With a slight variation, this week’s Collect, for the 27th Ordinary Sunday, was in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary and in the post-Tridentine editions of the Missale Romanum for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost.
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui abundantia pietatis tuae et merita supplicum excedis et vota, effunde super nos misericordiam tuam, ut dimittas quae conscientia metuit, et adicias quod oratio non praesumit.
Supplex, an adjective used also as a substantive, is “humbly begging or entreating; beseeching; supplicant”. In the ancient world it was not uncommon for a petitioner to wrap his arms around (plecto) the knees of the one from whom he was begging the favour.
Current ICEL (2011) translation: “Almighty ever-living God, who in the abundance of your kindness surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you, pour out your mercy upon us to pardon what conscience dreads and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.”
We have a contrasting pair: God, alone, must remove our sins which merit punishment, and He, alone, must confer His graces which we do not merit. This we ask as unworthy but incredibly audacious beggars.
Our Collect gives us a model for an attitude of prayer. Through the priest as mediator, we present ourselves as one who is supplex, a supplicant frightened by the Judge because of his sins. This lowly beggar prays and prays, entwining his arms about the knees of his only hope. He petitions the Almighty Father, merciful and good, to calm his fears by removing his damning sins totally and then by supplying him with whatever he dares not ask or does not even know that he ought to beg for (non praesumit). He simultaneously has the humility of the kneeling supplicant and the boldness of sonship. He petitions the Father with humble audacity (cf Mark 11:24 and 9:23).
Speaking of attitude, in many places celebrations of Holy Mass have been stripped of humility but loaded with presumption. Instead of abasing ourselves humbly before our awesome and mysterious God during the renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary, we celebrate ourselves while remembering Jesus, a great guy, non-judgmental.
How many sacrilegious Communions are made by those who haven’t darkened a confessional door in years? In truth, God takes our sins away, but only when we confess them and beg Him to, with a firm purpose of amendment. Be audacious. Go to Confession and hide nothing. I dare you.