A Mouthful of a Collect

I’m not the only one struck by the collect of yesterday’s Mass (Thursday of the Second Week of Easter). I was up as celebrant at the abbey, and I confess that I laughed out loud, long and hard, when I rehearsed the prayer out loud in my room. (During the sacred liturgy I kept a straight face, and I’d like to think I was even reverent.) Here it is:

O God, who for the salvation of the world
brought about the paschal sacrifice,
be favorable to the supplications of your people,
so that Christ our High Priest,
interceding on our behalf,
may by his likeness to ourselves
bring us reconciliation,
and by his equality with you
free us from our sins.

A Pray Tell reader writes in:

My question concerns the use of “ourselves” in the English text.  “Ourselves” is a reflexive pronoun and usually is used to refer to the subject of the sentence (We drove ourselves to the store.). In this prayer, the subject is “God” but the subject of the subordinate clause is “Christ our High Priest.” So it seems that standard English grammar rules would demand that the sentence read “by his likeness to us …”  Am I missing some nuance of English grammar or is the prayer grammatically incorrect?

I went to The Columbia Guide to Standard American English, frankly not expecting to find a flag on the play. Columbia tends to be descriptive rather than prescriptive, and there aren’t a lot of rules anymore. But here you have it (under “myself,” where one is sent if looking under “ourself”):

Avoid using myself as a part of a compound direct object when the subject of the sentence has a different referent; instead of They gave a party for my wife and myself, use the Standard They gave a party for my wife and me.

Good heavens. First the Lefebvrites, then the American nuns, and now this – incorrect usage as part of a compound direct object.

At least I’ll know the correct usage if anyone ever throws a party for my wife and me.



  1. If I had to guess, with an assumption that there is a legitimate reason for the choice:
    The next line and its parallel both use the word “us.” It is often considered bad style to repeat words within close proximity to themselves.

    Also, it seems that “-self” forms are generally used as an intensifier. Not just the Lord, but “the Lord Himself.” I myself can see some justification for “ourselves” rather than “us,” if there is some need/desire to intensify the point that Jesus himself is, in fact, like us.

    I’d be curious for a side-by-side with the Latin itself.

    1. John,

      That’s a very interesting link, not so much because of Fr Z’s post itself but because of one of the comments on his post, which provides a list detailing those Collects that have been changed in the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal when compared with the first two editions.

      I have not seen that information anywhere else.

      Thank you.

  2. I was going to post the 1998 translation to compare and contrast, but the 1998 Collect for Thursday of Easter II is not, as far as I can tell, a translation of the Latin. (The Prayer over the Gifts and the Prayer after Communion do appear to be translations of the Latin.)

    God of mercy,
    grant that the grace we seek and find
    when celebrating the Easter mysteries
    may grow within us
    and in every season bear much fruit.

    This is not an indictment of 1998’s texts; it just would have been nice to see how its authors handled this particular prayer.

    1. One of the things pointed out in WDTPRS is that this particular prayer changed between editions of the missal. So, the 1998 version would have rendered a different prayer than the one mentioned by our host. I think the 1998 version would be a translation of a completely different Latin text.

  3. arw, LOL, that was a howler.

    I’m always up for presiding here, so get to see all of the prayers up front and personal every day (except Saturday mornings – no mass here). But yesterday’s was a real stinker.

    With respect to Columbia I was reminded of the allegation in LA that modern style manuals do not apply to sacred texts. (I forget which number, but I don’t have the stomach to go looking right now.)

    BTW, I really enjoyed that Dallen artice the other day. Very thorough. Thanks!

  4. I listened to this one, prayed by someone who presides well, and prepares reliably and had no idea what was said. My ear is getting somewhat more attuned to the structures used in the new Collects (and other prayers), but when I start to have visions of sentence diagrams mid-Eucharist, it’s not resulting in a more reverent celebration of the Mass for me.

    I remain grateful that German was not the base liturgical language. Think of all those verbs scrambling to the ends of sentences…

    1. My ear is getting somewhat more attuned to the structures

      Me too. Whenever I hear: “Graciously grant”, my mind shuts down. I am so sick of those two words! Whenever I hear “chalice”, my anxiety level goes up: I know that in a moment we’ll hear the claim that Christ died not “for all” but “for many”. Whenever I see the presider taking a big breath (as he gets ready for yet another awkward prayer), my heart sinks slightly.

      In the last few months, I have become much more familiar with the art in the church. I am lucky to be in a beautiful church, and I can gaze at the stained glass windows, the pillars, and the paintings, while a stream of sounds comes out of the presider’s mouth.

  5. There are some prayable (that make clear sense) collects and other presidential prayers, but I can’t say that about most of them. I am growing weary of on the fly editing of the worst ones. And please don’t tell me that everything would be fine if I take the time and the care to practice praying them beforehand. Why should one have to practice a prayer that is supposed to be written in the language that I speak and understand well?

    1. Why should one have to practice a prayer that is supposed to be written in the language that I speak and understand well?

      Do you recommend to your lectors that they look over the readings assigned for Mass? To practice reading them aloud, at least once?

  6. An experienced lector who knows the Bible very well can, in fact, read well enough to do a short, familiar reading with a brief overview before mass. A scripture expert can do even better. The priest, I hope, is more like a scripture expert than the normal lector.

  7. “to ourselves”: “ourselves” isn’t a direct object here. … ?

    I wonder if it’s like the Coverdale psalms’ use of “most highest”, I believe in translating a super-superlative construct?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.