The Collect for the 20th Ordinary Sunday, found also in the 8th century Gelasian Sacramentary, is in the 1962 Missale Romanum for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost.
Deus, qui diligentibus te bona invisibilia praeparasti, infunde cordibus nostris tui amoris affectum, ut, te in omnibus et super omnia diligentes, promissiones tuas, quae omne desiderium superant, consequamur.
Our prayer has many different words for love and longing: diligo, amor, affectus and the related cor, desiderium, promissio. Affectus means “a state of body, and especially of mind produced in one by some influence, affection, mood: love, desire, fondness, good will, compassion, sympathy.” The marvelous diligo means initially, “to value or esteem highly, to love”. It also has the impact of being careful and attentive, as in English “diligent”. When you love, you give your best. Desiderium is “a longing, ardent desire or wish, properly for something once possessed; grief, regret for the absence or loss of any thing [or person].” Cor is, of course, “heart” and promissio “promise”. Consequor means, among other things, “pursue, go after, attend, to follow” and also, “to follow a model, copy, obey”. It indicates, “to follow a preceding cause as an effect, to be the consequence, to arise or proceed from.” I will say “attain”.
O God, who have prepared unseen goods for those loving You, pour into our hearts the disposition of Your love, so that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may attain Your promises, which surpass every desire.
Obsolete ICEL (1973):
God our Father, may we love you in all things and above all things and reach the joy you have prepared for us beyond all our imagining.
Current ICEL (2011):
O God, who have prepared for those who love you good things which no eye can see, fill our hearts, we pray, with the warmth of your love, so that, loving you in all things and above all things, we may attain your promises, which surpass every human desire.
Today’s Collect pulses with longing.
When this is sung aloud – can we please sing our prayers more often? In Latin? – I hear a connection between invisibilia at the beginning and promissiones at the end. The concepts are ordered climactically, beginning with the ways that we can love on our own (the starting point as the prayer begins), namely, that at first we love with “natural” love, previous to or apart from our new Christian character given to us through baptism. We then move beyond mere human loves. We can love, in this world, with the help of the grace which we ask God to pour into our hearts (charity). Then we aim at the love which awaits us in heaven, a love beyond anything we can experience in this life. This Love will complete our every hope and desire.
Everything God promised is already fulfilled for us, but we still have to live in love to have later Love Himself. What a mystery it is that, even though Christ defeated death, we must still pass through death to have Love’s unimaginable fulfillment. What awaits us at our entrance into the Beatific vision is unimaginable. For now, however, we can only ache for the completion of what God promised.
Although we have, in our Collect, an ascent in and to Love personified, we shouldn’t oppose natural and supernatural loves. Human love, sometimes called eros, isn’t automatically in conflict with “religious love”. We are human beings, not angels. We must avoid the extreme of trying to profane what is supernatural by locking it into the finite and, on the other hand, in this life paying attention to purely spiritualized supernatural love, which would render us ineffective in regard to Our Lord’s twofold command of love for God and neighbor. Our good earthly loves are fulfilled in the perfect love which is only in God. Grace builds on nature, it doesn’t destroy it. In redeeming us, God did not undo us. He lifts up who and what we are and makes us whole again.
We therefore long for Love, we reach out to it, thirsting for its fullness, its completing, it healing, transforming power. This is the promise we live for in this vale of tears.
Though this is summer, consider the Preface for Christmas, the celebration of Love Incarnate and finally visible:
“For through the mystery of the incarnate Word, the new light of Your glory dazzled the eyes of our mind, so that while we know God visibly, through Him we may be snatched up into invisible love… (in invisibilem amorem rapiamur).”
Richard of St Victor said: “Love is the eye and to love is to see.” Our Collects teaches us that love is the key to seeing the one who is otherwise unseeable.
(Picture: John Martin, The Plains of Heaven)
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.