Saturday after Ascension in the 6th Week of Easter

Deus, cuius Filius ad caelos ascendens
Apostolis Sanctum Spiritum dignatus est polliceri,
praesta, quaesumus,
ut, sicut illi multifaria doctrinae caelestis munera
ita nobis quoque spiritalia dona concedas.

Here are a couple hints so you can puzzle this out, in case you are giving these prayers a try on your own.  Remember that ascendens is contemporary with the time of the main verb.  Polliceri is deponent, polliceorPercipio, in the helpful Blaise/Chirat, is revealed to be “receive” especially supernatural gifts.   The sicut ita construction sets up a parallel, “just as X, Y, Z, … so to also in the same way A, B, C.”  Both donum and munus (which give is dona and munera) mean “gift”.  Munus, however, is a complicated word.   In the first place munus is “a charge, office, function”.  It also means “a liturgical office” or “liturgy” itself.  In the third place it can be “gift, present, offering”.  Our English word “gift” is forced to do double duty.

O God, whose Son while ascending to the heavens
deigned to promise the Holy Spirit to the Apostles,
grant, we beseech You,
that, just as they received the diverse gifts of heavenly teaching
just so You may concede to us also spiritual gifts.

The author of the prayer was probably trying to make the prayer more interesting by using both donum and munus to express the concept of “gift”.  However, there are subtle lessons to learn from the vocabulary.  When we receive something (percipio) as a gift and then come to “perceive” what the content of the gift is, we are obliged to express outwardly both gratitude and also subsequent care for the gift so as to honor the giver.  If you receive a beautiful and precious present from someone of high station you do so with humility.  You express wonder, gratitude.  You examine it carefully.  You position it in a place of honor in your home, on display for others to see and to help you remember kindly the giver.  You probably will try to learn more about the thing, its history, and so forth.  You explain to others the story of how you got it and what it is.

We have received through the teaching of the Apostles and their successors countless gifts.  We receive teaching, and laws, and sacraments.  The gifts of doctrine, the heavenly teaching, must be received with humility, opened with care, studied and then shared.  These gifts are not merely things that can collect dust on a shelf.  They are not merely things that can garner respect from the giver when we graciously receive them.  They are gifts which can save our souls and save the souls of others when we share them.  

It may be that your knowledge of the gifts God has presented to you, even the gifts themselves have become dusty, or perhaps you have relegated them to some place of less honor than they deserve.  Perhaps you never display them at all or make them known to others.

It is possible to have received a sacrament such as baptism or confirmation or matrimony or priesthood and nevertheless have that sacrament be “dead” in you, “inactive”, “dormant”.  It is one thing to have received sacramental graces, but have the reality of the sacrament be ineffective because you are not in the state of grace and you are neglecting your spiritual life.  The sacramental graces from these sacraments can be kick started, as it were, but our cooperation is required.  Even the desire for the kick start is a grace offered freely and loving by God.

We are bequeathed of so very many gifts.  What we have received imposes upon us also a duty and a special role to play in the Church and in the whole human family.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Here is my attempt:

    O God, whose Son ascending into heaven,
    deigned to promise the Holy Spirit to his Apostles,
    grant, we beseech you,
    that just as they received
    manifold endowments of heavenly teaching,
    you would grant also to us your spiritual gifts.
    Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
    who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
    God, forever and ever.

  2. “endowments”

    I like that. Good word choice!

  3. Don Marco says:

    Now my big question to our readers: Does anyone out there have the texts of the
    Mass of our Lady of the Cenacle formerly in use by the Religious of the Cenacle
    founded by Saint Thérèse Couderc? This Mass formulary is not the one given in the
    current Collection of Masses of the BVM. The older formulary was magnificent. I seem
    to have lost the Missal that contained it. Can anyone help?

  4. 1973 ICEL version:
    Father, at your Son’s ascension into heaven
    You promised to send the Holy Spirit on your apostles.
    You filled them with heavenly wisdom:
    fill us also with the gift of your Spirit.

    The principal concepts of the Latin collect may appear to be preserved individually. But we see how important for the meaning and unity of a collect it may be to maintain the connective tissue of a single sentence hinged on words of petition or supplication (here, praesta, quaesumus). Again, see what is lost from Don Marco’s fine effort if the “grant, we beseech you” is deleted and the remaining two fragments are converted into single sentences.

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