WDTPRS: Last Days of Advent: 19 December – mystery more than penance

Here is the Collect for 19 December in the 2002MR, during this period of intense preparation before Christmas:


Deus, qui splendorem gloriae tuae
per sacrae Virginis partum mundo dignatus es revelare,
tribue, quaesumus, ut tantae incarnationis mysterium
et fidei integritate colamus,
et devoto semper obsequio frequentemus

This is from Rotulus of Ravana 2 published together with the Veronese Sacramentary. It is not in any previous edition of the Missale Romanum.  The prayers in the Rotulus (which means “scroll”), discovered in 1882, are dated to the 5th century or before.  The actual “scroll” that has survived is 7th c.  The Roman prayers in the early sacramentaries tend to focus on the Second Advent, the eschatological Coming of the Lord, a strong theme for Advent.  In the post-Conciliar Mass, during the final days before Christmas the Collects are from that different source, the Rotulus.  They tend to focus more on celebration of the First Coming of the Lord and the Incarnation. They abound with “light” images and vocabulary.  Today, for example, we find splendor in the first line, which is predictably coupled with gloria.  They are almost interchangeable and refer to the divine characteristic God will share with us, by which we will be transformed in heaven.  The prayers for the final days of Advent, therefore, in the Ordinary Form are intended to bring the participation to a deeper contemplation of the mystery rather than the deeper pursuit of penance before the feast day.  Keep in mind that the celebration of Christmas at Rome and in the West in general, developed rather late.  Also, in the mid-5th century, in 431, the Council of Ephesus dogmatically identified Mary as “Mother of God”.  These are certainly influences at work behind the prayers of the Rotulus. There inclusion in the formulae of Masses in the last days of Advent in the Ordinary Form create a dramatic change in our theological direction in comparison with the Masses before Christmas in the Extraordinary Form.

I digress.

The vocabulary is packed. Remember that mysterium is interchangeable with sacramentum.

Frequento is used to describe the participation of Christians in the sacred mysteries. Frequento, can mean “to fill with a great number or multitude, to fill, crowd”.

I found frequentemus in two sermons of St. Augustine of Hippo (+430) when he is talking about the birth of the Lord.  In one case he draws a parallel for the listener with “frequent” and the observation of feasts of martyrs.  It strikes me that there may be an Augustinian influence in this Collect, though Hillary does more with the concept of light and glory.  Hmmmm… must think about that.

Integritas means, basically, “the undiminished or unimpaired condition of a thing”.  It has, of course, a moral dimension and can refer to “blamelessness, innocence, integrity” and especially the “chastity of females”.  I wonder if the author wasn’t trying a subtle contrast between integritas and the sacrae Virginis partus.  It could be there.

O God, who deigned to reveal to the world the splendor of Your glory,
through the holy Virgin’s giving birth,
grant, we entreat You, that we both may reverence the mystery of the great incarnation
with integrity of faith,
and we may attend it always with devoted obedience.

O God, who through the child-bearing of the holy Virgin
graciously revealed the radiance of your glory to the world,
grant, we pray,
that we may venerate with integrity of faith
the mystery of so wondrous an Incarnation
and always celebrate it with due reverence

O God, who in the Offspring of the holy Virgin
graciously revealed to the world
the radiance of your glory,
grant, we pray,
that we may cherish with sound faith
and always celebrate with due reverence
the mystery of so wondrous an incarnation.

Do any of you have your own version?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    ‘It has, of course, a moral dimension and can refer to “blamelessness, innocence, integrity” and especially the “chastity of females”.’

    No snark intended, but why is it always the chastity of females that is so important? Aren’t men called to the same?

  2. Blaise says:

    I almost wrote exactly what Fr Z had but I had (at least consciously) missed about a a play on the terms “Virginis partum” and “fidei integritate” here. I some how want to use the word “partition” to translate “partum” but I don’t have access now to a big enough English dictionary to tell me that this is acceptable as a word in English for giving birth. I suspect I amy have made that up.
    In Latin there must surely be a connection to “pars” and the physical parting that a birth implies, but is almost contradicted by the mystery of the Virgin birth ; connecting this to fidei integritate surely Mary is above all others the example of this because of her accepting the Virginis partum.

    This gives the answer to yatzer above; women’s chastity is more phsyically connected to “wholeness” than is male. Not that male integrity in the sanse of innocence is not equally desirable. It is not that chastity of females that is important (or at least any more important), it just connects to the root meaning of this word better.

  3. dignatus es revelare
    deigned to reveal
    graciously revealed

    I’ve noted that the Corrected ICEL systematically renders dignatus in terms of graciously rather than deigned throughout the missal. So apparently in this instance they bought one of Bishop Trautman’s objections (dropping deign while keeping dew). “Today’s man doesn’t understand a God who deigns to do things.”

  4. Henry: “Today’s man doesn’t understand a God who deigns to do things.”

    That’s it, in one.

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