WDTPRS: 20 December COLLECT (2002MR) – it’s “ineffable”

Here is the (ineffable) Collect for 20 December, during this period of intense prayer and longing for the Lord’s Coming.

Deus, aeterna maiestas, cuius ineffabile Verbum,
Angelo nuntiante, Virgo immaculata suscepit,
et, domus divinitatis effecta, Sancti Spiritus luce repletur,
quaesumus, ut nos, eius exemplo,
voluntati tuae humiliter adhaerere valeamus.

This is from Rotulus 30 published together with the Veronese Sacramentary. It is not in any previous edition of the Missale Romanum.

Notice in the first line aeterna maiestasMaiestas is a divine attribute, like gloria/doxa.  But it is also a form of address, just as we use it in speaking to a monarch "Majesty".  Majesty induces awe.  In God’s case, our reaction is awe at divine majesty, "awe at transcendence".

Now I don’t want to burden you with words that are clearly tooo haaard for Joe and Mary Catholic out there…. but…

… there is a tension in the first line as well: the Word is "unutterable…ineffable". 

This obviously refers to our point of view of the Word, not the Father’s, who did utter the Word from all eternity.  

This serves in the prayer to underscore the core of our Christian faith and liturgical experience: mystery.

O God, Majesty Eternal, whose ineffable Word
the immaculate Virgin received at the moment the Angel was delivering the message,
and, having been made the dwelling of divinity, was filled with the light of the Holy Spirit;
we entreat You, that from her example,
we may be able humbly to cleave to Your will.

O God, eternal majesty, whose ineffable Word
the immaculate Virgin received
through the message of an Angel,
we pray that, following the example
of her who became divinity’s dwelling
and is filled with the Holy Spirit’s light,
we may in humility hold fast to your will.

Holy Mass, indeed any reflection on the Incarnate Word, directs us to consider mystery, which at the same time is inextricably bound to our self-reflection especially on the fact that we must one day die.  

The fact of our death looms even as we consider the Sacrifice the Incarnate Word made in both His First Coming and on Calvary: we still must die. 

Our encounter with mystery is what helps us makes sense of our state. 

Let it never be forgotten that the deepest dimension of our liturgical experience, and who we are as Christians, lies in the sphere of that which cannot ever be grasped or spoken.

It is ineffable.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. And at Morning Prayer and Mass in church this morning:

    ICEL 1973
    God of love and mercy,
    help us to follow the example of Mary,
    always ready to do your will.
    At the message of an angel
    she welcomed your eternal Son
    and, filled with the light of your Spirit,
    she became the temple of your Word.

    Setting aside the “luv” and “help”, pretty accurate for ICEL, but sure took a lot of words to keep it from being ineffable.

  2. Broadsword says:

    “Ineffable”…a mystery which can’t be ‘-effed’.

  3. I think the fact that the readings are the same as the old December 18 “In Expectatione Partus Beatae Mariae Virginis” is too coincidental to ignore. The collect, while not the same, has a somewhat similar idea also. To me, this day is the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary without the title.

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