Yesterday I posted about the Collect for this Sunday’s Novus Ordo Mass for the 27th Ordinary Sunday. Now, let’s see the Collect for what I jocularly like to called the “adult Mass”, in the Extraordinary Form for the 20th Sunday after Pentecost.
This ancient Collect is found without variation in the Liber Sacramentorum Gellonensis, written perhaps in Meaux, near Paris, between 790-800. The Gellone Sacramentary, which has Frankish influences, is a strand in the complicated web of manuscripts descending from what we called the Gelasian Sacramentary, the source of so many of our ancient prayers found in the Roman Missal. The Gellone seems to have been an attempt at a complete book for liturgical services.
Largire, quaesumus, Domine, fidelibus tuis indulgentiam placatus et pacem: ut pariter ab omnibus mundentur offensis, et secura tibi mente deserviant.
The pattern indulgentiam [X] et pacem reminds me of the post-Conciliar formula for absolution of sins spoken by the priest in regular auricular confession: Deus, Pater misericoridiarum… indulgentiam tribuat et pacem. I found the same patter in ancient prayers with various verbs inserted in the X spot, such as tribuas and also consequatur as well as largiatur or largiaris.
Our prayers very often include requests for pardon, that God forgive our sins. We ask for absolutio, remissio, indulgentia (technical terms for different ways of being unbound and reconciled) and in liturgical language we use verbs like largiri, tribuere, conferre, and as the priest speaks to God, he describes Him in terms of propitius, propitiatus, and placatus.
Largire looks like an infinitive but is really an imperative form of the deponent largior, “to give bountifully, to lavish, bestow, dispense, distribute, impart… to confer, bestow, grant, yield”.
The adjective securus, –a, –um, which the mighty Lewis & Short Dictionary says means first and foremost “free from care, careless, unconcerned, untroubled, fearless, quiet, easy, composed” is understandably found in conjunction with the Last Judgment. We wish to be “free from anxiety” when see the Just Judge coming. Think of the line in the great sequence Dies irae used during Requiem Masses: “Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus. … What am I, a wretch, to say then? what patron am I to beseech? When the just man is scarely free from care [about his salvation – ]”. Remember also from the Ordinary of the Mass after the Lord’s Prayer (my emphases): Libera nos, quaesumus, Domine, ab omnibus malis, da propitius pacem in diebus nostris, ut, ope misericordiae tuae adiuti, et a peccato simus semper liberi et ab omni perturbatione securi: exspectantes beatam spem et adventum Salvatoris nostri Jesu Christi… which in the new ICEL version approved by Rome will sound like this:
“Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Placo is “to appease, render favorable”, and is also connected with gifts (munera, dona) or sacrifice (immolatio). Deservio is not simply “to serve”, but “to serve zealously, be devoted to, subject to”. This takes a dative “object”. Par, paris, n., means “a pair”, which logically gives us the adverb pariter, “equally, in an equal degree, in like manner, as well”.
In the first place, indulgentia indicates an attitude: “indulgence, gentleness, complaisance, tenderness, fondness”, and then what flows from that attitude, namely, “a remission” of something like punishment or taxation. In the French language dictionary of liturgical Latin, we find the same idea, an attitude which brings a result: “abandon de sa sévérité”, or “a giving up of severity”.
It doesn’t take much thought to see why “security”, in the sense of being without anxiety, and “peace” are closely tied to God’s forgiveness, His indulgence. It God were to judge us truly according to our own fruits, and not mercifully see us through the merits of Christ’s Sacrifice, life would become unbearable and each day would bring us closer to unspeakable terror as we awaited either death of Christ’s return.
Having been appeased, impart to Your faithful, O Lord, we beseech You, remission and peace: so that in an equal measure they may be cleansed from all sins, and may zealously serve You with a mind free from anxiety.
It is nice to look at old translations from old hand missals on occasion, just to see something smoother, language that doesn’t stick slavishly to the text. Here is a version prepared by J. O’Connell and H.P.R. Finberg, the editors of …
The Latin Missal In Latin and English (1957):
Relent, Lord, we pray thee, and grant thy faithful pardon and peace, so that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve thee with a quiet mind.
I like that “with a quiet mind”.
What a grace it is to live with a mind and conscience quiet about the course of our lives and our coming judgment.
Isn’t it true that when you are aware of your unconfessed sins, or when you – through your fault – are out of step or in conflict with others that you mind is not quiet?
Quiet is a hallmark of holy. Even the ringing, thunderous song of HOLY HOLY HOLY before the throne of God in heaven is quiet, because it is in perfect accord. Hell and sin are discordant. When Hell and sin are in us, we are out of harmony, disquieted. God’s grace in the sacrament of penance washes out our disrupting sins and pours calming sweet balm on our minds and hearts. We need quiet, outside as well as inside. Put aside the noise makers, sins of course, but also clattering screens and caterwauling distractions.
Remember too that in the spaces between sensible signs is where God is to be found. That is one of the reasons why the older, traditional form of the Roman Rite is so helpful. It has elements such as silence which are now so hard for modern people. We have to grow out of the noise and distraction and into the still and the quiet.