Tuesday, 18 December 2012



Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that we who are weighed down from of old
by slavery beneath the yoke of sin
may be set free by the newness
of the long-awaited Nativity
of your Only Begotten Son.

In the Gelasian and Gregorian sacramentaries, this was a Collect on  Ember Saturday in the 1570 Missal. It remained unchanged in 1970. In lines 2-3, ‘the newness of the long-awaited Nativity’ would, literally translated, read ‘the long-awaited new Nativity’, but this sounds as if there was also an ‘old Nativity’. A certain licence in translation has brought out the contrasts between old and new and slavery and freedom that structure this prayer.


May the sacrifice to be offered to you, O Lord,
make us acceptable to your name,
that we may merit for all eternity
to be the companions of Christ,
by whose Death our own mortality was healed.

An ingenious concoction put together from two pre-existent prayers and a preface. The structuring contrast here is between eternity and mortality, both as possessions of Christ. A more literal, though not more elegant, translation of the last two lines would be:
That we may merit to share the eternity of him / who cured our mortality by his own mortality.


May we receive your mercy
in the midst of your temple, O Lord,
and show fitting honour
to the coming solemnities of our redemption.

In the Gregorian sacramentary and many subsequent manuscripts, this was the Post-communion prayer for the First Sunday of Advent in the 1570 Missal. 1570 and the manuscripts have reparationis, which was changed for 1970 to redemptionis.
The first two lines echo Psalm 48,9: We have thought on thy steadfast love, O God, in the midst of thy temple.
The final word of the Latin, praecedamus, is perhaps more accurately translated by Adrian Fortescue, the latter part of whose translation runs: ‘that we may anticipate with due honour the coming solemnities of our renewal’. In the original, this is a prayer that we may prepare well for Christmas, not that we may celebrate it well when it comes.