On the 17th Ordinary Sunday the Collect for Holy Mass once again presents military imagery. It’s as if our Holy Mother were trying to make a point: we are pilgrim soldiers marching through this world and we had better be disciplined if we are going to attain our homeland. The following was in the 7th-century Veronese Sacramentary.
“Protector in te sperantium, Deus,sine quo nihil est validum, nihil sanctum,multiplica super nos misericordiam tuam, ut, te rectore, te duce, sic bonis transeuntibus nunc utamur, ut iam possimus inhaerere mansuris.”
I quite like the pleasant alliterative hum and the two pairings, the nihil set and the spiffy ablative absolutes. This is finely polished. Rector and dux respectively are “guide, helmsman, commander” and “ruler, general, chief”.
Literal translation: “O God, protector of those believing in you, without whom nothing is efficacious, nothing holy, multiply your mercy upon us, so that, you being our helmsman, our commander, we may so make use of things that pass away as to be able to cleave to those that will endure.”
Last week we heard of the “vigili custodia … vigilant guard”. Today we hear of the protector, “guard”. Last week we prayed for God to multiply over us the gifts of His grace. Today we ask for the shielding protection of mercy. We beg God to shield us from the muck of this passing world and to allow to cling to us only that which will be of benefit. Last week we were prompted to vigilance in following God’s commands. This week we seem to be on the march He commanded.
Our enemy Satan and his fallen angels are real, personal beings who desire our everlasting damnation and agony with them in hell. This world has a fell prince, a spiritual being who is a mighty fallen angel (cf John 14:30). Jesus is our King, our great Captain in our running battle against all that is wicked in this world. Christ Jesus has broken hell’s power over us, but for a time we are still in this Devil-dominated domain. But the Enemy can only manipulate it to the extent that our merciful God permits in His providence.
Can we rely on the human officers whom our King has commissioned? On this perilous march up country, we need strong, sure clergy, courageous and clear, who don’t cause confusion and doubt whenever they speak. Pray for bishops and priests.