Tuesday, 22 January 2013



Almighty ever-living God,
who govern all things,
both in heaven and on earth,
mercifully hear the pleading of your people
and bestow your peace on our times.

From the Gregorian Sacramentary and many other manuscripts. In the 1570 Missal this was the Collect for the Second Sunday after Epiphany.

For those who find the language of the Missal too elaborately deprecatory, it is worth noticing that this prayer contains little deprecatory expression. The last two lines contain two simple imperatives, softened only by 'mercifully' (clementer).

The Cranmerian translation is:-

'Almighty and everlasting God, which dost govern all things in heaven and earth: mercifully hear the supplications of thy people, and grant us thy peace all the days of our life.'

Cranmer's final line, adhering slightly less closely to the Latin, uses a dactylic rhythm that, as well as giving pleasure, assists the memory.


Grant us, O Lord, we pray,
that we may participate worthily in these mysteries,
for whenever the memorial of this sacrifice is celebrated
the work of our redemption is accomplished.

Found in the Gelasian Sacramentary and many subsequent manuscripts, this prayer has been assigned to many occasions in the liturgical year. In the 1570 Missal it is the Secret for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost. It occurs three times in the 1970 book - as the Prayer over the Offerings for the Second Sunday of the Year, for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and for the Votive Mass of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest.

It has played a significant rôle in the history of Catholic doctrine. St Thomas Aquinas quotes it (STh 3a q83 a1) in support of his assertion that through the sacrament of the Eucharist we are made participants in the fruit of the Lord’s passion. It was mentioned in discussions at the Council of Trent (but not, I think, in the Council’s documents). Pius XII quoted it in Mediator Dei, and Vatican II in Sacrosanctum Concilium. In the Catechism, it is quoted twice (1364 & 1405).

The final word of the body of the prayer, exercetur, has been questioned, since one very early manuscript has a different reading - exseritur. This, if accepted, would make the final line mean ‘the work of our redemption is made known’. Exercetur is more difficult.

The official translation, ‘is accomplished’ should not be taken to mean ‘is completed’ like Jesus’ word from the Cross sometimes translated ‘It is accomplished’ (John 19,30). Rather, a process is implied: ‘is being accomplished’ might make this clearer.

Because of the prayer’s long history, there are many translations of exercetur to compare. Here is a selection:-

‘is exercised’ (Husenbeth 1847)
‘is wrought’ (Fortescue 1926)
‘is renewed’ (English Dominican translation 1948)
‘every offering of this memorial sacrifice carries on the work of our redemption’ (Oconnell and Finberg 1952)
‘is accomplished’ (Caraman and Walsh 1961).

And from translations of the Catechism published on the Vatican website:-

‘s’opère’ (French)
‘s’effetua’ (Italian)
‘se realiza’ (Spanish)
‘is carried out’ (English in section 1364)
‘is carried on’ (English in section 1405).


Pour on us, O Lord, the Spirit of your love,
and in your kindness 
make those you have nourished 
by this one heavenly bread, 
one in mind and heart.

Found in many manuscripts, from the Veronese Sacramentary on. 

In the first line, infunde does not quite mean ‘pour on us’ but rather ‘pour into us’, echoing Rom 5,5 ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us’ (RSV).

The prayer could be more literally translated:

Pour on us, O Lord, the Spirit of your love,
so that in your kindness 
you may make those you have nourished 
by this one heavenly bread, 
one in mind and heart.

But the problem with this is that it seems to imply that God has to do one thing (pour his Spirit on us) in order to be able to do another (make us one). This cannot be so, for God has no purposes that are not also results. So whereas when we learn Latin we are taught to distinguish between clauses of purpose (‘final’ clauses) and purposes of result (‘consecutive’ clauses), when God is the subject of a verb in a dependent clause, this distinction vanishes. 

Translators sometimes cope with this challenge with ‘so as to’, thus avoiding the use of ‘may’, and sometimes, as in this case, by writing two coordinate clauses where Latin subordinates one clause to another.