Our Collect for the 3rd Ordinary Sunday in the Novus Ordo was in the 1962 Missale Romanum and the 8th-century Liber sacramentorum Engolismensis for Sunday in the Octave of Christmas.
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, dirige actus nostros in beneplacito tuo, ut in nomine dilecti Filii tui mereamur bonis operibus abundare.
Beneplacitum means “good pleasure, gracious purpose”. In the Latin Vulgate beneplacitum translates the original Greek eudokia (eg Ephesians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:5). Other phrases also render eudokia (eg bona voluntas in Luke 2:14, the famous “peace on earth to men of good will” or “peace on earth good will towards men”). Paul used eudokia at the beginning of 2 Thessalonians (1:11-12), translated as “voluntas bonitatis” in the Vulgate: “… we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve (omnem voluntatem bonitatis) and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (RSV).
Current ICEL translation (2011): ‘‘Almighty ever-living God, direct our actions according to your good pleasure, that in the name of your beloved Son we may abound in good works.”
I like “gracious purpose” for beneplacitum. God knew us all before the creation of the cosmos. Life itself is His freely given gift and He has a purpose for everyone. He brought us into being exactly when He knew we would be needed for His plan. When we cooperate with His plan, we “abound”. God acts within us through our good works which He makes meritorious. They overflow from us because of His generosity. As St Augustine wrote, “God, crowning our merits, crowns nothing else but his own gifts to us” (ep 194, 5, 19). God treasures us.
Speaking of abounding, to abound we must bow and we must bend. When we bend our will to God’s will and plan, especially as manifested through the teachings and disciplines of Holy Church, we lose nothing of our selves or our prized “freedoms”. In fact, we become that much freer in our self-fettering to God.
St John Paul II often proclaimed: “Do not be afraid!” Benedict XVI preached: “If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great.” What are we afraid of?
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