Life & Soul

God is in the details – especially when we don’t like them

Our Collect for the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time asks God to grant that His will, not this world’s snares, be the basis of our lives, and in concrete terms, not in mere good intentions.

Deus, qui fidelium mentes unius efficis voluntatis, da populis tuis id amare quod praecipis, id desiderare quod promittis, ut, inter mundanas varietates, ibi nostra fixa sint corda, ubi vera sunt gaudia.

A master crafted this prayer. In the 1962 Missale Romanum we use it on the 4th Sunday after Easter. It is also in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary. Listen to those “eee”s produced by the Latin “i”. Savour those parallels. They pop out when the prayer is sung in Latin.

Varietas means “difference, diversity, variety”. It is commonly used to indicate “changeableness, fickleness, inconstancy”. The adjective mundanus is “of or belonging to the world”.

Current ICEL translation (2011): “O God, who cause the minds of the faithful to unite in a single purpose, grant your people to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, amid the uncertainties of this world, our hearts may be fixed on that place where true gladness is found.”

Uncertainties … vicissitudes. Fixing our hearts on any created thing, whether a material good or a person, even your spouse or child, to the point that we put a mere creature on the heart’s throne which only God must be offered, sets us up for a loss. A created thing, imperfect, limited, passing, can be lost. Only God, eternal and almighty, is absolutely reliable.

Let’s revisit that id … quod construction. We can say, “love what you command/promise”, but that seems vague and generic. I sense that that id … quod is really, “love the thing which you command … desire the thing which you promise”. Love and desire God’s will in the concrete.

Speaking of concrete, the challenge of living as a good Christian in this world is to love God not in the abstract, dreamily, but in the daily details of living, especially when those details are little to our liking. We must love God in this beggar, this annoying creep, not in beggars and creeps in general or in abstraction. We must love Him in this basket of laundry, this tedious or dopey homily. No one promised it would be easy.

Don’t reduce God’s will to an abstraction or an ideal. “Thy will (voluntas) be done on earth as it is in heaven.”