WDTRPS – Quinquagesima Sunday – prepare for battle

QuinquagesimaIn our traditional Roman calendar tomorrow, Sunday, is Quinquagesima, Latin for the symbolic “Fiftieth” day before Easter.  Today is one of the pre-Lenten Sundays which prepare us for the discipline of Lent. The priest’s vestments are purple. No Alleluia. The prayers and readings for the pre-Lenten Sundays were compiled by St. Gregory the Great (+604).   The Consilium’s liturgical engineers under Annibale Bugnini and others eliminated these pre-Lent Sundays, much to our detriment.

Preces nostras, quaesumus, Domine, clementer exaudi:
atque, a peccatorum vinculis absolutos,
ab omni nos adversitate custodi.

This prayer is found in the ancient Liber Sacramentorum Augustodunensis and the L.S. Engolismensis.  I cannot find this prayer in any form in the post-Conciliar editions of the Missale Romanum.

You won’t find Quinquagesima either!

The ponderous Lewis & Short Dictionary reminds us that absolvo means “to loosen from, to make loose, set free, detach, untie” or in juridical language “to absolve from a charge, to acquit, declare innocent”.  The priest uses this word when he absolves you of the bonds of your sins.  Vinculum is “that with which any thing is bound, a band, bond, rope, cord, fetter, tie”.  This bond can be literal, as in physical fetters, or it can be moral or some sort of state.  You can be bound in charity or peace, or bound in damnation or sin.  In the case if sin, in liturgical prayer we find a form of vinculum or its plural with “loosing” verbs such as absolvo or resolvo or dissolvo. In ancient prayer the state of sin conceived as a place in which we are bound.  The bonds must be loosed so that we can escape and be free.

In the whole of the post-Conciliar Missal I don’t believe the combination peccata absolvere is found, but it is in ancient collections.  One finds the phrase with some additional term such as “bonds” or “ties” of sins.


We beseech You, O Lord, graciously attend to our prayers:
and, having been loosed from the fetters of sins,
guard us from every adversity.

What is the first thing an enemy does to you, once you are captured?  He renders you powerless to do your own will.

The Sacrament of Penance is the great gift.  In all good will we must strive to live without mortal sin.  But we fall.  We pray to God to protect us from the dire consequences of sin, including the attacks of the Enemy, which on our own without God’s help we cannot resist.  Among the benefits of the Sacrament of Penance, along with being freed from the chains of sins, is a strengthening to resist sin in the future.

These prayers of the pre-Lenten Sundays are meant among other things to help us ready with stores in our interior fortresses before the spiritual battle of Lent.

We must empty out what doesn’t serve and be filled with that which does.

Prepare yourselves for battle and Lent’s discipline.

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6 Responses to WDTRPS – Quinquagesima Sunday – prepare for battle

  1. BobP says:

    Fr. Z, your explanations are spot on. Translations aren’t even necessary.

  2. Animadversor says:

    Perhaps there is something to draw from the fact that the prayer says peccatorum vinculis, and not peccati vinculis.

  3. Supertradmum says:

    Father Z,

    Are these Lenten colors and readings in any way connected to the older liturgical year of the long fast after the Presentation as found in the monastic orders in the Middle Ages? It is as though the readings, as penitential as they are, suppose a daily rhythm of fasting and prayer now dissolved.

  4. Brooklyn says:

    Thank you for this beautiful explanation, Father. I really appreciate your weekly explanations for these prayers because it is so easy to overlook them when they are so meaningful.

    We are most definitely in a spiritual war mostly, I think, against our own natures. Just as soldiers must train long and hard to go to war, so must we. I see Lent as a spiritual boot camp. We leave all the comforts of home behind, and try to push ourselves as much beyond our limits as we can. That is why it bothers me when I hear people say we should just try to do “good” things during Lent as opposed to some spiritual discipline. Lent is about going into the desert and preparing for battle. Discipline is vital. We are fighting for our eternal lives. Nothing can be more important.

    So much of what is preached in churches today, Catholic or otherwise, is all about feeling good about ourselves and that we are not really responsible for the sin in our lives. I think this is a recipe for disaster and failure. I love your comment about Penance being a spiritual gift, protecting us from the dire consequences of sin. But we must first be able to say mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

  5. Gaz says:

    Father in heaven, we beg you bind up Fr Z’s participle.

    The literal translation falls down with the “having been loosed” being rendered in the passive. The problem is that the subject of the passive verb (us) is not the same as the subject of the final phrase, “guard us…” (God does that, we pray).

    I want to make the participle active rather than passive. I like Animadversor’s note on ‘peccatorum vs peccati’ because the genitive case implies the ones to whom the sins are presently attached. However, there is tension in the tenses. The Church is asking God to do something (hear our prayer). Once He has completed doing that and disconnecting us from our sins, she is asking for Him to keep us safe. It says we’re not safe until the disconnection is complete.

    So, a suggestion …
    We beseech You, O Lord, graciously attend to our prayers:
    and, once having loosed the fetters of our sins,
    guard us from every adversity.

    God can guard those who are free from sin. If we are attached to it (or as this prayer sort of suggests, if sin is attached to us) we are fare for the evil one.

    It’s time to get in line at the confessional I think.

  6. Dr. Eric says:

    Fr. Z, I love the WDTPRS posts. I learn so much and my faith and perseverance is bolstered when I read them.

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