WDTPRS: 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Collect

For the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Deus, qui te in rectis et sinceris manere pectoribus asseris,
da nobis tua gratia tales exsistere,
in quibus habitare digneris

Note that the =eris endings look similar but are really quite different. Digneris is from a deponent verb and is a present indicative, passive in form but active in meaning. Asseris is more complicated. There are two verbs that can give us this form: as-sero, sêvi, situm, 3, "to sow, plant, or set near something" or else as-sero, serui, sertum, 3, "to join some person or thing to one’s self"; hence, "to declare one (a slave) to be free by laying hands upon him, to set free, to liberate" or even "to free from, to protect, defend, defend against" and also "to appropriate something to one’s self, to claim, declare it one’s own possession" and moreover "to maintain, affirm, assert, declare." As-sero is also written ad-sero. Asseris could possibly be the second person singular of the passive present indicative, or of the future, or of the perfect subjunctive, or of the future perfect. It is also possibly a syncopated (shortened) form of the perfect indicative form of as-sero, sêvi, situm: asseveris or from as-sero, serui, sertum: asserueris. All this is, I am sure, riveting. But when translation it helps to know which verb is on the page in front of you.

Rectus, from rego, means "straight, upright" which also applies in the moral sense of "morally right, correct, lawful, just, virtuous, noble, good." Sincerus means "clean, pure, sound, not spoiled, uninjured, whole, entire, real, natural, genuine, sincere." It also has a moral connotation. Pectus signifies a range of things from "the breast bone, chest" "stomach" and therefore by extension concepts like "courage" and other "feelings, dispositions". It also refers to the "spirit, soul, mind, understanding." In the ancient world, the heart was thought in some ways to be the seat also of the mind and understanding and not just of feelings and emotions. So, it is reasonable to translate this as "upright and pure hearts". Exsisto according to the mighty Lewis & Short Dictionary is "to step out, emerge" and also "spring forth, proceed, arise, become." It also means "to be visible or manifest in any manner, to exist, to be."

O God, who declared that You remain in upright and pure hearts,
grant us to manifest ourselves to be, by your grace, the sort of people
in whom You have deigned to abide.

In this prayer the distinction between be and show forth is tissue thin. We have from this word the sense of being on the outside what we are inside, or rather in the case of the outwardly pious and practicing Christian, being sincerely and truly on the inside what we are showing on the outside.

His grace is the key.  

At our baptism the Holy Spirit enters our lives in the manner of one coming to dwell in a temple. With the indwelling of the Holy Spirit comes "habitual" or sanctifying grace and all His gifts and fruits, by which we live both inwardly and outwardly in conformity with His presence. We manifest His presence outwardly when He is present within. There is nothing we do to merit this gift of His presence and yet, mysteriously, we still have a role to play in His deigning to dwell in our souls. We can make choices about our lives. We can make use of the gifts and graces God gives, allow Him to make our hands strong enough to hold on to all He deigns to bequeath, and then cooperate in His bringing all good things to completion.

In John 15 Jesus speaks of the hostile world and its reaction to His disciples. How must we act towards those who belong still to that hostile world rather than to Christ?

In vv. 26-27 we hear the Lord say, "But when the Counselor comes, I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me." And in John 14:23, Jesus says, "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." Vatican II’s document concerning missions and missionary work, rightly stated that each of us is called to be a witness to Christ for the sake of others (cf. Ad gentes, 5). We must win by our actions and attitudes disciples for Christ out of a hostile world.   We desire the indwelling of the One in Three Person God, without whom we are lost.

That phrase in today’s prayer, "the sort of people in whom you have deigned to abide" will force us to reflect on our treatment of and conduct towards our neighbor, whom Christ commands us to love in accord with our love of God and self. Paul writes in 2 Cor 13:11-13: "Finally, brethren, farewell. Mend your ways, heed my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." Since the Vatican II reforms, the last part of that has been included in the Mass as an optional salutation.

St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Commentary on Corinthians observes that this dense greeting of Paul refers to all the necessary supernatural graces: "The grace of Christ, by which we are justified and saved; the love of God the Father, by which we are united to Him; and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, who distributes the divine gifts to us."   This period of Ordinary Time is among other things a long reflection given to us by Holy Mother Church on the day to day details of Christian life. We have in this prayer a truly helpful petition.  

God our Father,
you have promised to remain for ever
with those who do what is just and right.
Help us to live in your presence

These ICEL prayers of Ordinary Time seem, by and large, less in harmony with the Latin originals than those of the stronger seasons of Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter. They seem less "sacral."   I am sure a certain bishop would be pleased.

Notice that there is no reference to "grace" in the ICEL version, while in the Latin it is at the heart of the collect. The absence of "grace" seems to lessen in many ways "do what is just and right." We can do all sorts of wonderful things and not be in the state of grace. But if, as Paul says in 1 Cor 13, we lack charity, the sacrificial love of God that makes our works pleasing to Him, what we do is as nothing. There is no interior reference in the ICEL version.

Furthermore, no matter what amazing things a person might do God is not "for ever with" one who interiorly separate from Him, in the sense of loss of "habitual grace", being in the state of mortal sin.  He might be "with" a person through actual graces to try to bring him to repentence.  That is not "habitual grace.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I should never read these posts before the weekend, because now I will be thinking about the problems of the ‘lame duck’ collect when I pray it at Mass! Luckily I use the typical edition for the Hours on the weekends, so I will avoid it some of the time. What’s most disturbing to me about the translation is the reversal it accomplishes, emphasizing us rather than God; in the Latin the focus is on God living in us, rather than us living in His presence as the English says. Our faith is a result of God’s agency, not ours. Thanks for the post!

  2. It is indeed very different to “remain IN” than to “remain with”.

    Even more different is that the Latin prayer desires that GOD “abide” in US, and the English prayer desires US to “live” in God’s presence… that’s a very nebulous desire.

  3. Tom in NY says:

    Traductoribus foramen orationum sensus patiendis, cadere ex gratia apparuit, sed errore illorum felix culpa ut nos obveniamus. Ad “Veniendum ex longo” (antiquum nomen Berlin in Nova Caesarea) venias in salute! Duc in altum nivosum.
    Salutationes omnibus.

  4. TJerome says:

    The “Trautster” probably would love the less sacral translations. Tom

  5. Dave N. says:

    Excellent translation and commentary. I always find myself struggling a bit for the right word within a particular context that captures the fullness of the various senses of “pectus.”

    In that first line I hear an allusion to Ps. 119:7 “I will confess you with a straight/upright heart when I learn your righteous judgments” and perhaps with THAT a very faint allusion to Deut 6 “love…with all your heart…” (Or maybe I’m just feeling whimsical today.) The first 16 verses of Ps 119 constitute a wonderful meditation on techniques for living a moral life, so this also fits the rest of the sense of the translation.

    And as Hallmark is reminding us right now, our culture sees the heart as the seat of love–so definitely “heart” here, imo.

    Herein lies part of the richness of liturgy and indeed the richness of S. Scripture itself–the interwoven intertextualities and all the potentiality they evoke–a meditative process that can seem almost limitless at times. This intertextuality is occluded, if not completely destroyed by poor translations–they cut off the very possibility of the faithful ever making these connections. Sad–tragic, really.

    Perhaps after the new translation is approved, the faithful would find a book of meditations on the collects a helpful thing.

  6. LawrenceK says:

    Fr. Z, you wrote:

    Asseris is more complicated. There are two verbs that can give us this form: as-sero, sêvi, situm, 3, … or else as-sero, serui, sertum, 3, …

    and then you continued:

    Asseris could possibly be the second person singular of the passive present indicative, or of the future, or of the perfect subjunctive, or of the future perfect.

    I don’t see how asseris could be any of these things. For asseris to be passive, the infinitive would have to be assere, not asserere. Or was your second statement descriptive of the possibilities before looking up the word?

  7. Roland de Chanson says:

    Just a couple of picayune cavils: digneris is present subjunctive from dignari; despite the printed similarity of the endings asseris and digneris, they are pronounced differently: asseris has a short “e” and dignêris (I can’t type a macron on the “e”) has a long “e”. These would usually be written as ásseris and dignéris in the old missals.

    Since both are of the present tense, the English should be “… who declare that you remain … ” and “… in whom you deign to abide. ”

    The full form of the perfect subjunctive (not indicative) of assero (I sow) is assêveris and the syncopated would be (if attested) assêris, but again the vowel quantity is decisive; with the ecclesiastical acute accents or the classical macrons, there is no confusion.

    I think LawrenceK has covered the other point.

    But all this trivial. What was the ancient adage? Grammatici certant et adhuc sub iudice lis est: Grammarians are more evil than lawyers.

    Thanks for an excellent post, from which the monotonous minutiae of Latin grammar in no wise detract.

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