Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies

THE COLLECTS OF THE ROMAN MISSAL - Advent I: Sunday, November 27, 2016

As was mentioned in last week's column, for the rest of this new liturgical year (upon which we embark today), I will offer meditations/analyses of the  Collects of the Roman Missal in both of its forms (note: MR stands for the Latin designation, Missale Romanum).

The English translations supplied for Collects from the MR 1962 are a composite of the translations of the Roman Catholic Daily Missal published by Angelus Press, and my own editing/translation. For this week, we consider the Post-Communion Collect of the Mass for the First Sunday of Advent, MR 1962 (Extraordinary Form): "May we receive, Lord, Your mercy in the midst of Your temple, so that we may prepare for the coming solemnity of our healing with fitting honors. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen."

If we break this text down into its five constitutive parts, according to the methodology I described in last week's bulletin column, it looks like this:

  1. "Lord" (the address to God),
  2.  (usually, there is here an explicit ascription of God in the form of a relative clause immediately following his name, although not in this case),
  3. “may we receive Your mercy...in the midst of Your temple" (the central petition; note: one may argue that the second part here implicitly serves as an ascription of God, i.e., "He who is worshipped in the temple and bestows mercy to His worshippers therein"),
  4. “so that we may prepare for the coming solemnity of our healing with due honors" (the hoped-for outcome),
  5. "Through our Lord, etc." (concluding doxological formula)

Reformed (or simplified) into a syllogism, the parts of the Collect look like this:

  • If the Lord is a God who shows mercy (and this Collect indicates that He is),
  • And if we receive this mercy in the midst of His temple (the petition),
  • Then we will be able to approach the Christmas feast worthily (the hoped-for outcome).

The stress of the syllogism appears to be laid upon the middle term: our petition for receiving God's wonted mercy in the midst of the temple. This is what enables one to prepare best for Christmas. Holy Communion is the apex of God's mercy, because it is Jesus Himself, and the temple refers to the Church, wherein His sacrifice is offered and His mercy received in the Holy Gifts. This Collect appears to be teaching us, then, that worthy reception of Holy Communion is the principal way to prepare for Christmas during the Advent season. We should note here that the granting of this central petition rests on solid ground, for Post-Communion Collects, by their very nature, often make reference to the Holy Gifts just received (Chupungco, The Prayers of the New Missal, p. 17). In other words, the petition for mercy is itself granted and ratified in the reception of Holy Communion.

While this is true, the petition also points to our desire for the Sacrament to have an on-going effect in us. We are always in need of a deepened experience of Divine Mercy. Holy Communion is the reference point for everything else in the week.Thus, the Collect teaches us that our on-going communion in God's mercy in daily life is also integral to a worthy preparation for Christmas. This extends necessarily to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

We may also interpret the reference to the temple as an implicit reference to Our Lady, whom we acclaim as the "Ark of the Covenant" in the Litany of Loreto. Just as the Divine Presence rested invisibly on the "mercy seat" of the old Ark in the Jerusalem Temple (the place upon which the priest expiated  for Israel's sins by sprinkling the blood of the sacrifice), so too, the Divine Son of God rests within the temple-ark of Mary, from whom Christ takes flesh in order to become both Priest and Victim (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 433, 2676).

In light of these things, then, our worthy reception of Holy Communion is essentially an act of worship that is Marian in character for two reasons: (a) it renders us temples wherein Christ dwells, and (b) it entails our ready faith, love, and obedience. This intimate communion with Christ on the sacramental and moral level is the heart of the Christmas message: God takes flesh and dwells among us, and this may only be apprehended by Marian faith, love, and obedience.

(David Allen)


Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.


(David Allen)

Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.


About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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