Let’s look at the Collect for the upcoming 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time:
Deus, qui fidelium mentes unius efficis voluntatis, da populis tuis id amare quod praecipis, id desiderare quod promittis, ut, inter mundanas varietates, ibi nostra fixa sint corda, ubi vera sunt gaudia.
A master crafted this prayer.
In the 1962 Missale Romanum we use it on the 4th Sunday after Easter. It is also in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary. Listen to those “eee”s produced by the Latin “i”. Savor those parallels.
Varietas means “difference, diversity, variety.” It is commonly used to indicate “changeableness, fickleness, inconstancy.” I like “vicissitude”. The adjective mundanus is “of or belonging to the world”.
O God, who make the minds of the faithful to be of one will, grant unto Your people to love that thing which You command, to desire that which You promise, so that, amidst the vicissitudes of this world, our hearts may there be fixed where true joys are.
CURRENT ICEL (2011):
O God, who cause the minds of the faithful to unite in a single purpose, grant your people to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, amid the uncertainties of this world, our hearts may be fixed on that place where true gladness is found.
Let us revisit that id…quod. We can accurately say “love that which you command,” or “love what you command”, but that strikes me as vague. Can we be more concrete and say “love the thing you command… desire the thing you promise”?
We are called to love and desire God’s will in concrete situations, in the details of life, especially when those details are little to our liking. We must love God in this beggar, this annoying creep, not in beggars and creeps in general. We must love Him in this act of fasting, this basket of laundry, this illness.
We must not reduce God’s will to an abstraction or a dreamy ideal. “Thy will (voluntas) be done on earth as it is in heaven”… or so it has been said.
Lest we forget why we needed new translation….
OBSOLETE ICEL (1973):
Father, help us to seek the values that will bring us lasting joy in this changing world. In our desire for what you promise make us one in mind and heart.
Good riddance! “Values”. Very slippery. Typical of the obsolete translation.
To my ear, “values” has a shifting, subjective starting point. In 1995 Gertude Himmelfarb wrote in The De-Moralization of Society: From Victorian Virtues to Modern Values that “it was not until the present century that morality became so thoroughly relativized that virtues ceased to be ‘virtues’ and became ‘values.’”
In this post-Christian, post-modern world, “values” seems to indicate little more than our own self-projection.
John Paul II taught about “values”, but in contradiction to the way “values” are commonly understood today. For example, we read in Evangelium vitae 71 (emphasis added):
“It is urgently necessary, for the future of society and the development of a sound democracy, to rediscover those essential human and moral values which flow from the very truth of the human being and express and safeguard the dignity of the person: values which no individual, no majority, and no state can ever create, modify, or destroy, but must only acknowledge, respect, and promote.”
In his 1985 letter to young people Dilecti amici 4, John Paul II taught:
“Only God is the ultimate basis of all values…. in Him and Him alone all values have their first source and final completion… Without Him – without the reference to God – the whole world of created values remains as it were suspended in an absolute vacuum.”
Benedict XVI taught about the threats we face from the “dictatorship of relativism”, from the reduction of the supernatural to the natural, from caving in to “the world”.
Christ warned His Apostles about “the world”, saying said: “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil” (John 7:7). He spoke about this world’s “prince” (John 12:31; 14:30 16:11). St Paul wrote: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
If what “the world” offers gets priority over what God offers the world through His Holy Church, we produce the situation Paul VI described on 29 June 1972, the 9th anniversary of his coronation:
“Through some crack the smoke of Satan has entered into the temple of God.”
Our Collect today asks God to grant that His will be the basis of our “values” in concrete terms, not in mere dreamy good intentions or this world’s snares.