The Collect for the upcoming 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time in the Ordinary Form.
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus,
dirige actus nostros in beneplacito tuo,
ut in nomine dilecti Filii tui
mereamur bonis operibus abundare.
This was in the 1962 Missale Romanum as the Collect for the Sunday in the Octave of Christmas.
I wrote about sempiternity HERE.
In the superior Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary we learn that beneplacitum means “good pleasure, gracious purpose”. The preposition in using the ablative case indicates a condition, situation or relation rather than a reference to space where or time when something was occurring. In the Vulgate beneplacitum translates the original Greek eudokia in, e.g., Eph 1:9; 1 Cor 10:5. Other phrases are used for eudokia too (e.g., bona voluntas in Luke 2:14, the famous “peace on earth to men of good will” or “peace on earth good will toward men”). Paul wrote eudokia at the beginning of 2 Thessalonians (1:11-12), rendered as voluntas bonitatis in the Vulgate:
…oramus semper pro vobis ut dignetur vos vocatione sua Deus et impleat omnem voluntatem bonitatis et opus fidei in virtute ut clarificetur nomen Domini nostri Iesu Christi in vobis et vos in illo secundum gratiam Dei nostri et Domini Iesu Christi…
…we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfill every good resolve (omnem voluntatem bonitatis) and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ (RSV).
We can find connections between 2 Thessalonians and our Collect at several points: mereamur in the Collect with dignetur in Paul (both having to do with meriting or being worth of), beneplacitum with voluntas bonitatis, bona opera with opus fidei (good works flowing from lived faith), nomen Filii with nomen Domini Iesu Christi. Taken in the sense of “gracious purpose” we can make a connection to Paul’s vocatio too, our “calling” or the purpose for which God placed us on this earth with a part of His plan to fulfill.
Abundo means, “to overflow with any thing, to have an abundance or superabundance of, to abound in.” If we go back to the idea of the preposition in and the ablative indicating place or location in space, (in beneplacito tuo) we have an image of our good works originating in God and, coming from Him, overflowing out from us.
Some Protestants are under the false impression that Catholics think we “earn” our way to heaven by our own good works, as if our good works had their own merit apart from God.
Catholics believe that true good works always have their origin in God, but the works are truly our works as well because we cooperate with God in performing them. Therefore, having their origin and purpose in God, they merit the reward of God’s promises. As Augustine would say, with His merits He crowns His own works in us.
Whenever you find a reference to works in these liturgical prayers, do not forget the Catholic understanding of good works.
Almighty eternal God,
direct our actions in your gracious purpose,
so that in the name of Thy beloved Son,
we may merit to abound with good works.
OBSOLETE ICEL (1973):
All-powerful and ever-living God,
direct your love that is within us,
that our efforts in the name of your Son
may bring mankind to unity and peace.
At least they didn’t split it into two or three sentences. “Oh God, you are so big. Help us to be big like you.”
In the Obsolete ICEL version note the vague term “love”, rather than the indication of God’s eternal plan. Perhaps this is a bit picky, but when I hear “we may merit to abound with good works”, I think we are abounding because of God’s action within us through the good works He makes meritorious. They overflow from us because of His generosity. In the Obsolete ICEL version, however, God’s “love” is in us, but this leads to “our efforts”. Yes, this can be reconciled with a Catholic theology of works, but … it just doesn’t sound right. Also, I don’t think that “efforts” to “bring mankind to unity and peace” means the same as us “meriting” by God’s grace to “abound with good works”.
When we feed the hungry and console those who mourn, visit the shut-in and imprisoned and pray for the dead, sure we are building “unity and peace”, but that phrase is so vague as to mean very little to someone in the pew.
Is it possible that the guitar strumming and all those kumbayas of the 1960’s affected the translators choice of words? Hmmm….
Please understand: I don’t object to praying for unity and peace, but I think we ought to pray the prayer as the Church gave it to us, what the prayer really says. We are far closer to that with the newer, corrected ICEL version now in use. And… we can always use the Latin.
CURRENT ICEL (2011):
Almighty ever-living God,
direct our actions according to your good pleasure,
that in the name of your beloved Son
we may abound in good works.