Monday in the 2nd Week of Advent

Here is the Collect for Monday of the 2nd Week of Advent

Dirigatur, quaesumus, Domine,
in conspectu tuo nostrae petitionis oratio,
ut ad magnum incarnationis Unigeniti tui mysterium
nostrae vota servitutis illibata puritate perveniant.

This prayer is in Rotulus 13 which is published together with the ancient Veronese Sacramentary.

The dictionary we call Blaise/Dumas is helpful here. The verb dirigo in the passive is often used in Latin prayers as "bring onto a good path".  It is a good Advent verb, for sure. It also has the connotation of rising straight upward.  Conspectus, again from Blaise/Dumas, indictes the Lord’s "sight" and therefore, His presence, with a meaning of "favorable regard".  A votum can be a "prayer" but it signals also "praise", something due. 

O Lord, we beseech You, may the prayer of our petition,
be brought into Your favorable regard,
so that the praises of our submissive service
may with unstained purity reach unto the great mystery of the incarnation of Your Only-Begotten.

O Lord, we earnestly entreat
You to receive our prayerful petitions
so that the praises we raise in our service,
may reach even unto the great mystery who is the Your Only Son, God incarnate.

Let the prayer of our petition, we pray, O Lord,
be brought before you,
that our committed service not fail
until it comes with unblemished purity
to the great mystery of your Only-begotten Son’s

There are a lot of directions we can go wtih this prayer, since each word is packed and the Latin is very "styled".  The Latin is super hierarchical. 

Everything having to do with God is "upward". 

It is "courtly", as well, and sounds like the way we would come up and into the presence of a king. 

Being in His "sight" means being in near enough to be "regarded". 

References are indirect: We speak of the vota servitutis… things owed, or praises, due because of our state of being servants. 

We want our prayers to be heard, but we don’t just say we "praise Christ".  We want our pure praises to reach the "mystery of the incarnation". 

Also, we start with petition, to make sure that God is seeing to it that what we offer is good enough.  Then we move into praise, after purity has been established.  So, this whole thing smacks of our hope to enter into the Beatific Vision, together with the realization that we must be pure to do so and only God can complete our purity. 

Interesting prayer. 

Perhaps some of you will take a stab at it as well.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Charles R. Williams says:

    Let our prayer of petition, we beseech you, O Lord, be raised up into your presence so that the worship we your servants owe may, with an unstained purity, attain to the great mystery of the incarnation of your Only Begotten Son.

  2. Prof. Basto says:

    What about that:

    “Let the prayer of our petition, we beseech You, o Lord,
    rise up to Your Presence,
    so that the praises of our servitude may,
    with unblemished purity,
    reach unto the great mystery of Your only begotten Son’s incarnation.”

  3. David says:

    Father, I am intrigued by all of this “kicking around?”

    Could it be perhaps…

  4. danphunter1 says:

    Mighty Lord of the Universe
    We implore Thee, may our humble supplications rest contritely upon Thine Ear.
    So that with laud of our obedient will
    may we, with unsullied cleanliness
    beseech Thee to be drawn into the Manhood of the Second Person of the awesome and Holy Trinity.

  5. William says:

    Hello. I have a question rather than a comment. Where to all the ‘May’s come from in the liturgy and what do they mean? I hear ‘may the Lord be with you’ and ‘may we all stand’ and to me it seems to be superfluous.
    When I read ‘may the prayer of our petition…’ it confuses me as much as “Let us pray” and “Let us go now to love and serve the Lord”
    It sounds like a question the same way as “let us go…” sounds like a request rather than a command.
    This question is meant seriously as I don’t have the latin or english skills required to figure it out for myself.

  6. danphunter1 says:

    The expression,”may” in the context within which you question its use, William, shows us humbly and respectfully asking of God Almighty that He hear our prayers.
    We are in a state of lowliness and sin, estranged from the Triune Godhead, and only brought back to His good esteem by His gift to us of sanctifying grace.
    Let us pray-we shall commence prayer
    Dominus Vobiscum.

  7. Andrew says:

    Couldn’t we argue that this prayer is asking God to direct the prayer, instead of expressing a wish that our prayer might be directed to Him since it doesn’t say: “Dirigatur … ad CONSPECTUM tuum ” but “Dirigatur … in CONSPECTU tuo”. It is reminiscent of Psalm 5.9 where we have: “dirige in conspectu tuo viam meam.” The ablative (conspectu) is not there by error. Am I completely off the mark here?

  8. Rob F. says:


    \”May\” in these translations is really just a replacement for the almost entirely defunct English subjunctive. (This subjunctive still survives in the phrase \”peace be with you\”.) What is really means is that the verb it governs is not necessarily expressing a fact (that would be an indicative, rather than a subjunctive, e.g. \”peace is with you\”), but something else, usually a wish (\”I want peace to be with you\”, \”may peace be with you\”).

    Latin has a strong and widely used subjunctive that can be found expressing a plea or a wish, or possible consequences, or hypothetical situations. The English subjunctive, when it is used at all, is mostly used for counterfactual situations, like \”were\” in \”if he were here, we could ask him\”, which is just a subjunctive way of saying he is not here, so we cannot ask him. For other situations, like wishes or pleas, we have to use a \”may\” or \”let\” (or \”would\”, \”could\”, or \”should\”) where Latin would use a subjunctive.

    Since the subjunctive is so common in the Latin text of these prayers, the interpreter has to use \”may\” or \”let\” to reproduce the meaning in English.

  9. William says:

    Thanks heaps for that, Rob. You have given me much food for thought. I shall now attempt to fit this into my feeble intellect. I look forward keenly to understanding why it should be “may the Lord be with you” rather than “the Lord be with you”. Hopefully this shall not take too long.
    I think my english and latin skills (Or lack of) is due to my tendency to mimic what works for other people rather than actually knowing or understanding the rules involved. I doubt I shall ever aquire your proficiency but fully intend to use your helpful pointer to deepen my understanding of the liturgy.

    Twould be good also if the the local priests would limit their “may we…” and “let us..” and “shall we…” and “if we could…” to only where proper translation requires it. Sadly last sunday mass was an example of the priest pretending to read the book whilst dictating his own ideas about “making the dreams of mother nature real for humankind”. It would be a marvel just to be free of this sort of abuse of the liturgy.

    It is my fervent wish to live long enough to hear the ordinary mass said perfectly (ie. without modification or corruption) but even the local rebels who insist on the extraordinary rite alone don’t care if their pet priest ad-libs and changes it to his own idea of theology.
    In short, thanks be to God for websites such as this!

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