This Sunday’s ancient Collect for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost in the traditional, Extraordinary Form calendar, is preserved (mostly) on the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time in the post-conciliar Mass. Only 17 per cent of the 1,182 orations in the traditional Missale Romanum made it unscathed into the newer Missal.
Let’s see the Latin of this ancient prayer found already in the 8th-century Liber sacramentorum Romanae Ecclesiae:
Deus virtutum, cuius est totum quod est optimum: insere pectoribus nostris amorem tui nominis, et praesta in nobis religionis augmentum; ut, quae sunt bona, nutrias, ac pietatis studio, quae sunt nutrita, custodias.
Extra-literal rendering: “O God of mighty hosts, to whom is the totality of what is best: into our hearts graft love of Your Name, and grant in us an increase of religion; so that You may nourish the things which are good and, by Your fondness for mercy, guard what has been nourished.”
Here are images of armies and of vine-tending. On the one hand, we have the God of hosts who guards the good things we have. On the other, God grafts love into us and then nourishes it into growth.
That virtutum reflects the Hebrew tsaba’, “an army, a host”. Right now a host of mighty angels and saints sing before our God in a paradigm of religion: “Holy, Holy, Holy LORD GOD SABAOTH.” The Sanctus of Holy Mass and the Te Deum echo the exultant myriads whose company we crave.
Speaking of joining in the song, note that in today’s prayer Father petitions for us an increase of “religion”. Ancient Roman religio is a complicated term, deriving from lig– , “to bind”, hence, religio often means the same as obligatio. Ancient Romans understood religion as the whole system of worship, rites, and fear of the divine. We Christians, however, also hear in “religion” the virtue by which we give to God what is His due (cf CCC 2084, 2135). In the first place, what we owe God is reverent worship (STh 2-2a, 81, 1). The virtue of religion can be sinned against by idolatry, superstitions, sacrilege and blasphemy, as well as by neglect and indifference.
We must nourish and guard good habits of worship. Recognise who God is and then act accordingly both inwardly and outwardly.
Do this in the summer months as well, when there are vacations and pleasant activities to distract us from what is due to God.
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