Sunday, October 05, 2014

Collect for the XXVIIthe Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Collect for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Novus Ordo) is one of my favorites, especially in the new (Third Edition) ICEL translation.
Almighty ever-living God, who in the abundance of your kindness surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you, pour out your mercy upon us to pardon what conscience dreads and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.
The original Latin is:
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui abundantia pietatis tuae et merita supplicum excedis et vota, effunde super nos misericordiam tuam, ut dimittas quae conscientia metuit, et adicias quod oratio non praesumit.
[I was going to have a whole bit about the difference between "praesumo" and "dares" but a friend kindly pointed out that "dares" is one of the acceptable nuances of "praesumo." De melioribus semper discendum!]

This Collect really impinged on my consciousness when a bunch of seminarian friends were returning to Rome from a day spent visiting Franciscan sites in and around Rieti. We prayed Vespers in the van, and this was the closing prayer. There was a brief pause, and a number of us remarked on the profundity of the prayer.

... who ... surpass the merits and desires of those who entreat you. 

God is always more generous than what we ask. Our desires are narrow, small, often petty and selfish. God is a fountain, a torrent of grace. His goodness overflows, and he seeks always to fulfill the desires of his children, whom He has created in love, and called to a supernatural fulfillment, in love.

... pardon what conscience dreads ... 

What does conscience dred? Offending the Lord. Hurting the beloved. Despising the Judge. Ultimately, it dreads the Judgment, knowing just how unworthy the soul is to withstand the Just Judge, on her own merits.

... what prayer does not dare to ask ... 

In front of the Judge, the soul shrinks. It falls back always on God's mercy. In the words of the Dies Irae - "Recordare Iesu pie, quod sum causa tuae viae ... " ("Remember o holy Jesus, that I am the reason for your journey!").

The attitude is also reflected in this little bit of the Roman Canon, which comes after the second list of saints, post-Consecration ...
non æstimator meriti, sed veniae, quæsumus ... not weighing our merits, but granting us your pardon.
This is the prayer of the beggar ... we are all beggars in front of God! But this is also the prayer of faith, which relies on what God has revealed, His mercy.

However, faith also knows that God is also a beggar, Who thirsts for our soul (as Msgr. Giussani so beautifully put it.

Fr. Z has a great commentary on this collect, its translation and the spiritual attitude underlying it.

Pray this prayer today, this whole week. It is a beautiful meditation on some central mysteries of faith: God's infinite mercy, our unworthiness, and His divine condescension in Jesus Christ.

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