This is the high point of the Church’s liturgical year. On our beautiful Sunday, we celebrate how our humanity rose from the dead in Christ. We can live forever because of Him.
Let’s see Easter Sunday’s Collect for the traditional, Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. It is an adaptation of a prayer in the Gelasian Sacramentary. The Novus Ordo version actually returned to the more ancient text.
Deus, qui hodierna die, per Unigenitum tuum, aeternitatis nobis aditum, devicta morte, reserasti: vota nostra, quae praeveniendo aspiras, etiam adiuvando prosequere.
Reserasti (shortened from reservatsi) is “to unlock, open, disclose, reveal”. Praevenio is “to come before, precede” and thus it is “anticipate”. Prosequere looks like an infinitive, but it is really an imperative of the deponent prosequor.
Literal translation: “O God, who, death having been conquered, through Your Only-Begotten unbarred for us today the gateway of eternity, by aiding us give effect to our prayers which by anticipating You also instil in us.”
That praevenio (prae – “before” + venio “to come”) reminds us of a distinction made when speaking about grace. God gives us habitual grace, also called sanctifying grace, which is in us in a stable and abiding manner. Actual graces are given according to our needs here and now, in this or that circumstance. Among the actual graces is gratia praeveniens, or “prevenient grace”, called sometimes “preventing grace” (cf Council of Trent, Session VI, ch 5). When we fall into habitual sin and our will has little strength to extricate ourselves, God mercifully provides an actual grace that “comes before” the other graces we can then receive. God helps us to repent even before we take action and confess our sins.
This prayer reminds us that God knows us better than we know ourselves. He perfectly anticipates our needs from all eternity. He crowns His own merits within us in such a way that He makes what is truly His become also truly ours. So it is too with the Resurrection.
Because this publication is becoming a monthly, my weekly column will be moving online. I hope to address you good readers both there and, in some new way, in the print edition. It may be that these 400-word meanders have offered you the occasional felicific apaugasma. But especially I hope they have warmed you to embrace a strong Catholic identity and to excel in works of mercy.
May you and yours have a blessed and grace-filled Eastertide.