLECT (2002MR)
Deus, qui omnes in Christo renatos
genus electum et regale sacerdotium fecisti,
da nobis et velle et posse quod praecipis,
ut populo ad aeternitatem vocato
una sit fides cordium et pietas actionum.

In the Tridentinum there is a prayer from Holy Saturday after the 10th prophecy: Deus, qui diversitatem gentium in confessione tui nominis adunasti: da nobis, et velle, et posse quae praecipis; ut populo ad aeternitatem vocato, una sit fides mentium, et pietas actionum.   In the Gregorian Sacramentary in the Hadrianum manuscript this results on the Thursday in the Octave of Easter, when the Station is at XII Apostoli.

O God, who made all those reborn in Christ
to be a chosen race and a royal priesthood,
grant us both to desire and to be able to do what you command,
so that within the people called unto eternity
there may be one faith of hearts and one compassionate duty of actions.

The Angelic DoctorThe really hard phrase in this is pietas actionum.  We have on many occasions in the daily Lent series talked about pietas, and how hard it is to get into English, since "piety" just doesn’t sound right to our modern ears.  If you are steeped in medieval things, or at least archaic usage of English, and know something of heraldry, you might remember the symbol of the pelican "in her piety".  There is a symbol of Christ and His Church as a pelican who, in time of famine and drought, pierces her own breast with her bill to feed her chicks from her own blood.  This sort of piety harks to the sense of pietas as "duty".  This is what she must do for her young.  

Perhaps you have sung the hymn by St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274) called Adoro Te devote, in which we find the words, "Pie pelicane, Iesu Domine, / me immundum munda tuo sanguine. … O compassionate pelican, Lord Jesus, cleanse me, unclean, in your blood."

So, in the phrase una sit fides cordium et pietas actionum we have an expression of Christian wholeness.  Just interior faith alone does not suffice for the Christian life, nor do mere outward actions of charity and mercy.  Pope Benedict spoke to this in his first encyclical letter Deus caritas est.  All good outward actions are good not just because they are performed, but because they are performed from love, a deep sacrificial love which is charity and which imitates the Lord on the Cross.

But wait, there’s more!

Double checking led to the discovery that there was a change of Collect in the 2002MR.  Here is the Collect used in the Novus Ordo this day until the 2002 editio tertia.

Deus, qui, licet salutem hominum semper operaris,
nunc tamen populum tuum gratia abundantiore laetificas,
respice propitius ad electionem tuam,
ut piae protectionis auxilium
et regenerandos muniat et renatos.

The prayer in the edito typica altera of 1975 was not in a previous edition of the Missale Romanum.  It had precedent, however, in the Gelasian Sacramentary

As of tomorrow, we enter into the Passion with Palm Sunday.  Sweet Hosannas will ring, before we, as a Church, plunge into darkness.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. CaesarMagnus says:

    Sorry to go off topic, but, Fr. Z., have you heard any news about
    yesterday’s meeting with the Pope and the dicasteries?
    The only thing I have heard is rumor that Vatican Radio said that the
    Pope signed something “liberalizing” the use of the old Missal.
    It’s rather vague and other than that, silence from any other official sources.

  2. martin says:

    “genus electum [et] regale sacerdotium” is a direct quote from 1 Pet.2:9. It is unusual to find direct scripture quotations in this series.

    The “una . . fides cordium” is a reminiscence of the famous passage in Ephesians “unus Dominus, una fides, unum baptisma” (Eph.4:5). So here we have, exceptionally, 2 disctinct scriptural sources for our prayer today.

    These strange compressed constructions of “fides” and “pietas” with the genitive presumably intend something like “a single faith uniting our hearts, and a single filial duty informing all our actions”.

  3. Henry Edwards says:

    ICEL version of the earlier collect:
    God our Father,
    you always work to save us,
    and now we rejoice in the great love
    you give to your chosen people.

    Obviously, the less said about this, the better.

    About those flying rumors that claim to portend something happening Holy Thursday. Picture this. We see Pope Benedict and his retinue processing in Roman-style vestments. Bowing at the foot of the altar, he makes the Sign of the Cross and begins with the words Introibo ad altare Dei. Then I, for one, will take this as a concrete clue that something may actually be afoot.

  4. Jeff says:

    “before we, as a Church, plunge into darkness.”

    Now, Father… Didn’t you mean to write, “before we, as Church, plunge into darkness”?

  5. martin says:

    I have been re-considering the compressed phrase “una sit fides cordium et pietas actionum”. The context is the “Populus Dei”; the prayer is that there be for the “Populus Dei” “una fides cordium et pietas actionum.”

    We note the familiar dichotomy of interior/ exterior; of belief and action. The thrust of the prayer must be not so much (or not just) a unity of belief on the one hand and a unity of action on the other, but a unity linking the two: faith in action. The issue is authenticity: see, e.g. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975) 76. Of course, all this presupposes that unity in love which is the absolute hallmark of Christians (Jn.17:21-23) and without which all evangelisation is empty.

    In MR2002 the parallel phrase “una sit fides mentium et pietas actionum” occurs twice, once in a Paschaltide collect, and again in an occasional collect for Church unity where the entire prayer is a variation of today’s collect: “Deus qui diversitatem gentium in confessione tui nominis adunasti, da nobis et velle et posse quae praecipis ut populo ad regnum tuum vocato una sit fides mentium et pietas actionum”. Here, by contrast, the primary sense must surely be unity of belief (on the one hand) and unity of action (on the other) and the harmony of faith in action, while not absent, is secondary. Since the construction is the same as for today’s prayer, it is the context which supplies the main drift. As we have seen several times, what the prayer “says” in a literal translation does not always disclose what it “means”.

    “Pietas” includes all aspects of the mutual duties which subsist between God and Man, between spouses, between parents and children, among siblings, between citizens and the state, and between friends. In many such cases “love” is at the forefront of the “duties” (the Holy Father devoted a considerable part of his first encyclical “Deus caritas est” to exploring the paradox of how love can be commanded as a duty: ss. 16-18). “Charity” is love in action. Without “love” even faith is a nullity (1Co.13:2b).

    My unapologetic version of the phrase, therefore, is: “that their hearts may be united in one faith, and that their union in love may be expressed in deeds”. [20 english for 6 latin]

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