Reflections on the Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

One of the unexpected advantages of the shelter-in-place directives stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic is the leisure to explore liturgical texts in more depth. As I was engaging the Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, I discovered a significant change between the text presented in the first two post-Vatican II editions of the Missale Romanum [hereafter MR1970 and MR1975] and that of the editio typica tertia [hereafter MR 2008]. I present what I have discovered, hoping that other readers of PrayTell might speculate on why this change took place.

MR 1970/MR 1975 present the Collecta for Dominica V Paschae as follows:

Deus, per quem nobis et redemptio venit et praestatur adoptio,
filios dilectionis tuae benignus intende,
ut in Christo credentibus
et vera tribuatur libertas et hereditas aeterna.
Per Dominum.

My slavishly literal translation of this text would be:

God, through whom both redemption comes [to us] and adoption is presented to us,
kindly attend to the sons/children of your choice,
so that both true freedom and eternal inheritance might be given
to those believing in Christ.
Through [our] Lord….

Following a standard format for a Roman collect, the prayer begins with a direct address to God, in this case simply “Deus” with no adjectival modifiers. One could argue from the stereotyped ending that the God here invoked is God the Father (i.e., that we are praying “through Christ in the Holy Spirit”). However the first modifying phrase states that “God,” undifferentiated as to person, is the reality “through whom” we are both redeemed and adopted. Based on Romans 8:14-17, one might ascribe “redemption” to the activity of God the Son and “adoption” to the activity of God the Holy Spirit, all the while recognizing that when God acts “ad extra,” God acts as a Triunity. It is probably this insight that led the Italian Sacramentary to translate the prayer as follows:

O Padre, che ci hai donato il Salvatore e lo Spiritu Santo, guarda con benevolenza i tuoi figli di adozione, perche a tutti i credenti in Cristo sia data la vera liberta e l’eredita eterna.

O Father, who have given us the Savior and the Holy Spirit, look with tenderness on your sons/children of adoption, so that for all believers in Christ true freedom and eternal inheritance may be granted.

The central petition of the prayer is that God would look kindly on his adopted children, i.e., the baptized praying assembly. The consequence of God’s benevolent attention for believers in Christ is both true freedom (perhaps seen as the result of redemption from a [past] life of enmity with God) and an eternal inheritance (perhaps seen as the result of God’s choice of believers to live in the [future] Reign of God). The collect concludes with the usual stereotyped ending.

The English-language Sacramentary 1974 translates this collect as:

God our Father,
look upon us with love.
You redeem us and make us your children in Christ.
Give us true freedom
and bring us to the inheritance you promised.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

I would call readers’ attention to how far the Italian Sacramentary translation is from a word-for-word translation of the Latin original, where “redemption” appears as “the Savior” and “adoption” appears as “the Holy Spirit.” Although the English 1974 Sacramentary splits up the single Latin sentence into three (or four if one includes the stereotyped ending), it is much closer to the original terminology without however subordinating the individual components to one another.

Franco Brovelli in his commentary on the liturgical prayers of Eastertide notes that the source for this prayer comes the “Old Gelasian Sacramentary” (Gelasianum Vetus 522). It finds its place in a series of prayers entitled “Incipiunt Orationes Paschales Verspertinales” (Here begin the Paschal Vesperal Prayers), which would lead one to think that the collect might have been used as part of the Vespers services for neophytes:

Deus, per quem nobis et redemptio uenit et praestatur adoptio, respice in opera misericordiae tuae, ut in Christo renatis et aeterum tribuatur hereditas et uera libertas: per

God, through whom both redemption comes [to us] and adoption is presented to us,
look upon the works of your mercy, so that to those reborn in Christ an eternal inheritance and true freedom might be given: through [Christ our Lord]….

Here God is asked to look upon the “works of his mercy,” presumably meaning the ceremonies associated with baptismal initiation. If there is a parallel drawn between the means by which God’s mercy has been shown “those reborn in Christ” and the consequences of the works, now “redemption” results in “an eternal inheritance” and “adoption” flowers in “true freedom.”

[v. Franco Brovelli, “Le Orazioni del Tempo Pasquale,” in Il Messale Romano del Vaticano II: Orazionale e Lezionario. Vol. 1 (Torino: Elle Di CI, 1984) 438; Leo Cunibert Mohlberg, Liber Sacramentorum Romanae Aeclesiae Ordinis Anni Circuli (SACRAMENTARIUM GELASIANUM), Rerum Ecclesiasticarum Documenta, Series Major, Fontes IV (Roma: Casa Editrice Herder, 1981) 83]

But the Collecta for Dominica V Paschae in MR2008 is quite different:

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus,
semper in nobis paschale perfice sacramentum,
ut, quos sacros baptismate dignatus es renovare,
sub tuae protectionis auxilio multo fructus afferent,
et ad aeternae vitae gaudia pervenire concedes.
Per Dominium.

My slavishly literal translation of this collect would be:

Almighty, eternal God,
always bring the paschal sacrament to completion in us,
so that those you have deigned to renew by holy baptism,
would bring forth much fruit under the help of your protection,
and that you would grant them to persist to the joys of eternal life.
Through [our] Lord.

The English-language MR2011 translates it:

Almighty ever-living God,
constantly accomplish the Paschal Mystery within us,
that those you were pleased to make new in Holy Baptism,
may, under your protective care, bear much fruit
and come to the joys of life eternal.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Also following a standard Roman collect form, the prayer begins with a direct address to God (“Deus”) with two adjectival modifiers, “almighty [and] eternal” (omnipotens sempiterne), also a standard form of address in Latin collects. The central petition of the prayer follows, requesting that the mystery of Christ’s suffering-dying-rising-ascending-and-sending-forth-the-spirit (the “paschal mystery”) be fulfilled in the praying assembly. The hoped-for outcome of this petition is two-fold: that those praying the prayer might bear much fruit in the present under God’s protection (a probable allusion to John 15:1-8, with its reference to God the Father as the vine-grower, protecting its growth, Christ as the vine, and Christ’s disciples as the branches on the vine) and that they persevere as Christ’s disciples into the delights of eternal life in his kingdom. The prayer concludes with a usual stereotyped ending.

The question that impelled this inquiry is: why has the Church changed the collect for the Fifth Sunday of Easter in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite? Initially I thought it might be because the former collect might be slightly obscure in its treatment of the Divine Persons, since both collects equally emphasize Christian initiation as a characteristic theme of Eastertide (we, “believers in Christ,” are the “children of God’s choice” in the former collect and we, those “made new in holy baptism,” are the on-going site for the working out of the paschal mystery in the latter collect). But ultimately, I believe it is because the latter collect presents a richer resonance with the gospels proclaimed on the Fifth Sunday of Easter. All of the gospel selections are taken from Jesus’ Last Supper discourse in John, with John 15:1-8 as the appointed Gospel of the Day for Year B.

I would be interested if any readers of PrayTell could confirm, disprove or modify my suspicion as to why the Church changed the collect for the Fifth Sunday of Easter. I would be even more grateful if they might provide a listing of changes in the collects among MR1970, MR1975, and MR2008 for further investigation.




5 comments

  1. As far as I can tell, the following are the changes made to the Eastertide orations (all collects) in the post-Vatican II editio typica tertia:

    * Monday in week 2
    * Thursday in week 2
    * Friday in week 2
    * Saturday in week 2 (1st option changed, 2nd option added)
    * Monday in week 3
    * Monday in week 4
    * Saturday in week 4
    * 5th Sunday
    * Monday in week 5
    * Tuesday in week 6

    These changes were made to ensure no duplication of collects in Eastertide (the super oblata and post-communion prayers are still on a rotation). Prior to the third edition, the following duplications of collects existed:

    * Monday in week 2 of Eastertide = 19th Sunday per annum
    * Thursday in week 2 of Eastertide = Monday in week 6 of Eastertide
    * Friday in week 2 of Eastertide = Wednesday of Holy Week
    * Saturday in week 2 of Eastertide = 5th Sunday of Easter = 23rd Sunday per annum
    * Monday in week 3 of Eastertide = 15th Sunday per annum
    * Monday in week 4 of Eastertide = 14th Sunday per annum
    * Monday in week 5 of Eastertide = 21st Sunday per annum
    * Tuesday in week 6 of Eastertide = 6th Sunday of Eastertide

    The 1970/75 collect for Saturday in week 4 of Eastertide was moved to the 5th Sunday of Eastertide in 2002/08. Additions were also made in 2002/08 (Vigil of Ascension, alternative collect for Ascension Day, Pentecost Vigil).

    1. Thanks to Mr (?) / Prof (?) Hazell for your listing of the changes between the editio typica altera and the third edition of the post-Vatican II Missale Romanum. Could you point me to a source for any further research I might do on the differences between them?

  2. Michael, thanks for this. I want to pick a bone with two of your “slavishly literal” Latin translation choices. By the way, I despise the term “slavishly literal”, from philological concerns, but that’s another conversation.

    First: dilectio in the second line of the collect for the fifth Sunday, doesn’t really mean “choice” or “choosing” in the sense of vetting applicants for club membership or sorting ripe from unripe avocados. “Children of your choice” suggests a clinical selection. Dilectio, from diligo, I think sometimes used to render the Greek αγαπω, is much closer to “love”, or “value highly”. So “your beloved children” would be far closer than “the children of your choice”, even though the of-possessive form in the Latin becomes an English adjective.

    “Choice”, as we tend to use the term today, is closer to electio; in fact you can see the two words in Colossians 3.12: sicut electi Dei sancti et dilecti: “as God’s chosen people, holy and beloved”.

    Second: “deign” is a problematic translation of dignatus es. The modern sense of “deign” is somewhat pejorative, like the modern use of “condescend” – doing something, perhaps reluctantly, with a sense of injured superiority and despite a perceived affront to one’s own dignity. And hence it is often used in a negative sense: “She wouldn’t even deign to greet him when they met.”

    There is an old and positive sense of “deign”, of a superior graciously showing favor to an inferior, but I don’t think being “literal” also requires adopting obsolete English uses. With all that said, dignor is difficult to translate. For quos sacro baptismate dignatus es renovare, what about “those whom you have held as worthy to renew through holy baptism”?

    There may be a typo in your Latin: I believe that it should read sacro rather than sacros, to go with baptismate rather than quos.

    It is indeed a joy to have pandemic-given moments to look at these wonderful texts in more detail!

  3. Dear Mr (?) / Prof (?) Day,

    Thanks for your insights. 1) I actually thought the phrase “filios dilectionis” was closer to “children of adoption” and I fear that a conversation I had had earlier last week swayed what I presented. The conversation was about the difficulties a group of post-millenials had with the notion that we, unlike Jesus, are the “adopted” children of God. They argued that “adopted” = second class, until a deacon said that, in his experience, adopted children differed from non-adoptive because the adoptive parents deliberately chose them in a way different from non-adoptive parents. 2) Thanks for pointing out the negative connotations of “deign” in today’s usual usage. As an old English major (in both senses of the word “old”), I fear that archaic or obsolete usages are all too lively in my brain. (In a completely different communication, I stated that I might have confused musicians by posting my “antepenultimate” version of a composition; I noted that while that adjective was not in common usage, I liked it almost as much as I liked “crepuscular” (:-)).

    I checked my copy of the MR2008 and line 3 of the Collecta on p. 410 reads: “ut, quos sacro baptismate dignatus es renovare”; fortunately, my brain did translate that as “holy baptism” even though my fingers typed “sacros.”

  4. Thanks Michael / Fr / Dr / Rev / Prof Joncas — I am Mr not Dr, a student (though aged) not a professor. I would be happy to go by first names here on Pray Tell!

    I like fancy words as much as the next person, but try to avoid them when they mislead, or, worse, become shibboleths. For example: “to assist at Mass”, a dreadful false friend of the French word. Thomas Merton noted, in his first days as a Trappist, that “it is one of the tiresome minor details of all religious life today, that one must receive a large proportion of spiritual nourishment dished up in the unseasoned jargon of transliterated French.” That was around 1941. Why continue it today?

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