WDTPRS: 22nd Sunday of the Year – COLLECT

Here is some work I did a while back on the Collect for the Mass for the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time.  It was originally in The Wanderer.

COLLECT – (2002MR):
Deus virtutum, cuius est totum quod est optimum,
insere pectoribus nostris tui nominis amorem, et praesta,
ut in nobis, religionis augmento, quae sunt bona nutrias,
ac, vigilanti studio, quae nutrita custodias.

With small differences this Collect is based on a prayer in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary, subsequently in the 1962 Roman Missal on the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost.  In the Anglican Church’s 1662 Book of Common Prayer for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity (The Alternative Service Book of 1980 for Pentecost 17) we find: “Lord of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of thy name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of thy great mercy keep us in the same.”

17th century English schismatics got it right.  Can’t we?  But what will you hear on Sunday?

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Almighty God,
every good thing comes from you.
Fill our hearts with love for you,
increase our faith,
and by your constant care
protect the good you have given us.

What does the prayer really say?  Your indomitable Lewis & Short Dictionary explains that insero means “to sow, plant in, engraft, implant.”  I really like that “graft”, chosen also by the Anglicans of yore.  Going on, optimum does not mean “perfect”, but rather “best.”  I think we can get away with “perfect”, given that we are applying “best” to what God has. 

Liturgiam authenticam 51 states that “deficiency in translating the varying forms of addressing God, such as Domine, Deus, Omnipotens aeterne Deus, Pater, and so forth, as well as the various words expressing supplication, may render the translation monotonous and obscure the rich and beautiful way in which the relationship between the faithful and God is expressed in the Latin text”.   Today the priest invokes God as Deus virtutum, an expression in St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate Psalter (Ps 58:6; 79:5 ff; 83:9; 88;9) often translated as “God of hosts.”  Don’t confuse “host” as “army, multitude” with the wheat wafer used at Mass.  Virtutum is genitive plural of virtus,“manliness;  strength, vigor; bravery, courage; aptness, capacity; power” etc.  Jerome chose virtutum to render the Hebrew tsaba’, “that which goes forth, an army, war, a host.”  Tsaba’ describes variously hosts of soldiers, of celestial bodies, and of angels.   In the Sanctus of Mass and in the great Te Deum we echo the myriads of angels bowed low in the liturgy of heaven before God’s throne: Holy, Holy, Holy LORD GOD SABAOTH …. God of “heavenly hosts” or, as ICEL put it in 1973, God “of power and might”.  I think “O mighty God of hosts” conveys what LA 51 is saying we should have. 

O mighty God of hosts, of whom is the entirety of what is perfect,
graft into our hearts the love of your name, and grant,
that by means of an increase of the virtue of religion,
you may nourish in us the things which are good,
and, by means of vigilant zeal, guard the things which have been nourished. 

Notice that we pray to God for an increase in “religion.”  I take this to refer to the virtue of religion.

Last week I wrote about the difference between “values” and “virtues”.  Let’s make more distinctions.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines “religion” in the glossary toward the back of the newer English edition: a set of beliefs and practices followed by those committed to the service and worship of God. The first commandment requires us to believe in God, to worship and serve him, as the first duty of the virtue of religion (cf. also CCC 2084 and 2135).   The Angelic Doctor says in his mighty Summa (II-II, 81, 1) that religion is the virtue by which men exhibit due worship and reverence to God as the creator and supreme ruler of all things.  We must acknowledge dependence on God by rendering Him a due and fitting worship both interiorly (e.g., by acts of devotion, reverence, thanksgiving, etc.) and exteriorly (e.g., external reverence, liturgical acts, etc.).  The virtue of religion can be sinned against by idolatry, superstitions, sacrilege, and blasphemy.  We creatures must recognize who God is and act accordingly both inwardly and outwardly.  When this at last becomes habitual for us, then we have the virtue of religion.  A virtue is a habit.  One good act does not make us virtuous.  If being prudent or temperate or just, etc., is hard for us, then we don’t yet have the virtue.  This petition in the Collect follows immediately from our desire that God “graft” (insere) love of His Holy Name into our hearts.  We move from the title of God the angels and saints never tire of repeating in their everlasting liturgy in heaven: HOLY, they say, HOLY, again and again forever, HOLY.  Then we beg for all good things to be nourished in us by God as He increases in us the virtue of religion leading to the proper interior and exterior actions that necessarily flow from recognizing who God truly is and who we are. 

This Sunday’s Collect has images of armies.  I think it not a stretch to imagine also orchard or vine tending.  On the one hand, the God of hosts guards the good things we have.  On the other, this same mighty God is grafting love into us and then nourishing it so it can grow.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Mitchell says:

    I always enjoy the explanations of the Latin and side by side analysis you do of the literal translations and the 1973 versions. Why not simply use the literal translatins? Isn’t that what we would want with a vernacular version? Why have a literal trans. and then not use it or obscure the meaning? Even for the new Missal are the translations going to leave us with something to recover again in the future, a closer rendition to the literal translation in let’s say 30 years? I just don’t get it.

  2. Ioannes Andreades says:

    The ICEL translation is not just bad, it’s dynamically bad.

    Thank you again for helping dispel darkness, one light at a time.

    Nice juxtaposition of nostris and tui.

    I felt bad teaching in a seminary for Ukrainian Greek Catholics, almost all of whom were from Ukaraine, the day I explained to them that there are three different nouns in English, all of which are spelled “host”.

  3. Mitchell: You raise a good point. I have a very smart priest friend from NYC who made a good comment to me a while back:

    “Sometimes it’s okay for translations to sound like translations.”

    The more I think about that, the better I like it.

  4. Melody says:

    ARGH. Please pardon while I vent.
    I often read this on my mobile and so read this to a friend after mass. She stopped our pastor and had him read your version.
    “This makes no sense.” He said.
    I said that it made sense to me and spoke a little about your work translating Latin prayers.
    “He should get a life.” My pastor said.

    Lord help us.

    By any chance would Father Spinelli like to work in California?

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