Domine, tuorum delicta populorum,
ut a peccatorum nexibus,
quae pro nostra fragilitate contraximus,
tua benignitate liberemur.
In the pre-Conciliar Missale Romanum this prayer was the Collect of the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost. In the ancient Veronese Sacramentary it was found in the month of September, a fast time, but it was a bit different: Absolue, domine, quaesumus, tuorum delicta populorum, et quod mortalitatis contrahit fragilitate purifica; ut cuncta pericula mentis et corporis te propellente declinans, tua consolatione subsistat, tua graita promissae redemptionis perficiatur hereditas.
A nexus, from necto (“to bind, tie, fasten; to join, bind, or fasten together, connect”), is “a tying or binding together, a fastening, joining, an interlacing, entwining, clasping” and thence, “a personal obligation, an addiction or voluntary assignment of the person for debt, slavery for debt”. Nexus is used to indicate also “a legal obligation of any kind”. It is not uncommon to find somewhere near nexus the word absolvo, which is “to loosen from, to make loose, set free, detach, untie”. In juridical language it means “to absolve from a charge, to acquit, declare innocent”. Here is a truly fascinating piece from the mighty Lewis & Short Dictionary: “to bring a work to a close, to complete, finish (without denoting intrinsic excellence, like perficere; the fig. is prob. derived from detaching a finished web from the loom”
Contraho in this context is “to bring about, carry into effect, accomplish, execute, get, contract, occasion, cause, produce, make”. Blaise/Dumas indicates that contraho means “to commit sin”.
Unloose, O Lord, we implore,
the transgressions of Your peoples,
so that in Your kindness we may be freed
from the bonds of the sins
which we committed on account of our weakness.
Think of sin as a web which we both weave and then get caught it. As Hamlet says the engineer is “hoist with his own petard”. When our First Parents committed the Original Sin, they contracted (contraho) the guilt and effects for the whole human race. At that point our race was bound by justice. To be “justified” again, and to be unbound from our guilt and set to right with God, reparation had to be made. Thus, the New Adam allowed Himself to be bound by His tormentors, and be bound to the Cross, and then unbind His soul from His Body and die.
The Sacrifice of the Lord was aimed not just at a few chosen or privileged people. It was for all peoples. The Sacrifice was “for all”, though “all” will not accept its effects. Some will refuse what Christ did to free us from our sins and the punishments of eternal hell they deserve. “Many” will be saved as a result of Christ’s Passion and Death. Which side of the reckoning will you be on.
Returning to the image of the loom, which is woven into today’s vocabulary, I have in mind the incredible phrase from the Book of Job: “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and come to their end without hope. Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good.”
Our days are indeed like a shuttle. Some years ago I met a women who woven cloth with a large loom. She showed me how it worked. In her practiced hands, the shuttle lashed swiftly back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, while the loom packed the threads together. The cloth “grew” as it was woven, slowly, but surely. But the shuttle snapped back and forth with increasing speed as she found her rhythm and settled into it.
grant us your forgiveness
and set us free from our enslavement to sin.
NEW CORRECTED ICEL VERSION:
Pardon the offenses of your peoples, we pray, O Lord,
and in your goodness set us free
from the bonds of the sins
we have committed in our weakness.