On the 17th Ordinary Sunday the Collect for Holy Mass once again presents us with military imagery. At this time of the year Holy Mother Church seems to be 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.
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.
This is finely polished. I like the pleasant “m” hum in the first part. Note the spiffy pairings with their asyndeton, “nihil validum, nihil sanctum” and “te rectore, te duce”. The Missale Romanum for the Traditional Latin Mass has a slightly different version on the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, to wit: sic transeamus per bona temporalia, ut non amittamus aeterna. However, this oration was already in Veronese Sacramentary, dated by the eminent paleographer E.A. Lowe to the first quarter of the 7th c. In the Veronese we find: “sic bonis praetereuntibus nunc utimur, ut iam possimus inherere perpetuis.” That inherere for the more regular inhaerere probably hints at how the ae was pronounced when the manuscript was made. This historical digging reveals that the Novus Ordo version returned to the more ancient form of the prayer. Why that reversion was thought necessary, after having prayed the perfectly good collect for so many centuries, beats me. I’m not sure that, as the Council Fathers commanded, the good of the Church “genuinely and certainly” required it (Sacrosanctum Concilium 23).
Rector and dux respectively are “guide, helmsman, commander” and “ruler, general, chief”. Protector (from protego) means fundamentally “to cover before, or in front, cover over” and obviously also “to shield from danger” as well as things like “put a protecting roof over”. A protector is a “lifeguard, bodyguard”. Insert COVID mask comments here. Inhaereo means “to stick in or to, cleave to, inhere in”. Inhaereo, construed with either dative or ablative, is stuck to mansuris, the future participle from maneo, “to remain, last, endure, continue”.St Augustine of Hippo (d 430) used a similar combination of words in a sermon about love of God and love of the world (s. 344.2).
O God, protector of those believing in you, without whom nothing is efficacious, nothing holy, multiply upon us Your mercy, 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.
O God, protector of those who hope in you, without whom nothing has firm foundation, nothing is holy, bestow in abundance your mercy upon us and grant that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may use the good things that pass in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure.
And just so that we don’t forget the bad old days…
Obsolete ICEL (1973-2011):
God our Father and protector, without you nothing is holy, nothing has value. Guide us to everlasting life by helping us to use wisely the blessings you have given to the world.
Last week we prayed about vigilant or watchful restraint or guarding (“vigili custodia”) and said “super eos dona multiplica … multiply gifts (of grace) upon/over them (us)”. This week the priest asks God to “multiply mercy upon us … multiplica super nos misericordiam”. In both prayers we have the image God covering us over (super). Last week it was with the theological virtues (faith, hope and charity). This week it is with mercy, though vigilance still rings like a claxon through the prayer.
We are members of a Church Militant. Never forget it! There is no room in the Christian life for complacency. Don’t soften into spiritual acedia by the coos and lullabies of those who deny the existence of evil and of the Devil and of personal sin. Give them no ear.
Some people today think that evil, if “evil” isn’t merely a difference of point of view (to be “cancelled”, and you with it), can be reduced to mere social ills which stem from a lack of diversity and tolerance.
That is a deception of the Devil.
All societal ills take root from the foul seeds of our personal sins of commission and omission. When people do not believe in the Devil and in personal sin, then the Enemy has already won. Satan and the fallen angels desire our everlasting damnation in Hell in the agony of separation from God. They are powerful, relentless, cunning, merciless.
This world has its demonic prince (cf John 14:30), but Jesus is our King, our great Captain (dux) in our marches and battles. Christ Jesus has broken Hell’s power over us once and for all. For a time yet, we are still in this world. The Devil still dominates it, but only to the extent that our loving God permits in His providence.
We are soldiers traveling through enemy territory. We need a sure leader before us and strong shield beside us. We need a good path beneath us, and protection over us when we rest. God must multiply over us everything we need, simply that we may live. God’s graces, our wits, and the authority of Holy Church all tell us what is safe, holy – and what is a trap, evil.
May God make us sticky (inhaerere) for things that endure forever, rather than clingy for what is under the sway of this world’s prince, the liar and “murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). Beg for demon-Kevlar, if you will, so the Enemy cannot penetrate your minds and hearts with temptations and doubts. Ask for God’s shielding protection, sin-Teflon, so that the passing things of this world can’t stick to us, distract us, hold us back from heaven.
Speaking of God as our dux, our divine commander in this Church Militant, 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 do not cause confusion and doubt whenever they speak.
I am reminded of something I heard from a person who underwent exorcism for possession. At Mass she could see the demons attacking the priest, who stood as if clothed in armour. That priest, it was found, prayed the vesting prayers as he prepared for Mass, the first of which, for the amice, is: “Place upon my head, O Lord, the helmet of salvation, that I may defeat the assaults of the devil” (cf Isaiah 59:17; Ephesians 6:17, 6:11). Fathers: say your prayers. Everyone: pray for your bishops and priests.