Notes on the Introit and Collect of Trinity Sunday

The Introit of Trinity Sunday

There is an interesting connection between the melody of the introit for today, Trinity Sunday, and that of the First Sunday of Lent. The Feast of the Trinity came into the calendar later historically than the observance of Lent, and obviously the melody from I Lent was adapted to fit the text of the later Trinity introit. I’m not sure I could have done the adaptation any better myself. But the endeavor has limitations by nature.

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I’ll never forget teaching a summer Gregorian chant course here, when one of the students was the very talented now-prior of the monastery of the Holy Cross in Chicago, Fr. Peter Funk OSB. I talked about adaptation and type melodies and showed the class the example of I Lent/Trinity. Fr. Peter’s face lit up and he said, “NOW I know why the introit of Trinity is not quite satisfying!” Now that’s a perceptive observation.

Check out the wonderful four-note neume in the I Lent introit on “eum” cadencing the first phrase, Alas, that note group had to be made to fit “atque” at the start of the second phrase in the Trinity introit. It works, but it’s just ever so slightly clumsy.

As I say, I’m not sure I could have done better. But the result is less than perfect, as I’m sure all chant geeks will agree. Chant geeks always agree on everything, right?

I’ll be watching the combox with interest.

The Collect of Trinity Sunday

Pray Tell has treated this before (and also here, by Xavier Rindfleisch), but in cased you missed it, there’s an infelicity in the English translation of the collect for today, Trinity Sunday, in the 2011 English missal.

Here’s the Latin:

Deus Pater,
qui, Verbum veritátis et Spíritum sanctificatiónis
mittens in mundum,
admirábile mystérium tuum homínibus declárasti,
da nobis, in confessióne verae fídei,
aetérnae glóriam Trinitátis agnóscere,
et Unitátem adoráre in poténtia maiestátis.
Per Dóminum.

Here’s what our English missal has:

God our Father, who by sending into the world
the Word of truth and the Spirit of sanctification
made known to the human race your wondrous mystery,
grant us, we pray, that in professing the true faith,
we may acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory
and adore your Unity, powerful in majesty.
Through our Lord.

The “your” is not in the Latin. And for good reason, in this prayer addressed to the Father, for we do not adore the Father’s unity, but the unity of the Trinity. Anscar Chupungco called this “disturbing from a theological standpoint” and “not an insignificant theological issue.” The bishops had approved this wording before it was sent to Rome: “to acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory, and adore the Unity, powerful in majesty.”

Well, let us hope and trust that Fr. Anscar is now with the angels and saints, praising the eternal Trinity in heaven. And that our imperfect collect, in the whole realm of things, probably isn’t leading any Catholics into Unitarian heresy.




  1. What treasure we have lost! I spent the ten years 1957-1967 in the seminary. Sadly, in retrospect, the last three or four years saw the Gregorian chant ebb from our experience. As a musician, I played and sang those melodies that seminaries utilized from the Liber Usualis, but these were only Sunday Liturgies for the most part. These melodies were the stuff of musical borrowings for so many composers and their compositions (think “Dies Irae” from the Funeral Mass). Part of my staple of organ compositions were Gregorian melodies. They penetrated not only my mind and memory but my very bones! Last Sunday, Pentecost, I played a piano prelude that incorporated the “Veni Creator” from the Vespers hymn. No one seemed to recognize it but myself.

    This nostalgia is not a call to restore what has passed. However, it is a treasure that is deeply missed. When I was an active music director, I tried to retain some few Gregorian melodies in the parish repertoire, but aside from the “Pange Lingua,” the “Veni Emmanuel,” the “Sanctus” and “Agnus Dei” of the Funeral Mass (for Lent), and a very few others, all of that has gone the way of all flesh. Sad.

    1. @don henderson:
      “No one seemed to recognize it but myself.” You might be surprised. I’ve incorporated more obscure plainchant into my piano preludes and they get noticed.

      My own practice is to introduce melodies. But retaining? They were lost to most parishes long before 1957.

      More than one of this weekend’s priests at my parish tripped over the Missal texts. They seemed particularly clumsy. It’s interesting to see in the Missal where the stumbling blocks seem to appear. Liturgical afterthoughts like yesterday’s feast. I can imagine the most care taken with Sundays of seasons, less with Ordinary Time, and even less with stuff in the back of the Missal. Maybe schoolboys did it after all–some Vox Clara cardinal giving them as assignments to seminary students.

  2. Three further points about the translation from the Latin:
    1. “We pray,” is not in the Latin. Par for the course at this stage.
    2. The adjective ‘eternal’ qualifies the noun ‘Trinity’ not the noun ‘glory.’
    3. ‘Trinity’ is not the object of ‘to acknowledge.’ ‘Glory’ is.
    So, from points 2 & 3 the translation should read: (to acknowledge) the glory of the eternal Trinity, not the Trinity of eternal glory.

    The translation of this prayer is neither prayable nor accurate.

    1. @Gerard Flynn:

      2. The adjective ‘eternal’ qualifies the noun ‘Trinity’ not the noun ‘glory.’

      That kind of schoolboy error is, alas, typical of some members of Vox Clara whose Latin skills are sadly lacking. Remember that one of them was responsible for a headline in his diocesan newspaper which read HABEMUS EPISCOPAM !!!

  3. The French has “en reconnaissant la gloire de l’éternelle Trinité, en adorant son Unité toute-puissante.” Much more accurate, even if “son” – “its” [?] is not in the Latin.

  4. Well, the one thing the translation of this collect has going for it is that it’s entirely incomprehensible, so I doubt it’s leading anyone anywhere.

  5. How many times does it need to be said: ICEL should be empowered and encouraged by English speaking bishops to compose texts that arise from the genius of our own language. Given the development of all kinds of important realities over the last thousand years and beyond in sacramental theology, ecclesiology, scriptural hermeneutics, Christology, and anthropology, why would we continue to think that the Latin texts are the best we can do. Are we incapable of composing prayers that reflect and adhere to the faith of the church?

    1. @Jack Feehily:
      ICEL has done it, checking (I’m told) several times that it would be Ok to write original collects. eg Corpus Christi year B :-
      God ever-faithful,
      you have made a covenant with your people
      in the gift of your Son,
      who offered his body for us
      and poured out his blood for the many.
      As we celebrate this eucharistic sacrifice,
      build up your Church
      by deepening within us the life of your covenant
      and by opening our hearts to those in need.
      We ask this through … for ever and ever.
      Rome’s response was to refuse to comment, get them sacked, and write Liturgiam Authenticam

  6. What about

    God our Father, who revealed the great mystery of your godhead to us
    when you sent into the world
    the Word who is truth and the Spirit who makes us holy,
    grant that, in professing the true faith,
    we may acknowledge and worship
    three persons, eternal in glory, one God, infinite in majesty. ?

  7. Since modern English does not distinguish between plural and singular “you,” like Latin does (and most European languages), adding “you” obscures rather than clarifies the meaning. Best just to leave it out, I think.

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