WDTPRS – 4th Sunday of Lent (Laetare) – COLLECT (2002MR)

The nickname Laetare originated from the first word of the Introit chant for the today’s Mass, “Rejoice!”  

On Laetare Sunday there is a slight relaxation of Lent’s penitential spirit, because today we have a glimpse of the joy that is coming at Easter, now near at hand. 

As WDTPRS has explained before, the custom of rose vestments is tied to the Station churches in Rome.  The Station for Laetare Sunday is the Basilica of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem where the relics of Cross and Passion brought from the Holy Land by St. Helena (+c. 329), mother of the Emperor Constantine (+337), were deposited.  It was the custom on this day for Popes to bless roses made of gold, some amazingly elaborate and bejeweled, which were to be sent to Catholic kings, queens and other notables. The biblical reference is Christ as the “flower” sprung forth from the root of Jesse (Is 11:1 – in the Vulgate flos “flower” and RSV “branch”).  Thus Laetare was also called Dominica de rosa…. Sunday of the Rose.  It didn’t take a lot of imagination to develop rose colored vestments from this. Remember, the color of the vestments is called rosacea, not pink.  This Roman custom spread by means of the Roman Missal to the whole of the world.     

Our Collect is a new composition for the 1970MR and subsequent editions of the Novus Ordo based on a prayer in the Gelasian Sacramentary and a section of a sermon by St. Pope Leo I, the Great (+461).   There is some similarity between this Collect with those of Advent.  On the 2nd Sunday of Advent, we heard: in tui occursum Filii festinantes… “those hurrying to meet your Son.”   On the 3rd Sunday (this Sunday’s fraternal twin Gaudete, the only other day for rose vestments) we heard: votis sollemnibus alacri laetitia celebrare…”, to celebrate…with eager jubilation by means of solemn offerings.”  There is rosy anticipation in today’s Collect just as there was in Advent.  Without further delay, here is the beautiful Latin followed immediately by the atrocious but happily lame-duck ICEL version.

Deus, qui per Verbum tuum
humani generis reconciliationem mirabiliter operaris,
praesta, quaesumus, ut populus christianus
prompta devotione et alacri fide
ad ventura sollemnia valeat festinare.

LAME-DUCK ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Father of peace,
we are joyful in your Word,
your Son Jesus Christ,
who reconciles us to you.
Let us hasten toward Easter
with the eagerness of faith and love.

I try to be positive in these columns.  I really do.  But this makes you want to pound your head against the table.  What would happen if we translated the ICELese back into Latin?   If the ICEL were accurate, you might expect some similarities, right? 

WARNING: Do not attempt this at home.  Spiritual harm and damage to property can be caused by thinking about these ICEL versions.  Leave this sort of thing to trained professionals and people with tough foreheads.

Pater pacis,
in tuo Verbo, Iesu Christo filio tuo,
qui nos tibi reconciliat, laetamur.
Fidei studio et amoris
ad diem Paschalis festinemus.

Oookaayyy… ‘nuf said about that, I think.

Sollemnia is the neuter plural of the adjective sollemnis meaning “yearly”, that which is established to be done each year.  In religious contexts, it comes out as “religious, festive”.  As a substantive, it is “a religious or solemn rite, ceremony, feast, sacrifice, solemn games, a festival, solemnity”.  Sollemne, the neuter noun, is also, “usage, custom, practice”.  In legal contexts, it can be “formality”.  In later, Christian Latin words related to sollemnis came to indicate the celebration of the Eucharist.  Alacer is “lively, brisk, quick, eager, active; glad, happy, cheerful”.  Promptus, a, um is from the verb promoPromptus indicates, “brought to light, exposed to view” and by extension “at hand, i. e. prepared, ready, quick, prompt, inclined or disposed to or for any thing.”

O God, who by Your Word
wondrously effect the reconciliation of the human race,
grant, we beg, that the Christian people
may be able to hasten toward the upcoming solemnities
with ready devotion and eager faith.

Note the marvelous parings of alacer fides and prompta devotio … “eager faith” and “ready devotion”.   We know that fides “faith” can refer to the supernatural virtue which is given to us in baptism and also to the content of what we believe.  This content must be understood as both the things we can learn and memorize with love, but more importantly the divine Person whom we must learn and contemplate with love.  There is a faith by which we believe, the virtue God gives us, and a faith in which we believe, the content of the Faith.   On the other hand, whereas fides is a supernatural virtue, devotio is an “active” virtue according to St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica.  The Angelic Doctor wrote: “The intrinsic or human cause of devotion is contemplation or meditation. Devotion is an act of the will by which a man promptly gives himself to the service of God.  Every act of the will proceeds from some consideration of the intellect, since the object of the will is a known good; or as Augustine says, willing proceeds from understanding. Consequently, meditation is the cause of devotion since through meditation man conceives the idea of giving himself to the service of God” (STh II-II 82, 3).  The Jesuit preacher Louis Bourdaloue (1632-1704) underscored devotion as especially “a devotion to duty”.  What we do, including our “devotions”, must help us keep the commandments of God and stick to the duties of one’s state in life before all else.  There is an interplay between our devotions and our devotion.  

Each of us has a state in life, a God-given vocation we are duty bound to follow.  We must be devoted to that state in life, and the duties that come with it, as they are in the here and now.  That “here and now” is important.  We must not focus on the state we had once upon a time, or wish we had, or should have had, or might have someday: those are unreal and misleading fantasies that distract us from reality and God’s will.  If we are truly devoted and devout (in the sense of the active virtue) to fulfilling the duties of our state as it truly is here and now, then God will give us every actual grace we need to fulfill our vocation.  Why can we boldly depend on God to help us?  If we are fulfilling the duties of our state of life, then we are also fulfilling our proper roles in His great plan, His design from before the creation of the universe.  God is therefore sure to help us.  And if we are devoted to our state as it truly is, then God can also guide us to a new vocation when and if that is His will for us.  Faithful in what we must do here and now, we will be open to something God wants us to do later.  This attachment to reality and sense of dutiful obedience through the active virtue devotio is a necessary part of religion in keeping with the biblical principle in 1 John 2:3-5:

“And by this we may be sure that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says ‘I know Him’ but disobeys His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected.  By this we may be sure that we are in Him: he who says he bides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Once and a while, Fr. Z, I get the sense you can read my mind. Your admonitions and advice are more accurate than you know. These reflections are very helpful, thank you.

  2. Matthew in Vancouver says:

    That’s amazing. I can’t believe the difference between the Latin version of the ICEL and the 2002MR. How did that ever get signed off?

  3. rinkevichjm says:

    Actually I propose as a quality check that they take their translation to an outside firm and have them do a translation back into Latin. In order for the translation to pass its quality inspection the back translation would have to contain either the original words or well recognized synomyns at about an 85% of the original words, differences in case (but not number or gender) and in order would be acceptable.

  4. q7swallows says:

    Dittos on Mike’s entire comment.

  5. Tom in NY says:

    Indeed it’s a lesson for Latin class at a Catholic school — how much meaning and context authors can lose in translation. Readers lost:
    “mirabiliter,” “humani generis”, “populus christianus,” and “alacri fide.” The Lord called my Latin Prose Composition teacher many years ago; we often worked with passages from the AAS as well as textbooks. Perhaps Rev. Moderator knows how so much meaning was lost.
    However, it is a “felix culpa” that this gap was wide and he could start to fill it.
    Salutationes omnibus.

  6. Blackfriar says:

    U.S. readers of this column may be unaware of the translation of the collects in the breviary used in many other English-speaking countries – UK, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, South Africa etc.

    While not “slavishly literal” nor always accurate, I find them a considerable improvement on the old ICEL. (Not difficult, of course!) Here is Sunday’s:

    Lord God, in your surpassing wisdom,
    you reconcile man to yourself through your Word.
    Grant that your Christian people may come
    with eager faith and ready will
    to celebrate the Easter festival.

    It has it’s faults. “Man” is not good for “humani generis” – and not for reasons of gender inclusivity, either! But it beats ICEL by miles – and many other collects are even better.

    Since these are approved translations in these countries – albeit for the Breviary – I have no qualms using them at Mass until we get the new ICEL. I always do so when my community prays the Office with Mass, as we do occasionally.

  7. David says:

    “Each of us has a state in life, a God-given vocation we are duty bound to follow. We must be devoted to that state in life, and the duties that come with it, as they are in the here and now. That “here and now” is important. We must not focus on the state we had once upon a time, or wish we had, or should have had, or might have someday: those are unreal and misleading fantasies that distract us from reality and God’s will.”

    I have a great many “if onlies” in my life. I was selfish and perverse; I hurt a great many I love and there is now nothing I can do to make it right. I have known the truth of the words quoted above for several years now but it is hard not dwell on mistakes past that were so horrendus. It is even harder when those around me frequently make a point to remind me of my failures.

    Thank-you for reminding me that I must “forget what is behind and strain for the goal ahead for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phillipians 3:13 and 14, paraphrased).”

  8. Dave N. says:

    Remember, the color of the vestments is called rosacea, not pink.

    There’s a pretty nauseating photo at http://www.whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/ (you’ll have to scroll down to Saturday’s entry) of this year’s papal interpretation of this. Rocco Palma refers to him as “Pepto Papa.”

  9. There’s a typo in the (purported) new English translation of this prayer: “who through your Word are accompanying (should be: accomplishing) in a wonderful way the reconciliation of the human race.” If that’s really what the new translation has, I hope the Vatican proof-readers catch it.

  10. robertotankerly says:

    Streamlined? (and BCP-ified?)

    O God, who by thy Word
    dost wondrously accomplish the reconciliation of the human race;
    Grant, we beseech thee, that,
    with ready devotion and eager faith,
    thy Christian people may hasten toward the imminent solemnities.

    Ending the translation with “solemnities” and using “imminent” rather than “upcoming” emphasizes (as I think the Latin does) the culmination of our Lenten penitence in Easter joy—especially visible on this Laetare Sunday.

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