WDTPRS: 4th Sunday of Advent – COLLECT (2002MR) – POLL!

The Collect for this Sunday is the Post-communion of the Feast of the Annunciation (25 March) in the 1962MR. Most of you who recite the Angelus know this prayer. 

This time we also get the WDTPRS version since we want to know what the prayer really says. This is also the prayer said traditionally after the Alma Redemptoris Mater, sung following Compline during Advent.


Gratiam tuam, quaesumus Domine,
mentibus nostris infunde,
ut qui, Angelo nuntiante,
Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus,
per passionem eius et crucem
ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur.

The last part, per passionem eius et crucem ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur has a wonderful flow to it with its alliteration and snappy cadence, followed as it is by the rhythmically gear changing conclusion, Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum…. Collects are often little masterpieces. They deserve great care in rendering them into a liturgically smooth, yet accurate version. In WDTPRS we are purposely being rather “slavish” in translating so you can see the raw text. Imagine how hard it is to work up good liturgical versions.

We never have to brush dust from our frequently exploited Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary. Therein we find that cognosco is, generally, “to become thoroughly acquainted with (by the senses or mentally), to learn by inquiring…”, but in the perfect tenses (cognovimus) it is “to know” in all periods of Latin. The verb infundo basically is “to pour in, upon, or into” but in the construction (which we see today – infundere alicui aliquid) “to pour out for, to administer to, present to, lay before”. Simply, it can mean, “communicate, impart”. The verb perduco “to lead or bring through”, is “guide a person or thing to a certain goal, to a certain period”. Interestingly, both infundo and perduco can have the overtone of to anoint, or smear with something.

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
fill our hearts with your love,
and as you revealed to us by an angel
the coming of your Son as man,
so lead us through his suffering and death
to the glory of his resurrection
for he lives and reigns…

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His resurrection, (through the same Christ our Lord).

Some people think that “Thee” and “Thou” are formal. Au contraire! These are familiar forms of pronouns for the second person singular used by a superior to an underling or between equals or friends. The “you” form (derived from “ye”) is the more formal! In traditional prayers (Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name…) we address God with a familiar, intimate form not so common today unless you are Amish or Quaker. You will raise an eyebrow or two at the bowling alley if you shift to “thou”: “Since it’s the tenth frame and thou hadst a strike, thrice canst thou bowl. Take up thy ball and bowl, already, ‘cause I gotta go home.”

Well… that last phrase shows some ICEL influence, but I think you get my drift.

I know the new translation is coming, and that it marks a huge improvement over the lame-duck massacre we are using now, but I often wish we could have had a version with all the "thees and thous".  A more archaic, stylized prayer could have cut across differences between, say, the English of Africa, Australia, and Asia. They say Americans and British are two peoples separated by a common language. But not when we read Shakespeare or we say the traditional Our Father!  The CDWDS document for the norms of translation, Liturgiam authenticam, says that the language of liturgy should be distinct from daily speech:

27. Even if expressions should be avoided which hinder comprehension because of their excessively unusual or awkward nature, the liturgical texts should be considered as the voice of the Church at prayer, rather than of only particular congregations or individuals; thus, they should be free of an overly servile adherence to prevailing modes of expression. If indeed, in the liturgical texts, words or expressions are sometimes employed which differ somewhat from usual and everyday speech, it is often enough by virtue of this very fact that the texts become truly memorable and capable of expressing heavenly realities. Indeed, it will be seen that the observance of the principles set forth in this Instruction will contribute to the gradual development, in each vernacular, of a sacred style that will come to be recognized as proper to liturgical language. Thus it may happen that a certain manner of speech which has come to be considered somewhat obsolete in daily usage may continue to be maintained in the liturgical context.

Anyway, it couldn’t have hurt.  But that is not going to happen… unless…. unless…

Maybe we could have a petition…. "What if we just said ‘Thee’?" …  How wouldst thou vote?



We beg You, O Lord,
pour Your grace into our minds and hearts,
so that we who came to know the incarnation of Christ Your Son
in the moment the Angel was heralding the news,
may be guided through His Passion and Cross
to the glory of the resurrection.

Angelo nuntiante is an ablative absolute, hard to render in English without using a paraphrase. The participle nuntiante is in the present tense, or better, in a tense “contemporary” with the time of the verb cognovimus having a past tense. Thus, in the very moment the Angel was heralding the good news, we (collectively in the shepherds) knew about how God the Son Eternal took our whole human nature perfectly into an indestructible bond with His divinity.

Good Advent shepherds, they rushed to the Coming of the Lord, to see the Word made flesh lying in the wooden manger. “Seeing is believing”, they say, but believing makes us want to see! “Crede ut intellegas! Believe that you may understand!” is a common theme for St. Augustine (e.g., s. 43,4.7; 118,1; Io. eu. tr. 29,6).

Today many people automatically oppose faith against reason, authority versus intellect, as if they were mutually exclusive. In fact, faith and authority are indispensable for a deeper rational, intellectual apprehension of anything. In all the deeper questions of human existence, we need the illumination from grace, we must believe and receive. Faith is the foundation of our hope which leads to love and communion with God, as Augustine might say (trin. 8,6).


The Angel heralded with authority. The shepherds believed. They rushed to Bethlehem. They saw the Infant. They understood the message. Then they worshiped the Word made flesh Who opened for them a new life.


How often do we hear about something or learn a new thing and then rush to know more, to have personal experience, to see?

Think about this.   If you had been told in the night by angels to go somewhere, do you think you would roll over and say "It can wait"?  Would you, strollSaunter? 

I think I would run until my lungs burst.

This is a paradigm for our life of faith. There is an interlocking cycle of hearing a proclamation (such as the Gospel at Mass, a homily, or a teaching of the Church) or observing the living testimony of a holy person’s life, and by this experience coming to know and then love the content of that proclamation or living testimony. The content is the Man God Jesus Christ. By knowing Him we come all the better to love Him and in loving Him we desire better to know Him.

An act of faith, acceptance of the authority of the content of what we receive, opens unto previously unknown territory, a vast depth otherwise closed to us. For the non-believer, on the other hand, a miracle is simply something inexplicable having nothing of the supernatural.

For a non-believer being nice or hard working can never ascend to true virtue or holiness. For him, the content of the Faith itself (both Jesus as well as what we learn and assent to) appears to be pleasant or interesting, but in the end remains naïve or foolish.

As we rush into Advent’s final days, that first candle we lit on our wreaths is now quite depleted.

From 17 December to Christmas Eve solemn days envelop us and the haunting “O Antiphons” of vespers one after another cloak us in our longing: “O come! O come!.. to teach us… redeem us… deliver us… ransom us… free us… enlighten us… save us… save us….”

We are deeply wrapped within our penitential holyday cheer because our celebration of the Lord in His First Coming is near to hand, but we do not forget that His Second Coming will bring our final judgment.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. An American Mother says:

    I miss the “thee” and “thou”.

    By discarding the second person singular, we lose something from the language. Of course, it’s still commonly used in German, and the same tradition applies — “du” is used for close family members (including those superior to you, like parents or in-laws), intimate friends . . . and God. (I studied German formally for some 10 years, and still read for pleasure.)

    I suppose I think about it more because I speak a language that retains the second person singular, but it reminds me that I should be striving to be close to God.

  2. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Prepositions are always tricky in every language. The question I have here is whether the “per” that governs “passionem” and “crucem” is essentially analogous to the sense of “angelo nuntiante,” in other words expressing the “means” by which the learning or the being led are achieved (Lewish and Short s.v. per IIB ). In other words, I prefer the translation “by His Passion and Cross” to “through His Passion and Cross”, which does not sufficiently (IMHO) convey the agency/means/instrument relationship. “Through” could simply communicate an unfortunate but ineffectual step on our path to slvation. Here as elsewhere in Latin, the parallel structure will help to disambiguate the meanings of words with large semantic ranges.

    BTW, I voted against the thou/thee/thy/thine measure. Since Latin did not utilize pronouns to communicate politeness, it seems unnecessary and distracting to try to do so in Engllish.

  3. JimP says:

    Please consider this translation from my copy of “St. Augustine’s Prayer Book”:

    We beseech the, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts: that, as we have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an angel, so by his cross and passion we may be brought unto the glory of his resurrection; through the same Christ our Lord, Amen.

    I’m sure Bp. Trautman, Fr. Ryan, and his fellow grammarians at http://www.whatifwejustsaidwait.org would be appalled at the punctuation, and the fact that it uses really, reallly hard words like “beseech” and “incarnation”, but is it really that hard to comprehend?

  4. rinkevichjm says:

    The problem with leaving out the thee, thou, thy, and ye is that the number of the pronoun is lost. Try translating Matt 16:19 from the Latin or Greek, then after you have finished, read the translation of that verse and tell me how many Apostles were granted that authority by Jesus. If you use thou and thee you can tell only Peter was given the authority.

  5. Bring back the informal mode (thee, thou, etc.). I for one am tired of being condescended to, as if I’m too stupid to understand archaic forms, or to learn about the ones I don’t understand.

  6. Ioannes: You ask about “by His Passion and Cross” and “through His Passion and Cross”. Yes, there is a difference… in English.

    If we hear it latinly, the problem is made easier.

    I think, in the meantime, that it is possible to pick too much.

  7. Hugh says:

    I’ve always taken it to be the message of the angel Gabriel to Mary at the Annunciation, rather than that of the angel to the shepherds on the first Christmas night, that was being referred to in this prayer.

    That’s the lovely thing about our Faith: there’s always something new to learn.

    Thanks, Fr Z. Blessings for the remainder of Advent, and Christmas.

  8. geoff jones says:

    I for one should like to thee and thou brought back not because it used to serve as the familiar pronoun (like the tutoiment), but because of the function that it serves in English today, namely, to elevate the language into a more lyrical, poetic style that is fitting for sacral, liturgical language.

    English is one of a select few languages that has an entire sacral vocabulary and style and it could be argued that it ought to be used as a form of inculturisation.

    I am excited about the prospects of a greatly expanded Anglican Use liturgy precisely for the reason that they will indeed be utilizing this style.

  9. uptoncp says:

    I am excited about the prospects of a greatly expanded Anglican Use liturgy precisely for the reason that they will indeed be utilizing this style.

    Well yes, we invented it! The reason it exists is that the CofE started using the vernacular some 400 years ahead of Rome, and then stuck with the same texts (which were deliberately a bit archaic even at the time) – and JimP, the translation you quote is one of Cranmer’s.

  10. Tom in NY says:

    The Greek Mt. 16:19 appears clear. Verse 16:18 says “su ei Petros” and continues at the beginning “doso soi tas kleidas…” “Su” and “soi” are masculine singular. The Vulgate follows similarly, ” Et ego dico tibi, quia tu es Petrus…” and v. 19, ” Et tibi dabo claves regni cælorum…”. The AV and Tyndale use “thee” and “thou.” If http://www.newadvent.com is using a Douay, it’s “you” and “you.” But do our translations show the feminine plural verbs of Hebrew? The Vulgate, Douay and the AV distinguish “agape” and “philia” (caritas, amor) but NAB does not.
    Salutationes omnibus.

  11. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Sorry, Father, I didn’t mean to nit-pick. You do such such outstanding service.

    rinkevichjm, I have to admit I don’t see a problem. If there is such a problem, one could always restate the vocative of the person whom is being addressed. Moreover, I am slightly more sympathetic to including thou/thee/etc. in prayers, which are composed in an elevated or sacred register, than I am into the New Testament, which is (except for maybe a few incorporated hymns) not.

    Tom in NY, I’m not really sure what your point is. Greek doesn’t express gender through its pronouns in the way that Semitic languages do. I also wonder with which gender you would translate the Greek feminine philia but the Latin masculine amor.

  12. Rellis says:

    Let me give a minority viewpoint here on thee/thou. I pray out of the Collegeville Press breviary, which uses modern English pronouns. It flows much better. Thee/thou just sounds so constructed to me.

  13. Tom in NY says:

    “Philia” of course, is always feminine, as is “agape,” but Latin “amor” remains masculine, in the originals.Hb has feminine verb forms, but we don’t see them in English renderings. The modern NAB doesn’t distinguish between “philia” and “agape.” Modern English doesn’t use “thee” and “thou.”

    Translators can’t bring distinctions over into a language which does not make them. Naturally, in Latin prose composition, the writer has to make them.

    May the “phos” be with you. Salutationes omnibus.

  14. Prof. Basto says:

    “…,Angelo nuntiante,…” = “…,the Angel announcing,…”. Right?

  15. An American Mother says:

    You could do far worse than adopting Cranmer’s prayers and Coverdale’s Psalter. Far worse.

    The Episcopalians abandoned Cranmer’s prayer book in the 70s. Bad cess to them. Since they’re not using it . . . ?

  16. I don’t mind the pronouns. What I mind is using the archaic second person for the verbs. I mean, “dost” is okay, but “tak’st” and such are _really hard to say_. Or sing. I wouldn’t want to spend all my time inadvertently spitting.

    (Back in the day, there were a lot of other sounds to soften that stuff.)

  17. Dr. Eric says:

    I went to the what if we waited (or something like that) website and left my comments. I noticed that they cherry pick their comments to support their ideology. I seriously doubt that they will post mine. ;-p

  18. An American Mother says:

    Suburban Banshee –

    Don’t worry — the Anglicans dealt with all those pronunciation issues long ago. The consonants are softened; the first element of the dipthong is extended and the last sung on the cutoff; t becomes s (e.g. Sal-VAY-see-on). The ‘st’ ending for second person singular is handled by softening the ‘s’. (I still get a giggle out of singing ‘sprit’ for ‘spirit’ in the Tallis “O Lord Send Thy Holy Spirit” though.)

    We are singing Anglican 4-part chant now for our Psalms on Sunday, using the traditional English pronunciation. It works beautifully.

    And I’m happy as a clam, because I got to leave all the heresy and insanity and got to keep my English chant and Renaissance polyphony.

  19. I hate to quibble with a tiny point, Father, but I must point out that the ablative absolute, “Angelo nuntiante” is a common idiom which really means ‘The Angel as the one who announced it to us’. The ‘in the moment’ is thus not exactly the flavour of the Latin.

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