Possible Changes to Collect Conclusions?

The Archdiocese of Westminster has issued a notification, as follows:

Conclusion to Collects
The Congregation on [sic] Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments has indicated that the word ‘one’ before ‘God’ in the full ending of the collect in the prayers of the Roman Missal, and equivalent occasions, is to be omitted (i.e., ‘Through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever’). This change comes into effect from the beginning of the new liturgical year on 29th November 2020.

On 13 May 2020, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, wrote to Episcopal Conferences in relation to a change to the Trinitarian conclusion to the collects in the 2010 Roman Missal. His letter indicated that the inclusion of the word ‘one’ before ‘God’ is problematic in relation to the Latin text Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum.

The inclusion of the word ‘one’ before ‘God’, Cardinal Sarah wrote,

can serve to undermine the statement of the Son’s unique identity within the Trinity which the Latin formulas so strongly convey and, on the other hand, it can also be interpreted as saying that Jesus Christ is “one God”. Either or both of these interpretations is injurious to the faith of the Church.

It is clear from the Latin texts that the doxology emphasises the divinity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son, who intercedes on our behalf, as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, to the Father and which prayer is made in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Thus the Son’s role of priestly mediation is made clear. To transfer the Trinitarian relational element in unitate as meaning unus Deus is incorrect.

The omission of the word “one” before God will mean that the three possible conclusions to the collects [as outlined in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2012), n. 54] will read as follows:

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.

Or

Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.

Or

Who live and reign with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.

A number of points of interest here.

The Australian Bishops’ Conference has already approved these changes to the current Missal text, effective 29 November 2020, though the Bishops of England and Wales have not yet done so (which makes the Westminster notification a little odd). I have not heard that BCDW in the US has implemented these changes either.

The wording of the Westminster announcement appears to be inaccurate. The words ‘our Lord’ do not appear in the collect conclusion (though you quite often hear priests inserting it when on autopilot, presumably through transference from the Creed). Westminster also inserts a comma before the words ‘in the unity’ and omits the comma after ‘God’.

Though Cardinal Sarah does not explicitly state it this way, the rationale for all this appears to be that the Latin Deus in the formula mostly refers to the Father only, and not to all three persons. One wonders why the Congregation has only now decided to adjust our liturgical texts — we have had ‘one God’ in the Roman Missal for 50 years, and the Congregation allowed this to continue in the 2010 Third Edition of the Roman Missal (and see GIRM 54), albeit with some discussion of this point at the time.

We have effectively been affirming our belief in the doctrine of the Trinity in the collect concluding formulae even before the Roman Missal of 1970, and indeed in English at least as far back as the Book of Common Prayer in the 17th century, which already contained the phrase ‘one God’ at this point. Apart from our Anglican and Episcopalian friends, Lutherans and other non-catholic denominations share our tradition of acknowledging the Trinity in the conclusions to collects by using ‘one God’.

One suspects that those in the pews will not understand, nor even care about, the theological niceties involved. In a similar way to the recent pronouncement from the CDF about the validity of baptismal formulae (which incidentally reverses the position of SCDWDS on the very same point in 2003), it seems strange to be requesting such a change at a time of pandemic when people have far larger issues to contend with.

11 comments

  1. And some other languages:

    Italian: through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who is God (Per il nostro Signore Gesù Cristo, tuo Figlio, che è Dio)
    French: through Jesus Christ our Lord and our God (per Jésus Christ notre Seigneur et notre Dieu)
    Portuguese: through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who is God (Por Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo, vosso Filho, que é Deus)
    Polish (like corrected English): God, for ever and ever ( Bóg, przez wszystkie wieki wieków)
    German: through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord and God (Durch Jesus Christus, deinen Sohn, unseren Herrn und Gott)
    Gaeilge/Irish (has peculiar grammatical structure for the verb to be here): through our Lord….”who is” God (Trínár dTiarna Íosa Críost do Mhac […] ina Dhia)
    Spanish: Through our Lord […] and is God (Por nuestro Señor […], y es Dios)

  2. Of course, the conclusion in the E&W Divine Office has never included “one” but simply reads “God, for ever and ever”.

    A bit puzzled by this: “The wording of the Westminster announcement appears to be inaccurate. The words ‘our Lord’ do not appear in the collect conclusion (though you quite often hear priests inserting it when on autopilot, presumably through transference from the Creed). ”
    The words “our Lord” do appear in the conclusion in English (and Latin), though before the name of Jesus, rather than after (as incorrectly given in the Westminster announcement)?

    1. Joshua,

      Of course you are correct that the phrase in one of the endings is “Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son”. My point was that Westminster’s “Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord” may have been caused by a half-remembrance of the Creed’s “and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord”.

  3. ICEL’s 1998 Sacramentary also had “God”, rather than “one God”, and had it received confirmatio we might not be having this conversation now; but the fact that some versions and languages have omitted “one” does not change the recent history of the Roman rite in English in this regard, as well as the ongoing history of other denominations. I have heard it said that for the Congregation to have permitted a supposedly defective translation to persist for half a century is simply implausible or else demonstrates incompetence, but since both of these are clearly unthinkable the translation therefore cannot have been defective after all.

    The trifold purpose of my post,however, was firstly to point to two different theological interpretations, secondly to highlight the ecumenical implications of this decision (and some have even suggested that this may have been the real driver behind what we are now seeing — cf. the after-effects of Liturgiam Authenticam), and thirdly to ask the question that Bill deHaas expresses rather more trenchantly.

  4. I don’t think the energy spent on this would have been re-directed anywhere else on the leaking ship so that doesn’t really bother me – and no one in the pews will notice anyway ( I probably wouldn’t have had I not read this).
    It seems wholly unnecessary as the natural reading in English is that “one God” appears to refer to “Jesus Christ”, “you”(i.e. the Father), and “Holy Spirit”. i.e. the Trinity.
    Which seems to square to both the Latin and English of the Athanasian Creed:
    Ita Deus Pater, Deus Filius, Deus [et] Spiritus Sanctus. Et tamen non tres dii, sed unus est Deus
    Thus, the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. But there are not three Gods; but one God.
    So it seemed acceptable as it was and in terms of poetic diction/meter, I prefer the conclusion with “one God.”
    I dislike constant fiddling with translations in the Liturgy.

  5. I will admit that in private recitation of the Office, I’ve been omitting “one” for years. There is nothing heretical about “one God,” but it seems clear that the “God” in the conclusion is meant to be a Christological affirmation of Christ’s deity, not a Trinitarian one. I suspect that until Missals are replaced, years from now, most places won’t change it, and that will be fine. But I also think it’s fine to start now with moving toward a more precise translation. It’s not like this is going to slow down the quest of a vaccine for the corona virus.

    Now if we could only get rid of that pesky “in” that got inserted into the clause on the Church in the Creed.

  6. For what it’s worth, the 2008 draft English translation of the Roman Missal, which I understand was the one presented to the bishops, did not have “one” before “God” in the conclusion to the collects. “One” then appeared in the 2010 Missal. I had assumed the addition was made by Vox Clara, but who knows!

  7. “Apart from our Anglican and Episcopalian friends, Lutherans and other non-catholic denominations share our tradition of acknowledging the Trinity in the conclusions to collects by using ‘one God’.”

    Not to mention the Ordinariates and their Divine Worship mass. Presumably, the CDF’s decree doesn’t apply to our collects? But then again, who knows? Sow liturgical hyper-centralization… reap confusion and completely unnecessary “solutions” in search of problems.

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