Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies


For this week's meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider the principal Collect for the feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord, which is almost identical in both forms of the Mass (one minor difference in the Latin). In the Ordinary Form in the United States, Epiphany is celebrated on the Sunday after Jan. 6. In the Extraordinary Form, Epiphany is always celebrated on Jan. 6. Below is the official ICEL translation of this Collect in the third typical edition of the Roman Missal (2010):

"O God, who on this day revealed your Only Begotten Son to the nations by the guidance of a star, grant in your mercy that we, who know You already by faith, may be brought to behold the beauty of Your sublime glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Broken down into its five-part structure, the Collect looks like this:

1. O God (address),
2. Who on this day revealed Your Only Begotten Son to the nations by the guidance of a star (acclamation),
3. grant in your mercy that we may be brought to behold the beauty of Your sublime glory (petition), 
4. we, who know you already by faith (motive for the petition)

Re-fashioned into a syllogism, we may interpret the Collect like this:

A. If God revealed Christ to the nations by the star, which the Magi followed by faith,
B. And if we, who know Christ by the revealed truth of the faith, pursue Him diligently like the Magi,
C. Then God will lead us to behold the beauty of His sublime glory in heaven.

The Collect sets up correspondences amongst the various elements it contains. The star of Bethlehem corresponds to the revealed faith we hold as Christians. Like the star, the Catholic faith is a divine intervention of God that leads us to Jesus, and to which we must respond, like the Magi. The
Collect implies a correspondence between the Magi's act of faith, and our own subjective act of faith: just as the Magi diligently sought Christ in response to the revelation of God and came to adore Him, so too, by learning the truths of the faith, we come to know Christ by a personal act of faith, to adore him, and to entrust ourselves to his love. 

The word "revealed" corresponds to the word "behold": God reveals his Son so that we may behold him in heaven. The "Only Begotten Son," i.e., Christ, corresponds to the the phrase, the "beauty of [God's] sublime glory." As St. Paul tells us, Christ "is the image of the invisible God" (cf. Col. 1:15, RSV). And as St. John tells us in the Apocalypse, "the city [i.e., heaven] has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its
light, and its lamp is the Lamb [i.e., Christ]. By its light shall the nations walk; and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it
”(cf. Rev. 21:23-24, RSV, emphasis mine). By his birth, life, death, and resurrection, Jesus makes it possible for all nations, represented today by the Magi, to behold his glorious face forever in heaven.

(David Allen)

(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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