WDTPRS – Monday in Holy Week: “Are we there yet?”


Da, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus, ut, qui ex nostra infirmitate deficimus, intercedente Unigeniti Filii tui passione, respiremus.

Today’s prayer was in the 1962 Missale Romanum and its predecessors. It was in the ancient Gregorian Sacramentary in both the Hadrianum and Paduense manuscripts as well as in the Tridentinum. However, the used to read: Da, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut, qui in tot adversis ex nostra infirmitate deficimus; intercedente unigeniti Filii tui passione respiremus.

In their ineffable wisdom The Redactors of the Novus Ordo excised the reference to the obstacles we face because of our fallen nature and the pressures of unrestrained appetites and habits.

There are calamities and adversities which put us off our purposes. And then there are the diabolical adversaries, the enemies of our soul. *tisk tisk* These things should not be deleted from prayers. We need to be reminded of them constantly, lest we forget what our true state is in this earthly vale.

In Christian contexts respiro is “to revive”, as if to bring about a resurrection. It can also be taken in a moral sense.  And it suggests even something along the lines of “revive, get a second wind, re-breathe”.

The mighty Lewis & Short has an interesting explanation of deficio:

“to loosen, set free, remove from; but it passed over at a very early period into the middle sense, to loosen from one’s self, to remove one’s self, to break loose from; and then gradually assumed the character of a new verbal action, with the meaning to leave, desert, depart from something, or absolutely, to depart, cease, fail. (For synonyms cf.: desum, absum, descisco, negligo.)”

Think of the hymn written by St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274) in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, the Pange Lingua. In the third to the last verse we will sing on Holy Thursday during the procession to repose the Eucharistic Christ:

Verbum caro, panem verum
Verbo carnem efficit:
Fitque sanguis Christi merum,
Et si sensus deficit,
Ad firmandum cor sincerum
Sola fides sufficit.

The Word/Flesh, by a word,
made flesh into true bread,
and wine became the Blood of Christ
and even if sensory perception fails,
only faith suffices
in the strengthening of the pure heart.

We have today an ablative absolute. Many students of Latin fall into the trap of rendering this into English with a phrase like, “with A,B, C happening”, the offending word being “with”. “With” in an ablative absolute gives the impression of accompaniment. We have to twist Latin ablative absolutes around a bit in order to get at the force of establishing circumstances or conditions for the actions of the verbs. In my version today, I render the ablative absolute as literally as I can, even though I sacrifice English elegance to do so. It is more important that students of Latin see what is going on in the prayer. You can work up your own version as you choose.


Grant, we beg You, O God Almighty, that we who are flagging from our weakness, may be revived, the Passion of Your Only-Begotten Son interceding.

What I take away from this is the image of a very weary man who is struggling in the last stages of his journey.

Sometimes the old adage in finem citius or motus in finem velocior (“things go faster the closer they get to the end”) just doesn’t hold true.

I think you have all had the experience of having something seem like it takes forever to end. When you have been seriously ill for a while, it seems like forever since you have felt halfway decent. On the other hand, every week I prepare articles for the paper. It seems like that deadline approaches at mach speed. Our perception of time and events makes a huge difference.

The passage of our days is as swift as a shuttle of a loom.

Back to it.

Do not exclude from your reckoning (as the Redactors of the Novus Ordo did) that the Devil is real. The might of his powers and those of his fallen lot are angelic and by far surpass our own. They hate you and want to see you damned to an eternity of suffering and despair in flames and lonely torment of hell.


Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that, though in our weakness we fail,
we may be revived through the Passion of your Only Begotten Son


All-powerful God,
by the suffering and death of your Son,
strengthen and protect us in our weakness

Some people want us to return to prayers like this.

Have a nice day!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I don’t think the “verbo” in the Pange Lingua is an ablative absolute. My Allen & Greenough’s “New Latin Grammar” says that an ablative absolute always requires a participle in agreement (or, occasionally, an adjective or second noun in agreement). A noun never stands alone in an ablative absolute. In my opinion, “verbo” is a simple ablative of means. Translation: “by a word.” I would also translate “verbum caro” as “the Word made flesh.” That’s not quite literal, but it preserves the sense without the awkwardness of the slash.

  2. msc says:

    Charlotte Allen: I think Fr. Z. is referring to the Collect, where “intercedente passione” is an abl. abs. You are right about “verbo”: ablative of means or instrumental abl.

  3. Fr. Reader says:

    Thank you very much for these posts, there are great!

  4. Charlotte Allen says:

    Hi msc:

    If that’s the case, I’d agree that the “intercedente passione” is definitely an ablative absolute. I’d thought Fr. Z was commenting on the Pange Lingua verse, where the word “verbo” is the only ablative. I didn’t realize that he was moving back at that point to a further discussion of the Collect. It’s hard to translate ablative absolutes literally, because we don’t really have an English equivalent. I actually don’t feel uncomfortable with “with the passion…” because my ancient Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary says that “with” can imply a causal connection as well as an accompaniment.

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